Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Some of these are psychoactive, such as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and can induce feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Other cannabinoids, such as CBD (cannabidiol), have no psychoactive effects, but are attracting a huge amount of medical interest from pharmaceutical companies who want to know more about their medical properties.
Cannabinoids are not just THC and CBD. Around 100 or more other cannabinoids are thought to be present in cannabis. Their medical effects are just beginning to emerge. Interest in cannabinoids has never been higher, especially for potential medical uses.
How many cannabinoids are there?
To date, at least 113 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the Cannabis plant. However, there is some scientific disagreement about the exact number as more research is done into the science of cannabinoids and new discoveries are made. The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD, but attention is beginning to be paid to other, less-represented cannabinoids as cannabinoid research intensifies, knowledge expands, and pharmaceutical interest gathers pace.
Medical science is struggling to keep up with the data that is beginning to emerge from cannabinoid research! As cannabis prohibition fades around the world, scientific interest in learning more about the properties of each cannabinoid is growing. In fact, a huge amount of work, effort and research remains to be done.
Decades of political interference and prohibition have left a knowledge vacuum that is only slowly being filled. Questions like "which cannabinoids enhance or inhibit the effects of others" are still almost impossible to answer. This makes it very difficult to understand the synergies (or antagonistic properties) that may exist between specific cannabinoids, as well as to predict which cannabinoids would best suit specific ailments.
With so many cannabinoids, it makes sense to try to categorize them. Some cannabinoids can only be seen in the fresh plant (raw cannabinoids). Some cannabinoids are only formed when raw cannabinoids are heated (eg in a vaporizer). Other cannabinoids are only formed when raw or heated cannabinoids are allowed to mature.
THCA is a raw cannabinoid with no psychoactivity. When vaping, heat converts THCA into THC, which is highly psychoactive. This shows the dramatic changes that can occur with the effects of individual cannabinoids with a small amount of heat. THC can also later convert to CBN when left for long periods of time. CBN is non-psychoactive.
Crude cannabinoids are defined as cannabinoids present only in fresh plant material. These are often “acidic” versions of cannabinoids. These raw cannabinoids are often unstable and easily break down with a little heat to create a non-acidic version.
How do cannabinoids work in the body?
In the 1990s, scientists discovered the presence of the human endocannabinoid system. ECS remains in preliminary research, which means much more clinical work is needed. However, the ECS is believed to be involved in the regulation of cognitive and physiological systems. These include appetite, pain, mood, memory, immune response, etc.
The endocannabinoid system contains two primary cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2. These are found in nerves, brain, organs and tissues. Some cannabinoids are thought to enhance the effects of others. Conversely, some cannabinoids can also suppress the effects of others.
After so many years of cannabis prohibition, medical science is just beginning the research needed to fully explore the biochemistry of cannabinoids. Much more remains to be done.
Meanwhile, perhaps the most exciting chapter in cannabis history is unfolding. Cannabinoids are one of the most widespread and promising, but least researched, natural medicines. Breeders of new cannabis varieties have already released new strains rich in THCV, CBDV and CBG. And they remain fully committed to further research into new strains rich in rare, novel cannabinoids.
Text for educational purposes only, always inform yourself about the current legislation in force in your country!