Cannabinoids: What Are They and How Do They Work?
Jul 5, 2019
In a recent post, we discussed a few of the main terpenes found in cannabis. Terpenes play an important role in the way cannabis effects us--and, coupled with cannabinoids, produce the sensations we get from consuming cannabis.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis that interact and bind to different receptors (CB1 and CB2) throughout our body and brain and produce a wide array of beneficial results. These receptors are part of a system known as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
The cannabis plant doesn't directly produce the cannabinoids we're familiar with - THC and CBD. Instead, each cannabinoid starts out in an acidic form - THCA and CBDA - which is then converted to THC or CBD when introduced to heat, light, or oxygen over time. In its raw form, certain cannabinoids are being studied for their numerous benefits. For example, THCA is non-psychoactive, but still demonstrates a handful of therapeutic effects such as fighting inflammation and acting as an anti-emetic.
There are potentially over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but we've only just begun to study a handful of them. Let's review a few of the most common cannabinoids and their roles.
Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol / Δ9-
tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THC / THCA is probably the most well-known cannabinoid. Unlike many of the other cannabinoids, THC has psychoactive properties (ie, it produces the euphoria and high we associate with cannabis). Some of the medicinal benefits of THC include pain reduction, better sleep, and relief from PTSD-related symptoms.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive but highly effective cannabinoid. CBD is activated through a handful of non-cannabinoid receptors and ion channels throughout the body and produces a variety of affects through different molecular pathways. A few of its most touted benefits include much-needed relief from seizures, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease. it also acts as a powerful anti-anxiety medicine, producing calming states of mind with minimal side affects.
Cannabinol, or CBN, is a product of THCA. Once decarbed, THC converts to CBN after time and exposure to oxygen. CBN is typically associated with the couch-lock, sedative side affects of cannabis, and as such, can be greatly beneficial to those who struggle with anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain or inflammation.
More research is needed on each of the cannabinoids, but in the mean time, pay attention to testing and cannabinoid levels on your favorite products to get a better idea of what works best for your personal needs.