The primary active chemical compounds in cannabis are cannabinoids. These cannabinoids exist naturally in all strains of cannabis, and in the cells of the human body. In fact, our bodies rely heavily on cannabinoids and their interaction with our own internal Endocannabinoid System (ECS) for our general health. The ECS was discovered in the late 1980s and got its name from cannabis, which led to its discovery.
The ECS is a complex network of biological receptors located throughout the body and the central nervous system. It regulates many physiological and cognitive processes. For instance, appetite, immune health, fertility, mood, memory, metabolism, pain, pleasure, pregnancy, pre and post-natal development and sleeping patterns can all be affected. Medicinal cannabis use provides the ECS with cannabinoids it may be deficient in. Cannabis, and the cannabinoids derived from it, have shown amazing results in binding with these receptors to relieve pain while boosting immune health and overall well-being.
Cannabinoids and Cannabis
Each Cannabis plant is actually capable of producing over 100 different cannabinoids. Some of them only exist in small to insignificant levels and do not affect the plant’s overall makeup. There are even several cannabinoids that only exist in cannabis. There are, however, two main cannabinoids that have garnered a lot of attention both medicinally and recreationally; THC and CBD.
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) are not actively present in the cannabis plant. Instead, their building blocks, THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid), release these new compounds through decarboxylation. In other words, by adding extreme heat to the cannabis flower. In fact, cannabis only produces cannabinoid acids, and it isn’t until decarboxylation that any of the resulting cannabinoids are released.
These new cannabinoids react directly with the human immune system to help provide relief and restore balance. In fact, scientists and researchers still haven’t defined all of their effects. In their inactive forms, most cannabinoids are ineffective. However, some cannabinoid acids still provide beneficial effects. For instance, THCA provides anti-inflammatory effects and is commonly used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Though there are approximately 144 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, only a few of them have strong enough effects to merit mention. For the sake of ease, we have compiled a list of the most prevalent cannabinoids that you will experience when consuming cannabis or cannabis-based products.
CBD or Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive agent that provides excellent pain relief. CBD can be extracted and used to fight pain without the euphoria associated with THC. Because of these effects, CBD has become an increasingly popular form of medication.
CBG or Cannabigerol is an extremely cerebral Cannabinoid. It is ideal for helping to reduce feelings of anxiety. As a result, it has become an effective treatment for symptoms of depression, OCD and PTSD.
CBN or Cannabinol is similar to CBG also has strong medicinal effects, but lends more towards the physical than the cerebral. You can use CBN to ease muscle stiffness and, as a result, can drastically reduce symptoms of epilepsy and seizures.
THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound available in the Cannabis plant. It is responsible for the euphoria and improved mood associated with Cannabis use.
THCA or Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid is extremely similar to THC but doesn’t contain the same psychoactive properties. It is an excellent anti-inflammatory and is exellent for fighting the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
How Cannabinoids works
Cannabinoids bind with the receptors in the ECS. The two primary cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain and central nervous system and in several organs and tissues. This CB1 receptor is the main target of most cannabinoids, especially THC.
Certain cannabinoids work as an agonist (against) these binding processes. For example, the presence of CBD will inhibit THC from being able to bind to the CB1 receptors fully. As a result, the effects of THC, or other cannabinoids, can be lessened.
Outside of helping to regulate basic functions, the ECS also responds to illness and viruses in the body. Research shows a direct correlation between a rise in endocannabinoid levels and disorders like anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, depression and even Parkinson’s disease.
The ECS helps to create stronger neural pathways between the brain and the body. It helps regulate responses in the body to stimuli, both internal and external. Similarly, it helps to regulate sleep cycles and regeneration, as well as appetite. The ECS is responsible for telling you when you’re sleepy or letting you know you’re hungry, and it will send signals to your brain when it notices deficiencies.
Homeostasis – Finding your balance
In each system that is present, the ECS works to perform different tasks. However, the goal of each task is common. The ECS constantly works to help provide Homeostasis or a balance of all things in the body. Homeostasis occurs when there is a stable internal environment, regardless of changes to the external one. This system is always in fluctuation, and maintain this balance can be difficult.
In illness cases, the body may be producing too many or not enough of the cannabinoids it needs to find homeostasis. It will, however, provide opportunities for external cannabinoids to interact. For instance, tumour cells that grow in the body have increased cannabinoid receptors than average tissues. This allows cannabinoids to bind with them more successfully in an attempt to heal the tumour.
Though more research still needs to be done, the effects of cannabis use on the human body are unmistakable. Isolated cannabinoids can treat a wide range of both physical and mental conditions. Also, the use of daily full-spectrum cannabis extracts can promote overall health and wellness. By ingesting various cannabinoids daily, you can help your own ECS help find the perfect balance towards homeostasis.
- Zoe Gross (2017) “Pot or not, your body produces its own cannabinoids” Published in Features by Finfeed: Your Financial News Feed. (online) Available from https://finfeed.com/features/pot-not-body-produces-cannabinoids/ (Accessed January 19, 2021)
- “A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System” Healthline. (online) Available from https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system (Accessed January 19, 2021)
- Hui-Chen Lu and Ken Mackie (2015) “An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system” National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4789136 (Accessed January 20, 2021)
- Nick Jikomes (2017) “A list of major cannabinoids in cannabis and their effects” Leafly. Available from https://www.leafly.ca/news/cannabis-101/list-major-cannabinoids-cannabis-effects (Accessed January 20, 2021)
- “Cannabinoid” and “Endocannabinoid System” Wikipedia. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabinoid and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocannabinoid_system (Accessed January 19, 2021)
1 thought on “Cannabis 102: A guide to Cannabinoids”
To think that cannabinoids exist in the human body AND in the cannabis plant is wild. Like how could we not consume cannabis? It just makes perfect sense. If you’ve read this blog I highly recommend you also read their blog on the endocannabinoid system. I was amazed to learn more about how cannabis plays a role in our immune system. Great work team.