The Ultimate Guide to Cannabinoids in Cannabis
The Ultimate Guide to Cannabinoids in Cannabis
Cannabis is known for its ability to induce a range of enjoyable physical and mental effects, along with a bevy of medical benefits. Whether you smoke, vape, or use one of the many cannabis-infused products out there on the market, you’ll be treated to a luxurious high that enhances your mood, senses, and even your physical wellbeing - all thanks to the cannabinoids in cannabis.
Cannabinoids are the naturally-occurring chemical compounds that interact with your body and mind when you use cannabis products. While you might already be familiar with THC and CBD, cannabis plants also contain a range of other cannabinoids that contribute to the effects you experience. So what are they and what do they do? Here’s the ultimate guide to cannabinoids in cannabis.
The term “cannabinoids” refers to a class of chemical compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system - a biological system that can impact your mood, pain sensation, sleep, and many other functions. Your body is made up of a range of cannabinoid receptors and, by binding to these receptors, cannabinoids can induce various interesting effects.
While synthetic cannabinoids exist, the word is usually used to refer to phytocannabinoids - the naturally-occurring cannabinoids that are particularly abundant in cannabis strains. These are produced by the tiny, crystal-like glands, also known as trichomes, that grow throughout cannabis buds.
When you smoke or vape cannabis flower, these cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in your body to induce physical relaxation, mental stimulation and also provide various therapeutic benefits. The trichomes of cannabis plants are often also extracted using various extraction processes to produce THC-rich cannabis concentrates. Cannabinoids can also be infused into edibles, tinctures, topicals, and a range of other high-quality cannabis products.
What is THC?
While cannabis plants contain a wide range of cannabinoids, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the one that users are generally most familiar with. This is because THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana. In other words, THC is the chemical compound that gets you high when you consume cannabis.
The effects of THC are particularly effective due to its strong ability to bind to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the body and brain. Many of these cannabinoid receptors are located within the brain’s central reward circuits, hence why it induces euphoric, mentally-uplifting effects. It also helps soothe and relax your body, hence why it’s commonly used for relieving painful conditions.
THC is abundant in cannabis and, as such, many people simply smoke or vape cannabis flower to get the effects of THC. Some strains of cannabis contain higher THC levels than others, and users looking for strong effects or relief for severe symptoms often opt for high-THC strains. THC is also extracted and infused into a range of easy-to-use products such as edibles, vapes, and tinctures.
What is CBD?
Next to THC, CBD is probably the most well-known cannabinoid, especially as CBD products have become particularly popular and widespread in recent times. CBD has become a widely sought-after alternative to THC, especially as it’s said to provide many of the same benefits without any psychoactive effects.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, it can still interact with cannabinoid receptors in your body to provide many positive effects. According to research, CBD has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, hence why it’s often used for pain. It’s also said to help with sleep, anxiety, seizures, skin problems, and various other issues.
CBD also acts as a THC antagonist and modulator, meaning it can help tame the powerful effects of THC when the two cannabinoids are consumed in conjunction. However, many people prefer to use CBD products to avoid the effects of THC altogether. CBD is often extracted for use in products such as CBD edibles, tinctures, topicals, vapes, and more.
Other Common Cannabinoids in Cannabis
While most users are familiar with THC and CBD, cannabis also contains a range of other cannabinoids that contribute to its effects. Along with the flavorful terpenoids in cannabis, these compounds work together to create an entourage effect, giving you a range of physical and mental perks.
CBG (cannabigerol) is often referred to as the “mother cannabinoid” as, although maturing cannabis plants contain high amounts of CBG, it eventually converts into other cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
CBN (cannabinol) is a cannabinoid that’s naturally formed from the degradation of THC. With that said, it can still provide positive effects. For instance, CBN is said to be particularly helpful for sleep problems due to its sedative properties.
CBC (cannabichromene) is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid with anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antifungal properties. It’s said to be particularly effective when combined with THC. It can also bind to receptors outside of the endocannabinoid system.
THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) is said to act as a THC antagonist, dampening the effects of THC in small doses. However, in higher doses, THCV is said to provide powerful psychoactive effects by itself.
Delta-8-THC (delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid closely related to regular THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) albeit with milder effects. It’s often referred to as THC-lite and has become a popular alternative to THC, especially as it can be extracted from hemp plants.
THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (cannabinolic acid) are the acidic forms of THC and CBD. They’re commonly converted into THC and CBD via the process of decarboxylation (i.e. exposing them to heat). However, some research suggests that raw THCA and CBDA can also provide helpful non-psychoactive benefits by themselves.
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