The Cannabis sativa herb contains over 100 phytocannabinoid (pCB) compounds and has been used for thousands of years for both recreational and medicinal purposes. In the past two decades, characterisation of the body's endogenous cannabinoid (CB) (endocannabinoid, eCB) system (ECS) has highlighted activation of central CB(1) receptors by the major pCB, Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC) as the primary mediator of the psychoactive, hyperphagic and some of the potentially therapeutic properties of ingested cannabis. Whilst Δ(9)-THC is the most prevalent and widely studied pCB, it is also the predominant psychotropic component of cannabis, a property that likely limits its widespread therapeutic use as an isolated agent. In this regard, research focus has recently widened to include other pCBs including cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), Δ(9)tetrahydrocannabivarin (Δ(9)-THCV) and cannabidivarin (CBDV), some of which show potential as therapeutic agents in preclinical models of CNS disease. Moreover, it is becoming evident that these non-Δ(9)-THC pCBs act at a wide range of pharmacological targets, not solely limited to CB receptors. Disorders that could be targeted include epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, affective disorders and the central modulation of feeding behaviour. Here, we review pCB effects in preclinical models of CNS disease and, where available, clinical trial data that support therapeutic effects. Such developments may soon yield the first non-Δ(9)-THC pCB-based medicines.
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