Small players make big changes. Therapeutic benefits and unique properties of CBC

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The cannabis wave has stripped up the whole world and turned a lot of things upside down. In a comparably short period of time, from a recreational weed to get short-time relaxation, cannabis has turned to the potent therapeutic agent with unique effects on the human organism. Breakthrough results of cannabis studies couldn't stay in the shade and made the cannabis plant and the whole cannabis industry one of the most promising and rapidly grown markets nowadays. 

Today, the legalisation of the cannabis plant is gaining momentum all over the globe. The main driver of such impressive growth is the increasing recognition that cannabis may have a wide range of therapeutic applications and legitimate medicinal benefits. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to date, cannabis belongs to the most widely cultivated, trafficked, and consumed drugs worldwide. The use of marijuana, including its therapeutic applications, dates back to thousands of years. The social and spiritual utilisation of cannabis is documented, as well. There are three dominant species of cannabis:

  • Cannabis Sativa;
  • Cannabis Indica;
  • Cannabis Ruderalis.
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The majority of marijuana or cannabis varieties grown today are hybrids of these species that exhibit features of two or more of them. The hemp containing a negligible amount of psychoactive compounds in its composition is majorly derived from the species of Sativa family. It has found extensive application in fuel, textiles, paper, and biodegradable plastics. In addition to this, it is also one of the least moody plants as it requires little pesticides or even doesn’t require them at all, can boast of the fast-growing agricultural crops, and has a low environmental impact as it needs less industrial processing post-harvest. Today, among the leading exporters of the industrial hemp are Canada, China, and France. 

In 2018, the size of the global cannabis market had reached the point of $10,6 billion and to date is expected to exceed the $97 billion mark by the end of 2026. 

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Nowadays, the medicinal benefits of cannabis are actively studying in laboratories all over the world, discovering new effects, and extending the potential therapeutic use of this plant. However, the scientific interest in cannabis began as far as 1940-1960s when the active components such as cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol (CBN), and terpenes were first extracted. The initial studies of this plant revealed an interesting fact that our body can naturally produce its own cannabinoids and use them to regulate homeostasis, thereby helping biological systems to maintain internal stability and remain in balance. By naturally creating compounds known as endocannabinoids and delivering them to particular receptors, the human body can actively regulate pain, memory, mood, appetite, sleep, immune response, and other functions responsible for our health and wellbeing. 

In a significant growth of the cannabis market, the lion's share belongs to the cannabis-based consumables, such as edibles and topicals. Cannabis products companies and retailers worldwide are rapidly evolving to meet the needs of the modern cannabis consumer. Today, cannabis consumers are no longer limited to smoking it with pipes, joints, or bongs, but have their wide choice of constantly increasing variety of cannabis products. Concentrates, topicals, and infused products allow ease of their use, more considerable discretion, accurate dosing, and product safety. In order to attract more “mainstream” customers, cannabis companies do their best to respond to these demands with increasingly sophisticated advertising and product packaging. Today, the innovation of products, their availability, and differentiation remain the primary “success pillars” for cannabis-infused products, especially edibles. 

In most cases, cannabis edibles contain cannabinoids or other active agents from the cannabis plant. Cannabis-infused chocolates, butter, and candies are the most popular edibles on the global market today. The euphoric “high” effect from such products usually takes one to two hours lasting longer than results from inhaling smoke or vapour. Cannabis specialists state that packaging-related modification and product innovation play a pivotal role in boosting edibles sales and popularity and making them projected to grow at the fastest rate in comparison with other cannabis products during the 2019-2026 period. 

Cannabis is often compared with other harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco, and definitely wins this comparison that is also one of the arguments in favour of cannabis products legalisation. Another vital moment regarding the cannabis market is its quality. After the legalisation of cannabis use for medical purposes, the next step will be to improve the quality standards of its cultivation.  

All of these factors are expected to drive the cannabis industry growth in the near future significantly. 

