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What Is CBC and What Are the Benefits of This Cannabinoid?

December 6, 2017
By now you’re probably familiar with cannabinoids, especially the most common ones, THC and CBD. But you likely haven’t heard of cannabichromene, also known as CBC. Discovered over 50 years ago, CBC is considered one of the “big six” cannabinoids prominent in medical research. It doesn’t get as much attention, but CBC’s benefits are extremely promising.

CBC has the same origins as both THC and CBD do in that they all stem from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). Cannabis plants produce CBGA, the precursor to three major cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA).


A list of major cannabinoids in cannabis and their effects

The specific plant enzymes cascade and “direct” the breakdown product into one of the three lines. For CBC, it converts from CBGA into cannabichrome carboxylic acid (CBCA), and then finally to CBC after exposure to heat or ultraviolet light.

CBC Works With Other Cannabinoids

CBC is non-intoxicating, so it doesn’t produce a euphoric high like THC. The reason it is non-intoxicating is because it binds poorly to CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain. But CBC does bind with other receptors in the body, such as the vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV1) and transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1), both of which are linked to pain perception. When CBC activates these receptors, increased levels of the body’s natural endocannabinoids like anandamide are released.

While CBC definitely has singular benefits, researchers also think that it seems to synergistically work with other cannabinoids, a term known as the entourage effect. This effect of THC and CBD working together is well-known, but whether other cannabinoids have entourage effects is not well understood.


The entourage effect: How cannabis compounds may be working together

CBC’s Medicinal Potential

The purported benefits of CBC have far-reaching implications. Below are a few medical conditions that may be alleviated by cannabichromene.


Cannabichromene may be a powerful cancer fighter, and the reason might be its interaction with the body’s natural endocannabinoid, anandamide. CBC also appears to inhibit the uptake of anandamide, allowing it to remain longer in the bloodstream.

A recent study in which tumor growth was initiated in mice (two-stage mouse skin carcinogenesis model) showed cannabinoids might be effective in inhibiting both inflammation and tumor growth. Since anandamide has been shown to fight breast cancer in vitro and in vivo, this shows promise that CBC and other cannabinoids might one day be a chemopreventive agent.


Cannabis Shows Great Promise in Treating Cancer—Let’s Not Wreck It With Hyperbole

CBC as a potential cancer fighter was first published in a 2006 study that looked at cannabinoids other than THC and their possible effects on cancer. While THC is known for its anti-tumor properties for several different forms of cancer, its powerful psychotropic qualities can make it difficult for chemotherapy use. So far, research has found CBC to be the second-most-potent cannabinoid at inhibiting the growth of new cancer cells (CBG was the most potent).

Pain and Inflammation

Cannabichromene has been shown to block pain and inflammation associated with collagen-induced osteoarthritis. Cannabinoids like CBC act on inflammation differently than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do, and don’t have the side effects of these medications. In another example of the entourage effect, CBC in combination with THC had significant anti-inflammatory response in a recent animal study; together, the two cannabinoids produced a much greater effect on inflammation than by themselves.


The best cannabis strains for pain

Brain Cells

In a 2013 mouse study, CBC had a positive effect on neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs), a cell essential to healthy brain function. NSPCs became more viable when in the presence of CBC, and that shows promise because NSPCs differentiate into astroglial cells, the most important cells for maintaining brain homeostasis. The astroglial cells perform a whole host of functions, including neurotransmitter direction and defending against oxidative stress. Astroglia counteract many of these issues—oxidative stress, inflammation, toxicity—that create neurological diseases and brain pathologies like Alzheimer’s disease.


How Does Cannabis Consumption Affect the Brain?


A research team that had previously shown CBD’s effect on acne studied other cannabinoids, including CBC, for the same effects. Indeed, CBC was shown to be a powerful inhibitor of acne. As a skin disease, acne is characterized by excess sebum production and sebaceous gland inflammation. It turns out that CBC exhibited powerful anti-inflammatory properties and also suppressed excessive lipid production in the sebaceous glands. CBC also reduced levels of arachidonic acid (AA), which is needed to create the lipogenesis. More research is needed, but CBC might just one day become a very powerful anti-acne treatment.


Can cannabis and CBD be part of your skin care regimen?


In another amazing display of the entourage effect, CBC appears to work in conjunction with both THC and CBD to deliver a trifecta of antidepressant properties.


