The cannabis research field is abuzz with the news that two new cannabinoids have been discovered and isolated. By now, most of the general public has been inundated with the recent legalizations of medicinal cannabis, industrial hemp, or even recreational cannabis (depending on what state, province, or country you live in) and the booming CBD market.
The terms “THC” and “CBD” are quite commonplace. THC is of course the component most associated with getting high, while CBD is most associated with therapeutics and pain management. These are the two commonly cited and extracted cannabinoids, but there are well over 150 more including the two recent additions: THCP (tetrahydrocannabiphorol) and CBDP (cannabidiphorol). The journal Nature reported on the work of European scientists in a late 2019 article announcing this most recent discovery.
The most promising discovery about THCP is that it has a significantly higher ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors than even THC itself, specifically the receptor CB1.
In tests on mice, researchers in the published study found that the bond to the cannabinoid receptor with THCP was thirty times stronger than the bond with THC alone. Researchers were further encouraged when the mice exposed to a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, without THCP, fared much worse than those mice that were given the benefit of the THCP with the same exposure to the CB1 antagonist. This means that the mice without the benefit of THCP showed less motor activity, lower temperatures, seizures and muscular rigidity, and a desensitization to pain compared to those that were given the new cannabinoid.
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Mice that were exposed to THCP were also found to have the same benefits as those given THC, but at much lower doses, further proving the concentrated nature of THCP. It is speculated by the researchers that other varieties of cannabis, besides the ones used in their studies, may contain even higher percentages of THCP.
They also note that for subjects exposed to cannabis-based therapies, there is a high amount of variability in response even when equal amounts of THC are dosed.
Some of the observed psychotropic effects whose causes were unknown may now be attributed to the presence of THCP and its high concentration. Before this study occurred, no one had ever previously searched for this particular cannabinoid in medicinal cannabis varieties. According to the researchers, THCP should be included in the list of the main phytocannabinoids to be determined for a correct evaluation of the pharmacological effect of the cannabis extracts administered to patients. They further state that the discovery of an extremely potent THC-like phytocannabinoid, such as THCP, or other as-of-yet undiscovered cannabinoids may shed light on several pharmacological effects not solely ascribable to Δ9-THC.
Ongoing studies are devoted to the investigation of the pharmacological activity of THCP are also looking at expanding research into the other newly discovered cannabinoid, CBDP.
The potential of CBDP is not yet as well-known as THCP. Like THCP to THC, CBDP shares a similar chemical structure to CBD. In each case, the length of the carbon chain is five carbon atoms (for THC and CBD) to seven carbon atoms respectively (for THCP and CBDP). Unlike THCP to THC though, CBDP does not bind well to the cannabinoid receptors (at least in the mice studied in the published Nature article).
Because of this poor potential for binding, it is less likely that studies in the near future will focus as much on CBDP as they will continue evaluating the potential for THCP.
Researchers in the published study, however, anticipate that CBDP will be shown to have similar effects to CBD. It could easily be further developed with applications aimed at pain and anxiety relief. It may even be able to perform the same functions as CBD painkillers, but at lower doses due to its concentrated nature. Further study will be required to properly assess its potential.
Why This Could be Big News
The discovery of these two concentrated cannabinoids will likely lend itself to further study into stronger cannabinoids and lead to wider availability of cannabinoid products on the market. It has been difficult to isolate certain cannabinoids due to their extremely low volume in cannabis plants, but the discovery of these two has some researchers hopeful that further cannabinoid homologs will be able to be found more easily. Recent agricultural genetic research has made gains in selection of less common species of cannabis that produce particularly high amounts of such minor phytocannabinoids as CBDV (cannabidivarin), CBG (cannabigerol) and Δ9-THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) among dozens of others. Further genetic research into cannabis strains will allow for increased production of extracts that are specifically rich in phytocannabinoids with varying pharmacological profiles that could unlock the potential for a wide range of new remedies for numerous ailments.