What are cannabinoids : A short summary of cannabinoids.

Brief Overview


Cannabinoids are compounds of wonder in the field of biotechnology and medicine. Currently we have distinguished more than 100 cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, out of the hundreds of compounds that make up the plants profile. Out of the cannabinoids identified, eleven of them are tetrahydrocannabinols -like Δ9-THC.  To date, the main focus of research has been on Δ9-THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

Out of the 100’s of cannabinoids we have identified over time, we have put decades of focus on Δ9-THC. THC is the most sought after compound in cannabis due its effects. It produces the psychoactive experience which users explain as a euphoric uplifting experience when consumed.

The Cannabis plant has a much higher potential than just being used for recreational purposes. It has serious medicinal properties which are being explored by various universities, private institutions and governments via clinical trials, for treatment of serious diseases and unmet medical conditions.

The effects of THC are believed to be moderated by the influence of the other components of the plant, most particularly the cannabinoids present within the plant like CBD.


The cannabinoids are separated into subclasses:
  • 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).



What are cannabinoids ?


Cannabinoids are compounds which interact with receptors found naturally in the human body. These receptors are classified into two categories : CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.

What is the purpose of these receptors? These receptors are important because this is where cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can bind to produce their effects. The human pathway which allows for the binding of these cannabinoids is called the endocannabinoid system, which is made up of the receptors listed above.

Interestingly enough, CBD ( Cannabidiol ) doesn’t not fully bind or “fit” CB1 or CB2 receptors, but still has a powerful indirect effects. CBD is still the subject of intensive study and research, our current knowledge still has many gaps and blanks needing to be filled.


  • CB1 receptors are mainly found and focused in the brain and central nervous system, and to a lesser extent in other organs and parts of the body


  • CB2 receptors are mainly found and focused in the peripheral organs and especially cells associated with the immune system




THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol effects on humans (In theory):

  • Psychoactive
  • Low dose : Increases both heart rate and contraction ( ie pumps hard and fast which leads to the onset of anxiety/stress)
  • High dose ( high cb1 receptor stimulation): decreases both heart rate and contraction, lowers cardiac output/blood flow
  • Alters electrical properties of nerve membranes
  • Alters turnover rate of serotonin and dopamine


CBD or cannabidiol effects on humans ( In theory):

  • Non psychoactive
  • Blunts negative effects of THC
  • Agonist of TRP receptor, which mediates pain
  • Overall medically useful ( being clinically trialed and studied)



What are some of the differences between all these cannabinoids ?



The major differences between the cannabinoids are determined by the extent to which they are psychologically active. Three classes 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% of cannabis resin. Interestingly, 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.


Fun Fact:

The human body makes compounds that bind cb1 and cb2 receptors. This means that the body naturally produces compounds similar to THC and cannabinoids which regulate our body. One of these naturally produced compounds in our body is called Anandamide  and another one called 2- AG .

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