The cannabis plant is responsible for producing a number of compounds known as cannabinoids, many of which haven’t been detected in any other plant. Haven’t you ever wondered about the medicinal effects of cannabis? Or how getting high could potentially be related to the healing of the human body?
Well, it comes down to the cannabinoids. They are the secret to the healing effects of marijuana. There are over 100 cannabinoids that we know about, and these chemicals take effect by imitating the endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by the human body. Have you ever seen those shiny crystals on cannabis buds? Those are the trichomes, and this is where the cannabinoids are stored.
Humans, and many other animals, have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which means that cannabinoids are naturally made to bind with endocannabinoid receptors to create changes in our physiology. In this article, we are going to take a look at ten of the most well-known cannabinoids and how they work.
1. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
Let’s start off with the most infamous cannabinoid and the one that just about everyone knows about, THC. Its full name is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, and it’s the one that is responsible for giving marijuana its “bad” reputation. THC is the primary psychoactive component and is what makes users high when they use marijuana. Simply put, it’s what gives weed the ability to alter your mood, perception, and consciousness.
THC works by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain which causes a release of the chemical known as dopamine. Ultimately, this is what leads to a change in behavior (the “high”). When used in excess, THC has been known to cause side effects like paranoia, hallucination, and anxiety. But, when used correctly it’s unlikely to cause any of these unpleasant side effects.
However, what many people don’t know is that aside from the infamous psychoactive effects, THC has some incredible therapeutic benefits. Some of these include; the ability to reduce nausea, relieve pain, stimulate appetite, and suppress muscle spasms.
2. Cannabidiol (CBD)
If you know anything about cannabis, you have most probably heard of both THC and CBD. Over recent years, CBD has been thrown into the spotlight because of its numerous medical benefits, as well as the fact that it has no psychoactive effects. This makes it great for daily use without affecting normal day-to-day activities.
When it comes to the medicinal uses of cannabis, no cannabinoid is more significant than CBD. It is now the most studied of all cannabinoids, and research suggests that it can help with a wide range of both physical and mental conditions. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t interact with the CB1 receptors in the brain, which is why it doesn’t have any intoxicating effects.
CBD has been reported to treat a variety of conditions including; anxiety, insomnia, depression, chronic pain, PTSD, and lots more.
3. Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGA)
Mature cannabis plants only contain about 1% or less of CBGa. But this isn’t because the plant doesn’t produce a lot of it. On the contrary, maturing plants actually produce quite a lot of CBGa. However, just about all of the CBGa that is initially produced is eventually converted into other cannabinoids. This is why CBGa has earned nicknames like “mother of all cannabinoids.”
CBGa is converted into many derivative cannabinoids. But primarily it turns into CBD and THC, and that’s what makes this cannabinoid so important. Essentially, without CBGa, there would be no CBD or THC. Determining which factors control which path the CBGa will take is what has helped plant scientists to “direct” cannabinoid production, leading to cannabis strains with high CBD and low THC, and vice versa.
As its own cannabinoid, CBGa has shown some promise for medical application. Research suggests that CBGa could treat anxiety, pain, glaucoma, a variety of bowel and bladder diseases, inflammation, and even cancer.
4. Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
While CBDa needs a lot more research, preliminary test results have found that it could be very effective in the treatment of nausea, inflammation, and psychosis. In addition, some anti-cancer properties have been found.
In growing cannabis plants, CBD exists as CBDa. It’s not until the plant is cut, dried, and then heated that CBD is formed. The CBDa is transformed into CBD via a process known as decarboxylation. Lighting, heating, or baking cannabis removes the acid group of CBDa, and this is how it’s transformed into CBD.
5. Cannabichromene (CBC)
Discovered more than 50 years ago, CBC is considered to be one of the “big six” cannabinoids that are prominent in medical research. While it doesn’t get as much attention as THC or CBD, its benefits are very promising.
CBC has the same origin as THC and CBD, in that they all originate from CBGa. CBC is first converted into cannabichromene carboxylic acid (CBCa), and after being exposed to heat or ultraviolet light, it finally becomes CBC. It’s a compound that is known to work well together with other cannabinoids. While it certainly has some singular benefits, researchers believe that it works synergistically with other cannabinoids, which is known as the entourage effect.
