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What Is CBC (Cannabichromene)?

Alice McRae, BSc
September 3, 2020

You may have heard of CBD, the cannabinoid that is quickly gaining a reputation for its various health benefits, but have you heard of CBC?

CBC, which stands for cannabichromene, is also a cannabinoid. While CBC may not be as well-known as CBD, its effects are impressive, and early-stage research tells us that this cannabinoid holds a lot of therapeutic potential.

What is CBC?

Cannabichromene, or CBC, is a cannabinoid that can be found in cannabis and hemp plants. CBC is a minor cannabinoid, meaning that it is found in lower concentrations than the major cannabinoids CBD and THC. The recent growth of cannabis legalization has meant that many of us have become more familiar with cannabis science and cannabinoids like CBD and THC. However, CBC is still largely unknown.

All cannabinoids are formed from precursors, and, interestingly, CBC is formed from the same acid as THC and CBD. Cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, is a precursor acid that eventually can form THC, CBD, or CBC.

CBC is non-psychotropic, meaning that you can’t get high from taking CBC alone. THC, one of the major cannabinoids, is instead responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis. CBC exerts its effects on the body largely by binding to non-cannabinoid receptors and acting on other receptor pathways. This is because CBC can only weakly bind to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. It is thought that this weak binding affinity for cannabinoid receptors is why CBC exerts no psychotropic effects.

CBC vs. CBD: what’s the difference?

CBC tends to be compared with CBD a lot, for reasons to do with more than just their similar names.

One of the major similarities between CBC and CBD is that they are both non-psychotropic cannabinoids that don’t bind to cannabinoid receptors. You won’t experience a high from either CBC or CBD, but you will likely experience significant health benefits.

The main differences between CBC and CBD are their health benefits and the amount of research investigating each cannabinoid. As a major cannabinoid, CBD has been the subject of more studies than CBC; however, recent research is starting to focus on the lesser-known cannabinoid. CBC also exerts slightly different effects on the body, so you can expect to see different health benefits from taking CBC as you would CBD—although there is some crossover.

Potential benefits of CBC

The fact that CBC is gaining traction recently shows that people have started to take CBC seriously as a therapeutic cannabinoid. CBC’s potential benefits are wide-ranging, and further research will likely only increase the therapeutic scope of CBC.

Reduces acne

CBC showed promise in a 2016 study as a potential acne treatment. The study added CBC to human sebocytes—a type of skin cell that produces oil, and one of the main causes of acne development. The results showed that CBC suppressed oil synthesis, with the researchers concluding that CBC could be a highly efficient new anti-acne agent.

May reduce depressive symptoms

CBC may also be able to act as an antidepressant. One study found that CBC exerted significant antidepressant-like effects on mice who had depression induced through forced swim and tail suspension tests. CBC’s potential to impact mood and act as an antidepressant may contribute to the mood-improving effects of cannabis.

While this study only involved mouse models, and more research into the antidepressant effects in humans is needed before conclusions can be drawn, the results certainly highlight CBC’s potential to act as a mood-enhancer.

Decreases pain

CBC has also demonstrated a significant ability to act as a pain reliever. Research has shown that CBC is able to modulate proteins that are involved in causing pain. One study found that CBC treatment in mice reduced pain by acting on several targets that control the production of pain. Again, while this study doesn’t involve humans, it tells us that CBC may be an effective pain-relieving agent.

Improves cognitive function

CBC may also be able to improve your cognitive function. A 2013 study found that CBC improved adult neural stem progenitor cells’ viability, which are self-renewing cells that can develop into multiple brain cell types.

In simple terms, the results of this study show that CBC affects brain cells. This effect could have positive clinical applications for those with cognitive disorders. That said, we don’t quite understand to what extent CBC helps with specific cognitive disorders due to a lack of clinical research. Further research will be required before more concrete claims about CBC and brain health can be made.

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Where’s the research on CBC?

While the research into CBC’s therapeutic effects gives us some insight into this minor cannabinoid’s potential health benefits, much more is needed before any concrete conclusions are made. There is a recent rise in CBC research, but clinical studies involving CBC are especially needed to determine the effects of CBC on humans.

The bottom line

A relatively unknown cannabinoid, CBC holds a lot of potential as a therapeutic treatment—particularly for acne, depression, pain, and health conditions affecting the brain. More research into CBC is needed to fully understand the effects of this cannabinoid, although the early signs are certainly promising.

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