Rare Bio-Actives – Beyond CBD

There are hundreds of new bio-actives poised to explode into several key industries. And they all come from a single, largely unexplored source: the Cannabis sativa plant.

Currently, cannabidiol, or CBD, is the most well-known. You’ve likely seen the ads for CBD-containing lotions, creams, pills, gummies, and even toothpaste. But CBD has a lot of cousins – cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabicyclol (CBL), and cannabichromene (CBC) to name a few.

And we’re finding that each compound has its own, unique properties.

What do we know about the different cannabinoids?

It’s well documented that CBD can be used to treat seizures in people with specific diseases like Dravet syndrome. Clinical trials have been completed, providing scientific data robust enough for regulatory bodies around the world to approve it as a medication for certain individuals.

Other research has indicated that CBG may have antimicrobial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains. It will be interesting to see if there are other microorganisms it can affect.

CBN has been touted as a sleep aid, however, the data here is contradictory and further research is needed.

Given the unique structures of the cannabinoid family of molecules, it’s reasonable to guess that each distinct cannabinoid may have one or many different molecular targets in the body. Identifying and validating these targets has been challenging for several reasons (see below).

Why aren’t we seeing more of these bio-actives on the market or in products?

The short answer is that cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN are present at very low concentrations in the C. sativa plant – much lower than CBD. It’s been difficult to extract and purify enough of these rare bio-actives from the plant at scales large enough to perform scientific studies, let alone commercialization.

New technologies are solving this issue though. Using biotechnology, yeast can be designed to produce a naturally derived, biologically identical bio-active, such as CBG. The end product is exactly the same as the bioactive compound found in (or extracted from) the plant and has a big advantage – large quantities of highly pure bio-actives can be made, regardless of how rare they are in the plant.

Do all cannabinoids have the same properties, activities, or benefits?

Early research indicates that each cannabinoid has its own unique properties, activities, and benefits. While there is some overlap, they are not the same.

Graph depicting how different cannabinoids benefit various skincare concerns.

In our own testing, we found each cannabinoid tested offered different benefits. Someone with dry skin may opt for a product with cannabinoid A, but someone with acne may benefit more from a product with cannabinoid B.

Other laboratories have also found that one cannabinoid may be better than another in treating various illnesses or in their wellness benefits.

This is because each cannabinoid binds to different receptors in the body. Historically, researchers have looked at cannabinoid 1 and cannabinoid 2 receptors, however, there are many other receptors in the body and science has shown cannabinoids will bind to receptors, outside of the endocannabinoid system, that are involved in other normal biological processes.

How do I know which cannabinoid will be best for me?

We’re just beginning to unravel the benefits of each unique compound. There’s a lot more research to be done before we can say with certainty which compound is suitable for a specific need.

CBG has emerged as the next big cannabinoid, but the industry is still in its infancy and more research is needed. As we see the industry growing and evolving, we predict CBG will be followed by CBN and CBC. And let’s not forget the acid forms cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), cannabinolic acid (CBNA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), which may also have desirable properties and benefits.

The cannabinoid industry holds a lot of potential and research is ongoing with new data and discoveries coming out all the time. We all want the pace of research to be faster, and while it is accelerating, foundational research is necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of up-and-coming bio-active.

It’s an exciting time for this field and 2022 promises to continue pushing the boundaries in cannabinoid research and commercialization.

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