What are cannabinoids?
THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG and about 80 other molecules make up the phytocannabinoid family, which are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Here are some of the main ones:
- THC: ((6aR,10aR)-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol): The principal psychoactive constituent (or cannabinoid) of cannabis.
- CBD: Cannabidiol (CBD) CBD is considered to have a wider scope of medical applications than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
- CBN: Cannabinol (CBN) is a weak psychoactive cannabinoid found only in trace amounts of cannabis.
When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids bind to receptor sites throughout our brain (receptors called CB-1) and body (CB-2). That’s right—we have a couple of parts in our brain and body already built and their sole purpose is to specifically receive and process cannabis—nothing else! Different cannabinoids have different effects depending on which receptors they bind to. For example, THC binds to receptors in the brain whereas CBN (cannabinol) has a strong affinity for CB-2 receptors located throughout the body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system and impact the way your body processes pain, memory and appetite, and has anti-inflammatory effects and other immune system responses.
By aiming the right cannabinoid at the right receptors, it is believed that different types of relief are achievable. This concept is the cornerstone of cannabis as medicine, and the results are so promising that these cannabinoids have been isolated and synthesized and is now available to be prescribed. Some synthetic cannabinoid medications include Marinol, Nabilone, and Rimonabant. While these synthetic forms are useful, research shows that herbal cannabis contains a far wider variety of therapeutic compounds and tends to be far more effective.
The Entourage Effect refers to the interaction of various compounds in cannabis. As we know there are over 80 unique molecules in cannabis known as cannabinoids, which include THC and CBD. Many other non-cannabinoid compounds are produced by the plant that also have regulatory effects. For example, terpenes are the molecules responsible for marijuana’s smell and have been shown to block some cannabinoid receptor sites in the brain while promoting cannabinoid binding in others. As a result, terpenes are believed to affect many aspects of how the brain takes in THC or CBD, while offering various therapeutic benefits of their own. In fact, while THC has gotten most of the attention, studies suggest many of the compounds in cannabis work together to produce a synergy of effects. This is known as the ‘entourage effect.’
Cannabis comes in thousands of different strains. Different strains have vastly different chemical profiles that cause different experiences in the same person. This explains why sometimes cannabis can make a person feel calm, while other times it can make that same person feel anxious or paranoid. It also explains why the same variety can have different effects on different people. The chemical components of cannabis include (but are not limited to) terpenes, ketones, esters, lactones, alcohols, fatty acids, and steroids. The effects of all these chemicals working together and regulating each other will be much different than the effects of any one chemical working alone, which is why it is counterproductive to breed CBD only strains for medical use. In other words, cannabis is made up of thousands of different chemicals that work together to produce some general effect. Change the recipe and you change the effect.