What are cannabinoids? If you’ve even done a little bit of research into medical marijuana, you’ve seen this sci-fi-sounding word. You recognized its root in the word cannabis, but you might have wondered where the rest of it comes from. As it turns out, the answer to that crucial question – “What are cannabinoids?” – comes to us from chemistry.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Simply put, cannabinoids are chemical compounds produced within cannabis flowers. The total amount of chemical compounds in cannabis is over 480, but at least 85 of those have been identified as cannabinoids with documented medical applications. You’ve heard of THC and CBD; both of these compounds are cannabinoids!
What Do Cannabinoids Do?
So we know what are cannabinoids, but another question arises: what do they do?
Essentially, cannabinoids imitate certain compounds naturally produced by our bodies called endocannabinoids. In every human body exists something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is composed of certain naturally occurring molecules and their receptors. The ECS is primarily concerned with pain sensation, appetite, mood, and memory.
Two major endocannabinoid receptors have been discovered: CB1 and CB2. Consume some cannabis and cannabinoids will start binding to these receptors. CB1 sites are throughout the brain, while CB2 sites are throughout the body.
It makes sense, then, that indicas (famous for the body buzz) contain more cannabinoids that bind to CB2 sites, whereas sativa flowers (known for the psychoactive effects on the brain) contain more cannabinoids that bind to CB1 sites.
By creating hybrid blends with differing amounts of cannabinoids, modern medicinal marijuana growers are able to produce flowers and products with relief that has been uniquely crafted for a specific ailment or need.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
Each cannabinoid works independently. But when combined, an entourage effect is created, magnifying the benefits of each respective cannabinoid!
If you know any of the cannabinoids, it’s this one. THC is well-known for its psychoactive properties, and sativa plants will often have a higher THC amount. THC has been found to have some pain-relieving properties, as well as the ability to bolster appetite.
CBD is next in line when it comes to common cannabinoids. Unlike THC, it provides no psychoactive effects. CBD excels in relieving pain as well as improving mood. Expect much more to come from CBD in the future; some studies suggest it can help schizophrenia, epilepsy, and many other conditions previously unheard of treating with cannabis.
A lesser-known cannabinoid but still an important one, CBN is produced from THC by exposing cannabis to air. CBN has weak psychoactive properties, but when combined with THC it can stimulate drowsiness.
Another cannabinoid without psychoactive properties, CBG is important to the medical industry for the role it plays in forming other cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. It has also been shown to diminish intraocular pressure, which makes it potentially quite beneficial to glaucoma patients.
What are cannabinoids? Now you know, and knowledge is power. Knowledge of cannabis is particularly powerful because it helps you find the strains and products that will produce the medicinal effects your body needs. The more you know about how cannabis works, the better you can feel about medical marijuana as a safer and healthier medicinal alternative.