Cannabinoid Science 101: What Is Cannabichromene (CBC)?

The chemical structure of cannabichromene and different medical paraphernalia

Cannabichromene (CBC) is an abundant naturally-occurring phytocannabinoid, and is thought to be the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. CBC has been shown to produce antinociceptive (painkilling) and anti-inflammatory effects in rodents, and interest is now growing in its potential to treat gastrointestinal and inflammatory disorders in humans.

Cannabichromene (CBC) is one of the better-studied phytocannabinoids, but its properties and characteristics are not widely known, even within the cannabis industry. However, as the industry develops, it is becoming more apparent that cannabichromene has great medicinal importance.

Furthermore, now that many U.S. dispensaries are testing their strains for cannabinoid profile, it is becoming easier to find high-CBC strains – although interested members of the public may still need to call around reputable local dispensaries to find the right medicine.

Chemical structure and properties of CBC

Just like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), CBC is produced via an enzymatic conversion of the precursor cannabigerol (CBG). More specifically, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA, which decarboxylates to CBG) reacts with an enzyme in the glandular trichomes of the cannabis plant to form cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), which then in turn decarboxylates to CBC.

The chemical structure of cannabichromene

CBC shares the same molecular formula as THC and CBD: C21H30O2. Although many cannabinoids share the same formula, the atoms within the molecule are arranged in slightly different ways. This gives the individual molecules very different chemical properties. For example, THC’s famous (and apparently unique among phytocannabinoids) ability to bind to the CB1-receptor and produce a strongly psychoactive effect.

CBC does not share the psychoactive effect of THC, and it is not even fully clear if it has any effect on the cannabinoid receptors at all, as some of its effects have been shown to be independent of them. However, it has various pharmacological effects of interest, and it is thought that it may modulate the effect of THC and other cannabinoids in important ways.

CBC in the cannabis plant

In a 1975 study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Science, CBC was found to be the second-most abundant cannabinoid overall in tested samples of cannabis. CBC makes up as much as 64 percent of total cannabinoid content in some cases! However, this study tested landrace strains of the 1970s. The commercial indoor varieties of today, which have mainly been selected for high THC content, are unlikely to contain such high levels of CBC.

In another study published in 2002, CBC was shown to “dominate the cannabinoid fraction of juveniles and to decline with maturation”. An earlier study noted that CBC naturally degrades to cannabicyclol in the presence of heat and light, just as THC naturally degrades to cannabinol (CBN).

Interestingly, the 2002 study also reports the existence of “morphological variants possessing a ‘prolonged juvenile chemotype’ (PJC)”, which retain a substantial proportion of CBC all the way up to maturity. These “PJC” strains express fewer bracts and bracteoles (the small leaves that grow alongside the flowers), as well as fewer trichomes. It was also shown that reducing light levels increased the proportion of CBC in these PJC plants, and that overall, these strains were capable of producing “pharmaceutical raw material with high CBC purity”.

The medical potential of CBC

CBC is now thought to have various potential medical applications, many of which are related to immunological or homeostatic processes. Several studies have investigated CBC for its therapeutic potential, and although research on CBC is generally at a preliminary stage, results thus far have been promising.

1. Antidepressant

In a 2010 study on mice, cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabidiol (CBD) were shown to exhibit “significant effect” on indicators of depression. CBC resulted in a significant dose dependent decrease in immobility at doses of 40 and 80 mg/kg.

2. Anti-inflammatory

In an animal study published in 2010, lipopolysaccharide-induced paw edema (swelling) was found to be reduced by administration of CBC. It was also shown that this effect occurred independently of the CB receptors, as antagonists blocked similar effects caused by THC, but did not block those of CBC. This study also found that THC and CBC worked in synergy to produce a stronger anti-inflammatory effect when administered together – a great example of synergistic cannabinoid interactions!

Receptors with areas highlighted in glowing orange

3. Antinociceptive:

A 2011 study on rats showed that both CBC and CBD reduced nociceptive pain (pain caused by damage to the nerve itself) in rats via a complex set of interactions with proteins known to control the antinociceptive response.

Interestingly, these effects were blocked by the action of CB1 receptor antagonists, indicating that CBC does have any affinity for the cannabinoid receptors.

4. Intestinal Motility

In a 2012 study on rats, CBC was shown to normalize gastrointestinal hypermotility (diarrhoea) without reducing bowel transit time. This is of clinical interest, as most anti-diarrhoea drugs are associated with constipation due to massively reduced bowel transit time. Thus, CBC could prove to be of great importance in developing cannabinoid-based treatments for disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Intestinal motility

5. Neuroprotective

A fascinating study published in 2013 showed that CBC increased the viability (health and survival rate) of progenitor stem cells in adult mice, possibly via a complex mechanism involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP; the enzyme responsible for energy transfer between the cells of the body).

However, CBC also apparently inhibited the differentiation of these progenitor stem cells into astroglia. Astroglia are important glia cells, heavily involved in processes of repair and homeostasis, as well as supplying nutrients to neurons. Hopefully, further research will determine the effects of this phenomenon, and assess its potential in medicine.

There is an ongoing need for human clinical research in the area of medicinal cannabis. As science becomes increasingly aware of the therapeutic potential of different cannabinoids, it is imperative to enquire into the mechanism by which they exert this therapeutic potential. CBC piques the curiosity of modern medicine because of its abundance in the cannabis plant and its various targets as a treatment.

  • Disclaimer:
    This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.


5 thoughts on “Cannabinoid Science 101: What Is Cannabichromene (CBC)?”

  1. Hello,
    I see claims that back in the 70s and 80s the cannabichromene was up to 65% of the cannabinoid profile, but I never see which strains!? I can get old seeds that have been stored in a air tight container in a freezer by a life long promoter of cannabis. He has saved strains from every year since the early 80s. I would just like to know what strains had the higher CBC content. If you have any information on what strains had high cbc in it would you please email me!!!? Thank you and have a great day.
    I am a Industrial hemp farmer.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks for your comment. As far as I can tell, the strains you refer to are all landrace varieties – in the earliest study, they are referred to as ‘Moroccan variant’ etc. so it’s difficult to pin down what the equivalent would be in commercially available, non-landrace strains. Unfortunately I think the only way of finding out what the seeds you mention will do is to grow them out and have their cannabinoid profile tested.

      Sorry I can’t help you further, and good luck with your project!

      With best wishes,


  2. Michael H Moskowitz

    Astroglia are glial cells, not neurons. CBC may not allow animal nerve stem cells to differentiate into astroglia, but that is not an impoortant way that astroglia are formed after embryonic development. Unlike neurons, astroglia can and do reproduce. The article is very well written and absolutely dead on about the need for human research.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you so much for your feedback, and for this correction. I am very pleased that someone with your background and qualifications is both reading our blog, and finding it well written! We are currently in the process of updating and rewriting our blog articles, and I will be sure to accelerate the update that is due on this one, and include this information. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

      With best wishes,


  3. Very interesting article !
    It is pointing the interactions between cannabinoids and show the specific amount necessary dose for antidepressant effect.
    The article is clear and well documeted with enough science to be readable by a professional.

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