The cannabis plant is jam-packed full of compounds that scientists believe can be beneficial to the human body. With its blend of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, the cannabis plant has been hailed for thousands of years by some cultures as being magical and highly medicinal, but it is only in the past couple of decades
The cannabis plant is jam-packed full of compounds that scientists believe can be beneficial to the human body. With its blend of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, the cannabis plant has been hailed for thousands of years by some cultures as being magical and highly medicinal, but it is only in the past couple of decades that the western world has started to get a better understanding of the potential of the plant.
One of the most exciting potentials for cannabis is that fact that its natural compounds can interact with the human endocannabinoid system. However, the fact that one of the cannabinoids – THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is psychoactive and can make you high, can be off-putting to some people.
This begs the question, are there any other plants that can give us the same potential health benefits that cannabis can? It would seem strange, after all, if you couldn’t find the different compounds in other plants – albeit in different combinations and strengths.
What compounds are there in the cannabis plant?
The cannabis plant is made up of compounds such as cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. Due to the fact that the plant has been cultivated and changed over thousands of years, there are almost an infinite number of different combinations of these compounds.
Two of the main compounds that are found naturally and abundantly in the plant are CBD and THC.
Cultivators have, however, over the years bred cannabis plants with very low levels of THC which allows people to benefit from the goodness of most of the cannabis compounds without getting high – this particular strain is called hemp – and is the plant that most CBD products are made from.
In addition to CBD and THC (which are present in the form of CBDA and THCA), some of the other main cannabinoids which are found in cannabis include CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid), CBCA (Cannabichromene acid), CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid) and CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid).
Although there don’t seem to be any plants that we know about which have the major cannabinoids which are found in cannabis, naturally present, there do seem to be some plants which have compounds which interact with the endocannabinoid system in a similar way to CBD and THC. These are called cannabimimetic.
Some of these include:
- Echinacea – This contains compounds which are similar to CBD in that they can interact with the CB2 receptor in the endocannabinoid system. This means that it can help to be effective in regulating inflammation and the immune system.
- Helichrysum Umbraculigerum – This plant comes from South Africa and has been used in African medicine for years to help to reduce inflammation. Helichrysum umbraculigerum contains a compound which is similar to CBG.
- Black pepper – Beta-caryophyllene is a cannabinoid which is present in black pepper and which is said to have pain relieving properties as well as anti-inflammatory. Scientists also believe that black pepper can help to make anti-cancer drugs more effective . Just imagine that as you are sprinkling it over your dinner this evening!
- Chocolate – We have known for years that chocolate can have a positive effect on our mood. One of the reasons for this is that it contains chemicals such as anandamide, theobromine, phenylethylamine and tryptophan – which are all chemicals which can make us happy. It also contains FAAH which is a chemical which interacts with the endocannabinoid system and inhibits the breakdown of anandamide – keeping you happier for longer! 
- Electric Daisy – The electric daisy plant – native to the Amazon is said to have strong pain relieving qualities due to N-isobutylamides – compounds which are found in the plant which are similar to cannabinoids. Scientists believe that the CB2 receptor is stimulated by the compound to get this effect.  There is substantial research being carried out at the moment to investigate the use of electric daisy for relieving toothache.
- Liverwort – Although it doesn’t give you the same high, liverwort mimics THC by interacting with CB1 receptors. This is the perrottetinenic acid and according to research, can help with all kinds of digestive problems. 
Terpenes are compounds in the plant which have a major contribution to its smell, as well as helping to protect it. There are aromatic molecules which are mainly there to attract pollinators and repel attackers.
Although there is a complex concoction of terpenes in the cannabis plant, there are many which are also found in others, including:
- Pinene – Also found in pine needles, parsley, rosemary, dill and basil, and with potential effects of helping with anxiety, pain, anti-inflammatory and is anti-fungal. 
- Myrcene – Also found in hops, mango, thyme and lemongrass, and has the potential to help with easing pain and inflammation. 
- Limonene – Also found in fruit rinds, peppermint, juniper and rosemary, and research shows that it can help to treat and prevent cancer and bronchitis. 
- Caryophyllene – Also found in cinnamon, cloves and black pepper and with the potential effect of pain relief and being anti-inflammatory. 
Flavonoids are compounds in the plant that are responsible for giving it its colour as well as helping to protect it from UV light from the sun, and hungry herbivores.
Although there are some flavonoids which are found uniquely in cannabis, there are also others which are present in the cannabis plant, that can also be found in other plants, including:
- Quercetin – Also found in many fruits and vegetables, wine, green tea and ginkgo biloba, and is said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as being able to help with diabetes and killing cancer cells. 
- Catechins – Also found in cocoa, tea and berries which is said to be a strong antioxidant.
- Orientin – Also found in bamboo leaves, passionflower and flax, and is said to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties as well as being neuroprotective, anti-depressant and protecting the heart. 
- Apigenin – Also found in parsley, basil, oregano, celery and chamomile, which is said to help to reduce cancer, anxiety and suppressing inflammatory responses. 
It is clear to see that most of the compounds that are found in the cannabis plant can also be found in other plants. However, although compounds can be found in alternative places, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they would be as effective as they would be in cannabis.
One thing that cannabis research has taught us is that although some substances are good on their own, often they become more effective as part of something else. This also, of course, can also apply to the other plants. This phenomenon – known as the ‘entourage effect’ is an important concept in the world of botanicals.
Although there appears to be a number of different plants which can give you each compound individually, it is only cannabis which can give you this combination, with its own specific effects.
If you are thinking about trying CBD or other cannabis-derived products – or any of the other compounds mentioned, it is important that you speak to your doctor first – especially if you are taking medication. These compounds can have a strong effect on the body and can sometimes affect medication which is being taken.
You should never stop taking medication unless instructed by your doctor.
The power of nature is very strong, not only in cannabis but in other plants as well. Thankfully, with the research that has led the way to make CBD products available to many of us today, we will hopefully see more and more information about how all of its compounds can be beneficial to us.