Cannabinoids 101: Much More Than Just THC

17 September 2020 – Posted in: Cannabis and the Body, Cannabis Buzz, CBD, Endocannabinoid System, THC, The Science of Cannabis

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that make up the cannabis plant that interact with our miraculous Endocannabinoid System to elicit a number of effects.

The two most commonly known cannabinoids are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), yet these are not even close to the only cannabinoids. There are potentially over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is present in both humans and animals. It’s the system that helps to maintain homeostasis in the body through regulating important functions like, mood, sleep, appetite and other critical functions.

The ECS is comprised of three parts; endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

  • Endocannabinoids are compounds that interact with receptors throughout the body. They are naturally occurring in our bodies. There are two major endocannabinoids: Anandamide and 2-AG. They’re made from fat-like molecules within cell membranes and are made only when needed.
  • Cannabinoid receptors are located on the cell membranes and react to endocannabinoids in our bodies. They tell the ECS to respond in a particular way.
    The first two cannabinoid receptors to be discovered were C1 and C2. C1 receptors are found in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). They are thought to be responsible for the experience of the high associated with THC. C2 receptors are found throughout the body, including in the immune system.
  • Enzymes are present to breakdown endocannabinoids once they have performed their function and are no longer needed in the body. The two major enzymes are FAAH, which breaks down anandamide, and MAGL, which breaks down 2-AG.

The cannabinoids found in cannabis are phytocannabinoids and interact with the various parts of our endocannabinoid system in a number of ways including binding the cannabinoid receptors.

Major Cannabinoids in Cannabis

Although CBD and THC are the most prominent and often the most talked about cannabinoids they are not necessarily the most important. The other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes, present in the cannabis plant interact with THC and CBD and impacts its effects. The effect of multiple cannabinoids working together is called the entourage effect. So far, research has mainly focused on the impacts when THC and CBD work together but researchers are beginning to isolate other cannabinoids and investigate their effects working with THC, CBD and other cannabinoids as well.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produces the “high” that commonly associated with cannabis by binding to the CB1 receptors in the brain.

Although THC has gotten a lot of attention over the years, more recently delta-8-THC has been receiving more attention. Delta-8-THC is similar to delta-9-THC, but the few atomic bonds that differ allow for slightly different impacts. Delta-8-THC is said to have a slightly lower, or maybe simply different, psychotropic impacts than delta-9, but still has a psychoactive potency of its own.

Delta-8-THC has gained enough interest that researchers are extracting it to further understand its impacts, how it differs from delta-9, and what value it brings independent of delta-9-THC.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD has traditionally become known as the “non-psychoactive” counterpart to THC, and products labelled as CBD contain less than 0.3% THC but non-psychoactive may not be entirely accurate. Although CBD is not intoxicating, meaning that it doesn’t get the user “high,” the cannabis community has found that it’s not accurate to label CBD as “non-psychoactive,” as CBD does have potentially mood-altering properties. However, the user will not experience impairment by using CBD alone.

Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN is a cannabinoid that’s produced from the degradation of THC through the process of oxidization. Typically there is very little to no CBN in a fresh plant, though as the plant ages the amount of CBN content will increase (particularly if it is improperly stored). CBN acts as a weak agonist at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, with greater affinity for CB2 receptors than CB1. The degradation of THC into CBN is often described as creating a sedative effect. Although this may not be entirely true, preliminary research suggests that CBN alone does not have sedating effects. The sedation may come from a combination of CBN and THC as well as the terpenes that are present in the older plants.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

The cannabis plant produces cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), which is the precursor to the main cannabinoid lines tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA). Which in turn are the precursors to THC, CBD and CBC.

The amount of CBG present is typically less than 1% but cannabis breeders are experimenting with genetic manipulation and cross-breeding plants to obtain higher yields of CBG. Preliminary evidence also suggests that a higher level of CBG can be maintained in budding plants by pinpointing the optimal extraction time, which appears to be about six weeks into an eight week flowering cycle.

Preliminary research has found the CBG acts on very specific physiological systems, and since it is non-intoxicating it may have specific uses, but more research is necessary to fully understand CBG and how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

CBC is considered to be one of the three major cannabinoids because it one of the cannabinoids that cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) directly breaks down into. Like CBD, CBC is non-intoxicating as is does not bind well to the CB1 receptors in the brain. Although it does bind with other receptors in the body, such as TRPV1 and TRPA1. When these receptors are activated it increases the body’s natural endocannabinoids.

The more the cannabis plant is investigated and researched the more we uncover. Although some of these cannabinoids are present in small amounts they may still have important impacts particularly when working together. We are excited to see the research on cannabis to continue to expand so we can deepen our understanding of the cannabinoids and other compounds that are present as well as the impacts they have on our Endocannabinoid System.

At TOKE, we know our cannabinoids, and are also learning every day about the new discoveries of cannabinoids and the addition of information to the cannabinoids that we already know. Come into TOKE to talk cannabinoids, and we’ll be sure to point you to products that will help you explore their limitless potential.