What are Minor Cannabinoids and Why Are They Important

What are Minor Cannabinoids and Why Are They Important

Delta-9 THC and CBD are both household names. But there's more to cannabis flower than just two major compounds.

The cannabis plant produces over 100 naturally occurring cannabinoids. Some studies and small clinical trials show promising applications for things like chronic pain, inflammation, neuropathic pain, treating nausea, and more.

Considering the many possible therapeutic benefits, major and minor cannabinoids need more attention from customers and researchers alike.

But how do the most abundant minor cannabinoids found in cannabis plants stack up to their major counterparts, specifically delta-9 THC and CBD? Could they be a breakthrough for hemp supplement and medical marijuana users?

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are unique biochemical compounds. Found externally in the cannabis sativa plant species, there are over 100 known naturally-occurring cannabinoids.

However, we also produce our own natural endocannabinoids, which we'll get into next.


Phytocannabinoids are exclusive to the cannabis plant.


Endocannabinoids are a small group of fat-based neurotransmitters. Although researchers believe there are more, only two compounds have been identified as of the writing of this article:

  • Anandamide
  • 2-AG

These form key components of our endocannabinoid system, which we'll cover later.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are not naturally occurring cannabinoids from cannabis. Instead, synthetic cannabinoid products use chemical formulations to simulate the effects of delta-9 THC.

But unlike natural cannabis plant compounds, artificial cannabinoids are potentially fatal, being the cause of many emergency room visits across the U.S.

What are Minor Cannabinoids?

Minor cannabinoids are trace compounds found exclusively in the cannabis plant. While major cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, exist in large quantities, minor cannabinoids form only a small portion of the cannabis plant's profile.

Unlike THC, which is the top choice for recreational users, minor cannabinoids are sought after for their potential medical benefits.

With some research, we may see how minor cannabinoids could work as multi-target therapeutic agents in areas like appetite, nausea, chronic pain, and cancer treatment - to name a few.

List of Minor Cannabinoids

The cannabis plant produces many other minor cannabinoids. Some examples include:

  • CBC
  • CBN
  • CBG
  • CBDV
  • CBDA
  • CBT
  • CBE
  • CBL
  • THCV
  • CBGA

How Do Minor Cannabinoids Work in the Human Body?

Minor cannabinoids work in the human body through the same mechanisms of action as major ones, like CBD or THC. They all rely on a complex system of receptors that form part of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).

One thing they have in common is that they directly bind to or indirectly influence the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Still, despite the many minor cannabinoids identified so far, only delta-9 THC binds to the CB1 pathway enough to cause psychotropic effects. [1]

The ECS at a Glance

Without getting too detailed, the ECS relies on a few components [2]:

  • Endocannabinoid receptors
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Enzymes that break down and process endocannabinoids

Relying on dedicated "CB1" and "CB2" cannabinoid receptors in the central and peripheral nervous systems, respectively, this complex network plays a crucial role in maintaining "homeostasis." In other words, the ECS helps balance mental, physical, and even immunological functions.

Anandamide and 2-AG are the main endocannabinoids, the prefix "endo," meaning they are produced internally. As we mentioned earlier, these function as neurotransmitters.

Compounds like THC, CBD, and all their chemical relatives are exclusive to the cannabis sativa L. cannabis plant species, which is also described as "marijuana" and "hemp," depending on delta-9 THC content.

Unfortunately, we don't have enough evidence to understand how the system "ticks." The current theory is that our own natural endocannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors to restore biochemical imbalance.

Minor Cannabinoid Compounds and the ECS

Now that we have some background on the ECS and our own natural endocannabinoids let's see how minor cannabinoids work.

Again, endocannabinoids bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors to varying degrees. For instance, 2-AG binds to both ECS pathways. Anandamide follows a different route, with a strong affinity for the CB1 but only a weak to moderate attraction to the CB2 category.

THC binds to both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor pathways. CBD, on the other hand, has virtually no affinity for those receptors and has an indirect effect on the ECS.

Minor cannabinoids vary in how they interact with the endocannabinoid system. For instance, CBN (cannabinol) binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but more weakly than THC.

Details aside, we wouldn't be able to experience the potential benefits of minor cannabinoids (or major cannabinoids) without the endocannabinoid system.

Benefits of Minor Cannabinoids

With over 100 (mostly minor) cannabinoids, it's impossible to address them all. But a few names have surfaced recently which are worth exploring.


Abundant early in the cannabis plant's growth cycle, mature cannabis flowers contain almost no CBG.