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Today, the most popular product on the cannabis market is cannabis “bud” or cannabis flower. Buds containing from 15% to 30% THC and from 0.1% to 1% CBD belong to the most consumable products worldwide. Cannabis-based concentrates including CO2 oil, BHO, shatter, budder, liver resin,  wax, kief, rosin, and ice water hash are the leading agents in the majority of the modern cannabis research due to the huge consumer’s base, favourable demand dynamics, high penetration of these products into the markets, and their higher availability. Another fact that has played into concentrates’ hand is that their boiling temperatures are lower than the temperature at which the cannabis bud burns. Such a peculiarity triggered the rapid increase in the popularity of vaporisers - devices being developed to maintain special temperatures which target the activation of specific cannabinoids. Concentrates have also achieved more significant acceptance from customers due to the widespread belief that vaporising concentrates belongs to one of the healthiest methods of cannabis consumption, especially if compared with smoking. In addition to this, the level of THC providing a well known “high” effect can exceed the mark of 80% in concentrates. These products have also achieved diverse formulations and flavour profiles together with discreet consumption experience and enhanced convenience. 

Evaluating the global cannabis market by application, its medical share has almost reached the mark of 50% (49.97%) in 2018 and is continuing to grow. To date, medical marijuana develops according to the expected scenario and keeps gaining momentum as the recent wave of cannabis products legalisation in the developed global markets is mostly based on strong clinical benefits of its therapeutic benefits. Modern medicinal applications of the cannabinoids and cannabis-infused products include their incorporation in various pharmaceutical products according to cannabis market trends. For the moment, the most well known cannabis-based medications include:

  • Cesamet;
  • Sativex;
  • Marinol.

Among the most actively studied and practised cannabis applications are its use for the treatment of conditions such as:

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  • treatment-resistant epilepsy;
  • chronic pain;
  • multiple sclerosis.

Of course, this list of potential cannabinoids benefits isn’t full and dozens of other conditions and diseases can be treated with cannabinoids-based drugs. The number of studies researching the potential benefits of CBD in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD, and cancer is increasing as well. Research is ongoing, and the global health and wellness trend has also contributed to the growth of the medical marijuana market and the utilization of CBD in particular. The popularity of cannabidiol can be easily checked as, according to Google Trends, the popularity of the search frequency of CBD-infused products is up to four times higher in comparison to THC.  

When evaluating the speed of cannabis market growth and its perspectives, we should understand who are the key players of this game. Which regions are considered to be leaders in the global cannabis race? 

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Today, the North American cannabis market is believed to be a leading region, while European cannabis market is projected to reach its fastest growth soon. The sharp rise in cannabis consumption and related growth of the whole industry began in 2012 when with the beginning of recreational legalisation of cannabis, Washington and Colorado became the first two states in the US to legalise recreational use. The next leap was in 2019 when eleven states together with the District of Columbia have also legalised the recreational use of cannabis. Currently, all state laws in the US have recognised cannabis as a form of therapy and consider it as a medicine for such conditions as:

  • anorexia;
  • Alzheimer’s disease;
  • chronic pain;
  • epilepsy;
  • cancer;
  • post-traumatic stress disorder.

Along with the US, according to analysts of the global cannabis market, Canada has also recently occupied the leading position in the cannabis legalisation race. Such a rapid legislative shift in the US market has made cannabidiol legal in all fifty states strengthening its position with the significantly increased consumer awareness towards CBD. Let's add to this the modern cosmetics which are confidently inclined towards the natural skincare ingredients with health benefits along with aesthetic appeal, and we have an impressive marijuana market value of $10.18 billion in North America for the state for 2018. 

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Not a surprise that high growth perspectives and ambitions entail serious rivalry. The modern cannabis market remains highly competitive and robustly dynamic - the legalisation wave is spreading gradually all over the globe, and hundreds of expansions and new partnerships are underway not to be outdone in this race. The actively expanding recreational cannabis popularity is nowadays creating a certain shift from habitual cannabis flowers to its more processed formats such as oils, edibles, and topicals. Such a diversity of the products available today also creates a high level of variability in the prices, thereby increasing consumers demand and cannabis popularity. Among the companies that are considered to be the key players of this big cannabis game are:

  • Aurora Cannabis;
  • Canopy Growth Corporation;
  • Aphria Inc.;
  •  Cronos Group Inc.;
  • MedReleaf Corp.;
  • GW Pharmaceuticals, plc.;
  • VIVO Cannabis Inc.;
  • CannTrust Holdings Inc.;
  • OrganiGram Holdings;
  • Tilray.

