What Are Cannabinoids? Effects and Benefits Explained


What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemicals present in the marijuana plant. They affect the body by imitating compounds that are naturally produced in the body called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids help us maintain emotional stability and physical health by helping cells communicate with each there. We are emotionally and physically healthy when this communication within the endocannabinoid system is going smoothly. However, if a problem occurs in the system, the body and mind suffer.

When marijuana is consumed, the cannabinoids present in the plant bind to receptor sites in our body (CB-1) and brain (CB-2). The receptor they bind to determines the effects they have on us and certain cannabinoids are more likely to bind to specific receptors. While THC almost always binds to the CB-1 receptors in the brain, CBD tends to bind to CB-2 receptors in the body. This is why THC has a more cerebral effect and is more likely to cause psychoactive changes than CBD, which is more likely to soothe pain and other issues in the body.

Many of the 85+ cannabinoids in marijuana have been studied and their medicinal benefits are documented. This has helped growers identify strains that help with certain types of medical issues and develop new hybrids that can address specific conditions. Knowing more about these cannabinoids can help you find which strain is best for your medical needs.

Most Popular Cannabinoids

Though there are almost 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, we won’t go over all of them today. Most of them have not been thoroughly studied or tested, so not enough is known about them for a thorough discussion. The eight cannabinoids in this article are the ones that scientists and growers are most familiar with. Having knowledge of these chemical compounds and the medicinal effects they have on the body is important when selecting a strain to treat certain conditions.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid – THCA

This cannabinoid, which is transformed into THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) when heated, is the most widely known to consumers though CBD is quickly catching up in popularity. Does THCA get you high? Technically, yes it does. When transformed in THC, it causes a psychoactive effect, also known as “getting high.” It’s one of the most abundant cannabinoids and the only known cannabinoid to produce a psychoactive effect. When used medicinally, THCA effects can treat insomnia, depression, and nausea and is known to be very effective in treating the side effects of chemotherapy.

Cannabidiolic Acid – CBDA

Just as THCA is transformed into the better-known THC when heated, CBDA – or cannabidiolic acid – morphs into the well-known chemical compound CBD (cannabidiol) when it is heated. CBD does not have a psychoactive effect and is a popular medication for those who want to treat physical or emotional health symptoms without getting “high.” Though it is mostly known to attach to CB-1 receptors in the body and helps ease pain, it can also have a powerful effect on the brain. CBD has been studied for its effectiveness in reducing seizures, easing anxiety, and dousing inflammation.

Cannabinol – CBN

When THCA – the precursor to THC – breaks down, it turns into cannabinol or CBN. The CBN effects are now being touted for their ability to treat asthma and inflammation as well as delay the onset of motor neuron disease symptoms. One of the CBN benefits is that it can also act as a powerful sedative.

Cannabigerol – CBG

CBG or cannabigerol is found at very low levels in the cannabis plant. However, one of the main benefits of CBG is its use for treating glaucoma because of its vasodilation properties. In addition to treating glaucoma, it’s also being studied for its ability to fight cancer and as an antibacterial and neuroprotective agent.

Cannabichromene – CBC

CBC binds very well to pain-related receptors in the body and increases the body’s natural levels of endocannabinoids. This makes is effective in fighting cancer. It can also reduce the appearance of acne and is being studied for its powerful antidepressant effects when paired with THC and CBD.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin – THCV

Similar to THC, THCV has fewer carbon atoms that give it a slightly different genetic makeup. THCV research shows that it can reduce appetite, which could be useful for the diet industry. This compound has also been shown to have neuroprotective qualities and to be an anticonvulsant.

Cannabidivarin – CBDV

CBDV benefits are similar to CBD but have less potency. Despite this, it can still effectively treat epilepsy and nausea and has proven to be powerful in reducing the number and severity of seizures. The precursor to CBDV, CBDVA (cannabinavaridic acid) also has beneficial effects on its own such as reducing the pain and inflammation resulting from arthritis or physical injury.

Cannabigerolic Acid – CBGA

CBGA is the chemical parent to both CBD and THC. When it is heated, it can take on different forms: THCA, CBDA, or CBCA. CBGA benefits are its positive effects as an inflammation-fighter and as a chronic or acute pain reliever.