What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabis, like all plants, contain a number of organic compounds. Cannabis contains over 500 of them. Although the exact number is not known it is estimated that around 70 of those compounds are unique to the cannabis plant. These organic compounds that are unique to cannabis are called “cannabinoids.”
The most well-known and researched of these cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the substance primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and actually works to calm a high. Mounting evidence also shows that CBD has numerous medicinal benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to protect your neurons from injury or degeneration.
While most people familiar with cannabis understand the relationship between THC and getting high, fewer realize that it is the cannabinoids that are responsible for cannabis’ effects on the body. The cannabinoids are the reason a person using cannabis gets high and they are the reason why medical cannabis works to alleviate so many symptom-related ailments.
Different types of cannabinoids, along with similar compounds found in your body, react to either get a person high or to help heal a person. However, the relationship between cannabinoids and our bodies is not simple.
As more and more people use cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes an understanding of cannabinoids can help a person make wiser choices. Cannabinoids work by interacting with specific receptors in the body. These receptors are located in different parts of the body, such as the central nervous system and immune system.
Cannabinoids activate two types of receptors. They activate the CB1 receptors, which are located within the nervous system, the brain and nerve endings, and the CB2 receptors, which are located within the immune system. A substance that occurs naturally within the brain and binds to CB1 receptors was discovered in 1992 and termed “anandamide.” Additional naturally occurring substances that bind to CB1 have since been discovered, and these, together with the receptors are termed the “endogenous cannabinoid system.”
The cannabinoids are separated into subclasses. These are as follows:
* Cannabigerols (CBG);
* Cannabichromenes (CBC);
* Cannabidiols (CBD);
* Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC);
* Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabinodiol (CBDL);
* Other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabitriol (CBT) and other miscellaneous types).
The major differences between the cannabinoids are determined by the extent to which they are psychologically active. Three of the subclasses of cannabinoids, the CBG, CBC and CBD are not known to have such an effect. THC, CBN, CBDL and some other cannabinoids on the other hand are known to be psychologically active to varying degrees.
CBD is probably the most abundant cannabinoid, contributing up to 40 percent of cannabis resin. It is believed that CBD may actually have anti-anxiety effects and lessen the psychoactive effects of THC. This means that a plant with a greater percentage of CBD may reduce the intensity of the effects of the THC, which in effect lowers the potency of the plant. Use of a cannabis plant with less CBD has been shown to have an increased psychological impact and result in unwanted effects such as anxiety.
When THC is exposed to air it oxidizes and forms CBN. CBN is only very weakly psychoactive and not unlike CBD interacts with THC to reduce its effects. This is why cannabis that has been left out unused will have increasing amounts of CBN and decreasing amounts of THC and thus lose potency.