The cannabinoid acids: nonpsychoactive derivatives with therapeutic potential

Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Apr;82(1):87-96. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(98)00069-2.


The discovery of carboxylic acid metabolites of the cannabinoids (CBs) dates back more than three decades. Their lack of psychotropic activity was noted early on, and this resulted in a total absence of further research on their possible role in the actions of the CBs. More recent studies have revealed that the acids possess both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and may contribute to the actions of the parent drug. A synthetic analog showed similar actions at considerably lower doses. In this review, a brief survey of the extensive literature on metabolism of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol to the acids is presented, while more emphasis is given to the recent findings on the biological actions of this class of CBs. A possible mechanism involving effects on eicosanoids for some of these actions is also suggested. Finally, an analogy with a putative metabolite of anandamide, an endogenous CB, is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arachidonic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Humans
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • anandamide