Interestingly, CBG is also known as the "stem cell" cannabinoid. This is because CBG dominates the young cannabis plant's profile,

Like CBD, CBG is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid. Research also helped shed some light on this compound.

For example, one 2021 study examined the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD and CBG on guinea pigs. Interestingly, they saw little difference with cannabinoids infused in MCT oil - a common carrier oil in many hemp-derived extracts.

However, when a surfactant like CrEL was used, the substance helped better dissolve the fat-soluble cannabinoids, leading to improved bioavailability.

The CrEL guinea pigs showed a greater anti-inflammatory response than they did with the MCT formula.

This small experiment suggests that not only could CBG be an anti-inflammatory agent, but it also might be more effective when suspended in a different carrier. [3]

The potential applications are significant. For instance, if CBG can reduce bowel inflammation, it could open up a new therapeutic world for people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Chron's disease or ulcerative colitis.

Another potential (and compelling) benefit is that CBG may be its role in triggering cancer cell death. A 2021 study examined the effects of CBC, THC, and CBG on several cancer cell lines.

Of all the compounds, CBG showed superior performance in reducing cancer cell proliferation. [4] However, more detailed future clinical trials are needed before we can explore cannabinoid treatment for cancer.


Light, air, and heat can naturally convert cannabinoids into other forms. A product of gradual THC degradation, CBN is best known for its reputation as a gentle sleep aid. But while anecdotes abound, the evidence of CBN's effect on sleep is contradictory at best and flimsy at worst. [5]

But all isn't lost. CBN may be effective at treating pain - with a bit of a twist.

In 2019, Wong et al. injected CBN, CBC, and CBD into the muscles of lab rats to test the cannabinoids' analgesic properties.

The team discovered that 1 mg/ml of CBN had the same painkilling effect as 5 mg/ml. However, the results showed that a 1:1 ratio of CBD and CBN offers the longest lasting effects. [6]


Cannabichromene is another minor cannabinoid making waves among medical marijuana and hemp supplement consumers alike.

Like most cannabis plant compounds, CBC is largely a mystery. However, a 2012 publication in the British Journal of Pharmacology reveals a lot about CBC beyond just benefits.

In this study, researchers examined CBC's reported anti-inflammatory effects. According to their findings, CBC successfully acts as an anti-inflammatory agent through the TRPV1 and endocannabinoid receptors.

However, the study also showed the nature of CBC's interaction with the human body. Like CBD, CBC has no binding affinity for the CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, its therapeutic benefits come from altering those pathways. [7]


Cannabidivarin is arguably more obscure than other minor cannabinoids in cannabis sativa. However, early research suggests this cannabis plant compound could offer valuable potential medicinal benefits.

Like its namesake, CBD, CBDV may offer strong anti-seizure effects, making it a significant target of interest for epilepsy researchers and patients.

Although the medical benefits of CBDV remain largely shrouded, a 2012 study shed some light on the minor cannabinoid and its anticonvulsant applications in mice and rats.

Researchers observed different types of seizures, including the dangerous (and deadly) seizure state known as "status epilepticus."

After chemically inducing seizures on the rodent subjects, they noticed potential medical benefits following the administration of CBDV. Specifically, seizure frequency significantly dropped.

Another interesting finding is that, when combined with antiepileptic drugs like valproate or phenobarbital, CBDV helped reduce the severity of seizures in the test subjects. [8]

Why Are Minor Cannabinoids Important?

With THC and CBD as the most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, it's unsurprising that other compounds were overlooked.

But we can't emphasize enough the role major and minor cannabinoids play in topicals, flower, and oral cannabinoid formulations. The different combinations play a crucial role in shaping the effects of a cannabis product.

More importantly, the natural benefits of whole cannabis plant extracts are superior to isolates in potency and performance. This key difference is believed to be the famous "entourage effect," which we'll cover next.

What is the Entourage Effect?

In the context of cannabis products, the entourage effect is a synergistic relationship between phytocannabinoids and oily plant compounds known as "terpenes." Unlike CBG, CBN, CBC, and other minor cannabinoids, terpenes exist in all plant life, giving them their scents, flavors, and potential therapeutic benefits.

The entourage effect is associated with cannabinoids and terpenes. However, leading cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam coined the term and discovered and isolated THC in 1964. His research focused on the ECS and its internal "entourage effect" long before terpenes and minor cannabinoids were on our collective radars.