The perspective and validation-based cannabis benefits together with its significantly growing consumption and essential role in many therapeutic applications work together like a giant growth engine of the global cannabis market. The medicinal use of cannabis is not a recent development, although modern research has risen to an absolutely new level, like an avalanche entailing new studies, animal and human trials. Besides this, with the open and flexible regulatory framework, de-stigmatization, and strong emphasis on education, recreational cannabis can also comprise a significant part of the sustainable sales along with medicinal cannabis in the foreseeable future.

Cannabichromene - the little-known cannabinoid with big benefits

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From the first view, it seems that the giant machine of the global cannabis industry doesn’t play on the small-stake tables and is focused only on such well known hyped cannabinoids like CBD and THC. Actually, it’s not at all. In this game, small players may cause significant changes and have a great influence on the industry development and vector of its direction in general. 

By the small players, we mean cannabinoids that are only at the beginning on their way and only recently have become an object of interest for world research and studies. It doesn’t mean that THC and CBD studying has paused or stopped at all at a particular stage, vice versa, global research of these compounds is ongoing, and with the appearance of the new cannabinoids, it's only gaining momentum. With the discovery of therapeutic benefits of the cannabinoids that are considered to be “newcomers” in the medicinal cannabis world, many of them are anyway compared to the most studied compounds to understand how the difference between them may bring additional benefits to human health. 

To date, there are one hundred different cannabinoids known to science, and their number is increasing. Each of these chemicals may have potential benefits for our health and has all chances to become the primary active agent of a new drug for diseases that couldn’t be treated before. World studies and research are actively going on, and the trend of the global cannabis legalisation serves as a “green light” for all the scientific trials and studies. Nowadays, the vast majority of medicinal cannabis research is focused on eight main cannabinoids with the most pronounced therapeutic effects:

