What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a versatile group of chemical compounds that are naturally produced both in cannabis plants and the human body. Some of the most common cannabinoids include:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Researchers have discovered cannabinoids are linked to a number of therapeutic benefits, including anxiety relief, pain suppressor, and reduced inflammation.¹ This is due to their natural link to the human body through our endocannabinoid system.

Throughout this article, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about cannabinoids. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

Cannabinoids and the Human Body

Cannabinoids found within the human body are known as endocannabinoids.

As recent as the 1990s, endocannabinoids were discovered by scientists. They’re located in the cellular membrane of our central nervous system, immune system, and a number of organs.

Endocannabinoids directly affect our cannabinoid receptors which are located all throughout the body within our endocannabinoid system.² These receptors are responsible for a number of physiological operations, including:

  • Appetite
  • Memory
  • Mood
  • Pain-sensation

The purpose of our endocannabinoid system to help the body sustain its homeostasis – a stable, natural biology.³ This is system is so vital to our lives that many prescription medications are simply trying to reproduce what our bodies and the cannabis plant already naturally do. Furthermore, it’s generally understood this replication is subservient.

This is why many people are turning to alternative cannabis medicine, whether it’s CBD oil or medical marijuana.

How Do Phytocannabinoids Work?

Cannabinoids found within cannabis plants are known as phytocannabinoids.

When we intake phytocannabinoids, they either directly or indirectly affect our endocannabinoid system and the two cannabinoid receptors:⁴

  • Cannabinoid Receptor Type 1 (CB1): Is located inside the brain (more specifically, inside the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala), central nervous system (CNS), connective tissue, intestines, and our testes/ovaries. They’re responsible for regulating:
    • Anxiety
    • Blood pressure
    • Depression
    • Fear and paranoia
    • Intestinal inflammation

  • Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2 (CB2): Is located inside our immune cells (more specifically, B and T cells, macrophages, microglia, monocytes), spleen, tonsils, and thymus. They’re responsible for regulations in almost every type of known human disease.

Let’s look at tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most active chemical in marijuana, as an example. Upon consumption, THC works through the body by:⁵

  1. THC attaches itself to both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
  2. This connection stops endocannabinoids from doing their job and allows phytocannabinoids to take over.
  3. This connection also transmits throughout the entire body changing the way we feel, think, and behave.

This is the science of a “high” people often associate with marijuana. However, it has a benefit often overlooked. If phytocannabinoids take over our endocannabinoid system, this gives the brain and body new possibilities.

In many people, aspects of their endocannabinoid system have been weakened. Phytocannabinoids can place a strong bandage on those weak spots. In a quick example, if someone experiences nausea regularly, THC holds the possibility to override their endocannabinoid system and alleviate nausea.

What Are the Most Common Cannabinoids and How Can They Help?

Since there are so many endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids, it’s impossible to go over every single one. Furthermore, research on cannabinoids has been limited due to prohibition. This lack of deeper research is the biggest reason the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved cannabinoids for medical treatment.*

The purpose of the following is to give you an introduction to the most prevalent cannabinoids and their potential for future medication.

*NOTE: The only cannabinoid approved by the FDA is cannabidiol (CBD) for epilepsy and seizures through a medication known as Epidiolex.

Cannabichromine (CBC)

For the most part, you probably won’t hear much of cannabichromine as it’s one of the least active phytocannabinoids. However, it’s been a popular subject of conversation amongst scientists as it may have the ability to stop cancer cells from spreading throughout the body.

Furthermore, it may be beneficial to give to people suffering from cancer as it has the ability to relieve pain that may be caused by current cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.⁷

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol is one of the most popular phytocannabinoids for a few reasons:⁸

  • It’s abundant in the cannabis sativa plant known as hemp.
  • It has no psychoactive properties.
  • It’s known for a long list of medical benefits, including:
    • Antibacterial
    • Anxiety reliever
    • Immune system inhibitor
    • Inhibits bacterial growth
    • Inhibits cancer cell growth
    • Neuro-protector
    • Pain reliever
    • Promotes of bone growth
    • Reduces blood sugar levels
    • Reduces the risk of artery blockage
    • Reduces inflammation
    • Reduces nausea and vomiting
    • Reduces seizures
    • Suppresses muscle spasms
    • Tranquilizer

Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)

Cannabidiolic acid is the precursor to cannabidiol, meaning CBD starts out as CBDA. In itself, CBDA doesn’t have nearly as many medical benefits as CBD. However, it has been found to inhibit cancer cell growth and reduce inflammation.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

Though there isn’t much research surrounding cannabigerol, it’s recently been developing a reputation. This is because CBG is a completely different class of phytocannabinoids, similar to how CBD and THC are of their own class. As of now, researches have found CBG to aid with those having sleep problems, such as insomnia, and in slowing bacterial growth.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol is the phytocannabinoid most people associate with cannabis as it makes people feel a “euphoric high” when inhaled. However, beyond THC’s psychoactive effects, it also has a number of medical benefits, including:

  • Alleviating pain
  • Inhibiting cancer cell growth
  • Reliving nausea and vomiting

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

Like CBG, CBD, and THC, tetrahydrocannabivarin is of its own class of phytocannabinoids. Similarly to CBG, there’s only been so much research on THCV. However, it has been found to decrease the chances of convulsions and seizures as well as promoting healthy bone growth.

You Questions

Still have questions concerning what cannabinoids are and how they work?

We invite you to ask them in the comments below. If you have any further knowledge of cannabinoids you’d like to share, we’d also love to hear from you.

Reference Sources

¹ Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Cannabis, cannabinoids, and health

² HHS Public Access: An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system

³ PubMed: Endocannabinoid system: An overview of its potential in current medical practice.

⁴ NCBI: Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do.

⁵ Cerebrum: Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System

⁶ FDA: FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy

⁷ Oncotarget: Cannabinoids as therapeutic agents in cancer: current status and future implications

⁸ Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol⁹ NCCIH: Marijuana and Cannabinoids

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