Everything you need to know about CBC, the marijuana cannabinoid you never heard of

In Cannabinoids, Feature Stories by Katrina Eschner

The marijuana cannabinoid Cannabichromene (CBC) is a quiet presence in the scientific conversation about cannabis. But there’s a strong argument for understanding CBC better.

The cannabinoid plays a major role in medical marijuana, and numerous clinical tests over the past 30 years suggest it has significant potential for treating illness.

Except for newsmakers like THC or CBD, the cannabinoids that make up marijuana’s medically active side aren’t well known – and even those big-name compounds are still not fully understood.

To offer medical cannabis users and researchers a fuller picture, here’s what we know about CBC now.

CBC’s integral presence in marijuana means that medical users may be getting a lot of it, even in new medical strains that prioritize different cannabinoids than street cannabis.

With all the buzz about cannabidiol (CBD), you could be forgiven for thinking it’s the number-two cannabinoid in marijuana. But in 2011, the Journal of Analytic Toxicology reported that in fact CBC “has been the second most abundant cannabinoid quantitatively (behind THC) in some strains of marijuana growing in the United States,” citing research conducted in earlier studies of marijuana’s chemical makeup. Their claim is backed up by a number of other studies.

Like CBD, CBC acts on the body without psychoactive effects. This helps explain why it hasn’t received as much attention as THC, and also contributes to its medical potential.

That isn’t the only link between CBC and CBD.  Studies in the last four years have found CBC works alongside CBD and other cannabinoids to fight pain and depression.

Italian researchers made waves with a 2013 study which suggests CBC, together with CBD and cannabigerol, can support brain growth in adults.

CBC also works together with THC to combat inflammation. In 2010, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia looked at how CBC and THC worked together to treat inflammation in mice.

While they found that CBC affects inflammation without THC, combining the two cannabinoids produced better results – even when they used a dose of THC too small to have noticeable psychoactive effects.

More recently, researchers at the University of Naples published a paper noting CBC’s effect on intestinal dysmotility – an uncomfortable and dangerous condition which can occur on its own or in association with a number of chronic illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease or Kawasaki syndrome. In the study’s conclusion, its writers noted that many of the drugs currently used to treat intestinal dysmotility are constipation medications, rather than condition-specific meds.

Other research also proved that CBC has a role to play in fighting bacterial and fungal infections. At the University of Mississippi, researchers published a study in 1981 that showed CBC’s “strong” antibacterial effects. They screened CBC against five bacteria, including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. The staph bacterium has now mutated into hospital scourge MRSA, another medical issue CBC has been shown to address.

The same study looked at CBC’s antifungal properties, concluding it was a “mild to moderate” antifungal. Among the fungi they tested it on was Candida albicans, a fungus which exists normally in the human body but can overproduce to cause candidiasis.

One of the reasons CBC works well with other cannabinoids is its mechanism of action in the body, a process that appears to happen largely outside the endocannabinoid system.

Like cannabis itself, CBC is imperfectly understood. Studies show that it contributes to marijuana’s “entourage effect” by working with other cannabinoids, while also indicating that CBC has strengths when it stands alone.

The research into CBC helps us recognize the usefulness of getting to know more about this under-appreciated cannabinoid.

For other research into cannabinoids, see our primers on: