Cannabinoid Science 101: What Is Cannabichromene?


Cannabichromene (CBC) is one of the better-studied phytocannabinoids, but its properties and characteristics are not widely known, even within the cannabis industry. However, as the industry develops, it is becoming more apparent that cannabichromene has great medicinal importance.

Furthermore, now that many U.S. dispensaries are testing their strains for cannabinoid profile, it is becoming easier to find high-CBC strains – although interested members of the public may still need to call around reputable local dispensaries to find the right medicine.

Cannabichromene (CBC) is an abundant naturally-occurring phytocannabinoid, and is thought to be the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. CBC has been shown to produce antinociceptive (painkilling) and anti-inflammatory effects in rodents, although studies on humans are needed before its true potential can be known.

Chemical Structure and Properties of CBC

Just like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), CBC is produced via an enzymatic conversion of the precursor cannabigerol (CBG). More specifically, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA, which decarboxylates to CBG) reacts with an enzyme in the glandular trichomes of the cannabis plant to form cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), which then in turn decarboxylates to CBC.

CBC shares the same molecular formula as THC and CBD: C21H30O2. Although many cannabinoids share the same formula, the atoms within the molecule are arranged in slightly different ways. This gives the individual molecules very different chemical properties, for example THC’s famous (and apparently unique among phytocannabinoids) ability to bind to the CB1-receptor and produce a strongly psychoactive effect.

The CBC molecule (© Wiki Commons)
The CBC molecule (© Wiki Commons)

CBC does not share the psychoactive effect of THC, and it is not even fully clear if it has any effect on the cannabinoid receptors at all, as some of its effects have been shown to be independent of them. However, it has various pharmacological effects of interest, and it is thought that it may modulate the effect of THC and other cannabinoids in important ways.

CBC in the Cannabis Plant

In a 1975 study, Constituents of cannabis sativa L. XI: Cannabidiol and cannabichromene in samples of known geographical origin (Holley et al.), CBC was found to be the second-most abundant cannabinoid overall in tested samples of cannabis – making up as much as 64 percent of total cannabinoid content in some cases! However, this study tested landrace strains of the 1970s – the commercial indoor varieties of today, which have mainly been selected for high THC content, are unlikely to contain such high levels of CBC.

In another study published in 2002, The Inheritance of Chemical Phenotype in Cannabis sativa L. (de Meijer et al.), CBC was shown to “dominate the cannabinoid fraction of juveniles and to decline with maturation”; an earlier study (Hashish components. Photochemical production of cannabicyclol from cannabichromene; Crombie et al., 1968) noted that CBC naturally degrades to cannabicyclol in the presence of heat and light, just as THC naturally degrades to cannabinol (CBN).

CBC reduces pain caused by damage to nerve cells (© ZEISS Microscopy)
CBC reduces pain caused by damage to nerve cells (© ZEISS Microscopy)

Interestingly, the 2002 study also reports the existence of “morphological variants possessing a ‘prolonged juvenile chemotype’ (PJC)”, which retain a substantial proportion of CBC all the way up to maturity. These “PJC” strains express fewer bracts and bracteoles (the small leaves that grow alongside the flowers), as well as fewer trichomes. It was also shown that reducing light levels increased the proportion of CBC in these PJC plants, and that overall, these strains were capable of producing “pharmaceutical raw material with high CBC purity”.

The Medical Potential of CBC

CBC is now thought to have various potential medical applications, many of which are related to immunological or homeostatic processes. Several studies have investigated CBC for its potential, and although research on CBC is generally at a preliminary stage, results thus far have been promising.


In a 2010 study on mice, cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabidiol (CBD) were shown to exhibit “significant effect” on indicators of depression. CBC resulted in a significant dose dependent decrease in immobility at doses of 40 and 80 mg/kg.


In an animal study published in 2010, lipopolysaccharide-induced paw edema (swelling) was found to be reduced by administration of CBC. It was also shown that this effect occurred independently of the CB receptors, as antagonists blocked similar effects caused by THC, but did not block those of CBC. This study also found that THC and CBC worked in synergy to produce a stronger anti-inflammatory effect when administered together – a great example of cannabinoid interactions!


A 2011 study on rats showed that both CBD and CBD reduced nociceptive pain (pain caused by damage to the nerve itself) in rats via a complex set of interactions with proteins known to control the antinociceptive response.

Interestingly, these effects were blocked by the action of CB1 receptor antagonists, indicating that CBC does have some affinity for the cannabinoid receptors.

CBC is thought to increase the survival of adult stem cells (© pennstatenews)
CBC is thought to increase the survival of adult stem cells (© pennstatenews)

Intestinal Motility:

In a 2012 study on rats, CBC was shown to normalize gastrointestinal hypermotility (diarrhea) without reducing bowel transit time. This is of clinical interest, as most anti-diarrhoea drugs are associated with constipation due to massively reduced transit time. Thus, CBC could prove to be of great importance in developing cannabinoid-based treatments for disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease.


A fascinating study published in 2013 showed that CBC increased the viability (health and survival rate) of progenitor stem cells in adult mice, possibly via a complex mechanism involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP; the enzyme responsible for energy transfer between the cells of the body).

However, CBC also apparently inhibited the differentiation of these stem cells into astroglia, which are important neurons heavily involved in processes of repair and homeostasis. Hopefully, further research will determine the effects of this phenomenon, and assess its potential in medicine.   

The post Cannabinoid Science 101: What Is Cannabichromene? appeared first on Sensi Seeds Blog.

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