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Cannabichromene (CBC): What Is It? What Are The Potential Benefits?

Date 17th Nov 2021

Cannabichromene (CBC): What Is It? What Are The Potential Benefits?

Cannabichromene (CBC) is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, next to CBD, THC, and CBG.

Despite its discovery 55 years ago in 1966, the research surrounding this cannabinoid is extremely limited and has only been gaining attention alongside CBD's re-emergence into the spotlight.

Similar to CBD, CBG does a poor job at binding to the endocannabinoid system's CB1 and CB2 receptors and it's a non-psychoactive compound. Instead, CBC has been observed to have unique interactions with TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptors (vanilloid 1 and ankyrin 1 receptors).

Some studies suggest that these receptors play an important role in pain perception, stimulate the production of the body's naturally occurring endocannabinoids, and help to regulate major cell functions [1].

We'll take a closer look at what the research shows on the potential benefits of cannabichromene and its uses in everyday applications to support a healthy lifestyle.

TL;DR:

  1. The cannabis plant is abundant in compounds called cannabinoids that resemble lipid-molecules called the endocannabinoids in a cell-signaling system that regulates homeostasis.
  2. Cannabichromene (CBC) is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that's considered one of the four main cannabinoids in the Cannabis sativa plant.
  3. CBC has the same origins as THC and CBD. It comes from the CBGa molecule, so it has similar actions towards supporting a healthy inflammatory response, regulating pain signals, and anti-fungal effects [2].
  4. Most of the research investigating the interactions of cannabis plants in the human body involves THC and CBD, but CBC is gaining a lot more exposure in recent years for its unique interactions at TRP receptors and for its synergistic effects with other cannabinoids for the entourage effect [1].
  5. TRP receptors are involved with regulating fundamental cell functions from proliferation, relaxation, contraction, and apoptosis (programmed cell death).

What Is Cannabichromene (CBC)'s Legal Status?

Cannabichromene (CBC) is regulated under the same laws as CBD under the 2018 Farm Bill in the United States, which stipulates that hemp and its derivatives (all cannabinoids and terpenes) are legal as long as the hemp plants contain no more than 0.3% THC by weight.

In some parts of Europe, the classification of hemp crops is must have no traces of THC or 0.1%.

Since CBC is considered non-psychoactive and has no known intoxicating effects, it's not on the list of Controlled Substances in the US. And it's unlikely we'll see this compound banned or restricted anytime soon since its safety and effects are so similar to that of CBD.

What's The Difference Between CBC & CBD?

CBDa and THCa are the most abundant cannabinoids in raw hemp plants, which turn into the more bioavailable active compounds CBD and THC through a process called decarboxylation (heating the compound to break off a carboxyl group).

While CBCa isn't as abundant as THCa and CBDa in the hemp plant, it's still considered one of the four main cannabinoids, which also include CBGa—aka the parent molecule to the other three cannabinoids. Because of CBD, THC, and CBC's related origins, researchers have found these cannabinoids to have similar effects as an anti-inflammatory, mild pain reliever, and has antioxidant and anti-fungal properties [2].

The main differences between CBC and CBD are the molecule structures and concentrations in the hemp plant.

CBC is often mistaken in lab tests for CBD. However, CBC has a unique chemical structure of its own (C21H30O2), which lends a slightly unique effect profile (which we'll get into more detail shortly).

You can think of these molecular chemical structures like keys that unlock specific actions in the body at receptor sites. While these two compounds are very similar, there's enough of a difference in its arrangement of atoms that it may active unique receptors in the body.

The most notable difference is CBC's affinity to vanilloid receptors (TRPA1 and TRPV1), which play an important role in pain perception and cell function [1].

What Does Research Say About The Potential Benefits Of CBC?

Cannabichromene and cannabidiol share many of the same potential benefits for supporting a healthy immune response, normal stress response, and protecting cells from damage—However, the effects from CBC are much weaker than CBD.

Even though cannabis researchers have known about the existence of this cannabinoid for over 50 years, CBC-specific research is still very limited.

It's important to underscore that there is no CBC-based medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

We're simply highlighting research surrounding CBC that makes it a promising compound for future studies and potential therapeutic uses. And you should speak with your doctor before reaching for any cannabis compound to support a health condition.

1. CBC May Have Benefits Towards Problem Skin

Cannabinoids are an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be used both topically and internally.

CBC has been shown to have strong topical applications in skincare products, which may help to support breakouts caused by bacteria and mild inflammation [3]. While CBC does show promising effects towards acne, it's unlikely that CBC will replace CBD in this department since its actions aren't as strong, and it's much more difficult to harvest.

Rather than reaching for a CBC isolate product to tackle skin concerns, experts believe that CBC can provide more benefits towards supporting normal inflammation when combined with cannabinoids like THC and CBD in a full spectrum or broad spectrum extract.

CBD has become very popular in the skincare space for its interaction with the endocannabinoid system in skin tissues to support normal sebum (oil) production [4].

2. CBC May Inhibit Cancer Cell Growth (In Pre-Clinical Studies)

In rodent-modeled studies, cannabichromene has been observed to activate cell death (apoptosis) of tumor cells, limiting the spread and proliferation of cancerous cells [5].

In these studies, it's theorized that cannabinoids also target key signaling pathways involved with cancer, such as pain, nausea, and vomiting, which may help to ease overall discomfort from the disease [3].

Even in the studies looking at CBC's potential for cancer treatments, researchers concluded that CBC is much more effective alongside THC and CBD than it is on its own.

3. CBC May Support Healthy Brain Function

A study aimed at the effects of cannabinoids on adult neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs)—brain, retina, and spinal cord stem cells—found that cannabichromene (CBC) has a positive effect on mouses in vitro [6].

