A team of chemists from the University of California, Davis, recently demonstrated that a new synthetic analogue of cannabidiol (CBD) may be just as effective for medicinal uses as its naturally extracted counterpart. This synthetic CBD compound also promises to be easier, cheaper and faster to produce.

Last year the FDA approved CBD for the treatment of two rare forms of severe childhood-onset epilepsies. This milestone moment marked the first approval of a marijuana-derived compound for clinical purposes in the United States. Alongside this approval there is a rapidly growing body of research exploring a whole host of different beneficial medical uses for CBD, from controlling chronic pain to improving anxiety disorders.

Producing CBD in large quantities presents a challenge as it still primarily comes from the marijuana plant, a reasonably energy-intensive crop to grow. Purity of extraction is another issue faced by mass producers, as well as the fact that the legal status of marijuana, and its associated compounds, varies greatly from country to country.

The UC Davis research reports on a newly developed way to produce a synthetic compound called 8,9-Dihydrocannabidiol (H2CBD). In the past H2CBD has been produced using natural CBD, however, the newly published study now demonstrates an efficient new process to create the compound using inexpensive, non-cannabis derived precursors. This means H2CBD can be easily, and legally, produced in regions where marijuana and CBD are still regulated substances.

One of the unique aspects of H2CBD noted by the researchers is the fact it cannot be converted into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. While CBD does not produce notable narcotic effects, there are documented cases of it sometimes having a mild sedative effect. It is hypothesized this is caused by the conversion of CBD to THC in the acidic environment of a person's stomach. Since H2CBD fundamentally cannot undergo this chemical conversion it presents as a promising clinical alternative to CBD.

"Unlike CBD, there is no way to convert H2CBD to intoxicating THC," says Mark Mascal, one of the UC Davis researchers working on the project. "It's a much safer drug than CBD, with no abuse potential and doesn't require the cultivation of hemp."

As well as demonstrating the new method to synthesize H2CBD, the researchers tested the compound's efficacy in treating seizures against conventional CBD. In a series of experiments inducing seizures in rats the study found H2CBD was just as effective as CBD in reducing the number and severity of seizures.

Further research is underway to verify the safety and efficacy of H2CBD in both animals and subsequently humans, so it may still be some time before the synthetic compound is readily available. However, if the promising broad medical uses of CBD continue to expand then an effective and easily produced alternative will prove very useful.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: UC Davis