Cannabichromene (CBC) is a chemical compound native to the cannabis plant. Although CBC was first identified in 1966, there is a paucity of research on this versatile and important compound. The existing evidence suggests that CBC demonstrates significant therapeutic potential to promote brain growth, fight cancer, mitigate pain, enhance mood, reduce inflammation, and treat acne.

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The Biosynthesis of CBC

Like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), CBC is a product of a synthetic process that begins with the mother cannabinoid, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA converts to CBCA (cannabichromenic acid) by the CBCA synthase enzyme. CBCA becomes CBC through decarboxylation, the process of using heat to change the chemical properties of the compound in a way that amplifies its potency.    

How CBC Interacts with the Body

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the single most convincing argument that cannabis use is an excellent therapy all human should at least consider. The ECS is comprised of molecular pathways called cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. THC has a strong binding affinity for CB 1 and CB 2, cannabinoid receptors that regulate mood and immunity.

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THC’s psychoactive and other therapeutic effects are a direct result of the way it interacts with ECS receptors. CBC also interacts with the ECS, but in a different way than THC. CBC has a poor binding affinity to CB1 and CB2, so it does not induce the same effects as THC.

Most notably, CBC does not cause any psychoactive effects. Like CBD, CBC interacts with receptors other than CB1 and CB2 including vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV1) and transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1). CBC’s interactions with these receptors cause the body to produce more endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG). Much like phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids such as THC and CBD produced by plants like cannabis), endocannabinoids are chemical compounds that activate CB1 and CB2 in ways that produce physiological and psychological effects.

The vast majority of the time, those effects enhance physical and mental health. It is by elevating the expression of these endocannabinoids that CBC indirectly interacts with cannabinoid receptors. Compared to the quantity of research published on THC and CBD, there is very little literature exploring the medicinal use of CBC. However, the existing evidence is very promising.  

CBC May Promote Brain Cell Growth

doctor give advice to patient about MRI (Xray) brain Scans iStock / Pixfly
A 2013 study found that CBC has the effect of promoting brain cell growth. The brain continues to grow into adulthood, but growth is limited to the hippocampus. This continued brain cell growth is a process referred to as neurogenesis.

CBC, THC, and CBD have each been linked to increased neurogenesis. Decreased neurogenesis has been implicated in anxiety, depression, and impaired memory. Cannabis’ effect on brain cell growth led associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s neuropsychiatry research unit to say this: “Most ‘drugs of abuse’ suppress neurogenesis. Only marijuana promotes neurogenesis.”

A Possible Cure For Tumors

Cells don’t live forever.  In fact, they kill themselves during a process called apoptosis. Unlike necrosis, this type of cell death is programmed—it’s part of the body’s self-maintenance. Apoptosis protects the body from cells that may be cancerous or infected.

One of the primary reasons that cannabis is being researched as an anti-cancer agent is because it is believed to trigger apoptosis. Preliminary evidence suggests that cannabinoids (including CBC) may work synergistically to stop tumor growth in different cancer models.

In addition to inducing apoptosis, cannabinoids also interfere with a tumor’s ability to proliferate, or divide. THC, CBD, and CBN have taken the spotlight in cancer research, but CBC’s effect of increasing endocannabinoids may also contribute to cannabis’ anti-cancer effects. This is because CB1 and CB2 play a significant role in facilitating cell health, and endocannabinoids have a strong binding affinity for those two receptors.     

Combatting Pain

Man with a soar throat iStock / g-stockstudio
Chronic pain affects 50 million adults in the United States each year, a substantial 20.4 percent of the population. Opioids are a common and temporarily effective treatment option for chronic pain patients, but they come with the frightening and fatal consequences of addiction and overdose.

In a 2010 animal study using rats, CBC and CBD were found to reduce pain by interacting with multiple molecular pathways located on the spine. In a time when the national crisis of opioid addiction has sewn fear, mistrust, and hopelessness into the relationships between patients, their doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry, cannabis presents an exciting alternative to opioids. Like CBD, CBC is non-psychoactive.

That means it does not induce the mind-altering effects of THC. Although cannabis can be addictive, it is not possible to fatally overdose from the plant. If scientists and researchers are able to isolate the analgesic properties of cannabinoids like CBC and CBD, chronic pain patients may find themselves on a new and far less treacherous road to relief.  

CBC May Function As An Anti-Depressant 

If you’ve consumed cannabis, you have experienced what can happen to a person’s mood when the ECS is supercharged with cannabinoids. Some describe the sensation as euphoric, uplifting, or relaxing. One thing is clear—in most cases, a cannabis high feels good.

A 2010 study on mice found that THC, CBD, and CBC demonstrate anti-depressant activity and may “contribute to the overall mood-elevating properties of cannabis.” This may explain why a large amount of people with depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders choose to self-medicate with weed.

CBC Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

This 2010 study found that CBC exhibited more potent anti-inflammatory effects than THC, and that it achieved those effects without activating CB1 or CB2. This evidence suggests that together, CBC and THC make a powerful anti-inflammatory team. While that research demonstrated CBC’s effects on edema, this 2012 study found that CBC was effective at reducing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract as well.