Cannabinoids, the organic chemical compounds that provide marijuana with its medical efficacy — in addition to its euphoria — number more than 111. First discovered in 1964 in Israel, cannabinoids have been found to work synergistically with the human body and, more specifically, the endocannabinoid system.
Endocannabinoids are produced by humans, whereas the cannabinoids from a plant like marijuana are officially known as phytocannabinoids. The phytocannabinoids in cannabis, and many other plants, are a perfect fit for specialized receptors found throughout the brain, nervous system, and immune system of the human body.
In addition, cannabinoids do more than work independently to deliver a particular therapeutic effect. Cannabinoids also work in tandem (and with terpenes) to regulate one another or create a unique effect, something that has been labeled the entourage effect.
Cannabidivarin (CBDv) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid very similar to cannabidiol (CBD), the molecule found in cannabis that has proven effective in treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and intractable (untreatable) childhood epilepsy. Similarly, CBDv has proven to be a powerful way to minimize the severity and duration of seizures resulting from many conditions. Like tetryhydrocannibnol (THC), CBDv is also is good at reducing the nausea and vomiting resulting from a variety of pharmaceutical drugs, treatments, and conditions.
CBDv is an promising enough cannabinoid, especially for the treatment of epilepsy, that GW Pharmaceuticals, a British cannabis-centric pharmaceutical company, is in the process of patenting the use of CBDv for the treatment of seizures. Said Justin Gover, GW’s CEO:
“This patent is important as we believe that CBDv has the potential to become an important new treatment option in the field of epilepsy.”
Based on its Schedule I status in the United States, very little clinical research is available. However, several studies have been conducted over the past few years in countries like England and Canada.
A 2013 study by the University of Reading in London published by the National Institute of Health revealed that CBDv may be effective in treating epilepsy and other conditions involving seizures. Noted researchers in the study’s abstract:
“Our work in this area shows that CBD and CBDv are well tolerated and exert significant anti-epileptiform, anti-seizure, and anti-epileptic effects in animal models.”
Another 2013 study conducted in Ontario, Canada and published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that both CBDv and THCv may be effective treatments for vomiting and nausea, such as that suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The study’s authors said CBDv “may have therapeutic potential in reducing nausea.” This could allow cannabis to work in conjunction with conventional pharmaceutical drugs, allowing patients to keep down their medicine — as is often the need with conditions such as Crohn’s and cancer.
In 2014, the Endocannabinoid Research Group in Italy published a study in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. It examined the effect of cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy and found that both CBD and CBDv play multiple roles in helping reduce and modulate seizure activity. Reported the study’s researchers:
“CBDv reduced both epileptiform burst amplitude and duration.”
Strains for CBDv
Because CBDv is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, it is often found in strains of cannabis that provide only trace amounts of THC. This can be good for parents wanting to treat children, but not get them blazingly high in the process. Strains traditionally high in CBD also typically contain higher amounts of CBDv. However, as proven by some patients who have gained little efficacy from the CBD oils and extracts available in many cannabis dispensaries, sometimes a more potent cannabis concentrate is necessary to provide symptom relief.
One source of CBD, including its siblings CBD-A and CBDv, is hemp — the cousin to cannabis that, by legal definition, contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Some hemp varieties offer as much as 20 percent CBD-A (assuming that the cannabinoid is extracted properly). Use of the correct strains of hemp or cannabis can allow concentrates greater than 100:1 of CBD-to-THC, resulting in maximum efficacy for sick patients, especially children.
Cannabis strains high in CBD and more likely to contain CBDv include:
- Critical Mass (indica)
- Harlequin (hybrid)
- Mandarin Kush (hybrid)
- Island Sweet Skunk (sativa)
- Shark Shock (indica)
- Boston OG (hybrid)
This post was originally published on July 7, 2015, it was updated on October 5, 2017.