Mechoulam proposed that the endocannabinoid system and its compounds worked synergistically with other biochemicals in the body.

It wasn't until 2011 that Dr. Ethan Russo expanded the term to include other cannabinoids and terpenes. Russo's adaptation of the entourage effect theory is debated among some researchers and generally accepted by consumers.

Benefits of Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum CBD Products

To understand the benefits of major and minor cannabinoids, we need to revisit Dr. Russo's "entourage effect."

Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products are made from whole cannabis plant extract. The difference between them is minimal, with the former containing 0.03% THC and the latter being almost or entirely THC-free.

Thanks to improved processing and purification technology, full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products retain a notable amount of major and minor cannabinoids.

Aside from improving the performance of THC and CBD extracts, companies can now use cannabis strains to create custom formulas. These new full and broad-spectrum products allow us to benefit from other minor cannabinoids that otherwise barely exist in cannabis plants.

Ultimately, these extracts offer the full synergistic benefits of minor cannabinoids, major cannabinoids, and plant terpenes. Adding other minor cannabinoids, like CBN, CBC, and CBG, allows vendors to formulate products that may help with sleep, chronic pain, treating nausea, and more.

How to Find Products with Minor Cannabinoids

Cannabis plant extracts are readily available. But if you don't live in a state where medical or recreational cannabis is legal, your best source is online hemp extract vendors.

There are thousands of companies that offer cannabis flower and extracts. However, looking for sources offering third-party test results on all their products is critical.

What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemical formulations created to mimic the effects of THC. However, synthetic cannabinoid products are unsafe and highly toxic.

List of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids come in various names, but their content is hard to determine. "K2" and "Spice" are the most famous ones. However, other brands and formulations include:

  • Kush
  • Scooby Snax
  • Green Giant
  • Moon Rocks (not to be confused with actual cannabis moonrocks)
  • Sativex (prescription medication)

Where to Buy Minor Cannabinoids?

Arvanna offers an impressive line of hemp-derived CBD and minor cannabinoid extracts. Through a state-of-the-art process, the company carries some of the purest minor cannabinoid products available.

GMP and ISO Certified

Arvanna is proud to adhere to proper manufacturing practices and international quality guidelines, earning them GMP and ISO certifications.

Proprietary Purification and Separation

Trained technicians and industrial equipment are at the core of Arvanna's proprietary purification technique. Unlike more generic methods, Arvanna successfully separates the major and minor cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, leaving behind no trace solvents.

Quality Ingredients

Arvanna's products are sourced from the best cannabis plant extract available. Individuals looking for a complete list of ingredients can find more information here.


  1. Walsh, K. B., McKinney, A. E., & Holmes, A. E. (2021, November 29). Minor Cannabinoids: Biosynthesis, Molecular Pharmacology and Potential Therapeutic Uses. Frontiers in Pharmacology; Frontiers Media. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2021.777804
  2. Mackie, K. (2008, May). Cannabinoid Receptors: Where They are and What They do. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 20(s1), 10–14. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x
  3. Cabrera, C. L. R., Keir-Rudman, S., Horniman, N., Clarkson, N., & Page, C. (2021, August 1). The anti-inflammatory effects of cannabidiol and cannabigerol alone, and in combination. Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pupt.2021.102047
  4. Walsh, K. B., McKinney, A. E., & Holmes, A. E. (2021, November 29). Minor Cannabinoids: Biosynthesis, Molecular Pharmacology and Potential Therapeutic Uses. Frontiers in Pharmacology; Frontiers Media. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2021.777804
  5. Corroon, J. (2021, August 31). Cannabinol and Sleep: Separating Fact from Fiction. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2021.0006
  6. Wong, H., & Cairns, B. E. (2019, August 1). Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain. Archives of Oral Biology; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archoralbio.2019.05.028
  7. Izzo, A. A., Capasso, R., Aviello, G., Borrelli, F., Romano, B., Piscitelli, F., Gallo, L., Capasso, F., Orlando, P., & Di Marzo, V. (2012, May 17). Inhibitory effect of cannabichromene, a major non-psychotropic cannabinoid extracted from Cannabis sativa, on inflammation-induced hypermotility in mice. British Journal of Pharmacology, 166(4), 1444–1460. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.01879.x
  8. Campos, D. A., Mendivil, E. J., Romano, M. R., García, M., & Martínez, M. E. (2022, December 1). A Systematic Review of Medical Cannabinoids Dosing in Human. Clinical Therapeutics; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinthera.2022.10.003


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