(Natural News) Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short, is one of the most common compounds in cannabis, responsible for the high that it brings, as well as a host of health benefits. Recently, Italian researchers discovered a previously unknown cannabis compound that’s even more potent than THC.
In a paper published in the journal Nature, researchers describe the new compound, tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP), as potentially 30 times stronger than THC. But whether or not this new cannabinoid has any intoxicating effects, like THC, or health benefits remains to be seen.
New cannabinoid potentially much stronger than THC
The new compound was isolated and identified from an Italian medical cannabis strain called FM2. To isolate it, researchers used mass spectrometry and metabolomics to find the basic chemicals of a sample of the molecule.
When they discovered THCP, the researchers sent the compound to a laboratory to test its ability to bind to human cannabinoid receptors found in the endocannabinoid system. The latter’s job is to keep the human body in homeostasis, or equilibrium. It regulates everything from sleep to appetite to pain and more.
When a person smokes or consumes marijuana, chemicals such as TCH overwhelm the endocannabinoid system, latching onto cannabinoid receptors.
Following the lab tests, the researchers found that THCP bonds 33 times stronger to the receptors than THC. This discovery has the researchers wondering if THCP can explain why certain cannabis strains are stronger in ways that can’t be explained by the presence of THC and CBD (cannabidiol) alone.
“This means that these compounds have higher affinity for the receptors in the human body,” lead author Cinzia Citti said in an interview with CNN. “In cannabis varieties where THC is present in very low concentrations, then we can think that the presence of another, more active cannabinoid can explain those effects.”
New compound could provide stronger health benefits than other cannabinoids
The scientists found that THCP has a seven-atom-long alkyl side chain. This appears to be the driving force behind cannabinoids’ effects on humans. Most other cannabinoids like THC and CBD have alkyl side chains that max out at five atoms long.
Of all the known cannabinoids, CBD has been the focus of most studies because it provides many health benefits for humans without the psychoactive effects of others like THC.
In particular, CBD has been linked to the following health benefits.
- Relieves chronic pain – In studies on patients with peripheral neuropathy, pain relief was observed within a week of regular cannabis use. In particular, reports found that CBD “reduces the inflammatory response and binds to TRPV1 receptors,” which are capable of mediating antihyperalgesic effects.
- Eases depression – Studies have shown CBD in cannabis exhibits similar effects on depression as pharmaceutical antidepressants.
- Protects your brain – Contrary to popular belief, cannabinoids in cannabis can actually protect your brain. In particular, CBD has been shown to reduce short-term brain damage.
- Treats IBD – Cannabis may also prove to be a novel treatment that provides symptom relief for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Studies suggest that CBD (as well as THC) can aid in gut function.
- Reduces seizure activity – Cannabis has been recognized for its ability to successfully treat seizure disorders for some time now. Studies on children with epilepsy have demonstrated that CBD-rich cannabis has an extremely high rate of success in reducing seizure activity.
At the same time, THC has also been linked to many health benefits, though at the cost of also being psychoactive. (Related: 8 Evidence Based Medical Benefits Of THC.)
With this in mind, the researchers are now wondering about what health benefits the much stronger THCP can provide. At the same time, its discovery hints that there could be other as of yet undiscovered cannabinoids in the plant that could offer their own benefits.
“There are other minor cannabinoids and traces in the plant that can be hard to study, but by isolation we can continue to assess the effects they might offer,” said Jane Ishmael, an associate professor in Oregon State University’s College of Pharmacy, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Historically, many of our medicines have been derived by or inspired by natural products. By having new compounds that bind with very high affinity, that will give scientists a new probe into biological sciences.”
Learn more about the benefits of cannabis at CBDs.news.