  • THC. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the most famous and, at the same time, perhaps the most critical cannabinoid for today. Besides its well known psychoactive properties, THC is also claimed to have many therapeutic uses. According to the research, this compound has potent pain-relieving, muscle relaxing, exhilarating, and appetizing properties, that make it an excellent candidate to become a remedy for a wide range of various diseases and conditions.
  • CBD. In its popularity, CBD or cannabidiol is not inferior to THC, being one of the two most famous cannabinoids of the 21st century. Unlike THC, cannabidiol doesn’t have any psychoactive properties and therefore is absolutely legal. This peculiarity of CBD serves as an additional trigger for more research and studies worldwide, speeding up its use in the role of medication. According to the results demonstrated during the numerous studies, cannabidiol can be used for many purposes. Currently, this compound is most actively researched as an active agent for the treatment of sleep disorders, epilepsy, psychoses, and movement disorders.
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  • CBC. CBC or cannabichromene is the object of interest in our review. This cannabinoid is considered as the second most abundant compound. Similarly to CBD, CBC also doesn’t cause any psychological influence on our mental health and is legal. The range of research has shown its ability to support THC effects. As for the therapeutic benefits, cannabichromene is claimed to have calming, soothing, and antidepressant properties. We will review the health benefits, chemical structure, and other essential information regarding this cannabinoid in this section below.  
  • CBN. Chemically, cannabinol or CBN is an oxidation product of THC. Not a surprise that such a kinship influenced its psychoactive properties and has endowed this compound with slightly psychoactive effects. The list of therapeutic benefits for this cannabinoid includes antibacterial and calming properties. It has also been shown that CBN can lower intraocular pressure.  
  • CBDV. As the name implies, CBDV or cannabidivarin is a homologue of the cannabidiol. This compound can be found in indica cannabis strains with a low level of THC and doesn’t have psychoactive effects. Similarly to CBD, CBDV can decrease the severity of seizures as well as their frequency. As for other therapeutic benefits, cannabidivarin may be used to reduce pain, inflammation, nausea, and mood disorders. 
  • THCA. THCA or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is related to THC and can be found in cannabis without psychoactive response. Chemically, THCA is a precursor of THC as when being exposed to sunlight, heat, or time, a chemical process called decarboxylation starts, and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid in the harvested plant converts to THC. However, even with such a close connection with THC, THCA doesn’t have psychoactive effects. Today, this cannabinoid is considered as a superfood and when eaten raw as a dietary supplement, has the ability to ease arthritis pain, relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and other chronic conditions. 
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  • THCV. Tetrahydrocannabivarin is also similar to the THC, although, unlike THCA, has psychoactive properties. Moreover, THCV is considered to be a more potent psychoactive compound in comparison with THC alone. Nevertheless, the high created by THCV doesn’t last as long as the “high” produced by delta-9-THC - it will disappear much faster. THCV is actively studied as a potential agent to be used for weight loss as it acts as an appetite suppressant and seems to increase overall energy. Besides this, THCV can be used for reducing anxiety, bone growth stimulation, and regulation of blood sugar levels. 
  • CBG. Cannabigerol or CBG is a phytocannabinoid found in hemp. It is quite rare and is present in cannabis strains in small amounts. This cannabinoid refers to the group of non-intoxicating cannabis compounds, that means it doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects on human health. Also, CBG is known as the chemical “parent” of CBD and THC. It has been shown that CBG can act as a vasodilator that means it can be used in case of stroke. In addition to this, cannabigerol can be used for the treatment of Huntington’s disease, glaucoma, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and bladder control issues. 

We considered eight main cannabinoids with therapeutic benefits that are most actively studied nowadays. Among them are both famous cannabinoids and “green” newcomers, hames of which many of us just recently heard for the first time. CBC or cannabichromene is one of such compounds. Despite the fact that this chemical is one of the most prevalent compounds in hemp and cannabis, it remains virtually unknown to most cannabinoids consumers. What this cannabinoid can boast of and whether it deserves our attention at all? Are its benefits enough to start research and be studied along with THC and CBD? Cannabis experts called CBC the little-known cannabinoid with significant benefits, let’s check is it really so.

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Cannabichromene was discovered in 1966, although from that moment, research into its potential therapeutic benefits has been very slow to progress that explains why we didn’t know almost anything about this cannabinoid till today. After the CBC discovery, flashier cannabinoids such as THC and CBD took all the attention of the world of science and became the main objects of interest for hundreds of studies. Nevertheless, a growing body of research has shown that this humble and inconspicuous at first glance, cannabinoid has remarkable therapeutic potential. CBC belongs to the non-intoxicating cannabinoids that mean you can fully experience its health benefits without a “high” effect. It is also one of the main CBC features that have pushed its studies at the new level as this cannabinoid and all the research associated with it are absolutely legal. 

Let’s remember the school chemistry lessons and sort out how this cannabinoid appears in the cannabis plant. Cannabichromene is produced in cannabis plants such as hemp when the enzyme, CBCA synthase, interacts with CBG and forms CBCA or cannabichromenic acid. When CBCA is exposed to light or heat, the chemical process called decarboxylation starts. During the decarboxylation process, the heat removes the carboxylic acid atoms, leading to the creation of CBC. 

