Analysis of the cannabinoids

  • D. J. Harvey

Abstract

Cannabis preparations, derived from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativaL., have been used by man for their euphoric effects for over four thousand years (Nahas, 1973) and represent the most widely used of all illicit drugs. The active constituents, which are found mainly in the resin associated with the flowering tops of female plants, belong to a group of compounds classified as cannabinoids and which are unique to Cannabis.To date, over sixty of these compounds have been identified (Turner et al.,1980a) with the structure of the major active constituent, Δ1-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ1-THC, Figure 10.1a), being elucidated as recently as 1964 (Gaoni and Mechoulam, 1964). Two numbering systems are in use for this compound, the monoterpene system (Figure 10.5a) used in this chapter, and the benzopyran system (Figure 10.5b) under which THC is named Δ9-THC. Other major cannabinoids are shown in Figures 10.2 to 10.4. Of these, cannabidiol (CBD, Figure 10.2a), a biochemical precursor of Δ1 -THC, and cannabinol (CBN, Figure 10.3a), a chemical degradation product, are generally the most abundant. Both of these compounds are devoid of psychotomimetic properties although they do show other pharmacological activities.

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