by Seshata on 25/12/2015 | Medicinal

Did you know that other plants produce cannabinoids too?

Cannabinoids For years, it was thought that cannabis was the only plant capable of producing cannabinoids. However, in the last few years research has been published that shows that cannabis is not the only plant that produces these compounds, and that they are actually quite common!


banner

For years, it was thought that cannabis was the only plant capable of producing cannabinoids. However, in the last few years research has been published that shows that cannabis is not the only plant that produces these compounds, and that they are actually quite common!

What exactly is a cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are lipid-based molecules that all act to some degree on the cannabinoid receptors, which are a primary component of the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids are produced by plants (most famously, the cannabis plant), but are also produced by the bodies of humans and most other animal species, and can also be synthesized in laboratories.

Cannabinoids produced by plants are known as phytocannabinoids, those produced by the body are known as endocannabinoids, and lab-synthesized compounds are simply known as synthetic cannabinoids.

Primitive liverworts like this may contain substances related to THC (© Mr & Mrs Apteryx australis)
Primitive liverworts like this may contain substances related to THC (© Mr & Mrs Apteryx australis)

Most cannabis enthusiasts will have heard of the classic cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, THCV and CBC, which for many years were thought to be the only compounds that acted on the cannabinoid receptors. The classic cannabinoids all share the same chemical formula, C21H30O2.

However, as our understanding of the endocannabinoid system has grown, we have found that the number and type of different compounds that act on the receptors is far larger.

Thus, we have to widen the goalposts somewhat as to what constitutes a cannabinoid—beyond the 120 or so classic cannabinoids, there are also an as-yet-undetermined number of related compounds, which also act on the receptors but do not share the classic structure.

And what on earth are cannabimimetics?

This helichrysum contains CBG or related compounds (© plantzafrica.com)
This helichrysum contains CBG or related compounds (© plantzafrica.com)

As well as cannabinoids, we also have an important class of non-classical cannabinoids known as cannabimimetics. They are called cannabimimetics as they literally mimic the biological activity of the classical cannabinoids, despite not sharing their structure.

Cannabimimetics are of increasing importance within the world of medicinal cannabinoid research. Classically, the EC system has been viewed as a simple set of two receptors and two ligands (a ligand is the term for a compound that binds to a receptor).

However, it is now increasingly being shown that the EC system is far more complex than this. Dozens of different compounds are now known to act either directly or indirectly on the EC system, and many of these compounds also work on other important biological messaging systems such as the opioid, serotonergic and dopaminergic signalling systems.

Some examples of known cannabimimetics:

 

NAE’s & N-alkylamides

N-acylethanolamines are a class of fatty acid compounds which are known to be heavily involved in biological signaling. NAE’s include N-arachidonoylethanolamine (better known as anandamide), N-palmitoylethanolamine (PEA), N-linoleoylethanolamide (LEA), and N-oleoylethanolamine (OEA).

Echinacea has been found to contain cannabimimetic N-alkyamides (© Christopher Craig)
Echinacea has been found to contain cannabimimetic N-alkyamides (© Christopher Craig)

Anandamide is well known for being the biological compound which most closely resembles the activity of THC, as it directly agonizes the principal cannabinoid receptors. It is now also known that anandamide also directly agonizes a third cannabinoid receptor known as GPR119, which is also affected by N-oleoylethanolamine.

As well as directly acting on the principal and minor cannabinoid receptors, NAE’s are also known to exert a range of indirect effects. For example, LEA, PEA and OEA all inhibit levels of the FAAH enzyme that is responsible for degrading anandamide itself, and thus can effectively increase levels of anandamide in tissues over time.

N-alkylamides are a similar but less well-researched class of cannabimimetic compounds that have been shown to exert selective effects on the CB2-receptors, and have been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects similar to anandamide.

Beta-caryophyllene

This important terpene is found in cannabis, and its oxide (which forms on contact with air) is the compound detected by drug-sniffing dogs! B-caryophyllene has been shown to act as a full agonist of the CB2-receptor, although it does not act on the CB1-receptor.

It has also been shown to exert anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in mice, but not in mice bred to lack CB2-receptors—showing that this biological activity is exerted via the receptors themselves.

Salvinorin A

Salvinorin A is the main component of the psychoactive plant species Salvia divinorum. Unusually for a hallucinogenic plant compound, salvinorin A is a terpenoid, not an alkaloid like mescaline, psilocybin and DMT. Furthermore, it is a dissociative, rather than a classic hallucinogen.

Interestingly, it seems that salvinorin A does not interact with the classic cannabinoid receptors, but in fact interacts with a putative third cannabinoid receptor that apparently forms only in inflammatory conditions, and which also acts as a kappa-opioid receptor. The κ-opioid receptors are fundamental to pain regulation, and are also the principal target of most hallucinatory compounds!

