The hype surrounding THC and CBD has swept the market for years. Researchers are looking into the potential health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) and learning more about the psychoactive effects of THC. Towards the end of 2019, scientists discovered a new cannabinoid found in marijuana that is significantly more potent than THC. THCP (as well as CBDP) are currently being researched in an attempt to unlock the potential of the newly discovered cannabis compounds.
Modern cannabis research dates back in the mid 1900s. Professor Raphael Mechoulam first synthesized the THC and CBD compounds in the 1960s. Even though the cannabis plant had been widely used by human beings for centuries, researchers began to understand more about how it interacted with the Endocannabinoid system.
The Discovery of a Cannabinoid 30 Times More Potent than THC
In 1980, researchers made a breakthrough when they discovered receptors in the brain which responded to cannabis compounds. At present, there are at least 150 identified cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
On December 30th, 2019 a group of Italian researchers made a remarkable discovery. They had discovered two new cannabinoids, one which has a high binding affinity for brain receptors. Known as THCP and CBDP respectively, information about the discovery was published in the highly respected scientific journal, Nature. THCP was discovered to be 30 times more potent than THC, and its presence is allowing researchers to learn more about the properties of cannabinoids.
THC is commonly known for its sedative properties. On the other hand, CBD has been found useful in reverting inflammation and aiding in the treatment of seizures. In 2018, Epidiolex, a drug to used in the treatment of epilepsy was approved and introduced into the market..
What is THCP and Why is it that Potent?
The potency of a cannabinoid is determined by its affinity CB1 receptors. THCP has an affinity that is 30 times more powerful than THC. The receptors are encoded by the CNR1 gene in humans.
Unlike its peers, CBDP fell short in terms of affinity to cannabinoid receptors. As a result, researchers did not proceed with in-depth research of its impact on cannabis potency. Currently, there are over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis but only a few have material affinity to cannabinoid receptors.
THCP has a similar molecular structure to THC. However, for the newly discovered cannabinoid molecule, it has longer carbon-hydrogen (alkyl) side chains attached with seven links, whereas THC has only five links. Naturally occurring cannabinoids with more than five links had not been previously detected in cannabis.
“To the best of our knowledge, a phytocannabinoid with a linear alkyl side chain containing more than five carbon atoms has never been reported as naturally occurring. However, our research group disclosed for the first time the presence of seven-term homologs of CBD and Δ9-THC in a medicinal cannabis variety”, the researchers affirm through Nature.com.
Due to its elongated structure, THCP tends to have a stronger affinity to CB1 receptors compared to THC. Researchers found that THCP is 33 times more active compared to the regular THC on CB1 receptors. Also, it was 5-10 times more active on CB2 receptors compared to THC.
Implications of these Findings on the Medical Field
THCP is showing potential to be useful in a medical capacity. Ideally, a cannabinoid with three links is capable of binding with receptors. According to researchers, the binding affinity reaches its peak with 8 links.
Therefore, with seven links, THCP’s potential is enticing. Combining THCP to THC could increase the positive impacts (such as pain/nausea relief) brought about by THC alone.
Despite all this information, the psychoactivity of THCP is still being researched.
Where to Find THCP
THCP has only been found in small amounts within the cannabis plant. As a result, the isolated compound is not available via dispensaries or from online shops. Before THCP is widely available it will be important to unravel methods or techniques of cultivating and processing the cannabinoid.
The discovery of THCP and CBDP will hopefully open the door for more research. The illegality of marijuana in many countries continues to limit studies regarding the plant. Ideally, the identification of these cannabinoids will have a great impact on steering more discoveries in the world of medicine.