5 Minor Cannabinoids That Are Becoming Major Players in the Cannabinoid Industry
The CBD boom of the last five years has prompted a newfound public interest in hemp and its derivative cannabinoids. Many people are surprised to learn that flowering hemp produces a myriad of beneficial compounds besides THC, the active agent that gives you that feeling of a ‘high’ in marijuana. In fact, there are over 100 known compounds from the hemp plant besides THC. Called cannabinoids, these compounds are currently the subject of comprehensive study and research to further understand how they impact the body.
CBD has certainly been in the limelight for the last 5 years, but other minor cannabinoids have begun to gain popularity amongst consumers. So, let’s dive in.
While CBD (cannabidiol) is certainly the most prominent cannabinoid found in contemporary hemp varieties, farmers recently started experimenting with others (also known as chemotypes) that are high in CBG (cannabigerol). Varieties of hemp that primarily produce CBD belong to chemotype III, whereas varieties that contain high amounts of CBG are chemotype IV.
Right now, CBG is the most popular minor cannabinoid. It has intrigued scientists who have noted its potential anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties, in addition to other purported benefits. Many CBD brands have started introducing CBG products to differentiate from others on the market. With its growing popularity, this minor compound will likely be considered a major one down the road as supply increases.
Neither CBG nor CBD occurs in the plant in their neutral form, they must first be heated from their precursor acidic form in a process called decarboxylation.
These acidic forms of cannabinoids were not given much consideration until the last couple of years, but today, CBDa and CBGa are the buzz of the industry. Manufacturers are developing novel processes to extract and isolate these compounds and some CBD brands are already incorporating them into their lineup – often formulating products that contain both acidic and neutral cannabinoids side-by-side.
Something important to note is that manufacturers of CBDa and CBGa can command a 5-10x price premium compared to the neutral forms.
CBN (Cannabinol) has recently emerged as a trendy cannabinoid that is noted for its sedative properties and potential applications around sleep and anxiety. In nature, CBN occurs when aged hemp plants degrade and oxidize. There are currently no viable genetics and extraction schemes to produce CBN directly from the plant. Instead, CBN manufacturers synthetically replicate this oxidation, usually using CBD isolate as a precursor. The result is a purified CBN that is technically still plant-derived.
Some countries, such as the UK, have banned CBN from being sold due to its strong effects. However, in unrestricted parts of the world consumer demand is booming. Manufacturers are currently selling CBN for a 10-15x premium compared to CBD Isolate.
Varins are the newest “boutique cannabinoids’ ‘ on the block and CBDv and THCv are the two most popular. At first glance, varins have a seemingly identical chemical structure to their root cannabinoid cousins, but they are different compounds with different effects and potential applications.
Varins contain two fewer carbon atoms than the standard five-carbon chains found in most cannabinoids. While varins are naturally found in the hemp plant, it is only a residual amount in contemporary genetics.
This makes plant-derived extraction economically untenable compared to synthetic production. This may change, however, as some cultivators have claimed to develop hemp genetics that produces a high ratio of CBDv. Currently, synthetic cannabinoid varins such as CBDv can sell for upwards of $20,000/kg.
There are dozens of other “minor-minors”— cannabinoids that are at the forefront of research and commercialization. Many of these cannabinoids, like varins, are only found in extremely small amounts naturally and must be produced synthetically until direct plant-derived extraction can be supported.
These cannabinoids include CBC, CBL, CBT, and many others in acidic, neutral, and varin forms. Its potential applications include supplements, pharmaceuticals, topicals, animal nutrition, and countless others.
Cannabinoid Sundae Anyone?
When it comes to research of minor cannabinoids, the industry is just at the tip of the iceberg. The advent of minor cannabinoids is empowering consumers to select a product best suited to their personal needs.
It has been said that cannabinoid formulations of the future will be like ice cream sundaes – major cannabinoids are the ice cream and minors are the fix-ins that are crafted to the customer’s specifications. Despite the scientific discovery and advances made in the last decade, cannabinoid research is still in its nascent phase and the hemp industry can look forward to decades of exploration and commercialization opportunities to come.