Cannabinoids produced by plants are called phytocannabinoids. In terms of sheer volume and diversity of cannabinoids, cannabis confidently holds the first place. By our last count, there are now over 150 individual cannabinoids that have been found in cannabis. Some cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, tend to occur significantly, while others only appear in tiny concentrations. Furthermore, not all cannabinoids hold the same relevance regarding being able to induce specific therapeutic effects relevant to different patient populations.
Optimizing Patient Outcomes
When it comes to predicting specific medicinal properties and potential for adverse effects, one of the most important distinctions is derived from cannabis chemotypes. In the plant world, generally, chemotypes indicate chemically distinct differences in composition, though the plant may look the same. Minor genetic differences can lead to significant changes in chemical constituents or characteristics.
Understanding Cannabis Chemotypes
As the last four decades of research discovered, three basic numbers are the primary key (but not the only variables) to realizing specific therapeutic effects for any cannabis plant: one, the amount of the primary psychoactive cannabis constituent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC for short); two, the amount of the non-psychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol (CBD); and third, the ratio of THC to CBD. These three numbers discern the three basic chemotypes of cannabis, which were first proposed in 1973 by E. Small and H.D. Beckstead.1 The Roman numerals I, II, and III are used to distinguish them. Chemotype I contains more THC than CBD, chemotype II contains relatively equal amounts, and chemotype III contains more CBD than THC.
Two Additional Cannabis Chemotypes
Two additional chemotypes have been proposed in the scientific literature: chemotypes IV and V. Chemotype IV, reported by Fournier et al. in 1987, is defined as having CBG as the most abundant cannabinoid.2 CBG-dominant chemotypes of cannabis have potential relevance to patients suffering from chronic pain, inflammation, and stress. Chemotype V, proposed by Mandolino and Carboni in 2004, includes strains void of detectable cannabinoids.3
Other Plant-based Sources of Cannabinoids
You may find it interesting that there are a few additional plants other than cannabis that make cannabinoids. However, those species only produce tiny amounts and are void of the diversities unique to cannabis. Some of those include liverworts, rhododendron, and fungi such as Cylindrocarpon olidum.
Phytocannabinoids and Their Clinical Relevance
CannaKeys has created access to the following twelve phytocannabinoids (and some of their more prominent acid forms) with sufficient scientific data (see list below) to have potential relevance in the clinical setting. The number in parenthesis denotes the number of clinical trials associated with each cannabinoid.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (237)
- Cannabidiol (CBD) (224)
- Cannabidivarin (CBDV) (6)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) (4)
- Delta-8-THC (2)
- Cannabigerol (CBG) (1)
- Cannabinol (CBN) (1)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabichromenic Acid (CBC-a)
- Cannabidiolic Acid (CBD-a)
- Cannabigerolic Acid (CBG-a)
- Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THC-a)
1. Small E. and Beckstead H. D. Cannabinoid phenotypes in Cannabis sativa. Nature 245: 147-148. 1973.
Small E. and Beckstead H. D. Common cannabinoid phenotypes in 350 stocks of Cannabis. Lloydia 36: 144-165. 1973.
2. Fournier G., Richez-Dumanois C., Duvezin J., Mathieu J.-P. and Paris M. Identification of a new chemotype in Cannabis sativa: cannabigerol-dominant plants, biogenetic and agronomic prospects. Plant. Med. 1987. 53: 277–280.
3. Mandolino G. and Carboni A. 2004. Potential of marker assisted selection in hemp genetic improvement. Euphytica 140: 107–120.