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Do Other Plants Produce Cannabinoids Besides Marijuana?

What do marijuana, cacao, and liverwort have in common? They all produce cannabinoids! 

Discover even more plants that produce cannabinoids other than marijuana.

You’re probably already familiar with cannabinoids like THC and CBD. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. There are over a hundred different cannabinoids that interact with our bodies in different ways. But do other plants produce cannabinoids besides marijuana? 

Yes! From cacao to echinacea, cannabinoids are everywhere. Read on and discover plants that produce cannabinoids other than cannabis.

Reading Time - 6.5 min


5 Plants That Produce Cannabinoids Other Than Marijuana

Need a quick breakdown? No worries, we’ve got all the details summarized below…

  • “Cannabinoid” is an umbrella term that includes both phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. A cannabinoid is a lipophilic molecule that can interact with the endocannabinoid system.
  • Phytocannabinoids are any cannabinoids produced by plants, while endocannabinoids are produced by mammals.
  • While compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and alkamides are separate from cannabinoids, they’re an important part of the conversation because of how they interact with the endocannabinoid system AND with cannabinoids.
  • Black pepper produces a terpene called beta-caryophyllene. While it’s technically a bicyclic sesquiterpene, its presence in many edible plants PLUS the way it interacts with the ECS also categorizes it as a dietary cannabinoid.
  • Cacao contains N-linoleoylethanolamide and N-oleoylethanolamide (which inhibit anandamide breakdown) as well as small amounts of anandamide.
  • Echinacea produces compounds called alkamides that can interact with CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
  • Not only does liverwort create precursors to major cannabinoids and analogs of CBGA, but it also produces a psychoactive compound similar to THC.
  • Commonly known as the “toothache plant,” electric daisy produces a compound called spilanthol that interacts with the endocannabinoid system. When chewed, this plant causes a tingling/numbing sensation.

Cannabinoids, Phytocannabinoids, and Endocannabinoids

We’ll be throwing around a few key terms today, so it’s helpful to have a good understanding of them. Without further ado:

Cannabinoids

Technically, this is an umbrella term that covers both of the terms below. In the broadest sense, they’re a class of lipophilic molecules that have the ability to interact with the ECS. These can be produced by many biological species (plant and mammal) and help regulate and/or balance some biological functions.

Phytocannabinoids

This category includes any cannabinoid produced by plants. This is where you’ll find popular cannabinoids like THC, CBD, THCV, CBG, etc. There have been, however, over a hundred different phytocannabinoids discovered so far. 

Endocannabinoids

These are cannabinoids produced from within mammalian bodies - yep, even yours. This includes important compounds like anandamide and 2-AG. Endocannabinoids play a pivotal role in bodily homeostasis, and because our bodies already produce and use cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system already has receptors with which phytocannabinoids can interact.

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These terms aside, there are a surprisingly large number of compounds outside of cannabinoids capable of interacting with the ECS. 

According to the British Journal of Pharmacology, “in the last few years, several non-cannabinoid plant natural products have been reported to act as cannabinoid receptor ligands. This prompts us to define ‘phytocannabinoids’ as any plant-derived natural product capable of either directly interacting with cannabinoid receptors or sharing chemical similarity with cannabinoids or both.” We’ll be talking about some of these “non-cannabinoid” plant compounds below.

So, while compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and alkamides are separate from cannabinoids, they’re an important part of the conversation because of how they interact with the endocannabinoid system AND with cannabinoids. Speaking of which…

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Black Pepper Produces Dietary Cannabinoid Beta-Caryophyllene

Turns out that adding a sprinkle of black pepper to your meals is a great way to get a healthy dose of beta-caryophyllene! While it’s technically a bicyclic sesquiterpene, its presence in many edible plants PLUS the way it interacts with the ECS also categorizes it as a dietary cannabinoid (1). 

No, it’s not psychoactive. However, this feature does give it several properties that make it a good candidate for therapeutic use. According to one study, beta-caryophyllene “strongly reduces the carrageenan-induced inflammatory response in wild-type mice but not in mice lacking CB(2) receptors, providing evidence that this natural product exerts cannabimimetic effects in vivo. These results identify (E)-BCP as a functional nonpsychoactive CB(2) receptor ligand in foodstuff and as a macrocyclic antiinflammatory cannabinoid in Cannabis.”

On top of that, it plays an important role in the Entourage Effect. This phenomenon is when cannabinoids work synergistically with other compounds (like terpenes) to have altered or stronger effects than they’re capable of on their own (2). 

Cacao Produces “Feel Good” Chemicals and Increases Anandamide

Turns out that chocolate doesn’t just make us feel good because it tastes great. “Cacao and its derivatives cocoa and chocolate contain N-linoleoylethanolamide and N-oleoylethanolamide, compounds which inhibit anandamide breakdown, as well as variable amounts of anandamide” (3). 

Anandamide is an endocannabinoid our bodies use as messenger molecules. It plays an important role in pain, depression, appetite, memory, and more. However, while it may have been a fad to snort raw cacao a few years ago, we urge you NOT to. 

The theory that snorting cacao will give someone a psychoactive experience similar to THC has been refuted. “The scenario most likely to be associated with a cannabinoid “high” is not eating chocolate or even snorting cocoa powder but the ritual consumption of large amounts of cacao as performed by the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs.”

Coneflower (Echinacea) Produces Alkamides

While certain species produce more than others, at least three different species of Echinacea produce compounds called alkamides. “These lipide-like compounds bind the human CB2 receptors, acting as full agonists with more selectivity for CB2…compared to CB1 receptors” (4).

Echinacea has been used medicinally for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, and now we know why! There are additional compounds that some believe may contribute to its medicinal properties, but alkamides closely resemble two endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG). 

This feature allows them to interact with our endocannabinoid system in much the same way that both cannabinoids and endocannabinoids do.

Liverwort (Radula marginata) Produces Molecule Similar to THC

Not only does liverwort create precursors to major cannabinoids and analogs of CBGA (5), it also produces a psychoactive compound similar to THC. Known as perrottetinene (PET), this molecule has made this unassuming plant surprisingly popular. 

“Most notably, (−)-cis-PET and (−)-trans-PET significantly reduced basal brain prostaglandin levels associated with Δ9-trans-THC side effects in a CB1 receptor-dependent manner, thus mimicking the action of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol. Therefore, the natural product (−)-cis-PET is a psychoactive cannabinoid from bryophytes, illustrating the existence of convergent evolution of bioactive cannabinoids in the plant kingdom” (6).

Electric Daisy (Acmella oleracea) Produces Spilanthol

Commonly known as the “toothache plant” in South America, the electric daisy is quite popular for the numbing/tingling sensation it causes in the mouth when chewed. While research is still needed to confirm its efficacy, this perennial does produce a compound called spilanthol that interacts with the endocannabinoid system.

“Electric daisy has been found to have CB 2 binding potential and be effective both orally and topically due to the specific alkylamide it contains called spilanthol, also known as affinin. A study conducted by Gertsch et al. tested the potential of CB 2 receptor binding of various sources of N-alkylamides, including Acmella oleracea. A. oleracea extracts did not have the highest binding affinity in their experiments, though it did show some affinity…” (7).

MANY Plants Produce Cannabinoids Other Than Marijuana!

This is just a small glimpse into the big wide world of cannabinoids. There are several varieties of mushrooms, teas, vegetables, and flowers that also produce phytocannabinoids or non-cannabinoid compounds that interact with the ECS.

We hope this piqued your interest and answered your questions, but be sure to follow us for even more information.

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