Any investigation into the medical qualities of cannabis quickly leads to a discussion of cannabinoids, the miracle molecules that provide such stunning therapeutic value. THC and CBD, the most cited cannabinoids, get most of the attention. But what about more obscure cannabinoids?
There is a good chance readers have never heard of cannabichromene, which is most often written as CBC. While relatively little is known about all cannabinoids, CBC displays several characteristics that indicate robust medicinal value.
First, CBC provides pain relief that is believed to be the result of an interplay with THC. It is theorized that CBC’s pain fighting ability is derived from its role in increasing THC’s pain relieving properties — not necessarily CBC’s ability to do so independently. CBC also provides a sedative effect (it is not known whether it does so independently or in conjunction with another cannabinoid). It also inhibits inflammation, helping the body establish homeostasis (balance).
CBC has also been shown to stimulate bone growth. Although present in much smaller quantities than THC and CBD, CBC is known to work in conjunction with cannabinoids other than THC, helping them do things like fight cancer. Recent research has shown that this relatively rare cannabinoid has an anti-depressant effect that is 10 times greater than that of its sibling CBD.
It is believed that CBC’s primary purpose is to enhance the effects of THC. It has been suggested that elevated CBC levels will make a high-THC strain of cannabis even more potent. In this respect, think of CBC as THC’s amplifier, or booster. Like the cannabinoids CBD and CBG, CBC lacks psychoactive properties — but helps THC deliver them with greater effect. It is found in the highest concentrations in strains of cannabis native to the tropics.
In what is called the entourage effect, researchers theorize that dozens of cannabinoids and terpenes are involved in forming an overall therapeutic efficacy that is greater than the sum of the individual cannabinoids. New research also points to the fact that these plant-based cannabinoids interact not only with each other, but also with the body’s internally produced cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids).
Beyond its role in enhancing the efficacy of THC, CBC may be a tool in the fight against cancer based on the way it interacts with an endocannabinoid called anandamide. This human-produced cannabinoid has been found to reduce colorectal cancer and breast cancer. CBC allows more anandamide to remain in a patient’s system because it inhibits its uptake — meaning it basically improves the immune system’s ability to use its own healthy chemicals, such as anandamide, to rid itself of cancer.
Many experts and caregivers have concluded that therapy involving a single cannabinoid — such as the CBD oils being used to treat children with intractable epilepsy — may be insufficient for the majority of patients. Many proponents of whole plant therapy point toward the entourage effect and the subtle ways in which one cannabinoid, such as CBC, may buffer or enhance the effect of another, like THC (or an endocannabinoid like anandamide).
With more than 110 cannabinoids having been discovered, additional research is necessary to understand the nuanced interaction of these specialized chemicals that fit perfectly into receptors (CB1 and CB2) throughout the human brain and nervous system. Greater knowledge of cannabinoids and the efficacy of particular cannabinoid profiles is needed before patients can be administered solutions targeted to their particular endocannabinoid system and the specific disease or ailment they are attempting to treat.
Although CBC is one of the least understood cannabinoids, its ability to stimulate bone growth, partner with THC to fight pain and increase potency, decrease inflammation, and — most important — fight cancer make it one of the most valuable elements of the cannabis plant.
More research needs to be completed to learn about this fascinating cannabinoid. Despite this, it looks as though CBC will become increasingly important in the world of future medicine.
This post was originally published on May 26, 2015, it was updated on October 5, 2017.