Scientists Discover New Compound in Marijuana That Could Provide Health Benefits

Italian researchers recently reported they have found a new chemical compound in cannabis called THCP that may have more potency than THC because of its ability to bond better with brain receptors.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature, could not say with certainty that THCP would cause more of a “high” than THC. That’s because they have not specifically tested it for its intoxicating impact on humans. Also, there remains some uncertainty about the exact chemical interactions that cause the high feeling.

But they did find that the new compound contains chemicals that bond better with receptors in the brain, a process which involves what is called the “alkyl side chain.”

What Is An Alkyl Side Chain?

The alkyl side chain is “the driving force” behind how cannabinoids impact humans, according to CNN. Most compounds in cannabis have a chain that is five atoms in length. But THCP has a chain that is seven atoms in length.

This means that it is 30 times more potent than THC – at least when referring to how it bonds with brain receptors. Dr. Cinzia Citti, the lead author on the new research and a post-doctoral fellow in life sciences at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, told CNN that “this means that these compounds have higher affinity for the receptors in the human body.”

Citti said that the new compound could explain why some strains of marijuana are more potent even if the THC level is not especially high. She said: “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.”

The study noted that THCP could potentially offer more effective use of cannabis for medical conditions. They noted that “a number of clinical trials and a growing body of literature” show cannabis already has high potential to treat “a wide range of disorders from sleep to anxiety, multiple sclerosis, autism and neuropathic pain.”

Health Benefits of the New Findings

The Italian researchers are more interested in the health benefits of THCP than whether the new compound can get someone higher.

CBD is already becoming popular as a health and wellness product. THCP could potentially make all cannabis products more effective because of its ability to bond well with brain receptors. Of course, that kind of use is a long way off. Further research is needed on the impact of THCP.

There’s also much more research to be done on other cannabinoids within the cannabis plant. The Italian researchers noted that “up to now, almost 150 phytocannabinoids have been detected in cannabis plants, though most of them have neither been isolated nor characterized.”

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