Myrcene

The Chinese rhododendron has been shown to contain CBC or related compounds (© wplynn)
The Chinese rhododendron has been shown to contain CBC or related compounds (© wplynn)

Another very important terpene found in cannabis, and one that is also a major constituent of the essential oil of hops. Although it is not thought that myrcene directly acts on the cannabinoid receptors, it is now known that its biological activity alters the psychoactive effect of THC.

Myrcene is known to be present in high levels in strains that exert a ‘stoney’ or ‘couchlock’ effect on the user. The sedative effects of myrcene-containing plants such as hops and verbena have been known for millennia, and it is now thought that the sedative effect is due to myrcene’s ability to agonise (activate) the opioid receptors (studies have shown that the opioid antagonist naxalone blocks myrcene’s effects, suggesting that myrcene is an agonist).

Thus, although myrcene isn’t typically classed as a cannabinoid in the currently existing scientific literature, it certainly affects the subjective experience of the cannabis ‘high’. Further research will no doubt determine the exact nature of the link; presently, while testing labs such as Steep Hill Halent in California have been collecting data on the association for years, no formal studies have as yet been conducted.

Plants that produce ‘cannabimimetic’ compounds

First off, there are abundant plant sources of terpenes such as β-caryophyllene and myrcene, although of course, some sources are better than others. Myrcene is found in extremely high concentrations in hop oil, making up almost 80% of the extracted volume in some varieties, and is also found in high levels in mangoes, lemongrass, thyme, and verbena.

B-caryophyllene is found in black pepper, cloves, rosemary, hops, caraway, oregano, basil, lavender, cinnamon, and many more plant species. In most of these species, β-caryophyllene is a major constituent of the essential oil (comprising 20% in some hop species).

CBD-like compounds were recently discovered in flax seeds (© xia.aike) - Sensi Seeds Blog
CBD-like compounds were recently discovered in flax seeds (© xia.aike)

Salvinorin A is much rarer, and appears to only be found in high quantities in S. divinorum itself. However, there are indications that other sage species may also contain traces of the compound itself, or closely related molecules.

NAE’s including OAE, PEA and LEA have been found to occur in many plant species. Notably, OAE and LEA have both been found in the cocoa plant, and black truffles have even been reported to contain anandamide itself! Lastly, the compounds known as N-alkylamides have been found in various echinacea species, and it is thought that echinacea’s importance in herbal medicine may derive from this fact.

In time, the list of plants that can safely be said to contain cannabimimetic compounds will no doubt expand dramatically, as we continue to find compounds capable of acting on the EC system.

But do any plants produce classical cannabinoids, other than cannabis?

Up until very recently indeed, it seemed that the cannabis plant was unique in producing the true, classic cannabinoids. However, this conventional wisdom appears to have been turned on its head with the discovery in 2012 that flax (linen) seeds produce cannabidiol (CBD)! Or at least, that they produce cannabinoid-like compounds very similar to CBD, which appear to have similar anti-inflammatory effects.

However, there is in fact a much earlier piece of research suggesting that the compound cannabigerol (CBG) and its precursor cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) are present in a South African herb, and a more recent (2011) study suggesting that cannabichromene (CBC) and some related compounds are present in Chinese rhododendron.

Lastly, there is even a plant known as the New Zealand liverwort, which produces an unusual type of cannabinoid (called perrottetinenic acid) that appears to be very closely related to THC, so much so that it may actually act on the CB1-receptor! If this is the case, it will be the only other known plant compound found in nature that is capable of doing so. However, whether or not this compound actually acts on the CB1-receptor is not yet known.

And one thing we seem to know for sure: no other plant aside from cannabis produces THC.

Comment Section

Post a comment

Naomi

A very interesting article, however all of your plant references with the photographs are incorrect.

08/01/2016

David Cannafacts sensiseeds.com

Dear Naomi,
Thank you for pointing this out. There was a mistake done during the upload process. The captions have since been rectified.
Have a nice day

08/01/2016

Jack Greenslade

Thank you for this valuble information. Could you tell me where I can get these products. Please and thank you.

08/01/2016

Harriet

To the person wanting to know where to get these products---STOP BEING SUCH A DERPIFIED CONSUMER!!!!! The article did not mention any products. Not everything on earth is a product. Get a life beyond consuming products! Everything on earth is not for your consumption. Deep de Dero de Derpety Dero. What a Derp. Go buy some beer if those dollars are burning your fingers. Hoos is in beer.

14/03/2016

paul

refreshing info,keep at it

08/01/2016

maury

An interesting article, however you could get the plant IDs right with the pictures. It really decimates what could’ve been a scholarly article.

