Wellness and Research

CBC – A Key Player in the Cannabinoid Family

Loren DeVito, PhD
Written by Loren DeVito, PhD

This little-known compound has big effects on the body

Within this past year, CBD has become somewhat of a household name. This sudden swell in popularity may be associated with the spread of cannabis legalization, exposing more and more people to the benefits of the “nonpsychoactive” cannabinoid. And those who live in states where cannabis is not fully legalized can enjoy the hazy status of CBD.

As the pendulum continues to swing in the favor of widespread legalization (helped in part by the impending national legalization in the great white north), the industry has become increasingly specialized in offering a diversity of products for both patients and consumers. This means stepping up cannabis breeding to churn out a vast array of different strains and extracting various phytochemicals carefully tailored to produce certain experiences.

Thus, we’ve entered a period where CBD/THC and CBD and THC only products are standard fair, with the next great step exploring the lesser-known cannabinoids, like cannabichromene, or CBC.

CBC is a highly abundant cannabinoid, and represents 0.3% of the constituents found in most strains grown in the US.1-3 In fact, CBC may actually be the third most common cannabinoid after THC and CBD, despite its low profile.3 So, why then has CBC been left in the shadows?

CBC was first discovered in 1964, when its structured was resolved by the “father of marijuana research,” Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.4 For many years, CBC was mislabeled as CBD and, thus, its identity as a unique cannabinoid was lost. Following its isolation from CBD in 1973, researchers began looking more closely at its chemical properties and physiological effects on the body.5

Early pre-clinical studies on CBC revealed its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.6,7 Later studies shed further light on the mechanism of action underlying these effects.2,8,9

Unlike CBD and THC, which work on the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), CBC appears to take effect independently of this system. However, co-administration of THC affects the dose of CBC and boosts its antinflammatory action, suggesting a potential addictive relationship.2 But, if CBC does not work through CB1 and CB2, then how is it producing these effects?

Pharmacological studies have indicated that CBC activates the transient receptor potential ankyrin 1-type, which is involved in the pain response.8,9 However, the precise mechanisms underlying the full functions of CBC are still under study.

Additional research has found that CBC also has antibacterial and antidepressant properties and may boost production of neural stem cells.10-12 One pre-clinical study also indicated the potential for CBC, in addition to other cannabinoids, in inhibiting tumor growth.13

While CBD is enjoying its popularity, which has led to testing for multiple clinical conditions and FDA approval for children with severe epilepsy, CBC has certainly lagged behind. But with greater interest growing in exploring the various cannabinoids, CBC may soon inch closer in recognition and experience a similar boom in research interest.


  1. Romano, B., Borrelli, F., Fasolino, I., et al., “The Cannabinoid TRPA1 Agonist Cannabichromene Inhibits Nitric Oxide Production in Macrophages and Ameliorates Murine Colitis”, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2013, Volume 169.
  2. DeLong, G.T., Wolf, C.E., Poklis, A., Lichtman, A.H., “Pharmacological Evaluation of the Natural Constituent of Cannabis sativa, Cannabichromene and Its Modulation by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol”, Drug Alcohol Depend, 2010, Volume 112.
  3. Andre, C.M., Hausman, J-F, Guerriero, G., “Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules”, Front Plant Sci, 2016, Volume 7.
  4. Gaoni, Y., Mechoulam, R., “Isolation, Structure, and Partial Synthesis of an Active Constituent of Hasish”, J Am Chem Soc, 1964, Volume 86.
  5. Turner, C.E., Hadley, K. “Constituents of Cannabis Sativa L. II: Absence of Cannabidiol in an African Variant”, J Pharm Sci, 1973, Volume 62.
  6. Wirth, P.W., Watson, E.S., El Sohly, M., Turner, C.E., Murphy, J.C., “Anti-inflammatory Properties of Cannabichromene”, Life Sciences, 1980, Volume 26.
  7. Davis, W.M., Hatoum, N.S., “Neurobehavioral Actions of Cannabichromene and Interactions with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol”, General Pharmacology: The Vascular System, 1983, Volume 14.
  8. Maione, S., Pisciteli, F., Gatta, L., et al., “Non-psychoactive Cannabinoids Modulate Descending Pathway of Antinociception in Anaesthesized Rats through Several Mechanisms of Action”, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2011, Volume 162.
  9. Izzo, A.A., Capasso, R., Aviello, G., et al., “Inhibitory Effect of Cannabichromene, a Major Non-psychotropic Cannabinoid extracted from Cannabis sativa, On Inflammation-induced Hypermotility in Mice”, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2012, Volume 166.
  10. Appendino, G., Gibbons, S., Giana, A., et al., “Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: A Structure-Activity Study”, J Nat Prod, 2008, Volume 71.
  11. El-Alfy, A.T., Ivey, K., Robinson, K., et al., “Antidepressant-like Effect of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and Other Cannabinoids Isolated from Cannabis sativa L”, Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 2010, Volume 95.
  12. Shinjyo, N., DiMarzo, V., “The Effect of Cannabichromene on Adult Neural Stem/Progenitor Cells”, Neurochemistry International, 2013, Volume 63.
  13. Ligresti, A., Moriello, A.S., Starowicz, K., et al., “Antitumor Activity of Plant Cannabinoids with Emphasis on the Effect of Cannabidiol on Human Breast Carcinoma”, Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 2006, Volume 318.

About the author

Loren DeVito, PhD

Loren DeVito, PhD

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