The cannabis plant is a complex one and it consists of more than 400 chemical entities. Among them are cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant compounds, the most significant ones being, in fact, cannabinoids. Scientists have discovered 100+ cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, some of which are present at lower and others at higher levels.
In this article, we’ll explore what cannabinoids are and go over the most common ones found in the cannabis plant, how they’re formed, highlight the differences between them, as well as give you more information on the effects they produce after being consumed.
What Are Cannabinoids?
The cannabis plant contains around 100 cannabinoids, the rest being non-cannabinoid chemicals. Cannabinoids are the chemical substances found in the cannabis plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system upon consumption. This unique communications system is the reason why people who use marijuana experience intoxicating effects in their bodies and minds, also known as “being high”.
Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system, or the ECS, is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (balance in the body) and is in charge of regulating a number of processes in the body, such as the regulation of the following functions - memory, mood, sleep, appetite, cell-to-cell communication, and many more. It consists of endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.
The way that this system works is by conveying messages from the brain to the body about the effects that the cannabinoids produce by interacting with the main receptors, CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are located in different parts of the central nervous system. They regulate the communication between the cells and the way that messages are sent, received, or processed. This binding ability is what allows THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids to affect your mind and body in different ways, depending on the cannabinoid in question.
So, what are the most-researched cannabinoids so far?
Major Cannabinoids Found in the Cannabis Plant
When talking about cannabinoids, most people immediately think of the two major ones, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These are the dominant cannabinoids and the ones that produce most of the effects users experience after consuming cannabis.
THC, one of the most popular cannabinoids, is the one that produces the well-known intoxicating effects that most users are after when consuming the cannabis plant. The way that this cannabinoid produces its effects is by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. People use this cannabinoid either for recreational purposes or for the treatment of some medical conditions.
CBD, THC’s counterpart, is the cannabinoid found in the hemp plant that doesn’t produce intoxicating effects on users, but rather may produce anti-inflammatory, sedative, antispasmodic, and anti-nausea effects on users. It’s also known for its wide use as an alternative treatment for a number of medical conditions such as epilepsy, chronic pain, eating disorders, and others. CBD is also used to neutralize the negative effects that users sometimes experience after taking higher doses of THC. However, these cannabinoids aren’t initially present in the cannabis plant. Let’s explain.
Raw Cannabis vs Decarboxylated Cannabis
It’s a fact that the raw cannabis plant doesn’t contain the cannabinoids that people are after when they think about using cannabis. In fact, the precursors to the cannabinoids are the cannabinoid acids which are a heterogeneous group of compounds that don’t produce any intoxicating effects. The following cannabinoid acids are some of the most popular ones that you can find in the cannabis plant:
- THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid);
- CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid);
- CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid);
- CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid);
- CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid);
- THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid);
- CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid);
- CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid).
The most abundant cannabinoid acids, THCA and CBDA, are the ones that convert to the cannabinoids THC and CBD after the decarboxylation process. While these cannabinoid acids don’t produce intoxicating effects upon consumption, they can provide other medical benefits to users. Many of them have insecticidal or antibiotic properties which are probably present as a way for the plant to defend itself against pests and microbes.
The cannabinoids are synthesized from cannabinoid acids through the decarboxylation process. This process heats the cannabinoid acids at a temperature between 230-250 F° which ultimately converts the cannabinoid acids into cannabinoids and produces the effects that consumers report they get after consumption. They’re responsible for the effects CBD has on sleep, the effects THC has on managing pain, as well as a number of other effects that researchers are currently studying. Some of the most common cannabinoids include:
- CBGV (Cannabigerivarin);
- THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin);
- CBDV (Cannabidivarin);
- CBCV (Cannabichromevarin).
The Effects of Cannabinoids
Depending on the cannabinoid, the effects that users experience can vary. As we’ve already said, the main effect that recreational consumers are after is generally the intoxicating effect of THC, or the calming effect of CBD for medical users, but the cannabis plant produces a lot of other effects in users. The most common ones include:
- Feeling euphoric;
- Feeling uplifted;
- Having anxious thoughts;
- Feeling calm;
- Having an increased appetite;
- Being introspective.
Keep in mind that most cannabinoids won’t get you intoxicated, however, they can influence how THC affects you and either intensify its effects or lessen them. For example, CBD may decrease the intoxicating effects of THC and help you get back to normal in less amount of time. The serving you consume as well as your personal tolerance level to cannabis will also influence how the cannabinoids affect you.
To get to the bottom of how cannabinoids interact with the human body and the endocannabinoid system, scientists have been working on numerous studies and they aren’t even close to uncovering the full potential of the cannabis plant.
Do Cannabinoids Offer Benefits?
According to current research, cannabinoids may help treat or ameliorate a number of medical conditions, such as:
- Extreme weight loss (cachexia), anorexia, and appetite loss;
- Alzheimer's disease;
- Multiple sclerosis (MS);
- Chronic pain relief and relief from, arthritis and osteoarthritis;
- Crohn's disease;
- Muscle spasms and spasticity (tight or stiff muscles);
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Opioid dependency.
Keep in mind that most of these cannabis treatments aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a federal level, apart from the treatment of various types of epilepsy. It’s best to always consult with a licensed physician before you start taking any medication or start to use medical marijuana as a treatment option for a medical condition.
If you’ve been searching for an answer to the question “What are cannabinoids?”, we can say that they’re chemical compounds that are used more and more in recent years either for medical or recreational purposes. The most popular ones include THC and CBD, the former being the intoxicating cannabinoid, while the latter is the non-intoxicating cannabinoid.While cannabinoids may have some potential benefits for treating medical conditions, they’re still being thoroughly researched by scientists, and new information on these popular cannabis compounds continues to be revealed. If you are interested in trying some of the non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, and CBN, head over to our shop and feel free to contact us with any questions you may have on cannabinoids.