Phytocannabinoids are the naturally occurring chemical compounds found within the flowers of the cannabis plant. Most of the biological properties attributed to phytocannabinoids are dependent on their interactions with the ECS in humans. Although more than 70 different phytocannabinoids have been discovered, only a few of the major ones have been studied in depth, primarily delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is a main bioactive component of cannabis and is the main psychoactive ingredient in the plant. THC appears to possess anti-inflammatory, analgesic, muscle relaxant, neuro-antioxidative, and anti-spasmodic activities. THC has demonstrated efficacy in treating neuropathic pain and in reducing muscle spasms. THC may also act as a neuroprotectant via various mechanisms, potentially playing a beneficial role in several neurodegenerative disorders such as ALS and Alzheimer’s. Forms of synthetic THC have been approved for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and for AIDS-related anorexia.
CBD is the major non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis. CBD has been shown to antagonize the undesirable effects of THC, such as intoxication, sedation, and tachycardia while enhancing the analgesic and anti-emetic properties of THC. CBD has been proposed to possess anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and neuroprotective properties. Clinical studies have demonstrated very promising results in various epilepsy syndromes as well. While there remains a significant need for more research, a body of moderate to good quality evidence exists for the use of cannabis as medicine for certain medical conditions.