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What about the therapeutic benefits of this cannabinoid? Effects the compound can cause on our health, work as an assessment of its capabilities, basing on which researchers decide whether this chemical “deserves” their time and efforts to include it into the studies or it will be better to substitute it with another, more promising cannabinoid. Although CBC research is ongoing and continues revealing new budding data, this cannabinoid has already managed to prove to possess extensive therapeutic effects making it a potential treatment for a range of diseases and conditions. Among the most promising CBC benefits for our health are the following:

  • CBC reduces pain. Similarly to other cannabis compounds, CBC is able to reduce pain, although its analgesic effects are not as potent as THC can provide. Researchers state that rather than acting as an independent pain reliever, CBC enhances the overall pain-relieving effects manifested by other cannabinoids. Such an ability to “boost” the anodyne properties of other compounds makes CBC most effective when taken with other cannabinoids. The efficacy of pain relief has been observed to enhance when combined with CBD, which points to the entourage effect of different cannabis compounds. According to the study held in 2011, CBD and CBC relieved pain blocked pain detection in different ways, including interacting with several target proteins “responsible” for the pain response. The results of other studies also confirmed that the presence of multiple cannabinoids could address pain on multiple fronts. 
  • CBC is antimicrobial. Cannabichromene has also shown its potential to act as an antimicrobial agent, fighting E. coli and staph colonies, and even the hard-to-treat Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Studies involving animal models have also demonstrated the potent antifungal and antibacterial effects of this cannabinoid. 
  • CBC reduces inflammation. Even working independently, CBC has the ability to reduce inflammation and swelling. However, a study held in 2010 has shown that the cannabinoid can be more effective in inflammation relief when used in conjunction with other compounds like CBD. Other studies again showed the power of the entourage effect by demonstrating the CBC effectiveness when working together with THC. It is assumed that several different cannabinoids produced anti-inflammatory actions can provide the maximally potent effect by acting together, which would not have been able to do separately. Since inflammation, in many cases, is believed to be the root cause of chronic illness, CBC may play a key role in treating and reducing many common conditions. For example, cannabichromene can assist with conditions related to inflammation such as cardiovascular disease and arthritis. 
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  • CBC fights acne. One of the main reasons for acne appearance is the excessive production of skin sebum (oil). According to one of the recent studies, CBC can reduce the production of this oil and, therefore, is showing promise as a potential treatment for acne. 
  • CBC encourages brain growth. Maybe “brain growth” sounds a bit straightforwardly, but it maximally helps to understand the official title of “neurogenesis CBC properties.” The study held in 2013 has become a breakthrough and concluded that this cannabinoid might have the potential neurogenesis potential, meaning CBC can promote the growth and development of the new brain tissues. One of the explanations of this effect is that CBC increases the viability of brain cells as they are developing. It is essential for memory consolidation, and the discovery of such properties could lead to new advancements in treating such brain injuries and degenerative diseases as Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to this, having such therapeutic properties, CBC can be used as an effective treatment for symptoms related to diseases and conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Neuropathy, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and chronic postoperative pain.  
  • CBC eases migraines. Like CBD, CBC is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for headaches and migraines. More and more people today are turning to this natural remedy to get migraine pain relief. 
  • CBC fights depression. Many different cannabinoids have already shown their abilities to cope with depression, and CBC has also joined their ranks. Today, depression affects millions of people worldwide and cannabinoids like cannabichromene are emerging as an effective natural treatment for this condition. CBC is believed to provide its therapeutic effects by contributing to the overall mood-elevating properties associated with cannabis. However, it seems to behave and interact with our physiology in a different way than other cannabis compounds like THC act. More research and studies are needed to understand the mechanism of CBC work fully. It was also shown that cannabichromene had exhibited potent antidepressant effects both when administered as sole therapy and when combined with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We have already mentioned above that CBC has been shown to stimulate the growth and development of brain cells. This property is also significant for depression as this condition may be caused by a decline in the growth of these cells.
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  • CBC fights cancer. The possibility of using cannabinoids for cancer treatment is the most cherished dream and bold expectation of all the cannabis specialists. CBC and similar to it, cannabis compounds are developing a reputation for their ability to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumours and shrink them in size. Studies have demonstrated that CBC helps regulate the uptake of anandamide - endocannabinoid with anti-cancer properties that is produced naturally in our body. This enables it to remain within the human body, fighting off the cancer cells. The ability of CBC to inhibit tumour growth implies that it could be used as a chemopreventive agent in the future. While more research and human trials are needed, this is promising news and an exciting area of research that is developing rapidly. 

