Now Berman and colleagues, using a battery of state-of-the-art technologies, confirmed that early report. They sequenced the entire genome of the woolly umbrella and used advanced analytical chemistry, including high-resolution mass spectroscopy, to identify the kinds of cannabinoids it contains. Using nuclear magnetic resonance, the researchers revealed the precise structure of more than a dozen of these cannabinoids and other related metabolites. They traced the entire biochemical pathway involved in the production of cannabinoids and determined where in the plant they are made.
It turns out that the woolly umbrella manufactures cannabinoids primarily in its leaves, possibly giving it an economic advantage over cannabis, which makes these compounds in the shorter-lived and harder-to-harvest flower clusters, or inflorescences. Despite this difference, the Weizmann scientists found a great deal in common between the woolly umbrella and cannabis. In particular, the enzymes used in every step of their cannabinoid production process belong to the same families, throughout the first half of the biochemical pathway.
Six of the cannabinoids found in the woolly umbrella are identical to those in cannabis. The six do not include the two most famous ones, THC and CBD, but they do include cannabigerol, or CBG, a rising star of cannabinoid research: It has potential therapeutic applications but lacks mood-altering effects. The acid form of CBG, which appears in a relatively high concentration in the plant, serves as a precursor for the production of all the classical cannabinoids, supporting the idea that the woolly umbrella could become a valuable source of plant-based cannabinoids.