Italian Scientists Uncover Cannabis Compound "30 times" Stronger than THC

A team of researchers from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, the University of Rome, the University of Campania, and the Institute of Nanotechnology in Lecce have discovered two new cannabis compounds.

There are more than 400 molecules contained within the cannabis plant, but less than half are officially recognised as cannabinoids due to the lack of research into the drug's phytocannabinoid profile.

However, a group of Italian scientists recently made a huge breakthrough when it comes to cannabis research, after successfully isolating two entirely new compounds known as tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP) and cannabidiphorol (CBDP).

The study is being funded by a government initiative known as UNIHEMP—which stands for Use of Industrial Hemp biomass for Energy and new Biochemicals Production—and is overseen by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, with assistance from the European Regional Development Fund.

Our in vitro experiments proved that THCP has a high affinity for CB1 receptors, about 30 times higher than that reported for THC in the literature. Since the psychotropic activity is generally associated with the affinity for this type of cannabinoid, we could speculate that THCP is psychoactive. Researcher from the Institute of Nanotechnology, Cinzia Citti

In the team's report—which was published in the scientific journal Nature—the researchers outlined how they managed to successfully isolate the two molecules, while also diving into some of the exciting findings the study uncovered. 

In fact, according to the research team THCP may even have a higher binding affinity for the body's CB1 receptors than THC itself, causing it to generate greater levels of cannabimimetic activity.

A researcher from the Institute of Nanotechnology, Cinzia Citti, explained that THC and CBD molecules are characterised by a certain chemical structure that shares a "side alkyl chain with five carbon atoms in a linear arrangement".

"THCP and CBDP differ from them only for the length of this chain, which contains instead seven carbon atoms in the same linear arrangement, and the length of this chain is responsible for the increased affinity for CB1 receptor. Given the similar behaviour of THC and THCP, we expect that also CBDP will show an activity similar to that of CBD probably at even lower doses, but this will be the goal of a future work."

"The presence of this new phytocannabinoid could account for the pharmacological properties of some cannabis varieties difficult to explain by the presence of the sole THC. The problem is that nobody has ever searched for these two compounds in cannabis."

"Maybe, the identification of THCP in other varieties could account for inexplicable effects not ascribable solely to THC. Once all pharmacological profile of THCP has been established, I can imagine that THCP-rich cannabis varieties will be developed in the future for specific pathologies," Citti said.

The researchers firmly believe that both of these compounds could be used for a myriad of medical applications in future, however they say that further research is still needed to fully understand both the benefits and potential risks that THCP and CBDP could pose.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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