Cannabinoids are the chemicals inside of what we call marijuana and cannabis. Even though they might not be what you think about when somebody says marijuana, they are the chemical compounds that cause people to feel “high” after ingesting or smoking the plant. While many people think of cannabinoids as being only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana that gets you high, or cannabidiol (CBD), there are over 100 distinct types of cannabinoids. These cannabinoids have various effects on your body, depending on what type they are and what receptors they bind to. Read on to learn a little bit more about the basics of cannabinoids.
While cannabis and marijuana are often used interchangeably, they are not completely the same. Cannabis is a broader term and encompasses all products derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant. The cannabis plant contains over 500 chemical substances. Marijuana specifically refers to products derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant and contains larger measurable amounts of THC. Plants that contain trace levels of THC are considered to be industrial hemp under U.S. law and not marijuana.
Table of Contents
What is a Cannabinoid?
Cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant as well as produced naturally by the human body. We have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that internally produces cannabinoids. These compounds are quite important to maintaining internal balance through many different body systems. Cannabinoids interact with our ECS to help maintain functional balance through a system of messenger molecules and receptors. Sleep, energy, cardiovascular function, reproduction, stress, chronic pain, motivation, appetite, digestion, and more are some of the body functions that cannabinoids impact.
The two most commonly known cannabinoids found in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The word cannabinoid can refer to THC or any chemical that acts on cannabinoid receptors. There is even a synthetic cannabinoid called HU-210 which delivers no negative side effects. This means that it could be helpful for pharmaceutical companies in developing new drugs. Of course, this would require more research. The DEA still classifies THC as a Schedule I drug with zero medicinal value. As a result, their classification of other cannabinoids is still in debate.
Types Of Cannabinoids
Although THC and CBD may be the most common cannabinoids found in marijuana plants, there are many more…but they are not as well-known because they are either present in small amounts or are synthetic cannabinoids that mimic their effects. The human body produces endogenous cannabinoids, the cannabis plant produces exogenous cannabinoids, also called Phytocannabinoids.
Some examples of other cannabinoids include:
- cannabichromene (CBC)
- delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
- delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(8)-THC)
- cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
- cannabicyclol (CBL)
- delta-9-tetrahyrocanabinol propyl analogue (Δ(9)-THCPP or Δ(9)-TPCP) and delta 9 – tetahydrocannabitriol (Δ(9)-THCT Δ(9)-THC-C4)
- These are just some examples of cannabinoids that have been isolated! The full list of known cannabinoids is much, much larger. For example, there are over 50 different Phytocannabinoids found in Cannabis Sativa alone.
What Does a Cannabinoid Do?
Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant have been used for hundreds of years to alleviate symptoms of different health ailments. Cannabinoids essentially use what is already in your body to work – they are not working on their own. Cannabinoids act on and bind to what are known as cannabinoid receptors in the body and trigger different responses. There are specific receptors that can be used to manage medical conditions when using cannabis. For example, they have been known to help with diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, chronic pain, and cancer by reducing inflammation.
Cannabinoids act by mimicking a natural endocannabinoid system like anandamide, which are fatty acids that activate cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids bind themselves onto fat-soluble molecules that enter a cell’s lipid bilayer. Cannabinoids then attach themselves to what are called CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found in the areas of the brain that control pain perception, movement, memory, cognition, emotion, as well as endocrine and autonomic functions. CB1 receptors are found in different areas of the body, including the hypothalamus, heart, uterus, small intestine, testes, among other areas. CB2 receptors are primarily seen in the cells of the immune system. When the right connection between cannabinoid and receptor is made, the body is stimulated to have a certain response.
Cannabinoids bind onto CB1 and CB2 receptors, but they can also activate TRPV1 Rapid Voltage-Gated Channel proteins. These proteins are found in many sensory neurons where they regulate pain signals. They have been known to be activated by both positive ions as well as capsaicin (the chemical that gives hot peppers their “heat”). So not only does this type of cannabinoid have medicinal value but it can also give food a little heat boost if you want it. THC binds with CB1 receptors in the brain, central nervous system, and peripheral organs – CBD does not bind to either receptor but blocks what THC does. When smoked or vaporized, cannabinoids ignite and are absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. From there they move quickly to the brain and interact with the cannabinoid receptors located throughout our bodies.
