Up until recently, researchers thought that cannabis was the only plant that produced cannabinoids, active chemical compounds secreted by the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system which regulates homeostasis inside our bodies. It influences everything from our immune system to our inflammatory response when we are injured.
Further research proved that cannabinoid-like chemical compounds were found in other plants like flax seeds that contain CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis that helps relieve pain and anxiety. These cannabinoid-like compounds are called cannabimimetics. They work by acting on our endocannabinoid system and sometimes directly or indirectly affect biological functions. If you’re interested in finding additional cannabinoid sources besides cannabis, these five plants are your prime choices.
1. Coneflower (Echinacea)
Researchers uncovered that N-alkyl amides from the perennial herb, coneflower, act as cannabimimetics on our endocannabinoid system, especially our CB2 cell receptors, similar to THC in cannabis plants which can get you high. When these cannabimimetics act on these receptors, they regulate our immune system, pain and inflammatory responses.
Many have used this plant to prevent the common cold during the first signs of the sickness. Echinacea has also been shown to reduce anxiety and physiological symptoms related to worrying too much. Symptom relief can also help in other areas such as sleep, fatigue, arthritis, and migraines due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
2. Electric Daisy (Acmella oleracea)
Commonly referred to as the toothache plant, this small red and gold plant native to the Amazon helps relieve pain by blocking pain receptors in our body. The analgesic effect comes from N-isobutylamides acting on our CB2 cell receptors. As a form of natural anesthesia, extracts of this plant have been used medically for its antifungal, anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and diuretic effects.
3. Japanese Liverwort (Radula marginata)
Native to New Zealand, this plant produces perrottetinenic acid, which has a similar structure to THC in cannabis. Perrottetinenic acid acts on our CB1 cell receptor, the same binding site for THC. Although it acts like THC, liverwort does not produce psychoactive effects. Instead it can function as a natural treatment for bronchitis (as a tea) and gallbladder, liver, and bladder issues. Keep in mind, ingesting large amounts of this plant can be dangerous.
4. Helichrysum (Helium italicum)
Known as the “immortal flower,” this native South African plant contains cannabinoids, most notably CBG. Early studies in the 1930s showed that the plant’s extract relieved respiratory conditions, psoriasis, and arthritis. It is particularly effective at promoting positive skin health at can help the following skin problems:
5. Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
If you love chocolate, especially fair-trade dark chocolate, you may feel a bit “high” when consuming chocolate’s notable anandamide content. Similar to THC, anandamide is involved in the signaling of pleasure responses. Compounds in chocolate block FAAH enzymes that contribute to a reduction in anandamide in our brain. With chemicals like theobromine, tryptophan, and anandamide, you can increase your anandamide levels simply by eating some chocolate.
Research suggests that there are a plethora of plants that contain cannabimimetic compounds that are medically beneficial. Other popular plants that have cannabinoid-like compounds include Chinese Rhododendron and Kava, an analgesic plant that relaxes the nervous system. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a cannabis-infused chocolate bar to combine the cannabinoid effects of both cacao and cannabis.