Cannabinoids, Not Just In Cannabis?

While cannabis has garnered significant attention for its abundance of these fascinating compounds, it's time to shed light on a captivating revelation: cannabinoids exist beyond the world of cannabis. 

In this article, we'll embark on an intriguing journey through the vast and diverse realm of plant-based cannabinoids, showcasing the astonishing array of botanical sources that contain these remarkable substances. Get ready to expand your understanding and explore the hidden treasures that nature has ingeniously scattered throughout various plants. Let's dive in and unravel the captivating story of cannabinoids beyond cannabis!

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids found in cannabis and other plants

Cannabinoids are a diverse group of chemical compounds that are naturally found in various plants, including cannabis. They belong to a class of organic compounds known as terpenophenolic compounds. Cannabinoids are known for their interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body, which plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes. 

The most well-known and extensively studied cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). However, there are over a hundred other cannabinoids that have been identified in cannabis, each with its own unique properties and potential benefits. These compounds have gained significant attention for their therapeutic potential and have been the subject of extensive research in recent years. It is important to note that while cannabinoids are primarily associated with cannabis, they can also be found in other plants, although in lesser quantities.

Why Do Plants Produce Cannabinoids?

Plants produce cannabinoids as a part of their natural defense mechanisms and to interact with their environment. While the exact reasons may vary across different plant species, the primary purpose of cannabinoid production is believed to be protection against environmental stressors such as pests, pathogens, and UV radiation. Cannabinoids act as chemical messengers within the plant, helping to regulate various physiological processes and responses.

In particular, cannabinoids are thought to play a role in plant defense by deterring herbivores and insects from feeding on the plant. Some cannabinoids possess anti-microbial properties, helping to protect the plant against harmful bacteria and fungi. Additionally, cannabinoids may serve as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress caused by environmental factors.

Furthermore, it is speculated that cannabinoids may have a role in plant reproductive processes, including seed development and germination. They could potentially influence pollen viability and attract beneficial pollinators.

While the full extent of why plants produce cannabinoids is still being explored, it is clear that these compounds serve vital functions in plant survival and adaptation. Their presence in various plant species highlights their significance in the intricate web of plant ecology and their potential impact on human and animal interactions with these plants.

Plants That Contain Cannabinoids

While cannabinoids are most commonly associated with cannabis, they can also be found in several other plant species, although in smaller quantities. Here are a few examples of plants that produce cannabinoids:


plants that contain cannabinoids

This popular medicinal herb is known for its immune-boosting properties. Some species of Echinacea, such as Echinacea purpurea, have been found to contain cannabinoids like cannabimimetics, which interact with the endocannabinoid system in a similar way to cannabis-derived cannabinoids.

Electric Daisy (Acmella oleracea)

how to use plants with cannabinoids

Also known as the "toothache plant" due to its numbing effect, Electric Daisy contains a cannabinoid called N-isobutylamide. This compound has been reported to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cacao (Theobroma cacao)

cannabinoids found in chocolate

Yes, the source of delicious chocolate! Cacao beans have been found to contain anandamide, an endocannabinoid naturally produced in the human body. Anandamide, often referred to as the "bliss molecule," interacts with the endocannabinoid system and is associated with mood enhancement.

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)

black pepper contains cannabinoids

This common kitchen spice contains a cannabinoid called beta-caryophyllene (BCP). BCP acts as a selective agonist for the CB2 receptor of the endocannabinoid system and has shown potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

These are just a few examples, and ongoing research continues to uncover cannabinoids in various other plant species. While the concentrations of cannabinoids in these plants may be lower compared to cannabis, their presence showcases the wide distribution and significance of these compounds beyond the boundaries of the cannabis plant.

Recent Cannabinoid Research

In a groundbreaking study recently published in the journal Nature Plants, scientists have made an exciting discovery regarding the "woolly umbrella" plant, scientifically known as Helichrysum umbraculigerum. Through advanced imaging techniques and genetic sequencing, the researchers have confirmed the presence of more than a dozen cannabinoids in the glandular trichomes of this South African plant. 

Although Helichrysum umbraculigerum does not produce THC or CBD, the researchers found significant quantities of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), an essential precursor to major cannabinoids like THC and CBD, as well as other medically significant cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC).

While these findings are not new, they are a confirmation of a 40-year old study that had not been replicated until this recently published study. 

Then and Now: Cannabinoids in the Woolly Umbrella Plant

Over four decades ago, scientists initially stumbled upon traces of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) – the precursor to cannabinoids – in the woolly umbrella plant while investigating its intoxicating properties. This groundbreaking discovery marked the woolly umbrella as the first non-cannabis plant species known to produce these compounds. However, subsequent attempts to replicate the finding were unsuccessful, leaving the presence of cannabinoids in question.

Now, equipped with state-of-the-art analytical chemistry techniques and genome sequencing data, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science embarked on a mission to definitively determine the presence or absence of cannabinoids in the plant.

Using the new state-of-the-art analytical chemistry techniques, the researchers successfully detected and characterized the precise structures of more than a dozen cannabinoids in the plant. While the well-known major cannabinoids THC and CBD were absent, the researchers identified six cannabinoids that were identical to those found in cannabis. Notably, CBGA, the molecule that precedes other significant cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBG, and CBC, was present in the plants leaves.

The level of CBGA found in the woolly umbrella is comparable to what is typically found in certain cannabis chemotypes, highlighting the potential significance of the woolly umbrella plant. These levels, along with its fast growth rates and easy propagation further enhance its potential as an industry resource. This breakthrough discovery opens up exciting possibilities for the cultivation and utilization of cannabinoids from unconventional botanical sources.

Cannabinoids, Without The Cannabis

cannabinoids without the cannabis

In conclusion, the world of cannabinoids extends far beyond the realm of cannabis. As we've explored in this blog, numerous plant species possess the remarkable ability to produce cannabinoids, albeit in varying quantities and compositions. From the surprising discoveries of cannabinoids in plants like Echinacea and Electric Daisy to the recent confirmation of cannabinoids in Helichrysum umbraculigerum, we're witnessing a fascinating expansion of our understanding. 

These findings challenge the notion that cannabinoids are solely confined to cannabis and open up a world of possibilities for research, industry, and therapeutic applications. As scientists continue to delve into the diverse array of plants harboring cannabinoids, we can anticipate even more discoveries and innovations that will shape the future of cannabinoid science. So, let's embrace this new frontier, where cannabinoids and their potential benefits await exploration beyond the boundaries of cannabis.

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