An average of 9.5% of American adults ages 18 and over will suffer from an ongoing depressive illness every year – that’s roughly 17 million people. For many, finding relief is a daily struggle between managing symptoms, avoiding triggers, and trying to find a treatment plan that actually works – the latter often proving to be more difficult than most would expect. The reason for that is simple: pharmaceutical antidepressants just aren’t that effective. Natural compounds that interact with existing receptors in our bodies… that is what really works, and that is what certain cannabinoids like Cannabichromene (CBC) have to offer.
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What is Cannabichromene (CBC)?
Although much of the global discourse regarding cannabis is focused on THC and CBD, cannabichromene (CBC) is next in line as the third most prominent compound in the plant, and of equal importance therapeutically. In most strains (both marijuana and hemp), CBC ranges from 0.3% to 0.9% of the total plant constituents. Just like other cannabinoids, CBC starts out as a plant acid – cannabichromenic acid to be specific – and eventually drops the carboxyl acid group becoming just cannabichromene.
CBC is non-psychoactive and interacts with the endocannabinoid system differently than both THC and CBD. THC binds directly with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and CBD interacts indirectly to these receptors via secondary pathways. CBC, however, is an agonist of only the CB2 receptors, which play a vital role in immune function, pain management, inflammation, and overall homeostasis.
Researchers have been looking at CBC for a few decades now, with studies dating back to 1981. In one of the earlier studies, the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of CBC were put to the test. It was discovered that CBC was more powerful than phenylbutazone (an NSAID anti-inflammatory/pain medication) at controlling inflammation. It was also found to be a potent antibacterial and a moderately effective antifungal treatment as well.
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Fast forward to a 2006 study, in which numerous cannabinoids were examined to see if they could be used to shrink tumors. Among the cannabinoids tested was cannabichromene, and it scored equally well as THC and CBD at suppressing tumor growth in the animal subjects.
And finally, in this 2010 scientific study, the anti-depressant activity of CBC and other cannabinoids was tested on mice. In one part of the study – a forced swim – CBC, CBD and Delta 9 THC all showed significant anti-depressant effects. In the second part of the study – a tail suspension test – CBC and Delta-9-THC were said to have the most significant mood-elevating properties compared to other cannabinoids as well as the pharmaceutical antidepressants they were tested against.
Additional studies over the years echoed these findings, and also found that CBC produced an antinociceptive response that helped control pain, minimize digestive issues, and offered neuroprotective qualities. As with other cannabis compounds, research on the full potential of cannabichromene is still ongoing, but it has shown potential as both a standalone treatment and working synergistically with other cannabinoids.
Anandamide and Homeostasis – The Bliss Molecule
When it comes to happiness, the majority of it is situational; but according to newer global studies, the levels of happiness one feels on a regular basis can have some genetic components as well. If you know any people that seem just naturally happier than others, it might be because they have higher levels of anandamide in their brains.
Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine) is first endocannabinoid, discovered and isolated by Lumír Hanuš (Israel) and William Devane (United States) in 1992. The name comes from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” translating to “internal bliss, joy, or delight.” Anandamide is a fatty acid neurotransmitter that activates the same receptors as THC.
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Normally, anandamide is broken down by the fatty acid amino hydrolase enzyme (FAAH), at which point it is no longer in the body and thus, no more blissful effects are felt from this compound. Some people and animals produce less FAAH enzymes, and these people report feeling overall happier, experiencing less fear and anxiety than those who produce more FAAH. In addition to mental health, anandamide has been found to positively impact fertility and inhibit the growth of breast cancer tumors.
People whose bodies break down anandamide faster, can benefit greatly from supplementing with phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids created by plants); but the key is knowing which ones most closely mimic the bliss molecule’s effects. CBC, CBD, and THC all offer positive effects, but due to CBC’s affinity for the CB2 receptor, it seems to work best for elevating mood without producing any unwanted psychoactive side effects.
CBC’s Effect on Anandamide
The only reason cannabis actually works and has an effect on us at all is because of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which is responsible for numerous different psychological and physiological functions. Researchers have discovered two different endocannabinoids so far, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA).
In addition to the naturally produced cannabinoids, there is also a large web of receptors that allow AEA and 2-AG to function the way they do. The two receptors that have been studied most extensively are CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoid receptors sit on the surface of cells and monitor conditions on the outside. Once they sense changes and the body begins falling out of a state of homeostasis, they signal the appropriate cellular response to restore balance.
When we don’t produce enough endocannabinoids to complete this cycle, our bodies become unstable and no longer perform optimally, leading to the onset of numerous different diseases and disorders. This is where supplementing with the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis becomes extremely beneficial.
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All of the cannabinoids studied have their place, but cannabichromene was shown to have the strongest antidepressant effects when compared to THC, CBD, and CBG. Because CBC has such strong effects on a group of ion channels located on the plasma membrane, known as the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, it also has strong effects on anandamide and dopamine. When CBC turns on these receptors, increased levels of the body’s all-natural endocannabinoids like anandamide are released.
One of the greatest medicinal qualities of CBC is that, since it does not interact with the CB1 receptors like THC, it works efficiently at elevating the mood without any intoxicating, psychoactive effects.
Dangers of Pharmaceutical Antidepressants
Depressive disorders are on the rise, they have been for years, but we’ve seen an even sharper uptick of cases since the COVID-19 pandemic began. By the age of 19, roughly 25% of adolescents have experienced a depressive or major anxious episode, and that number jumps sharply to 53% by 30 years of age. Recent studies show that a growing number of young adults are using antidepressants, which can be beneficial for the mental state but, like all medications, come with a slew of unwanted side effects.
When it comes to the exact figures of how many Americans are taking antidepressant medication on a regular basis, here are the estimates: 4% of children 6-12 years of age, 7% of adolescents 12-18 years of age, and 10-22% of adults (a number that, as explained above, increased with age).
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Common antidepressant side effects:
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- digestive issues, such as stomach upset, nausea, and constipation
- trouble sleeping
- memory problems
- weight gain
- sexual problems such as low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, or ejaculation problems
- trouble urinating
- fast heart rate
- increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions (especially in users under the age of 25)
To add to the dilemma, newer research and scientific reviews have found that, on average, antidepressants in children and young adults only led to very miniscule psychological improvements when compared to placebo treatments. This was especially true for children and adolescents, who face the greatest risks from taking these medications.
Also keep in mind that physical health is often the catalyst that sets mental health conditions in motion, so it would be a bit of a catch 22 to take antidepressants for depression, and end up with some type of physical ailment that leaves you feeling anxious and depressed all over again.
Depression affects millions of people, here in the U.S. and globally. Throughout the world, one in four people suffer from mental and/or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a therapeutic solution that was safe, natural, and actually worked? Cannabis science is still in its infancy but the research we do have shows that it certainly is promising, and in some studies, cannabinoids like cannabichromene performed better than prescription medication (thanks to the presence of anandamide in our endocannabinoid systems). It says a lot and really emphasizes the need for more research and better regulations, especially in the field of mental health.
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