Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis. The most notable cannabinoid is the phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another major constituent of the plant. There are at least 113 different cannabinoids isolated from cannabis, exhibiting varied effects.
So, now that you know the difference between THC that comes from cannabis (marijuana) and CBD, which is generally derived from hemp, you may be wondering what exactly is a cannabinoid? These are chemical compounds that act on receptors found in your brain, as well as in your body, and produce various effects, such as the regulation of inflammation, mood, appetite and pain perception. In fact, your body naturally produces THC-like compounds all on its own, called endocannabinoids, which explains the presence of these receptors in your body. The receptors are known as CB1 and CB2.
The CB1 receptors are found throughout your body but are concentrated in the brain. These receptors involve movement and the body’s coordination, pain perception, appetite, memories and emotion and thinking. THC (the psychoactive compound) attaches to these CB1 receptors.
The CB2 receptors are more commonly found in your immune system and are involved with pain and inflammation. Scientists used to believe that CBD attached to these CB2 receptors but now more current research suggests that CBD does not attach to either receptor, but simply allows your body to use more of your own naturally produced cannabinoids.
Because you have these cannabinoid receptors in place, you can take advantage of products which contain cannabinoids and not have to rely only on the ones your body produces. When you take a product that contains CBD, you can get the therapeutic effects of the cannabinoids without the intoxicating effect that comes with products that contain THC.
Most Common Cannabinoids
Believe it or not, THC is just about one of the only cannabinoids that will get you “high”. It's in the minority, in reality, and other psychoactive cannabinoids don't have nearly the same potent effect as THC.
That said, it is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in modern cannabis products and strains, having been the first to be isolated. Typically, THC binds with CB-1 receptors in the brain and can produce strong psychoactive effects, as well as elation, relaxation, and laughter.
In medical uses, THC can help with pain relief, digestion and mood. It's been used to treat symptoms of diverse conditions including Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, sleep apnea, and HIV/AIDs.
It is the least abundant cannabinoid found in industrial hemp but found the most in marijuana cannabis. THC is typically helpful as a mild painkiller and may contain antioxidant features.
While most plant cannabinoids are not intoxicating themselves, their presence can influence how THC affects you. The best example of this comes from CBD. Even though it wouldn’t get you high by itself, it influences the way that THC interacts with the CB1 receptors in your endocannabinoid system, and can therefore influence exactly how a cannabis product will affect you.
The second-most well-known cannabinoid, CBD is the opposite of THC in many respects. CBD does not produce intoxicating effects associated with THC, a phenomenon easily explained by how the separate cannabinoids act. CBD is more partial to binding with CB-2 receptors found throughout the body.
As such, it produces effects that are more physiological, like:
● Reduced stress
● Improved appetite
● Better sleep
It does many of the same things THC does, but patients and users who don't want an intense high can use CBD-dominant strains and products to achieve the same desired outcomes.
CBG is another non-intoxicating cannabinoid and is created from CBGA during decarboxylation. Research suggests that CBG contains antibacterial properties and is useful for bacterial growth, cell proliferation, bone growth, and inflammation.
A less common cannabinoid, CBG is attracting new interest among researchers and cultivators for its benefits. Non-psychoactive like CBD, cannabigerol is often only present in very small levels. CBG is being touted as a cannabinoid that is effective at addressing glaucoma, cancerous tumor growth, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. However like all cannabinoids, more research is needed.
CBC is a unique cannabinoid found in cannabis from tropical regions. Research lists CBC as useful for pain relief, inflammation, cellular proliferation, and bone growth.
CBC is another non-psychoactive, minor cannabinoid that's drawing interest for healing potential. Just like CBD, CBC acts as a buffer against THC. More importantly, it has been observed to play a part in neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, key functions of brain health and development.
Interestingly, CBC has also been seen to have anti-inflammation properties without activating endocannabinoid receptors. Some reason its benefits can be enhanced when it interacts with other cannabinoids that do bind to receptors.
This is another example of a plant cannabinoid that is not directly synthesized by cannabis. Instead, CBN is a breakdown product of THC. This is why older flower products will tend to have more CBN, especially when not properly stored. With time and exposure to oxygen, THC gradually breaks down into CBN.
CBN has been observed to result in greater sedation when combined with THC, and may also have anticonvulsant (anti-seizure), anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties.
CBN is psychoactive, but only marginally so compared to THC. This is because it derives from the same cannabinoid acid (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and is created when THC is exposed to oxygen. This is why old marijuana may lose potency as THC decreases and CBN increases. It's often present at a very low level in most popular strains, so an understanding of CBN is still being built. Early indications are that it is effective as a sleep aid and remedy against arthritis.
CBN is a cannabinoid produced separately from oxidized THC and when CBNA becomes exposed to prolonged heat or sunlight. Raw cannabis will create more CBN as it further matures at the cost of THC. CBN acts as a mild psychoactive with sedative effects.
THC is the only plant cannabinoid that you know for sure has clear intoxicating effects on its own. There is some evidence to suggest that THCV may also have intoxicating effects, although whether it does may depend on the dose. However, like most other plant cannabinoids, THCV is usually not present in significant quantities in commercial strains and cannabis products.
It is a lesser cannabinoid that’s only available in particular strains of cannabis. And though its structure is only slightly different than THC, it has unique properties that are useful for bone growth, anxiety, and appetite.