08/01/2016

David Cannafacts sensiseeds.com

Dear Maury,
Thank you for pointing this out. The captions have been rectified.
Have a nice day

08/01/2016

kristen

Most of your plant pictures are wrong and are not what you say they are. So it’s kind of hard to take this article seriously.

08/01/2016

David Cannafacts sensiseeds.com

Dear Kristen,
Thank you for pointing this out. There was a mistake done during the upload process. The captions have since been rectified.
Have a nice day

08/01/2016

Caren K

Anyone who labels the plant pictures so incorrectly leaves me wondering about the reliability of the article. I’ll save my confidence for the people who have actually DONE the researh.

08/01/2016

David Cannafacts sensiseeds.com

Dear Caren,
Thank you for pointing this out. There was a mistake done during the upload process. The captions have since been rectified.
Have a nice day

08/01/2016

Ethan Russo

Your photos are mis-labelled!

08/01/2016

David Cannafacts sensiseeds.com

Dear Ethan,
We have spotted this and rectified the captions. Thank you for pointing it out though.
Have a nice day

08/01/2016

Versamufuckintile

So nice to see “them” killing my chances to heal myself, while monopolizeing all natural medicines.

08/01/2016

science.maven

Actually some of the essential oils are readily available. Examples from article:
Mycene- lemongrass, thyme. For the beta-caryophyllene- black pepper, cloves (has the highest tested antioxidants levels; check it out), rosemary, oregano, basil, lavender, and cinnamon make the short list. CBG- Helichrysum. And I was actually researching alternative for my daughter when I found this article...so now I help her with tools I already have. God be with you

30/10/2016

look up Dr Axe

look up DrAxe he's Awesome when it comes to staying healthy and using hearts and the best foods to eat and what to avoid. It's A shame you can't get legit information here.

22/02/2017

Rachel

Thank you for the information

08/01/2016

Caren K

Glad to see you re-captioned the errors on the pictures.

08/01/2016

Karen Marie Wenzel

sadly the usa govt decided salvia is no longer legal. Another innocent plant being demonized just like cannabis and hemp

26/01/2016

Linda Carpenter

Shocking to know that in this age and time our truth is being censored out by our own U S of A!

26/01/2016

Sarah Godfrey

Thank you for his article but it says CB? receptors instead of CB1 or CB2 from Beta-caryophyllene downwards.

23/02/2016

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Sarah,

Thank you for pointing that out! Apparently it was an encoding error - you might have noticed the website has been revamped recently and we're still ironing out the last few problems. I have fixed it now so it makes sense. Happy reading!

With best wishes,

Scarlet

24/02/2016

Tommy C

Isn't it nice that people just look for bullshit! Like the pics being in the wrong place.....you all need to shut the hell up, this is almost a white paper on the possibility of our future in fighting disease and pain, thanks so very much for the schooling gentlemen, you are pioneers!

27/03/2016

Tim W

Definitely agree with Tommy C. Go smoke a bowl people and relax!
Great article and looking forward to more research being done on the plants that have been used for ages to fight many medical issues. Sure beats the DMD's from Big Pharma.

27/03/2016

Deborah

Thank you for your work in this article. It brings the magnificence of the plant Kingdom.
I look forward to reading more.

27/03/2016

Gordon Rowland

Which South African herb produces CBG/CBGA? Likewise, which other plant species (if any)?
And which cannabis varieties do you recommend for controlling glaucoma?

28/03/2016

MaryAnna

great article. I have heard several times about cannabinoids in plants other than Cannabis. could you give me some references for your material so I could follow up on this research. I have a degree in Ethnobotany and would like to pursue further research. interested in hearing this perspective and where it is being done. thanks

14/04/2016

Storm Crow

You might check the "Cannabinoids in Other Plants" section of "Granny Storm Crow's List". Here's a few titles from it- "Truffles contain endocannabinoid metabolic enzymes and anandamide", "The CB(1) Receptor-Mediated Endocannabinoid Signaling and NGF: The Novel Targets of Curcumin" and "Stimulation of cannabinoid receptors by using Rubus coreanus extracts to control osteoporosis in aged male rats" (R coreanus has been used in eastern medicine).

26/05/2016

Alan F

Great 'free' article with a lot of useful information for further research. I just don't understand the point of people bitching about mistaken pics during an upload? Christ, get a life, you ain't paid Jack for this info and give the author a break for his fine efforts and personal research he kindly shared with us.

25/04/2016

jay king

Thanks for this post. any further research info is appreciated.

21/05/2016

Mikey

My wife in the last ten years has developed many seriously debilitating issues.I am so tired of these doctors and pills (as is she).any info regarding these natural wonders would be so greatly appreciated,any type of natural pain releiver is worth its weight to us thank you

12/07/2016

Katy

Nice page. Anyone wanting to know more or be able to use plant medicines should see a qualified herbalist.

