Updated: Aug 5, 2019
When we talk with people interested in learning about cannabis, one of the first things they ask about is what THC and CBD is and what they do. With our technical answer,
“THC and CBD are the two most prominent cannabinoids in cannabis that connect to our endocannabinoid receptors in our body to assist in homeostatic therapy"
their eyes glaze over. Don’t worry, this happens to us all the time. Therefore, we are here to help explain it further!
Unfortunately, this industry has two major issues;
There are not that many people who understand cannabis more than the fact that it can get you high, and
Most of the words that describe cannabis are long, scientific, and a mouthful…
Well, we have good and bad news. The bad news is there are no rudimentary words or definitions for cannabinoids that easily explain what they do, but the good news is we will lay it all out here so you can fully understand the process and be able to just send a link to your friend so you don’t have to explain it. Yay for technology!
So, without further ado, lets dive into cannabinoids!
To start, cannabinoids are not seldom found in cannabis. There are cannabinoids in many foods you eat and are produced inside your body!
When a cannabinoid is consumed, it searches for receptors to attach themselves to. These receptors are apart of your endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a very intricate system of receptors that run all throughout your body and organs. This system regulates memory, digestion, motor function, immune response, inflammation, appetite, pain, blood pressure, bone growth, protection of neural tissues, and many other functions. Of the many receptors that accompany the endocannabinoid system, the two main receptors are CB1 and CB2. These receptors are found in the central nervous system, immune system, gastrointestinal system, endocrine system, circulatory system, brain, heart, spleen, reproductive tract, and urinary tract.
CB1 receptors are more concentrated in your brain but are in many parts of the body. When endocannabinoids bond with CB1 receptors, it modulates the inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters across that area of the brain. The cannabinoid likened by these receptors the most is THC, since it mimics the endocannabinoids that bind to CB1 so well. This is why a moderate amount or more of THC introduced into the body creates the euphoria or “high”. THC is so favorable with CB1 receptors, that some scientists put some deep thought into changing the name as the THC receptor.
Some of the brain functions that are affected by the ECS are emotions, memory, anxiety, stress, fear, pain, appetite, and motor control; which is why cannabis is so effective across a plethora of conditions.
However, the one region where CB1 receptors are not expressed are in the brain stem, which is responsible for respiration and circulation. This is the main reason why an overdose of cannabis does not cause respiratory depression and death, unlike the famed opioids.
CB2 receptors are more concentrated in your organs, but also lie in the midbrain and hippocampus. Primarily in the immune cells, blood cells, tonsils, and spleen, CB2 receptors regulate the release of cytokines. These immunoregulatory proteins connect with inflammation and immune function in the body. When CBD is bonded with these receptors, it is excellent with handling inflammation in the body. Recently, researchers have uncovered that CB2 receptors are in the hippocampus and help modulate self-activity and information flow between brain networks that guide complex behaviors.
Cannabinoids in Cannabis
THC and CBD are two of over 100 cannabinoids that have been discovered in cannabis. They are large lipid molecules that interact with our endocannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids are mostly stored in trichomes, which are the milky colored, lollypop shaped glands that cover the outside of the cannabis flower and leaves. These cannabinoids, along with the cannabinoids that are found in other foods, are classified as phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced outside of the body).
The cannabis species (Cannabis/Marijuana and Hemp varieties) only produces the acidic form of all cannabinoids. These acidic varieties (ie. THCA, CBDA, CBGA, CBCA, etc.) do not induce euphoria or the “high” and research has shown many therapeutic benefits. So, if you were to eat cannabis flower, you will not get high…Sorry Super Troopers!
Below are the top 7 phytocannabinoids in Cannabis:
THC (Tetrahydracannabinol) is the most common cannabinoid in Cannabis. Derived from its acidic form THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), THC is the sole cannabinoid that induces a euphoric effect. However, that is much more to THC than its psychoactive effects. THC has been found to be a potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective; along with helping to reduce muscle tension, spasticity, and intraocular pressure. This cannabinoid connects with CB1, CB2, and G-protein receptors in our endocannabinoid system. THC is nontoxic, but can produce panic, anxiety, sedation, and rapid heartbeat if taken in excessive doses.
The creation of THC is as follows:
CBGA -> synthesizes with THCA Synthase into -> THCA -> through time or heat -> THC
THCA is a cannabinoid that has been in the eye of researchers as of late. Already it has shown to have potential as an anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, neuroprotective, and antitumor agent; all while not inducing euphoria!
