Maybe you've heard of Cannabinoids by now: the collection of endogenous compounds that make Cannabis and Hemp such overwhelmingly useful plants for a range of physical and cognitive maladies. Perhaps you've even been versed in the Endocannabinoid System that synthesizes these compounds in mammalian bodies (dogs and humans, alike). But did you know that Cannabinoids can be found in a host of other vegetative plants? Although you might not want to stuff these daisies and shrubs into your bong or vaporizer (actually that's a definite no, don't smoke or vaporizer any of these), today's article will shed light on some Non-Cannabis plants that have figured out that Cannabinoids are good all over the place.
Just What Are These “Cannabinoids”?
Cannabinoids are a class of molecular compounds basically defined by their relationship with Cannabis. They're named after the venerable herb, but Hemp and Cannabis aren't the only places to find them - although that was the popular assumption until very recently.
In the 1980’s curious scientists discovered the Endocannabinoid System. This system regulates a sweeping range of both physical and mental subsystems in the central and peripheral nervous system of all mammals. So, yes, your dog can get baked, too (or use CBD or other Cannabinoids for anything from doggy arthritis to reproductive health).
Reptiles, however, don't have this system, and therefore cannot even process Cannabis. This perfectly explains the ominous and perpetual sulking that we find in reptiles: they “just can't get no relief” as Jimi Hendrix would say. Who can blame them?
The Endocannabinoid System is responsible for “fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory” claims Wikipedia, and that's just scratching the surface. Scientists have now identified over one hundred Cannabinoids, and the recent boom in the CBD industry has only provoked more research. CBD alone is estimated at a 1 billion dollar a year industry and we're still in it's infancy, with regulators scratching to get a piece of a mainly Chinese money-“pie”.
Head Shop, Dispo, Or Apothecary?
Recent research has revealed that Cannabinoids are not isolated to Cannabis and Hemp alone. There are three varieties of these compounds, defined by their source. First, is Phytocannabinoids, the term we use for these compounds when produced by plants. Secondly, are Endocannabinoids, produced by humans or other mammals through the innate Endocannabinoid System. And last, are the “Synthetic Cannabinoids” made in a lab through chemistry. Synthetic Cannabinoids have gotten a bad wrap in recent years because of unsavory business practices but they certainly have positive applications. Marinol, the synthetic THC pill that's been prescribed for decades, comes to mind. Recently, scientists have discovered Phytocannabinoids can be found in a number of Non-Cannabis plants, as well. Let's scope out a few.
“Cannabimimetics” Does Not Mean “Cannabis Robots”
The mechanisms that allow our bodies to produce and use Cannabis from any source were only discovered a few decades ago, but recent research has shown that compounds other than Cannabinoids can utilize the same system, essentially piggybacking off the Endocannabinoid System and emulating the effects of the indigenous compounds. This process is referred to as Cannabimimetics and its applications are still being discovered.
Flax Seed, Linum Usitatissimum
Flax is thought to have been one of the very first agricultural crops to ever have been cultivated. It's been a staple in the human diet for thousands of years - and for good reason. In Latin, it’s name Linum Usitatissimum actually means “the most useful”. Why? Seeds of the plant have a remarkable amount of nutritional value, boasting an unusually dense content of vital minerals, vitamins and Omega-3s leading to it's rise as a “super food” still popular to this day.
Flax seeds also contain high amounts of something called lignins - a potential anti-cancer agent. Recent research has found another surprising benefit of the seed: it contains a compound that closely mirrors CBD and is a boon to chronic inflammation and other popular maladies. The plants fiber is used to make a cloth called linen which has recently been found to exhibit the same antimicrobial qualities hemp and cannabis fibers do. Medical applications for this fiber are now in development focusing on naturally antiseptic wound dressings.
Echinacea, Echinacea Purpurea
Echinacea is a popular herbal remedy for common colds as an immune system booster, but now the flower has been shown to reap other benefits as well. Using Cannabimimetics to piggyback off of the Endocannabinoid System, the blossom can be useful for a host of common diseases from anxiety and fatigue to migraines and arthritis. Echinacea also produces a significant volume of compounds called N-alkyl amides (or NAAs) that have been shown to be responsible for regulating the immune system, pain and inflammation.
Black Pepper, Piper Nigrum
“Terpene” is the name we give to molecules responsible for creating the taste or flavors associated with a particular plant. Cannabis and Hemp share these terpene molecules with a wide range of other plants, and this is why some Cannabis tastes like oranges or lemons, lavender or even black pepper (or heck, even blue cheese, I guess). Black pepper contains significant levels of a terpene called beta-caryophyllene (BCP). This molecule is responsible for the peppery taste and sent in not only black pepper, but some strains of Cannabis, as well. BCP is a Cannabimimetic, binding with the CB2 receptor of the Endocannabinoid System. PCB has proven to be a potent anti-inflammatory and modern research suggests it may be useful as a treatment for conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis.