Le cannabis is known for its marked effects on the human body. Sometimes considered a huge opportunity, sometimes demonized, it largely owes its reputation to a family of molecules that act directly on the body: cannabinoids. But is hemp really the only plant species to produce it? The answer is in fact more clear-cut than it seems, but there are undoubtedlyother plants with similar effects ! A brief overview.
In this section:
- Cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids: what's the difference?
- What about cannabimetics in all of this?
- Anandamide: responsible for the effects of cannabinoids?
- Flowers, herbs, mushrooms: some varieties producing cannabinoids (or almost)
- Do hops produce CBD and other cannabinoids?
- Bad reputation of cannabis: why is it the only one to suffer from it?
Cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids: what's the difference?
The term phytocannabinoids comes in opposition to that ofendocannabinoids, molecules with identical effects, but produced by animals and humans and not by plants. Phytocannabinoids are also distinguished from artificial cannabinoids, or synthesis, also produced by humans, but this time in the laboratory and not naturally. They are therefore quite simply cannabinoids produced by plants.
Phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids and artificial cannabinoids are therefore all indiscriminately cannabinoids. The qualifier added to them only mentions where they are produced. In all cases, these are chemicals capable ofactivate our endocannabinoid system (SEC), intervening in particular inbalance of our nervous system and our immune system.
The best known of these are the Δ9‐Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). There are, however, dozens of them, certainly even hundreds, all having more or less marked and diverse effects on our body.
Did we lose you on the way? No problem, it's technical. We summarize.
Different types of cannabinoids
- phytocannabinoids: they are produced by plant species, above all cannabis. Among them are the well-known CBD and THC, But also cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN) and probably some 200 other molecules.
- endocannabinoids : they are produced by the body of humans and many animal species, including mammals.
- Synthetic cannabinoids : they are produced in the laboratory, by synthesis of molecules.
What about cannabimetics in all of this?
It is also not uncommon to read or hear the term cannabimimetics. It is simply a term created to refer to molecules whose composition strangely resembles that of cannabinoids, so much so that they can also act on the endocannabinoid system. As they “mimic” the effects of cannabinoids, we often speak of mimicry, which earned them their name.
The term experienced some popularization after the publication of a study published in 2010 by the British Journal of Pharmacology entitled Phytocannabinoids beyond the Cannabis plant - do they exist? ("Phytocannabinoids beyond the cannabis plant - do they exist?). Their study proved that the SEC can be activated by other molecules than endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by the human body) or the now known cannabinoids produced by cannabis (CBD, THC and many others).
Some protein, acidsbut also terpenes can thus interact with one and / or the other of the SEC sensors (called CB1 and CB2), for more or less marked effects. This is what is often worth the reputation of other plants for producing cannabinoids. In fact, it is more accurate to speak of cannabimetics.
Anandamide: responsible for the effects of cannabinoids?
Anandamide is another barbaric name. In fact, behind the many scientific names trying to explain the role of cannabinoids and their effects on the human body, not everything is as complicated as it seems.
Anandamide: an endocannabinoid neurotransmitter
Very simply, theanandamide is a neurotransmitter produced by our organism and that of animals. What is it for ? Its role is not yet fully defined, however it seems to be produced by our brain for tasks as different as regulate our diet, increase our level of motivation or even release a feeling of pleasure. She would also have a anti-inflammatory action on the body. Initial studies show that taking paracetamol could trigger our production of anandamide and that this is partly why it is an effective analgesic on the human body.
Its functioning is therefore similar to other neurotransmitters that we know better, such as dopamine which “rewards” some of our beneficial actions with a feeling of pleasure (eating healthy food, winning a competition, etc.). Likewise, our brain produces adrenaline during stress or intense physical exertion in order to give us the necessary strength to overcome the obstacle.
What is the link between cannabinoids and our body?
Well, anandamide is not just a neurotransmitter, but also an endocannabinoid. It therefore binds to the CB1 sensors of our endocannabinoid system, in the same way as THC. It is also, to a lesser extent, able to act on CB2 sensors, such as CBD.
This allows us to draw two types of conclusion:
- By activating our endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids simulate the action of anandamide and partly explain many effects (hunger, muscle relaxation, relaxation).
- Other similar molecules can have similar effects, even if they are not strictly speaking from cannabis..
We therefore fall back on our cannabimetics, which are found everywhere in nature ... and even in drugs such as paracetamol!
Flowers, herbs, mushrooms: some varieties producing cannabinoids (or almost)
Whatever name we give them, many varieties of plants, and even fungi, are able to act on our body through the SEC. Here are a few examples.