Effects Of Cannabinoids – How They Make You Feel
The effects of cannabinoids vary from person to person, depending on an individual’s biology and cannabinoid receptor type. Not everyone experiences the same effects when consuming cannabinoids, and the intensity of those effects also varies. Some people feel relaxed and happy after cannabinoid consumption while others may feel sleepy or drowsy. It is important to remember that cannabinoid use should be approached cautiously, as they can have adverse side effects, especially when consumed in high doses. If you are thinking of trying cannabis or its cannabinoid chemicals, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional who can help you determine which strain and dosage would be best for you.
Cannabinoids can also be therapeutically or recreationally. Cannabis is the most commonly used cannabinoid, but synthetic cannabinoids are also sometimes used. When used recreationally, cannabinoids can produce euphoria, relaxation, increased appetite, and altered sensory perception. Some cannabinoids are more likely to cause these effects than others. THC is the cannabinoid most likely to cause euphoria, relaxation, and increased appetite. CBD is the cannabinoid least likely to cause these effects. CBD is often the choice for people looking to manage chronic pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, etc., who do not know the psychoactive effects of THC but still want the benefit and relief cannabinoids can provide.
Smoking cannabis tends to have a faster, yet shorter effect than some other ways of taking it. One can experience feelings of euphoria, relaxation, calmness, and more within moments of smoking or vaping. Dabbing offers a quick, potent way to consume cannabinoids. Ingesting cannabinoids will have a longer effect than smoking, and is often said to be a stronger feeling than when smoked. Always start small regardless of the way one consumes cannabinoids, then move up dosage and potency as you learn what your tolerance and reaction will be. Remember that everyone reacts differently to cannabinoids, so it is important to pay attention to your body and mind, rather than relying on someone else’s experience.
As mentioned already cannabinoids have varying health benefits and have been used throughout history to manage a wide range of health concerns and ailments. While research continues there are more and more bodies of proof that lend to the idea that cannabis and cannabinoids can be very beneficial to human health.
- Treating addiction
- Increasing appetite
- Improving muscle control
- Seizure control
- Pain management
- Anti-inflammatory uses
Studies are being done all over the world to see how cannabinoids may aid in fighting cancer, and cannabis has been used for many years to help manage the symptoms of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Cannabinoids are also being looked at as options that may aid those who suffer from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS.
In the United States, the legality of cannabinoids as medicine on a federal level is still limited. Currently, there are three medications that contain lab-created THC that have Food and Drug (FDA) approval for therapeutic uses. One drug made with CBD, Epidiolex, has been approved to treat epileptic seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older. CBD derived from hemp that contains less than 0.3% is legal on a federal level. CBD products made from cannabis are legal in certain states dependent on their recreational and medical marijuana laws.
The market is flush with cannabinoid products. From medical-grade flowers and tinctures to recreational vape pens and dabbing. Cannabinoids come in many different forms these days and can be smoked, taken in capsule form, taken sublingually, orally, and even used typically. Baked goods, candies, cannabinoid-infused oils, beverages, savory snacks, candies, gummies, there are many different choices out there when it comes to cannabinoids. These little chemical compounds have a lot more benefits than they get credit for! With so many different choices out there it is important to always purchase products from a reputable dispensary.
Make sure to always read product labels when purchasing cannabinoid and cannabinoid-derived products. This is important to look out for CBD and THC concentrations. Always make sure to read dosage guidelines and remember to start small when experimenting with cannabinoids. It is advisable to consult with a medical cannabis professional if you have never used cannabinoids before to determine what may be the best course of action for your specific needs. Learn more at Leafy Doc about the many medical conditions that cannabis may be beneficial for.