Cannabis sativa: Interdisciplinary Strategies and Avenues for Medical and Commercial Progression Outside of CBD and THC

Biomedicines. 2021 Feb 26;9(3):234. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9030234.


Cannabis sativa (Cannabis) is one of the world's most well-known, yet maligned plant species. However, significant recent research is starting to unveil the potential of Cannabis to produce secondary compounds that may offer a suite of medical benefits, elevating this unique plant species from its illicit narcotic status into a genuine biopharmaceutical. This review summarises the lengthy history of Cannabis and details the molecular pathways that underpin the production of key secondary metabolites that may confer medical efficacy. We also provide an up-to-date summary of the molecular targets and potential of the relatively unknown minor compounds offered by the Cannabis plant. Furthermore, we detail the recent advances in plant science, as well as synthetic biology, and the pharmacology surrounding Cannabis. Given the relative infancy of Cannabis research, we go on to highlight the parallels to previous research conducted in another medically relevant and versatile plant, Papaver somniferum (opium poppy), as an indicator of the possible future direction of Cannabis plant biology. Overall, this review highlights the future directions of cannabis research outside of the medical biology aspects of its well-characterised constituents and explores additional avenues for the potential improvement of the medical potential of the Cannabis plant.

Keywords: Cannabis sativa (Cannabis); Papaver somniferum (opium poppy); cannabidiol (CBD); cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2); cannabinoids; secondary metabolites; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Publication types

  • Review