Since prehistoric times, Cannabis has provided humans with fiber to clothe them, food to nourish them, oil to light their lamps, euphoriant to inspire them, and medicine to alleviate their suffering. In return, humans have disseminated Cannabis from its indigenous range in central Asia and the Indian subcontinent to the far corners of the world.
The everlasting debate on grouping Cannabis into biotypes on a molecular, constituent or characteristics level continues, three species within the genus have been proposed: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. However, the fact that all tested varieties have produced fertile seeds turns this discussion – in a botanical sense – obsolete and all Cannabis can be considered Cannabis sativa. It is a herbaceous annual plant and a dioecious species with sexual dimorphism (meaning male and female plants exist) occurring in the flowering stage of plant development. Cultivated Cannabis sativa can be grouped into two distinct groups, hemp is bred for and serves agronomic purposes like seed, fiber and oil production, whereas resin-type Cannabis, also referred to as “marijuana”, is mostly cultivated and bred for high concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenoids and yields of its flowering tops (“buds”). Cannabis sativa displays an immense number of constituents, up to date, over 565 different molecules have been isolated and identified from Cannabis, out of which 120 are cannabinoids and are therefore unique to the plant.
For the production of flowers, only female clones are used, which all come from mother plants that serve the clonal propagation. Cloned Cannabis plants grow much more homogenous than plants from seeds and therefore facilitate a streamlined and controlled production.
Over centuries human pressured natural selection of cannabis strains resulting in a wide variety of cultivated growth forms and chemical compositions for varying uses including fiber, food, oil and medicine.
To date, over 560 different molecules have been isolated from c annabis, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Cannabinoids represents a group of terpenophenolic compounds that are found uniquely in cannabis and no other plants.
Phytocannabinoids, or short cannabinoids are distinct from their synthesized analogons called synthetic cannabinoids such as commercial available nabilone and ajumelic acid, etc. The biosynthesised cannabinoids are derived from a geranylpyrophosphate terpenoid subunit and biosynthesised by three enzymes which in turn are controlled by three alleles in the plants genome. So far, around 70 cannabinoids have been identified and can be divided into ten types: cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidiol (CBD), delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC), cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabinol (CBN), cannabitriol (CBT), and miscellaneous types. Almost all cannabinoids exist in two forms, an acidic form and their decarboxylated analogon, for instance, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is the acidic form of cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabinoids as well as phytocannabinoids act biologically like endocannabinoids, which are biosynthesised in the human body. Together with the cannabinoid receptors in the human body, they form the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is highly involved in the neuromodulatory system-dynamic and information processing within the brain and body, such as memory (synaptic plasticity) function, mood and appetite control, and regulation of sensation.