An introduction to cannabinoids: Everything you need to know

Studies show that cannabis may be helpful for numerous conditions, from nausea and chronic pain to neurological disorders. If you already have a medical marijuana prescription, you know this on a personal level. 

But have you ever wondered exactly how it works? The answer involves the many compounds, called cannabinoids, that occur naturally in the cannabis plant.

Most are familiar with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), the two most studied cannabinoids due to their prevalence—the rarer a cannabinoid, the more difficult it is to isolate. In reality, there are over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, most of which we know little about. 

Scientists are beginning to study some of the rarer cannabinoids, offering insight into their potential benefits. Research strongly suggests cannabinoids might:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce inflammation and relieve pain
  • Control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy
  • Relax tight muscles in people with MS
  • Stimulate appetite and improve weight gain in people with cancer and AIDS

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Cannabinoids work by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates things like:

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Pain
  • Inflammation

In order to do its job, the ECS uses two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1, in the central nervous system, and CB2, in the peripheral nervous system. When you consume marijuana, cannabinoids from the plant interact with these receptors to create various effects in your body.

Major cannabinoids: THC and CBD

The two best known and most abundant cannabinoids, THC and CBD have inspired a wide range of products in the cannabis industry thanks to their many effects and potential benefits.

These compounds have one key difference: THC is psychoactive, producing the “high” associated with marijuana, while CBD is not

Both cannabinoids may be helpful for a range of conditions, and many of these overlap, such as the treatment of pain, nausea and anxiety. CBD is also used for depression and other mental disorders, seizures and migraines, while THC may be used for glaucoma, muscle spasticity and to increase appetite. 

Rare cannabinoids

Outside of THC and CBD, we are beginning to learn a bit more about a handful of other cannabinoids. Research on these rare cannabinoids is limited, but the following is what we know thus far.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

A non-intoxicating cannabinoid, CBG is becoming better known for its antibacterial properties, which may be helpful for digestive conditions, as well as its ability to relieve pain and inflammation.

Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN is also non-intoxicating and occurs in cannabis sativa strains that are high in THC and CBD. Studies show that it may be beneficial for neurological disorders and increasing appetite. It may also be helpful for sleep, but research is still in its infancy.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

The limited information we know about CBC suggests that it may help regulate pain and contribute to brain health, without producing intoxicating effects. It also appears to have a role in the entourage effect, a theory that the effects of cannabinoids are enhanced when used together.

Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

CBDV is structurally similar to CBD and is best known for its antiepileptic properties. It also might be helpful for pain, inflammation, and neurological disorders.

Cannabigerovarin (CBGV)

CBGV is an analog of CBG, in other words, a very similar chemical compound. While studies are limited, it shows promise for digestive health, antibacterial properties and glaucoma treatment. Additionally, it may have the unique ability to increase the bioavailability of CBD.

Want to talk more about cannabinoids? Book an appointment with one of our doctors

Schedule a medical cannabis evaluation with one of our certified physicians to learn more about how you could benefit from cannabinoids.

You can also book an appointment to apply for a medical marijuana card. We’ll answer any questions you have and make the process as easy as possible!


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