By Linda M. June

Although cannabidiol (CBD) has taken center stage in the cast of non-psychotropic cannabis phytochemicals, it is by no means a cast of one. Cannabichromene, or CBC, is another remarkable cannabinoid found in relative abundance in the hemp plant. Depending on the strain of industrial hemp, CBC ranks as one of the top four most studied, non-psychoactive cannabinoids alongside CBD, CBG and CBDV. So, let’s explore some of the well-known research on CBC in preclinical animal studies.

What Is CBC?

CBC is one of the many non-intoxicating phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa L plant. Its unique properties lie in its ability to moderate activity in the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are the two main cannabinoid receptor types within the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Without actually binding to those receptors, CBC prevents certain endocannabinoids from going inactive while simultaneously switching on receptor potentials. It operates much like CBD — it’s less likely to bind directly to receptors and more likely to guide the complex system of homeostasis towards balance, opening and closing chemical doors as needed. However, depending on the in-vivo or in-vitro model that one is working in, there have been demonstrable differences in the activity CBC. Some studies have shown that in certain cell types and/or tissues, CBC can be a CB2 receptor agonist.

In short, CBC helps facilitate the activity of the other chemicals, enzymes and receptors at the cellular level rather than simply binding to the cannabinoid receptors themselves, although direct receptor activity has also been observed, at least with the CB2 receptor. Think of it as a super tiny symphony conductor, leading everyone to a common goal.

What Do We Know About the Role of CBC?

A select few studies show that CBC’s role seems closely aligned to that of CBD in addressing and supporting uninflamed homeostasis, microbial stability and brain and gut welfare. These represent a mere fraction of the research conducted since Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the paragon of cannabis and endocannabinoid research, began a thorough investigation into cannabis in the 1960s.

In 2013, researchers tested CBC, CBD and CBG (cannabigerol) in mouse adult neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs). They discovered that CBC had a positive effect on the transition of stem cells into healthy, functional brain cells; that is to say, CBC supported the development of healthy brain cells. Another recent study in 2021 analyzed CBC, its precursor molecule cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), cannabichromevarin (CBCV) and its acidic form (CBCVA) in mouse neurology. It found that all the CBC-class molecules — except CBCV — proved valuable in protective brain support. The CBC molecules all penetrated the brain barrier with ease, which can be a common hurdle.

Finally, understanding that many preparations of CBD oil include CBC for potential health outcomes, Italian researchers decided to see if CBC on its own could regulate intestinal motility (the pace of food passage in the gut) in mice. Giving them a special compound designed to induce hypermotility (diarrhea), the researchers then assessed if and how CBC could improve their intestinal function. They found that it selectively chose what to do according to what would be best for the subject in question. It helped slow food passage in the mice that were given the special compound, while not slowing gut transit in the control group that didn’t receive the compound.

Does CBC Contribute to the Entourage Effect?

As Dr. Mechoulam noticed decades ago, cannabis pharmacology benefits from the synergism of what he dubbed the “entourage effect.” This means that the various cannabinoids work better together as a team of many. You can liken this to, say, a football or baseball team — it has members specializing in one aspect of the game to support the work of other teammates. CBD and CBC each contributes a function that helps the other succeed at its specific tasks to ensure the win. Think about how much more difficult it would be to play baseball successfully if the pitcher and first baseman — who wear the same uniform — were the same guy.

CBC also seems able to offer some significant support alone in some instances. But as Dr. Ethan Russo, a board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, says, “Cannabinoids combined are greater than the sum of cannabis parts.”

What Can CBC Do for Your CBD Business?

It’s worthwhile to consider formulating your finished CBD products with hemp strains containing high amounts of CBC or simply adding CBC to an existing formula for market differentiation.

*GenCanna is not making health claims on CBD or CBC products; the data discussed herein is based only on a scientific review of literature.

Linda M. June is a freelance writer specializing in alternative health and natural products. 

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