Cannabinoids are the chemicals inside cannabis and marijuana plants. In a nutshell, they are the chemical compounds in marijuana that cause people to feel high and the active ingredients in cannabis that produce certain therapeutic effects.
While many people think of two cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana that produces psychoactive effects, or cannabidiol (CBD), the legal, medical cannabis, there are approximately 113 distinct types of cannabinoids. These cannabinoids have various effects on your body, depending on what kind and the reaction they have with the body’s receptors.
Continue reading to learn about cannabinoids and how you can use them for medical benefits such as sleep aid and pain relief.
All About Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant and are also produced naturally by our bodies. Humans have an endocannabinoid system that organically produces cannabinoids. These compounds are essential to maintaining internal balance through many different body systems.
Cannabinoids interact with our ECS to help maintain homeostasis through a messenger system of molecules and receptors. Sleep, energy, cardiovascular health, reproduction, stress, chronic pain, motivation, appetite, digestion, and more are some bodily functions that cannabinoids impact.
Types of Cannabinoids
The two most commonly known cannabinoids in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The word cannabinoid can refer to THC or any chemical that acts on cannabinoid receptors.
- The human body produces endogenous cannabinoids
- Cannabis plants produce exogenous cannabinoids (Phytocannabinoids)
- There are over fifty different Phytocannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa plant.
- cannabichromene (CBC)
- delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
- delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (Δ(8)-THC)
- cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
- cannabicyclol (CBL)
- delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol propyl analog (Δ(9)-THCPP or Δ(9)-TPCP) and delta 9 – tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THCT Δ(9)-THC-C4)
How do they react in the body?
Cannabinoids essentially work by mimicking the body’s endocannabinoid system, such as anandamide. Anandamide is a fatty acid that activates the receptors. Cannabinoids bind themselves onto fat-soluble molecules to enter a cell’s lipid bilayer.
Cannabinoids attach themselves to CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found in the areas of the brain that control pain perception, movement, memory, cognition, emotion, and autonomic functions. CB2 receptors are typically found in immune system cells. When the proper connection between cannabinoid and receptor is made, the body is stimulated to have a specific response.
When inhaled, cannabinoids found in the body are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. They move quickly to the brain and interact with the cannabinoid receptors located throughout our bodies, so the effects have a faster onset when smoking weed.
The potential benefits from medical treatment with cannabis are vast. Specific cannabinoids can produce a therapeutic potential for patients with different health conditions.
Peer-reviewed studies suggest that cannabinoids have varying health benefits. They have been used throughout history to manage various health concerns and ailments. While research continues, more evidence suggests that cannabis and cannabinoids can be very beneficial to human health.
A few studies offer information that suggests specific cannabinoid combinations act with different compounds to provide the following potential benefits:
1. Addiction Treatment
2. Increasing Appetite
3. Sleep Aids and other Sleep Issues
4. Muscle Function Improvement
5. Seizure reduction and control
6. Myofascial Pain management
7. Anti-inflammatory benefits
Studies are being done worldwide to see how cannabis may aid in fighting cancer and slowing down tumor growth and if cannabinol delays symptom onset for certain chronic pain conditions involving peripheral analgesics.
Different cannabinoids are also being looked at as options that may benefit those who suffer from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS.
There aren’t many known side effects for CBD, and most side effects from marijuana come from higher doses and long-term use. Weed can over-activate parts of the brain that contain the highest amount of cannabinoid receptors, which causes the intoxicating effects known as a “high.”
Marijuana also affects brain development if used at an early age. When people begin using it as teenagers, it can potentially impair cognitive functions and affect how the brain connects and communicates with other body areas.
Other adverse side effects include:
- altered senses
- altered sense of time
- mood changes
- impaired body function
- slowed memory and thinking skills
- hallucinations or delusions (high doses only)
- psychosis (high doses, significant long-term use only)
What is THCA ?
THCA is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants and is the natural form of THC. It is not yet activated and does not produce psychoactive effects when ingested until heated. THCA has many therapeutic benefits, including relieving pain, fighting cancer cells, and reducing muscle spasms. THCA is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
When you inhale marijuana, the heat from the process of smoking converts THCA into THC. If the cannabis flower is dried and cured, THCA slowly breaks down into THC. The method described is called decarboxylation and is a chemical reaction that occurs, enhancing the body’s response to cannabinoids. THCA and THC must go through decarbing to produce psychoactive effects.
CBD use is common for a wider variety of therapeutic benefits, from digestive aids to helping calm mental disorder symptoms. CBD’s benefits have been shown to have positive effects in regulating seizures. The FDA has approved CBD as a prescription-strength (Epidiolex) as a medication used for certain forms of epilepsy.
