Cannabis compound may be 30 times more powerful than THC, scientists find

The authors assessed whether THCP can be of potential health benefits, given its high potency.

CBD oil is seen displayed at The Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) trade show (photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
CBD oil is seen displayed at The Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) trade show
(photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
Specific compounds found within the Italian medical cannabis variety known as FM2 using mass spectrometry and metabolomics, a common process designed for finding basic chemicals, may be 30 times as powerful as THC, as noted in a CNN report.
The authors assessed whether THCP has the ability to bind to human cannabinoid receptors found in the endocannabinoid system via lab experimentation. The role of the endocannabinoid system is for keeping bodies in homeostasis, or equilibrium, which also regulates sleep, appetite, inflammation to pain and more. When someone smokes cannabis, THC overwhelms the endocannabinoid system, which interferes with the person's ability to have their cannabinoid receptors communicate between neurons.
In this case, the THCP bound strongly to both receptors, at a strength 33 times more powerful than regular THC, and 63 times stronger than another compound called THCV. The recent finding may explain why some potent cannabis varieties have a stronger effect that goes beyond it being attributed to the amount of THC alone.
"This means that these compounds have higher affinity for the receptors in the human body. In cannabis varieties where THC is present in very low concentrations, then we can think that the presence of another, more active cannabinoid can explain those effects," said  Dr. Cinzia Citti, lead author and post-doctoral fellow in life sciences at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy.
In terms of how cannabinoids affect humans, the presence of 150 cannabis compounds is impacted by the alkyl side chain, which is typically five atoms long. In the case of THCP, a seven-atom chain, it has resulted in a higher potency than regular THC.
However, THCP has a seven-atom chain, meaning that in its natural form it has surpassed the potency of THC.
A cannabinoid with more than five atoms has never been previously reported as naturally occurring, as noted by the authors of the study. A cannabinoid with more than five atoms is also challenging to isolate. 
"The challenge is that it can take a long time to isolate, especially with rare sources," said Dr. Jane Ishmael, associate professor in Oregon State University's College of Pharmacy. "I get the impression that these products were present in small amounts, so it's a surprise to find the natural products from a cannabis plant that we've known about for a long time."
As more people have become aware of the health benefits of CBD, but since THCP appears to be far more potent, the researchers believe that there can also be health benefits in this derivative form.
"There are other minor cannabinoids and traces in the plant that can be hard to study, but by isolation we can continue to assess the effects they might offer. Historically, many of our medicines have been derived by or inspired by natural products. By having new compounds that bind with very high affinity, that will give scientists a new probe into biological scientist," the authors said.


Tags Cannabis