What Are Cannabinoids & Why Do They Matter To You?
This is going to be a little bit like a “how the sausage is made” explainer. Which is cool, because — being the savvy and knowledge-hungry creature you are — you’ll want to know some of the science related to cannabis.
We won’t get too technical — promise! — so this is guaranteed to be a fun and interesting read. We’ll:
- Break down the must-know cannabis terms and concepts
- Discuss key cannabinoid facts and figures
- Explain how cannabinoids work in your body
- Highlight why cannabinoids are important
So, let’s jump right in!
Cannabis 101First things first — let’s get some more-basic-than-basic terminology straight. We need to make sure we’re all on the same page from the beginning. Some fundamental definitions….
- Cannabis. This refers to the plant species formally known by its Latin name as Cannabis Sativa L.
- Marijuana. This is one type of cannabis plant. You’ll often see this term used interchangeably with the word cannabis, but they are different.
- Hemp or industrial hemp. This is another subspecies of cannabis.
- Cannabinoids. These are compounds found in cannabis. We’ll come back to this one soon!
- There are at least 525 distinct chemical substances in cannabis, including cannabinoids.
- It’s estimated that there are at least 144 cannabinoids in cannabis, including THC and CBD.
Speaking of Cannabinoids….You’re here because you’re wondering what the heck cannabinoids are. Simply, cannabinoids are substances that can produce a host of responses within your body. There are three primary kinds of cannabinoids:
- Phytocannabinoids come from plants, like cannabis. (This is the one we’re most focused on in this post.)
- Endocannabinoids are made by your body.
Major & Minor CannabinoidsOf the 144+ cannabinoids, four are arguably considered the “major” cannabinoids. These include:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC, delta-8, D8…it has a few aliases….)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
Tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THCTHC is probably the most well-known cannabinoid. It’s the most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana. As a psychoactive compound, THC is what generates that “high” feeling associated with pot. It may surprise you to learn that THC is one of just a handful of cannabinoids that can bring on this euphoric sensation. THC can also produce other reactions and results. For some people, THC elevates their mood, makes them giggly, or helps them unwind. Therapeutically, THC may help with chronic issues — like pain or inflammation — or with acute illnesses (or their side effects) — like nausea and vomiting due to cancer treatments. More and more research is being done to evaluate THC’s prospects as an effective treatment option.
Cannabidiol, aka CBDCBD is perhaps the second best-known cannabinoid. It’s the dominant cannabinoid in hemp. CBD is perhaps the second best-known cannabinoid. It’s the dominant cannabinoid in hemp. of the biggest things that sets CBD apart from THC is that CBD’s not a psychoactive substance. You won’t get high from it. In fact, CBD can counteract the euphoric effects of THC. Where THC can lift you up, CBD can mellow you out. CBD has other potential benefits as well. In addition to modulating THC, CBD could help support an assortment of mental and physical health conditions. Medical researchers are fervently studying the positive impacts CBD may have on human and animal wellbeing. (Yes, CBD formulations for pets are a thing!) In terms of CBD products, it’s important to understand that there are three types of CBD extract. Each has its own profile, pros and cons, and devotees.
- Full-spectrum CBD contains some THC plus a bunch of other cannabinoids.
- Broad-spectrum CBD has all the cannabinoids it started with, minus the THC.
- Isolate CBD has had all other cannabinoids removed. Zero THC, zero CBD in it.