Researchers find another plant that contains cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are the active compounds in cannabis responsible for most of the plant’s effects. There are over 100 known cannabinoids, but THC, CBD, and a number of minor cannabinoids like CBG and CBN are the most popular.
It turns out that cannabis is not the only plant that contains these molecules. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Plants, the woolly umbrella plant produces more than 40 cannabinoids. Of these, 30 were previously unidentified. The dark yellow herb, native to South Africa, could become an important source of these compounds in the years ahead.
The research, conducted by a team from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, discovered that the woolly umbrella plant has at least six cannabinoids identical to those found in cannabis. While this did not include THC or CBD, the team did find CBG, the precursor to all other cannabinoids. This mostly non-psychoactive cannabinoid has been touted for its therapeutic potential, specifically its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
The study also highlighted the biochemical process the woolly umbrella plant undergoes to produce cannabinoids and how it can be replicated in lab settings. The fact that these compounds were found in the herb’s leaves means it could be a more commercially viable source of cannabinoids as opposed to extraction from the cannabis plant itself, a costly and resource-intensive process.
“We have found a major new source of cannabinoids and developed tools for their sustained production, which can help explore their enormous therapeutic potential,” team lead Dr. Shirley Berman said in a blog posted on the Weizmann website.
The woolly umbrella isn’t the only non-cannabis plant that has compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). For example, coveted black truffles contain anandamide, an enzyme produced by the ECS.
The Israeli team hopes to develop cannabinoids for scientific and medical use with this research. They have already worked to create synthetic cannabinoids from yeast using cannabinoid-producing enzymes in tobacco plants.
“The next exciting step would be to determine the properties of the more than 30 new cannabinoids we’ve discovered and then to see what therapeutic uses they might have,” Dr. Berman said.