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article imageNew-found cannabis compound 30 times more potent than THC

By Karen Graham     Jan 10, 2020 in Science
Two new-found cannabinoids have been discovered in the glands of the Cannabis plant, and one of them may be at least 30 times more potent as the high-inducing compound THC.
While Cannabis sativa has over 400 known compounds, only one, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC is known to produce a high in humans. At least that has been the case - until recently when a group of Italian researchers announced on December 30th the discovery of two new cannabinoids found in C. sativa.
One of the compounds is a THC-lookalike, so much so that they named it tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP). It appears to interact with the same receptor as THC, the receptor known as CB1, according to the new study published on December 30, 2019, in the journal Scientific Reports.
The CB1 receptors
Interestingly, the key differences between THC and the new-found chemical THCP lie in the chain of atoms jutting off the new compound. Research done in 2016 suggests that this side-chain of atoms, called an alkyl side chain, is what allows THC to "plug-in" to its preferred receptor in the body.
A cannabinoid must have at least three carbon rings in its side-chain in order to hook up to the CB1 receptor. THC compounds contain five carbon rings. Calculations on paper suggested that a compound with more than five carbon rings would fit even more tightly to the CB1 receptor.
Further calculations determined that if the compound had eight carbon rings, it would fit perfectly into the CB1 receptor, thereby eliciting the strongest biological response. However, the authors say there is no known compound with those perfect attributes in nature.
A cannabis plant.
A cannabis plant.
Michael Fischer (cc) via Pexels
Along comes THCP
The researchers found that THCP has not five - but seven carbon rings in its alkyl side chain. Tested in a Petri dish using a concocted receptor, the THCP compound tended to bind the substance 30 times more reliably than THC did.
The THCP compound was then tested on lab mice, although in relatively low doses. The mice behaved as though they were on THC, with slower movement, lower body temperatures and reaction times slowed. The study said it would have taken twice the dose of THC to induce the same effects.
Whether or not the new compound would have the same effects in humans as it did in the lab mice is unknown. But as suggests, this could explain why smoking different marijuana blends can give notably different effects. And while THC offers some medicinal effects, including pain and nausea relief, no one knows if THCP has these qualities
CBD lookalike also found
The research team also found a CBD lookalike with seven carbon rings, calling it cannabidiphorol (CBDP). This compound doesn't bind strongly with the CB1 or its related receptor, CB2. While CBD has been tied to anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-seizure effects, investigating these effects in CBDP "does not appear to be a high priority," the authors wrote.
More about Cannabis, Thc, tetrahydrocannabiphorol, THCP, 30 times more powerful
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