03/10/2016

Tracy Peterson

I have anxiety, depression, and chronic pain due to failed spine surgery and returning scoliosis. I've turned recently to natural remedies and I'm better than ever. I'm using a trusted CBD oil, Ginko, Ginseng, essential oils such as lavender, cedar wood, lemon, ylang-ylang, and began yoga, listening to music, and spending more time tapping into my artistic side. I'm 31 years old, with 2 young children (boys 1 and 4 years old). This sounds like a lot, I can't say I had time to take care of myself until my youngest became a little more independent, but I'm glad I'm dabbling here and there to feel better, and it's working! I do everything pretty much as cheap or free as I can because we only have one income that is sporadic and unsteady. A day at a time. A month ago I was ready to leave this world if it wasn't for my babies. I realized I needed to stay, get better, and be the best I can be for them. I was on 12 different medications a day. I was paralyzed by anxiety and couldn't leave my home except for doctor appointments. I think western medicine can still help, but we need to take our health into our own hands. Eat better. Exercise. Our food is poison. We must eat only what Mother Nature creates. Small steps. I started by eliminating diet soda and high processed food like crackers, chips, snacks etc and replaced them with fresh fruit and vegetables. I drink tea, coffee, or coconut almond milk instead of soda, juice (unless fresh squeezed by my own two hands) and energy drinks or anything if the kind. Exercise is difficult with my pain, but it's getting easier, my pain is reducing. I started with a 10 minute walk every couple days. I'd put a couple of my favorite songs to listen to on while I walked, it distracted me from my pain a little. Lastly, and maybe MOST importantly... get your Omega 3's! A 1:1 ratio diet of omega 3 to omega 6 compliments each other and guess what, produces cannabinols inside your body. I'm using CBD oil until I can balance my diet. Too much omega 3 or too much omega 6 will cancel out the other's effects and will not produce the coveted cannabinols.
I pray your wife finds relief. I'm still working on making myself well, it takes time, but the CBD Oil gave me relief in just a few days, giving me the hope I needed to do my research and keep moving forward with my journey. God bless.

07/05/2017

Brian

Great article, very informative...references, citations would be nice. Keep up the good work.

18/08/2016

Scarlet Palmer

Hello Brian,

Thanks for your comment. If you click the links in green, you will find various references and citations. If there is something specific you are missing that is not covered by these links, please let us know :)

With best wishes,

Scarlet

18/08/2016

Dr. Ganja

Great article anandamide interesting

07/11/2016

PC MMC

So this was interesting, however, these plants aren't cannabinoids, they are agents that act like or mimic cannabinoids. Yes some of them work well but not as well as cannabis, now before anyone says,"I don't want to get high to get the benefits." That totally understandable, so i'm about to drop some real knowledge bombs on you. Cannabis is non-psychoactive if its eating raw, but if it is heated or dried out, it will become psychoactive. In raw form(not heated) cannabis plant contains both THCa (Tetrahydrocannabinolic-acid) and CBDa (Cannabidiolic-acid).
THCa does this
Anti-inflammatory properties for treatment of arthritis and lupus
Neuroprotective properties for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases
Anti-emetic properties for treatment of nausea and appetite loss
Anti-proliferative properties noted in studies of prostate cancer.
All of this without getting high, you also get 1000-2000 mg(1-2 grams) of cannabinoids versus 15-30 mg(.015-.03 grams) from smoking.
Now lets talk about edibles, because someones thinking 'Well i ate a weed cookie(browny) and got crazy high." This is correct you did but what you don't know is for edible to become that way cannabis has to be decarboxylated. Which means THCa is changed to THC, through baking it in the oven twice at low temp then it is then added to edible. There are other way to decarboxylate THCa but baking it is most accessible to all. CBDa is turning out to be the real star (RIGHT NOW) for medical use. Even when smoked CBD(CBDa converts after heating) is not psychoactive, however, you must get strains that are very high in CBD with almost no THC. Eating raw though means it won't matter if their is THCa in the stain that you are consuming. So if you like those above plant then go for it but if you want the real deal then go get or grow some cannabis and and eat the leaves raw(not dried out either.

04/01/2017

Friend

I would like to talk to you and share some info Thanks'

19/02/2017

Facebook.com/EO101 Essential Oils 101

Thank you for your article. I had been researching plants high in cannabinoids. I appreciate that I have helichrysum and black pepper in my cupboard and have been already using them in other ways. Looking forward to expanding their usefulness.

29/03/2017

Leave a Comment

Please enter a name
Oops, looks like you forgot something?