Cannabis and hemp have been used historically for pain management for long-term pain sufferers and those with diseases such as cancer to manage the symptoms after chemotherapy. CBD is non-intoxicating and has been shown in some cases to counteract the impact THC and other stimulants like alcohol may have on the body.
The Benefits of using a CBD include:
- chronic pain relief
- reduce inflammation
- helps relieve cancer-related symptoms
- can alleviate mood and mental disorder symptoms
- promote healthy sleep patterns
High CBN cannabis is commonly known as a less potent version of THC. THC components found in the cannabis plant break down as they get older, forming a less potent cannabinoid called CBN.
It’s about 25 percent as effective as THC, and CBN products offer milder effects. CBN increased in dosage can produce mild psychoactive reactions because CBN acts similar to THC cannabinoids when activated. CBD and CBN can produce psychoactive results if they are derived from marijuana plants.
A few of the potential benefits include:
- Sleep aid
- Pain relief
- Neuroprotective properties
What is Delta 9 THC?
Delta 9 THC is a significant cannabinoid found in abundance in cannabis. Extraction is usually relatively cheap and straightforward as a result. It is derived explicitly from marijuana plants.
When someone talks about THC, they are more than likely referring to Delta-9 as it is considered “regular THC.” It is a cannabinoid molecule in cannabis that is the primary psychoactive ingredient within the plant.
What is Delta 8 THC?
Unlike CBD, delta-8 THC produces euphoric effects similar to but milder than delta-9 THC, the well-known psychoactive compound in cannabis. Delta-8-THC occurs naturally and is an isomer of delta-9 THC, and the difference between the two molecules is simply the location of a carbon double bond.
Delta-8 THC’s popularity began when an oversupply of CBD extracted from hemp grown in the United States caused the price of CBD to fall dramatically. Producers began looking for ways to convert CBD into delta-8 THC. The cannabis industry marketed the resulting products to those looking for pain relief and stress management, those not looking for an intense high, and those living in illegal areas.
What is Delta 10 THC?
Delta-10 is a cannabinoid found in trace amounts in the cannabis plant. Like delta 9 THC, it can get you moderately high, but it is much less potent. It is better compared to Delta-8 THC in its effects.
Delta-10 is commonly processed from hemp-derived CBD, as is delta-8. Because hemp is federally legal in America, delta-10 is considered legal in all 50 states. However, specific state laws have outlawed delta 8- and delta-10 independently.
Therapeutic options for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the most common adult-onset motor neuron disorder, remain limited. Emerging evidence from clinical studies and transgenic mice models of ALS suggests that cannabinoids, the bioactive ingredients of Cannabis sativa, might have some therapeutic benefit for this condition. However, Delta 9-THC, the predominant cannabinoid in marijuana, induces mind-altering effects and is partially addictive, compromising its clinical effectiveness.
Scientists tested whether CBN, a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, influences disease progression and survival in the SOD1 rat model of ALS. CBN was delivered via subcutaneously implanted osmotic mini-pumps over 12 weeks. Researchers found that this treatment significantly delayed disease onset by more than two weeks while not affecting survival rates. This study is still in its early stages. Further research and human studies are necessary to determine whether non-psychotropic cannabinoids might help alleviate symptoms in ALS symptoms compared to other drugs.
The cannabis industry market has many different types of popular cannabinoid products, from medical-grade flowers and tinctures to recreational vape pens and dabbing. Cannabinoids come in various forms and can be smoked, taken in capsule form, taken sublingually, orally, and used topically on the skin.
Baked goods, candies, cannabinoid-infused oils, beverages, savory snacks, candies, and gummies, there are many different choices for cannabinoids. Although more research is needed, we do know that these minor chemical compounds have more benefits than most people are aware of. However, it is essential always to purchase products from a reputable dispensary so you can be sure that your cannabis products are safe and effective.
In the United States, there is limited legality of cannabinoids as medicine on a federal level. Currently, three medications contain lab-created THC that is FDA approved for therapeutic uses. Epidiolex, a drug made from CBD, has been approved to treat epilepsy and seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients over two years old.
CBD derived from a hemp plant that contains less than 0.3% is legal on a federal level. CBD products made from cannabis are permitted by certain state laws, depending on their recreational and medical marijuana laws.
Make sure always to read the labels before purchasing cannabis-derived products. It’s crucial to look out for CBD and THC cannabinoid concentrations and thoroughly read dosage guidelines. We recommend starting with low doses when experimenting with cannabinoids before moving to higher concentrations.
It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to determine what cannabis plant derivative may be the best course of action for your specific needs.