Despite similar at first glance benefits of CBC and other well-known cannabinoids, CBC does things differently. 

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Before figuring out what is the main difference in the mechanism of action of cannabichromene and other cannabis compounds, let’s talk about the endocannabinoid system. The ECS or endocannabinoid system consists of a complex of receptors in our body and is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in our organism or, in other words, for self-regulating biological functions. Cannabis and hemp compounds interact with the receptors of our endocannabinoid system that can be found on the surface of cells throughout our brain and body. All the endocannabinoid receptors are divided into two main groups:

  • CB1 receptors. This type of receptors is primarily found in the brain and central nervous system (CNS). They also present in other tissues but in a much smaller amount. 
  • CB2 receptors. This type of endocannabinoid receptors is mostly found in the peripheral organs, especially in the cells associated with the immune system. Primarily, CB2 receptors are located on the surface of white blood cells. 

Most of the known cannabinoids, including famous THC and CBD, interact directly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the human endocannabinoid system to provide therapeutic effects. What is the difference between CBC and other cannabinoids? Does it act in some other way? The answer is yes, it does. In contrast to the majority of other discovered cannabinoids, CBC binds neither to CB1 nor to CB2 receptors. However, it doesn’t prevent cannabichromene from demonstrating the positive effect on our endocannabinoid system. Ok, let’s find out how it all happens. 

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The main difference in the CBC action is that this cannabinoid doesn’t interact directly with endocannabinoid receptors. Instead of this, CBC boosts the beneficial effects of other cannabinoids by protecting CB1 and CB2 receptors from being degraded. By interfering with the processes that degrade the endocannabinoid receptors, cannabichromene enhances interaction and activity with other cannabinoids, like cannabidiol. Although it’s not the end - CBC undoubtedly is unique in the way it affects the ECS, but that’s not all that sets it apart from dozens of other cannabinoids. One of the most exciting things about CBC is its ability to interact with receptors that are not part of the endocannabinoid system. Yes, not all the cannabinoids manifest their beneficial effects by interacting with the endocannabinoid system and its receptors. CBC interacts with vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) receptor and the transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1). Both of these receptors are “responsible” for the pain and inflammation signals activation. It means that CBC may be a worthy alternative to the highly-addictive opioids and steroids that are routinely prescribed as pain management medication, being as effective but without causing any addiction. Opioids addiction is a serious problem for athletes, many of whom have already turned to CBD to manage their pain. The issue of opioid addiction concerns not only athletes but the whole world. The number of deaths worldwide caused by opioids overdose is growing with overwhelming speed. In the US, the number of drug overdose deaths involving any opioid has reached the mark of 47600 in 2017 and continues to grow. Because of this, a medicine that could become an alternative to opioids providing the same potent effect is a matter of global importance. 

Cannabichromene. What comes next? 

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Despite the difference of CBC from other cannabinoids, similar hurdles as for other compounds await it ahead. The main barrier on the way to massive use and global adoption as an effective medication is the lack of research. A lot of studies have already been held, and as much or even more remains to be performed in the future. With its unique ability to interact with receptors outside of the endocannabinoid system that sets it out from the crowd of other compounds, CBC is fueling new research. However, more data is needed to understand the full range of cannabichromene benefits and capabilities. 

CBC has an impressive list of potential therapeutic benefits that can treat or prevent a variety of different diseases and conditions. Most of the research carried out for today, has suggested that due to the entourage effect, CBC performs the highest efficacy when taken in conjunction with other cannabinoids like CBD. Cannabichromene may also offer alternative therapies that address issues in different ways that other cannabinoids, especially traditional medicines, act. For example, CBC is believed to provide similar effects as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but without the harmful side effects. 

A lot of work and efforts are waiting ahead, although CBC, as well as other cannabinoids discovered for today, has a green light on its way, while the constantly changing legality laws only speed up its research. The market for products high in CBC will undoubtedly grow as its unique benefits continue to be discovered. 

Verified by a Healthcare Professional

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.