Cannabis Sativa, what are its Components?

Everyone knows cannabis, but who really knows what's in it? Let's dive together at the molecular level to discover the different groups of components of cannabis. This first overview is devoted to those who have exciting potential for the future and for our skin.

Essential fatty acids, vitamins and proteins

Hemp oil (Cannabis sativa oil in international nomenclature) is composed of several essential ingredients: essential fatty acids, vitamins and proteins.

To begin with, let's talk about the essential fatty acids omega 3 and 6. They are called “essential” because they are not created by our body although they are essential for its functioning. It is essential to consume it through a balanced diet. Hemp oil is particularly interesting because it contains a favorable ratio of 1: 3,8 between omega 3 and 6. 

The second group of essentials is that of vitamins. Hemp oil contains different types: E, A, B1, B2, B6. The specialized site Nutrition summarizes their roles: “Vitamins have a plastic role. Certain vitamins affect the composition and structure of tissues (repair, lifespan, functions) and their physical characteristics (elasticity, flexibility, etc.) ”.
Finally, proteins, in addition to their energy supply, are an essential material of cells, tissues, organs ...

The action of these three essential components for the skin

Essential fatty acids, vitamins and proteins fight effectively against common skin imperfections: irritation, skin dryness, redness, blackheads, acne, etc. These symptoms are manifested when the hydrolipidic barrier, the layer that protects the skin epidermis of substances foreign to the human body, is damaged.

It can be attacked by external sources: air pollution, overexposure to the sun, cold, wind, use of too aggressive care. Internal factors also have their role, such as genetics, a diet that is too fatty, or even too much stress.
Cosmetic oils are specially designed to nourish the skin and help it regenerate. These products must have cleansing, nourishing and protective effects

A promising group: terpenes

Terpenes are a group of volatile organic compounds produced by many plants. They are responsible for their aromas and fragrances.

Among the most studied terpenes, we first find limonene, with lemony scents. It is recognized as having anti-bacterial properties and fighting against the proliferation of cancer cells.1,2

 Myrcene, which is also common, has muscle-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.3,4 

The most promising terpene is beta-caryophyllene (BCP). It is found in the essential oils of rosemary, hops, cloves and of course cannabis. We are only at the beginning of research on beta-caryophyllene, but the pharmaceutical industry is already looking into the subject.5

A discovery in the human body: the endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system is a collection of receptors found in the human body. This set reacts to endogenous molecules, created inside our body without any external input. The best known is anandamide. This and the other endogenous molecules activate the same receptors as cannabis, by attaching to cannabinoid receptors.

However, cannabis produces phytocannabinoids (“phyto” = “plant”) which can both trigger and / or deactivate these different receptors.

In the human body, two receptors of the endocannabinoid system have been isolated. The receiver "CB1 is mostly expressed in the central and peripheral nervous system [...] CB2, on the other hand, is mostly expressed in cells of the immune system".

It was the study of the physiological and psychological effects of cannabis that led to the discovery of this system. At that time, cannabinoids had only been found in cannabis. Hence the name “endocannabinoid”.

Researchers and scientists around the world have so far identified around sixty different cannabinoids. This number differs according to the sources but it is certain that their potential is still underestimated.

The most important cannabinoids: THC and CBD

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most famous cannabinoid. In industrial hemp it is present at less than 0,2%. It is responsible for the psychotropic effects experienced during the consumption of marijuana.

CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid less known to the general public, is now gaining in reputation. It is one of the flagship assets of medical cannabis. It fights against pain, epilepsy or intense stress.

For these reasons and despite regulations that sometimes represent a brake, the use of CBD continues to grow. Advances in research allow many people to benefit from its positive effects. The trend will certainly increase over time: “The endocannabinoid system therefore appears to be a formidable field of research for the development of new therapies ”.6

Obviously, these two elements can be isolated so that the use of CBD does not cause any side effects related to THC. CBD can be consumed in capsules, oils, sprays, creams… Its concentration is much greater in the cannabis flower than in the seed.

How does CBD work on the skin?

The endocannabinoid system regulates multiple physiological mechanisms, including skin cell growth and cell differentiation. Inside of it, CBD has effects on the functions of the sebaceous glands and behaves as a powerful sebostatic agent.7

It neutralizes the hypersecretion of sebum, responsible for the many skin concerns seen above.

CBD has been incorporated into CosIng (European Commission Ingredient Database) with the following four claims: Antioxidant, Anti-Seborrheic, Conditioner, Skin Protector.


An unsuspected future for cosmetic cannabis?

The benefits of hemp oil on our skin are numerous. The cosmetic exploration of cannabis flowers (floral waters, essential oils, cannabinoid extractions, etc.) is in its infancy. Some effects are already scientifically proven, while others are just beginning to be studied.
Research into the benefits of cannabis has long been held back. Yet it regularly proves to us that we must increase our efforts to discover its riches.

Although a future where cosmetic cannabis is the norm may seem remote, we have already set foot in it.



1-Lorenzo Nissen, Alessandro Zatta, Ilaria Stefanini, Silvia Grandi, Barbara Sgorbati, Bruno Biavati, Andrea Monti. Characterization and antimicrobial activity of essential oils of industrial hemp varietes. Fitoterapia 81 (2010) 413–419.

2-Pamela L. Crowell. Prevention and Therapy of Cancer by Dietary Monoterpenes. Symposium Phytochemicals: Biochemistry and Physiology, April 14–18, 1996.

3-Berenice B. Lorenzetti, G16ria EP Souza, Silvio J. Sarti, David Santos Filho and Sergio H. Ferreira. Myrcene mimics the peripheral analgesic activity of lemongrass tea. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 34 (1991) 43-48.

4-MC Souza, AC Siani, MFS Ramos, O. Menezes-de-Lima Jr, MGMO Henriques. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of essential oils from two Asteraceae species. Pharmazie 58: 582–586 (2003).

5-Amey Dhopeshwarkar and Ken Mackie. CB2 Cannabinoid Receptors as a Therapeutic Target — What does the future hold? Mol Pharmacol 86: 430–437, October 2014.

6-Laurent Venance, Raphael Maldonado, Olivier Manzoni. The central endocannabinoid system, Medicine / Science, 2004; 20: 45-53.

7-Attila Oláh, Balázs I. Tóth, István Borbíró, Koji Sugawara, Attila G. Szöllõsi, Gabriella Czifra, Balázs Pál, Lídia Ambrus, Jennifer Kloepper, Emanuela Camera, Matteo Ludovici, Mauro Picardo, Thomas Voetsboulis, Christos C. Zouboulo Ralf Paus, and Tamás Bíró. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. J Clin Invest. 2014; 124 (9): 3713–3724.

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