Cannabis and Depression

The therapeutic promise of CBC is important and requires more research to determine its power by itself as well as with other cannabinoids working together for an entourage effect. Cannabis patients today are limited in the products available to them, but hopefully as new studies emerge and cannabis laws loosen, new medicines with a diversity of cannabinoids will soon become an option.

Jacqueline Havelka's Bio Image

Jacqueline Havelka

Jacqueline Havelka is a contributing writer for Leafly. She's a rocket scientist turned writer, having worked in the space program for many years managing experiments on the Space Station and Shuttle. Jacqueline currently owns her own firm, Inform Scientific, specializing in technical and medical writing and research program management. When she’s not writing, she is likely watching college football.

View Jacqueline Havelka's articles

  • Rick Schettino

    I see this: “…whether other cannabinoids have entourage effects is not well understood,” and I’m thinking, this isn’t right. Cannabinoids don’t *have* entourage effects, they *contribute* to entourage effects. Then later on in the article I see this: “In another amazing display of the entourage effect, CBC appears to work in conjunction with both THC and CBD to deliver a trifecta of antidepressant properties.” What’s not understood is *how* each cannabinoid contributes to the overall entourage effect.

    • jimbro44

      Yeah I was just reading Dr Dustin Sulak’s article which was talking about cbd and thc make each other more effective AND reduce side effects.

      This must be a typo, as cannabis’s ‘entourage effect’ is extremely well known and documented.

      An unfortunate oversight on her part.

  • Susanna Withers

    A very important piece of information is missing from this article: what strains of cannabis are high in CBC? It’s fascinating to read about its properties, but I’m betting most readers who search for and find this article are investigating CBC because they are interested in its effects and possibilities. Please provide some practical guidance. Can CBC be isolated like CBD and purchased on its own? Are there certain brands/products of full-spectrum CBD oil that contain large amounts of CBC? How can we apply this medical information to our lives?

    • jimbro44

      High cbd stains are bred… so while you hear about “Charlotte’s Web” or “Harlequin”, many strains can be high cbd… or not. Check with dispensaries in your area, saying a specific strain would most likely be misleading… as it is ultimately up to the breeder.

      • Susanna Withers

        Not sure what you mean… I was asking about strains with high levels of CBC, not CBD, unless your point is that CBC levels could vary with each individual plant just as they can with CBD. While that may be true, Leafly’s strain fingerprints must get their data from somewhere, and I assume it’s an average, or the “usual” amount – we have to work with some sort of number, or nobody would have any guidance at all. I’d just like to know which strains usually contain a lot of CBC, in the same way that folks often ask about strains that usually have high CBD levels. That’s the info that would make this article useful to medical users who are trying to leverage statistics to find the best strains for their particular conditions.

        • jimbro44

          Ah yes I must’ve have just read it as CBD… and so all the info is on cbd, I apologize.

          Sub in CBC where I put CBD and it’s still my point, except it’s even more apparent with CBC as it gets much less attention.

          I have kept up with CBD stains, and CBG when I can find them (found one in 3 years with my card), and I have yet to see any marketing towards cbc oils or high CBC products.

          The closest thing I’ve found is a certain brand of RSO sold here at a dispensary in Phoenix, my last batch had almost 2% CBC, as well as CBG, and roughly 82% THC. Almost no cbd tho in any of my batches but they all come out different.

          There’s only 3 places I know of that test for more than just THC/CBD and all the products they carry vary.

          In my experience youre best bet is to find a place that tests and tell them what you’re looking for…

          RSO or similar may be the best place,although I do run across strains that will have .5% or more sometimes.

          It’s just not bred for specifically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it, it’s just harder.

          I hope this answered your question, I had a leafly card from a dispensary that shows all the benefits of all the big 6 cannabinoids so if I find that I’ll update this.

  • ed

    …thank you for your incredible research….

  • Never_Speechless

    I was in so much pain today. Arthritis pain in the shoulder and neck and all the muscles in my back and body were sore. I was falling asleep from not enough sleep and I reached for a new vape pen I have, distillate, A strain called GOJI OG. Apex 500 cartridge. Just 3 drags on that and 15 minutes later I couldnt believe the pain was all gone, muscles felt lots better and I was WIDE awake. It only has a small amount of CBC 5.4mg in the whole cartridge so I doubt I got much of the CBC but CBG was the other main one in there. I know I will be buying again cause that was a miracle I was in so much body pain…neck especially and shoulders.