Even if you’re a confirmed cannabis lover, you might not know what gives this plant its chemical spark. Of course, we know cannabis has powerful medicinal and recreational potential, but what’s responsible for its characteristic effects?
In large part, it comes down to cannabinoids.
The building blocks of cannabis, cannabinoids, are a significant part of what gives the plant its powerful effects. So let’s dig deeper with our handy cannabinoid explainer. From types to impact, here’s everything we think you should know.
Put simply; cannabinoids make cannabis fun (and medicinally effective!). Like the caffeine in your coffee beans, they’re the chemical compounds that make cannabis do what it does.
While we still don’t know precisely how cannabinoids work together to give cannabis its psychoactive and physical effects (due to ongoing federal prohibition), we know that these humble molecules are around for a good (and therapeutic) time.
There are hundreds (and possibly thousands) of cannabinoids in cannabis.
Each cannabinoid profile is different and may help treat many physical and psychological disorders. As researchers dig deeper into the science of the mysterious cannabis plant, we’ll likely discover more and more cannabinoids to isolate and explore.
So we know there are many, many cannabinoids to explore, but are all cannabinoids psychoactive? Nope!
While there are plenty of psychoactive cannabinoids (hello THC), there are also many that, when isolated, produce no psychoactive effects (hey there, CBD). All cannabinoids interact with your brain’s endocannabinoid system, but the physical, mental, and emotional responses they provoke vary considerably depending on their unique chemical composition.
The benefits of cannabinoids are rooted in how they interact with your body’sendocannabinoid system.
While it’s still somewhat mysterious, we know that the endocannabinoid system regulates normal function for many systems within the body, including pleasure rewards, sleep, and appetite.
When you consume cannabis, your body absorbs cannabinoids that bind to the receptors of your system just like naturally produced endocannabinoids would, causing your body to respond, creating the physical and psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis.
As we talked about, there are MANY cannabinoids. To help you get an idea of the numbers we’re talking about, here’s a handy cannabinoid list:
1. Cannabidiol (CBD)
2. Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
3. Cannabidiorcol (CBDC1)
4. Cannabidiol Monomethylether (CBDM)
5. Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
6. Cannabidivarinic Acid (CBDVA)
7. THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol
8. CBG, Cannabigerol
9. CBN, Cannabinol
10. Cannabichromene (CBC)
11. Cannabichromenic Acid (CBCA)
12. Cannabichromanon (CBCN)
13. Cannabichromenevarin (CBCV)
14. Cannabichromevarinic Acid (CBCVA)
15. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
16. 10-oxo-delta-6a-tetrahydrocannabinol, (OTHC)
17. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, (Δ8-THCA)
18. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (d8THC, Δ8-THC)
19. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (d9THC, Δ9-THC)
20. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-C4 (THC-C4)
21. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (Δ9-THCA, THCA-A)
22. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid B (Δ9-THCB, THCA-B)
23. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiorolic acid, Δ9-THCA-C1, THCA-C1
24. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid C4, Δ9-THC-C4, THCA-C4
25. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiorcol (Δ9-THC-C1)
26. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
27. Delta-9tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid (THCVA)
28. TriHydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (TRIOH-THC)
29. Cannabigerol (CBG)
30. Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGA)
31. Cannabigerolic Acid Monomethylether (CBGAM)
32. Cannabigerovarin (CBGV)
33. Cannabigerovarinic Acid (CBGVA)
34. Cannabigerol Monomethylether (CBGM)
35. Cannabinol (CBN)
36. Cannabinolic Acid (CBNA)
37. Cannabidiorcol (CBN-C1)
38. Cannabinol-C2 (CBN-C2)
39. Cannabinol-C4 (CBN-C4)
40. Cannabinodiol (CBND)
41. Cannabinol Methylether (CBNM)
42. Delta-9-cis-tetrahydrocannabinol (CIS-THC)
43. Anandamide (AEA)
44. Cannabielsoin (CBE)
45. Cannabielsoic Acid A (CBEA-A)
46. Cannabielsoic Acid B (CBEA-B)
47. Cannabifuran (CBF)
48. Dehydrocannabifuran (DCBF or CBFD)
49. Cannabicyclol (CBL)
50. Cannabicyclolic Acid (CBLA)
51. Cannabicyclovarin (CBLV)
52. Cannabitriol (CBT)
53. Cannabitriolvarin – CBTV
56. Cannabinodivarin (CBV)
57. Cannabinodivarin (CBVD)
58. Cannabiripsol (CBR)
59. Cannabicitran (CBT-C)
This might look like a long list, but these sixty cannabinoids are just the ones that have been minimally studied. There are still tons of different cannabinoids out there we simply haven’t researched yet!
While there are many, many cannabinoids out there, here are the five that are the most important for any cannabis consumer to know:
THC is the heavy hitter of the cannabinoid world, giving cannabis its psychoactive power. Creating a positive, euphoric, and sometimes sleepy effect, this famous cannabinoid has a ton of uses. From stimulating the appetites to relieving chronic pain and inflammation and easing the sleep of insomniacs, THC gets the job done.
Almost as famous as THC, CBD is great for people who want to reap the medicinal and psychological benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects. CBD has a calming effect on your body’s nervous system, which means it’s excellent for relieving stress and anxiety, as well as easing sleep. Used to treat several chronic conditions, this cannabinoid is helpful to the extreme.
While fewer people have heard of this essential cannabinoid, it’s the granddaddy (literally) of all cannabis goodness. The chemical building blocks the cannabis plant uses to create CBD and THC, promising new research shows that CBG may have medicinal benefits. For example, with antibacterial and antitumor properties, CBG may help ease anxiety and be helpful in the treatment of IBS.
Found primarily in high THC strains that haven’t been decarboxylated, THCA is typically the most abundant cannabinoid in raw cannabis plants before being processed for the commercial market. While the research on this potent compound is still in its early stages, it has potent anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antiemetic, and anti-proliferative properties that could make it a potential asset in the future of cannabis medicine.
If CBG is the granddaddy of cannabis, CBN is the grandchild. Caused by the oxidation of THC in decarboxylated cannabis, due to exposure to air, heat, or simply the passage of time, CBN has mild psychoactive effects when ingested on its own. However, when you pair it with THC, it produces a super-strong “couch-lock” high, making it an excellent candidate for treating chronic insomnia.
As legalization spreads and research into cannabinoids and their effects becomes more common, this list of popular will continue to grow. With so many promising compounds to explore, we can’t wait to discover the cannabinoids of the future.