This study concluded that the presence of CBC helped NSPCs differentiate into astroglial cells, which are the most abundant cell type in the central nervous system (CNS), and perform a variety of tasks including maintaining homeostasis and healthy brain function.

Cannabichromene And The Entourage Effect

The entourage effect is a phenomenon in plant medicine that describes multiple botanical compounds working together to amplify the effects of one another and reduce the chances of adverse effects.

The entourage effect in cannabis was first proposed by professors, Dr. Raphael Mechoulan and Shimon Ben Shabat in 1998.

The cannabis plant is known for its complex molecular profile of cannabinoids and terpenes, and it's suggested that to leverage the full potential of CBD or THC, the presence of other phytochemicals are just as important in supporting the endocannabinoid system.

In CBC's discovery, it was found to be the third most abundant cannabinoid, thus lending a lot of support to the entourage effect. Most of the studies surrounding CBC's pharmacology found it to be weaker than THC and CBD on its own but helped to support overall endocannabinoid function when combined with the two main cannabis compounds.

With CBC becoming more and more popular, you're likely to come across CBC isolate products—oils, gummies, topicals, vape products—that may have marketing language that promises all the potential benefits from the research we've listed above. It's important to read between the lines of the marketing jargon and to carefully look at the studies.

In the studies we've summarized above, CBC has more profound effects alongside its sister cannabinoids. Rather than seeking out CBC isolate hemp products, it's best to shop for full spectrum or broad spectrum (THC-free) extracts which maintain a diverse range of plant compounds.

How To Use CBC?

High-grade full spectrum and broad spectrum extracts naturally contain small amounts of CBC. If you've ever tried one of these products, you've likely experienced CBC's benefits from the entourage effect.

CBC is still considered a novel cannabinoid and there aren't very many manufacturers producing CBC-specific products yet. However, thanks to the genetic engineering of hemp plants and sophisticated extraction methods, it's now possible to get hemp flowers and extracts with higher concentrations of CBC to leverage its unique benefits.

You can use CBC-specific products such as oils, gummies, and topicals the same way you would use your CBD products. Just like CBD products, you can find CBC oils in different potencies and they tend to have similar doses—but you may have to experiment with your dosing and the time of day you take the compound to find what works best for you.

Is CBC Safe? What Are The Potential Side-Effects Of CBC?

Even though there's not a significant amount of research surrounding CBC specifically, the compound is considered non-toxic and safe.

The scientific way of determining the toxicity of a compound is to find the LD50—the amount of a compound needed to induce a 50% fatality rate.

CBC does not have a known LD50. In a mice study, researchers administered 3000MG of CBC per kg of subject and found that this dose was fatal in only 20% of the subjects [7].

This would mean that for the average American man over the age of 20, weighing 88.7 kg (195 lbs), it would take 266,100MG of CBC to achieve a potentially lethal dose, which is an insane amount of CBC.

While cannabichromene is considered to be safe, it doesn't mean that it's without side effects. Luckily, the side effects associated with CBC are rare and very mild. These effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea

To reduce your chances of experiencing these side effects, you should shop for high-quality CBC products and dose them appropriately. Start on the lower end of the recommendation and increase the doses slowly over the course of a few days to allow for your endocannabinoid system to adjust.

The Takeaway: The New Cannabinoid CBC Cannabichromene

Most of the interest in cannabis' potential medical uses focused research on the two main cannabinoids, CBD and THC. Now that the scientific community has a deeper understanding of these compounds, researchers are looking to minor cannabinoids.

Cannabichromene is the third most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis plants and shows a lot of potential towards supporting brain health, inflammation, and pain. While it does have some unique interactions at TRP receptor sites, it seems to enhance the effects of the main cannabinoids through the entourage effects.

Since research on CBC is still in its early phases, the available studies show us that there's still a lot to learn about this cannabinoid and we can expect to see more studies conducted and CBC-related products enter the market fairly soon.

References:

  1. Fernandes, E. S., Fernandes, M. A., & Keeble, J. E. (2012). The functions of TRPA1 and TRPV1: moving away from sensory nerves. British journal of pharmacology, 166(2), 510–521. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.01851.x
  2. Russo, E. B., & Marcu, J. (2017). Cannabis pharmacology: the usual suspects and a few promising leads. Advances in pharmacology, 80, 67-134.
  3. Oláh, A., Markovics, A., Szabó-Papp, J., Szabó, P. T., Stott, C., Zouboulis, C. C., & Bíró, T. (2016). Differential effectiveness of selected non-psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment. Experimental dermatology, 25(9), 701–707.
  4. Tóth, K. F., Ádám, D., Bíró, T., & Oláh, A. (2019). Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C (ut) annabinoid” System. Molecules, 24(5), 918.
  5. Tomko, A. M., Whynot, E. G., Ellis, L. D., & Dupré, D. J. (2020). Anti-cancer potential of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids present in cannabis. Cancers, 12(7), 1985.
  6. Shinjyo, N., & Di Marzo, V. (2013). The effect of cannabichromene on adult neural stem/progenitor cells. Neurochemistry international, 63(5), 432–437. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuint.2013.08.002
  7. Turner, C. E., & Elsohly, M. A. (1981). Biological activity of cannabichromene, its homologs and isomers. Journal of clinical pharmacology, 21(S1), 283S–291S. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1552-4604.1981.tb02606....
Katrina Lubiano
Katrina Lubiano

Katrina Lubiano is a content writer in the health and wellness space based in Vancouver, Canada — Canada's epicenter for cannabis culture. When she's not working, she enjoys sailing, watercolor painting, and cooking.