Asteraceae (flowers of the daisy family)
If their name is unknown to you, you have certainly seen them in a garden. Asteraceae are indeed very common because of their very decorative pink petals. Originally from the United States, they are nevertheless appreciated beyond their aestheticism since they can activate CB2 receptors thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of THC. They are used in particular to relieve certain pains, reduce inflammation and soothe insect bites. Be careful, however, not to consume them without precautions: they can also lead to digestive problems, allergic reactions, or even respiratory problems.
The reputation of chocolate as a provocator of pleasure is well established. It is mainly due to the properties of cocoa, containing in particular what is commonly called " happiness molecule ". It also produces anandamide directly, which partly explains its effects on memory, emotions or motor activity. The cocoa tree also produces two with apparently similar effects: N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine.
La black truffle, contrary to what its taste suggests, has points in common with cocoa. Much older than hemp, this fungus nevertheless produces, according to Italian researchers, a happiness provoking molecule able to bind to CB1 receptors. The black truffle also has the particularity of being a particularly old species. Scientists estimate its appearance to be more than 150 million years old, or twice that of cannabis!
Many cult cannabis strains are distinguished by pronounced notes of pepper. More than a coincidence in terms of flavors, pepper and hemp actually share a common terpene: beta-caryophyllene, known for its powerful and very special smell. It is also renowned for its anti-inflammatory qualities. It is therefore little wonder that early studies suggest that it would be able to bind to CB2 receptors.
Rhododendrons and azaleas
Rhododendrons and azaleas are not only good for blooming our grandparents' gardens, they also produce cannabinoids! Even more surprising, they also produce terpenes, flavonoids and tannins which bring him closer on certain points of cannabis. Particularly potent in terms of the effects it provides, rhododendron even figured on the list of traditional herbal remedies for a long time, but that was before theherbalism completely disappears from the French medical landscape.
The liver are plants native to New Zealand and occupying a very special place in Maori culture. Sacred plant for the Maori, it raises questions, if not the fear of the New Zealand authorities who still wonder about the possible ban of the plant. Despite less potent effects than those of wild cannabis, liverworts do indeed produce a chemical compound (perrottetinene) relatively close to THC. While awaiting findings from extensive scientific research, Maori may continue to grow and use liverworts as they see fit.
This yellow plant with hundreds of small flowers attached to each other is very popular in Brazil, where it is used both as a medicinal plant and as an ingredient in some traditional recipes. In Europe, we tend to ignore its existence, but some know it as " toothache plant ". It indeed produces a substance relatively close to certain cannabinoids and is able to induce euphoria in its consumers. More interestingly, its anti-inflammatory effects or, in this case, numbness, would relieve certain pains including toothache in just fifteen minutes.
Do hops produce CBD and other cannabinoids?
Between 2018 and the end of 2020, a real legal saga was at the center of the interests of the cannabis industry and lovers of cannabis products. An American company claimed to have succeeded in extracting CBD from hops, one of the main ingredients of beer. The stake was enormous: extract cannabinoids in large quantities, a potentially low cost and, above all, from a very common and perfectly legal plant.
After some media twists, a long-term investigation and a series of trials, it turned out thatthere has never been a cannabinoid extracted from hops. Too bad, however, the company has started marketing its products under the name “CBDx ™”, a pseudo cannabinoid extracted from plants that are not legal cannabis. Doesn't that remind you of something? Bingo, cannabimetics!
For those who would be too disappointed with this news, however, know that it is now possible to quench your thirst with a hemp beer. Forget about the massive effects of cannabinoids, however.
Bad reputation of cannabis: why is it the only one to suffer from it?
Le cannabis is by far the plant that has the the most abundant and varied cannabinoid production. Although its side effects appear to be less than some of the examples cited above, it is also the most stigmatized. This is probably due to its impressive collection of cannabinoids (probably more than 200), produced by one and the same plant. It is also the fault of marked effects and, above all, to its worldwide fame.
Only a limited segment of the world's population consumes it. However, there is not a country, not a culture, which does not have knowledge of the plant and its effects. The other varieties presented here, on the contrary, have only one more anecdotal production of cannabimimetics, and especially characteristics little known to the general public, or only locally. The long tradition of domestication, cultivation and hybridization hemp throughout the world owes it its (good or bad) reputation throughout the world.
Le development of the legal cannabis market now encourages the arrival on the market of new varieties rich in CBD and almost devoid of THC. In promoting beneficial effects of one (appeasement, relaxation, pain relief) and erasing the planing effects as well as the addictive nature of the other, the cannabis light could well finally allow cannabis to get rid of its bad reputation.
The decades to come should therefore be decisive in terms of the way we look at the plant, and perhaps also allow us to benefit from the virtues of other plants still too little known.