The reported benefits of CBC have some far-reaching implications. A few medical conditions that could be alleviated thanks to the use of CBD include: Pain and inflammation, acne, depression, and even cancer.
6. Cannabigerol (CBG)
CBG is a non-acidic cannabinoid that is produced when heat is applied to CBGa. It’s closely related to CBD, THC, and CBC. CBG is mostly found in hemp products. Strains that are bred for high THC levels usually contain very low amounts of CBG (less than 1%). On the other hand, high CBD strains contain much higher levels of this essential cannabinoids.
The benefits associated with CBG are closely related to the way in which it works in the human body. When used in the right dosage, CBG acts as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive (reduces convulsions and seizures), antidepressant, appetite stimulant, anti-insomnia, brain cell stimulant, and much more.
Because of this long list of benefits, CBG can be used to treat a wide range of medical conditions. These include chronic pain, epilepsy, insomnia, depression, psoriasis, glaucoma, Huntington’s disease, and bladder dysfunction, among various other conditions.
7. Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)
Most people have heard of THC; but contrary to popular belief, THC isn’t the most plentiful chemical in cannabis. In fact, marijuana flowers contain hardly any THC at all. Instead, for the most part, THC is present in the marijuana plant as a different compound known as THCa. If you’ve ever tried to eat raw cannabis, you will know that cannabis in a raw form can’t get you high. This is because THCa is non-psychoactive.
Only when THCa is heated, like when you smoke or vape your cannabis, does the THCa become THC. This happens through a chemical process known as decarboxylation. In chemical structure, THCa is very similar to its counterpart, THC, but it differs in that it contains a carboxylic acid group which THC doesn’t.
Although this may seem like a miniscule difference, it has a huge impact on the way in which THCa affects the body. The most notable difference being that THCa does not make the user high. While there is very limited research that has been done into the medicinal effects of THCa, it has been found to have the following benefits: Anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective.
8. Cannabinol (CBN)
While its name might be strikingly similar to its famous cousin, CBD, CBN has a unique profile of benefits and effects. So far, the studied benefits of CBN include pain relief, anti-insomnia, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive, and it could be used as an appetite stimulant.
But the most pronounced benefits which attribute to the characteristics of CBN is its sedative effect. According to medical studies, 5 mg of CBN is equivalent to a 10 mg dose of diazepam, which is a mild pharmaceutical sedative. For anyone who relies on cannabis for a good night of rest, a little dose of CBN may do you a world of good.
Over time, as THC is exposed to oxygen (oxidizes), it converts into CBN. This is why cannabis that has aged and has been poorly stored is likely to have much higher levels of CBN when compared to fresh flower that is stored in an airtight container. While CBN-infused products are still rare, we are bound to see an increase in this compound as the attitude towards cannabis continues to change.
9. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
As you might have guessed, THCv is similar to THC in molecular structure, but it provides a range of altogether different and pronounced effects. THCv is an appetite suppressant, it may help with diabetes, it has the potential to reduce panic attacks, it stimulates bone growth, and it may help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
THCv is also known to increase energy. This is very significant when you think about how many health problems are directly related to obesity or diabetes, both of which THCv can help to treat. THCv has also been proven to reduce or even block panic attacks, which means that it could also be highly effective in treating PTSD or other mental health disorders related to stress and anxiety.
10. Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
CBDv is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is very similar in structure to CBD. While there isn’t tons of research that has been done on CBDv, one of its properties that have stood out to scientists is the anticonvulsant abilities. This is an area that medical studies are currently focusing on when it comes to CBDv.
According to multiple studies, CBDv also has the potential to treat nausea and seizures that are caused by debilitating conditions, such as epilepsy. Typically if a cannabis strain contains high levels of CBD, then it will also have increased levels of CBDv. The marijuana plants that contain the highest levels of CBDv are landrace indica strains, which can be found in the Northwest regions of India and Pakistan.