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Treatment with CBD – Your Gateway to the Science of Cannabidiol

Cannabis compounds and cannabis chemotypes

Categorization of cannabis

The cannabis plant is widely distributed in various parts or the world. For centuries people have used cannabis for a variety of purposes, including medical uses and also as a source of textile fiber. The scientific classification of cannabis has been difficult because of its genetic diversity. Therefore, the current classification of the plant is based on the cannabis compounds and cannabis chemotypes.

The three main taxonomical groups or species of cannabis are:

  • the fiber-type Cannabis sativa,
  • the drug-type Cannabis indica, and
  • the intermediate-type Cannabis rudealis.

These species, however, crossbreed and create hybrids easily. Therefore, scientists now recognize one species, Cannabis sativa.

Three cannabis taxonomical groups are: Cannabis sativa, indica, and rudealis. Because they crossbreed easily, the plant is recognized as one species, Cannabis sativa.
The three main taxonomical groups of cannabis

Figure created using graphics from

Cannabis compounds

Over 100 phytocannabinoids (cannabidonids naturally occurring in the Cannabis plant) have been identified and isolated. Consequently, a chemical approach provides a better classification system of the Cannabis plants.

The most abundant cannabinoids are:

  • delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) in drug-type plants, and
  • cannabinoic acids, namely cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and their decarboxylated forms, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) in fiber-type plants.
  • chemists have artificially synthesized a large number of other cannabinoids in addition to the naturally occurring ones.
Additional cannabinoids include but are not limited to: cannabichromene (CBC), THCA, CBCA, CBGVA, THCVA, CBDVA, CBCVA, etc.

Watch this 2:47 minute video by the Fundacion CANNA: “Cannabis Plant Components: Cannabinoids”

Cannabis chemotypes

Five chemotypes have been identified based on the plant’s cannabinoid profiles.

  • Chemotype I includes drug-type plants that contain predominantly THC-type cannabinoids.
  • Chemotypes III and IV characterize fiber-type plants plans that contain predominantly CBD and, respectively, CBG.
  • Chemotype II is an intermediary category between chemotypes I and III.
  • Chemotype V describes fiber-type plants that contain none of these cannabinoids.
5 chemotypes have been identified based on the Cannabis plant’s THC, CBD, and CBG profiles, which are THC type, mixed, CBD type, CBG type, and fiber type.
Chemotypes of Cannabis based on percent dry weight content of THC, CBD and CBG

Currently, the generally accepted grouping of cannabis – for legal purposes – is:

  1. Drug-type: rich is THC (Chemotypes I and II), and
  2. Fiber-type: has virtually no THC (Chemotypes III, IV, and V).

However, it would be appropriate – for legal and pharmaceutical purposes – to categorize cannabis into three groups:

  1. THC-type that is rich in the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (Chemotypes I and II),
  2. CBD-type that has virtually no THC but is rich in CBD (Chemotype III), and
  3. Industrial hemp-type that has virtually no THC or CBD, but is rich in other cannabinoids, such as CBG (Chemotypes IV and V).

Non-psychoactive effects of Cannabis

While the psychoactive effects of THC are well known, many of the other cannabinoid compounds possess non-psychoactive pharmacological effects as well. For example,

  • CBD has high pharmaceutical potential given its high antioxidant, anticonvulsant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anxiolytic properties.
  • CBDA was found to have antinausea and antimicrobial activities.
  • CBG has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial effects.

Cannabis compounds other than cannabinoids

Besides the cannabinoids, the cannabis plant is also rich in a large number of other chemical compositions.  These include terpenes, fatty acids, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds such as flavonoids, just to name a few.

  • Flavonoids found in Cannabis exert neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-cancer activities.
  • Terpenes in Cannabis – besides being responsible for the scent of the plant – are also known to possess analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anxiolytic properties.
Watch this 1:50 minute video by the Fundacion CANNA: “Cannabis Plant Components: Terpenes and Flavonoids”

Interactions of cannabis compounds – the “entourage” effect

Scientists have observed that cannabis compounds interact with each other. This interaction is also called the “entourage effect”. For instance, CBD reduces the side effects of THC. In addition, terpenes affect the pharmacokinetics of THC by increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier.  Moreover, flavonoids decrease the activity of certain liver enzymes and thereby support the effect of THC.

The compounds in Cannabis are also known to interact with each other. This interaction is also called the “entourage effect”.
The entourage effect

Synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made chemicals that are, both in structure and in acting mechanism, similar to THC. They are part of a group of drugs called new psychoactive substances. They are:

  • Illegal drugs
  • More addictive than Cannabis-derived products
  • Dangerous because their effects are unknown and unpredictable
    • Their use might lead to emergency room visits or even deaths

Read more here about synthetic cannabinoids.


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National Institute on Drug abuse: Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice)

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