1Department of Experimental Pharmacology, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy
2Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry, National Research Council, Pozzuoli (NA), Italy
3Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, Hebrew University Medical Faculty, Jerusalem, Israel
4Endocannabinoid Research Group, Italy
Available online 2 September 2009. PDF (148 K)
Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol binds cannabinoid (CB1 and CB2) receptors, which are activated by endogenous compounds (endocannabinoids) and are involved in a wide range of physiopathological processes (e.g. modulation of neurotransmitter release, regulation of pain perception, and of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and liver functions). The well-known psychotropic effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which are mediated by activation of brain CB1 receptors, have greatly limited its clinical use. However, the plant Cannabis contains many cannabinoids with weak or no psychoactivity that, therapeutically, might be more promising than Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Here, we provide an overview of the recent pharmacological advances, novel mechanisms of action, and potential therapeutic applications of such non-psychotropic plant-derived cannabinoids. Special emphasis is given to cannabidiol, the possible applications of which have recently emerged in inflammation, diabetes, cancer, affective and neurodegenerative diseases, and to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin, a novel CB1 antagonist which exerts potentially useful actions in the treatment of epilepsy and obesity.
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