What are cannabinoids?
Cannabis oils are concentrated extracts derived from the resins of the cannabis plant. These oils are full of cannabinoids – the naturally occurring chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. The most popular chemical compounds contained in the cannabis plant are the psychoactive, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychoactive, Cannabidiol (CBD).
When ingested, these cannabinoids interact with an innate neurotransmitter system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). More specificaly, the endocannabinoid system contains two receptors – the Cannabis Receptor 1 (CB1) and the Cannabis Receptor 2 (CB2) – that interact with these cannabinoids, enabling them to influence bodily functions.
These bodily functions include:
- Motor control; and
- Fertility and pregnancy.
When cannabinoids present in cannabis oils interact with these cannabinoids, they are able to influence bodily functions and this could connote healing and treatment for certain individuals. The cannabinoids in cannabis oils can be used to manage pain in terminal and chronic diseases such Cancer and Arthritis, respectively.
Why is there a need for alternatives?
Although cannabis and its preparations – including cannabis oil – demonstrate beneficial properties to the world of modern medicine, there is still heavy stigma associated with the plant. No matter the health benefits the cannabis plant poses, many individuals simply refuse to be associated with it. The consumption of cannabis for whatever reason is still viewed by many as callous and morally decadent.
Despite the fact that CBD has been identified as a non-psychoactive chemical compound, many consumers will still not associate themselves with cannabis oils. This mass aversion by certain members in society springs the need for alternatives to cannabis oils and their very beneficial cannabinoids.
Aside from social aversions, individuals may need to source alternatives to cannabis oils for a number of reasons, including:
- Legal status
If an individual resides in a society where cannabis is illegal on all levels, one would need to source an alternative method of treatment.
- Occupational drug tests
In certain workplaces, employees are often required to carry out drug tests. In such situations, cannabis oils cannot be utilised and alternatives will need to be sourced.
Although popularly associated to the cannabis plant, cannabinoids can be found in other plants as well. These plants are referred to as non-cannabis cannabinoids. These plants contain chemical compounds which interact with the endocannabinoid system in order to influence and strengthen the system of the individual who ingests them.
- Coneflower (Echinacea)
The coneflower is a powerful herb, popularly used as a remedy for colds. This plant also contains chemical compounds which interact with the CB1 receptors. This chemical compound is called N-alkyl amides and it interacts with the endocannabinoid system in a very similar way to the way THC does. The plant is also known to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, arthritis, and migraines.
The plant can be used in its natural state as well as in refined forms.
- Black Pepper
Black pepper is an excellent alternative to the cannabis plant. It contains beta-caryophyllene (BCP), a terpene – also found in the cannabis plant – that’s also responsible for the distinct taste and aroma peculiar to black peppers.
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) binds to the Cannabis Receptor 2 (CB2) in a manner similar to cannabinoids. Research suggests that this binding performs anti-inflammatory functions in individuals who ingest it. This makes black pepper a valuable asset when handling diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis.
Research is still ongoing to determine if BCP can potentially increase the potency of cancer medications.
Chocolate contains chemical compounds which interact with the endocannabinoid system in ways very similar to that of CBD. It has also been said that chocolate can heighten the psychoactive effects of the cannabinoid known as THC.
Chocolate affects the endocannabinoid system in a peculiar way. Chemical compounds present in chocolate interact and inhibit the enzyme Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH). FAAH breaks down an endocannabinoid – cannabinoids that occur naturally in the human body – known as anandamide. This endocannabinoid is responsible for feelings of happiness, joy, and elation in the body.
By inhibiting FAAH, anandamide can build up in the body, leaving the individual in a constant state of elation.
It is important to note that chocolate is best ingested in its purest form – cacao powder – as processed chocolates are chock full of sugars and additives.
Cannabinoids, though popularly associated with the cannabis plant, are not particular to them. Plants which do not contain any psychoactive chemical compound whatsoever can contain cannabinoids. These cannabinoids can interact with the endocannabinoid system to strengthen it as well as influence set bodily activities.