A recently discovered cannabis compound could be up to 30 times stronger than THC, the cannabinoid associated with creating cannabis’ well-known psychedelic effects. Researchers who uncovered the newly identified compound known as THCP published their findings in the Nature Research journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers tested THCP’s ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors within the endocannabinoid system. When THC is introduced into the body, it overloads the endocannabinoid system and blocks the ability of cannabinoid receptors to communicate between neurons. In this study, THCP bound to receptors at a rate 33 times higher than THC. The study authors are now considering the possibility that highly potent cannabis may have a stronger impact on users because of the presence of THCP.
“This means that these compounds have higher affinity for the receptors in the human body,” Dr. Cinzia Citti, lead author of the research and post-doctoral fellow in life sciences at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy told CNN. “In cannabis varieties where THC is present in very low concentrations, then we can think that the presence of another, more active cannabinoid can explain those effects.”
Although scientists cannot be sure at this time if THCP causes an increase in psychedelic experiences, the chances seem likely. Beyond the higher binding rate, THCP’s alkyl side chain consists of seven atoms compared with THC’s five atom chain.
According to the study’s authors, no naturally occurring cannabinoid has been reported to have over five atoms. However, the work of isolating and researching many cannabinoids is no easy task.
“The challenge is that it can take a long time to isolate, especially with rare sources,” Dr. Jane Ishmael, associate professor at Oregon State University’s College of Pharmacy said. “I get the impression that these products were present in small amounts, so it’s a surprise to find the natural products from a cannabis plant that we’ve known about for a long time.”
Recently scientists also discovered CBDP, which is considered to be a cousin of CBD. As more research is conducted scientists may uncover other cannabinoids that could offer promising medicinal potential.
“Historically, many of our medicines have been derived by or inspired by natural products,” Ishmael said. “By having new compounds that bind with very high affinity, that will give scientists a new probe into biological sciences.”