CBD (Cannabidiol) is the second most common cannabinoid in Cannabis and the most prominent cannabinoid in Hemp. Derived from CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid), CBD is most notable for it’s potent analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, neuroprotectant, and antioxidant. The United States government, through the department of health and human services, thought it to be so good as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant that they decided to file a patent for that very purpose. Studies have shown that CBD interacts with many more receptors in the endocannabinoid system than THC, which is why CBD has such a broad spectrum of beneficial effects. One of CBD’s best attributes is that it negates the negative effects of THC, so if you’re every too high take a strong dose of CBD!
The beauty of CBD is that it is non-euphoric, has a much wider spectrum of benefits, and is safe for children. Even the FDA agrees with that!
The creation of CBD is as follows:
CBGA -> synthesizes with CBDA Synthase into -> CBDA -> through time or heat -> CBD
CBG (Cannabigerol) is the third most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis and the second most in hemp. It’s acidic form CBGA (Cannabigerolic Acid) is the base molecule where, during biosynthesis, can change into THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. Known for its potent analgesic properties, new research is positing CBG’s potential as an appetite stimulator, treatment for chemotherapy-induced cachexia, antiseptic, antibiotic, and treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. CBG has been found to target many receptors outside of the endocannabinoid system, making this cannabinoid unique from the rest of the group.
CBC (Cannabichromene) forms in the early stages of flowering. Most plant cultivars with high amounts of CBC will need to be harvested about 6 weeks prior to maturity to collect the highest amount of this cannabinoid. Derived from the acidic form CBCA (Cannabichromenic Acid), this cannabinoid has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties like the other cannabinoids. What sets CBC apart is its potential as an antibiotic, antifungal, and antidepressant.
The creation of CBC is as follows:
CBGA -> synthesizes with CBCA Synthase into -> CBCA -> through time or heat -> CBC
CBN (Cannabinol) is not naturally created by the cannabis plant but is the oxidized form of THC. CBN will be found in poorly stored or flower that has been stored for long periods of time. The euphoria is significantly dulled compared to THC, but there have been some discoveries on potential medicinal effects. Research has found that CBN has a possible synergy with THC in assisting in sedation and has the potential as a burn treatment due to its ability to reduce perceived thermal sensitivity.
In some cannabis cultivars, a different precursor acid is formed to create the propyl form of the CBG cannabinoid, CBGVA. Through biosynthesis of THCA synthase, this turns into THCVA (Tetrahydracannabivarinic acid). As THC, THCV (Tetrahydracannabivarin) is produced from THCVA through heat or time. Although studies are limited, research has shown THCV’s potential to aid obesity symptoms and protect recall memory that is affected by high doses of THC.
Like THCV, CBDV (Cannabidvarin) is derived from CBDVA. CBDV alone has shown some massive strides as a potential anti-convulsant. Research is looking into the potential therapeutic powerhouse of CBDV and CBD blends.
Your body can do wonderous things. One of the many great aspects of your body is that it has the ability to stabilize and balance itself back to homeostasis (physiological stability). Research has uncovered that your endocannabinoid system has a massive role in this. Your body already creates cannabinoids that flow throughout the ECS, called endocannabinoids. These cannabinoids are produced on demand to treat the underlining issues that affect most people today. Due to poor health and nutrition, researchers are hypothesizing that we are limiting our potential to create these cannabinoids naturally. Thankfully, with proper exercise, healthy activity, and diet, the production of endocannabinoid activity can flourish again.
The two endocannabinoids found in the body are Anandamide and 2-AG. These cannabinoids are derivatives of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are closely related to Omega-3. Much like the phytocannabinoids in cannabis, these two molecules attach to the endocannabinoid receptors for local relief. Research has shown that endocannabinoids effectively modulate the flow of neurotransmitters, which sustains our nervous system. Studies have also shown that endocannabinoids help to sustain the underlining mechanisms of memory and learning.
For all the hate and stigma that has been produced against cannabis, science has yet again proved these thought processes to be short-sighted. Not only does the cannabinoids in cannabis provide many therapeutic effects, but they also work with our own endocannabinoids to bring your body back to homeostasis. So, the next time your friend questions you on why you take your daily dose of cannabinoids, lay down the knowledge of cannabinoids on them! The best way to kill the stigma is through education.