Cannabis research is an ever changing and diverse field. From the plants biochemical makeup to the physiological and potential health benefits it has, scientist investing their career’s to research  cannabis are helping to lay the foundation for industry standards and public opinion, as well as shaping the way for legalization and policy. One of the most interesting and potentially important parts of the plant is the cannabinoid. As legalization becomes the norm we have more and more opportunity to expand upon our research into cannabinoids.  Cannabinoids, the chemicals that qualify the plant as a drug,are any of a group of closely related compounds which include cannabinol and the active constituents of cannabis. The more we learn about cannabinoids the more we are able to apply their use to both the medical and commercial marketplaces.

The Ultimate Guide To The Cannabinoids

Despite our ever growing understanding of cannabinoids and their importance to cannabis as a whole, research has not been allowed to continue at a normal pace in the US due to federal prohibition, throughout the rest of the world many nations have followed with strict regulations. This has caused an inconsistent narrative when it comes to the actual facts about cannabis, however it does not seem to affect the markets interest in the product.  As of now, 47 of 50 states allow for some form of medical cannabis use and 11 allowing recreational use with more on the way this year. This loosening of regulations has made it possible for scientist to conduct more thorough research into other cannabinoids.

Learning more about cannabinoids can offer a better overall understanding of cannabis as a whole. Knowledge about precisely how and why certain strains and products produce their effects can be useful to both the entrepreneur and end user.

What is a Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids get their name less from what they are and more from what they do. They’re a class of chemical compounds found naturally in cannabis. They are unique in that they can interact with  cannabinoid receptors, which are located throughout the body and are  part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. These interactions alter the release of chemicals in the brain to produce a wide array of effects throughout the body.

As of now e have been able to isolate 113 different cannabinoids. Many of which exhibit their own distinct effects. Of the 113 total  3: THC, CBD and CBN have the most research available on them. We’ve know about cannabinoids for a long time. Researches first discovered CBN in 1940 and then CBD in 1942.  We did not discover the correct structure of THC until 1962.


Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)

THCA is the main constituent in raw cannabis. THCA converts to Δ9-THC when burned, vaporized, or heated at a certain temperature. THCA, CBDA, CBGA, and other acidic cannabinoids hold the most COX-1 and COX-2 inhibition, contributing to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory effects. This cannabinoid also acts as an antiproliferative and antispasmodic.



The most abundant cannabinoid present in marijuana, THC is responsible for cannabis’ most well-known psychoactive effects. THC acts as a partial agonist at the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The compound is a mild analgesic, or painkiller, and cellular research has shown that it has antioxidant activity.

Cannabidiolic Acid

CBDA, similar to THCA, is the main constituent in cannabis with elevated CBD levels. CBDA selectively inhibits the COX-2 enzyme, contributing to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory effects.


CBD has tremendous medical potential. This is particularly true when the correct ratio of CBD to THC is applied to treat a particular condition. CBD acts as an antagonist at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, yet it has a low binding affinity for both. This suggests that CBD’s mechanism of action is mediated by other receptors in the brain and body.


CBN is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that is produced from the degradation of THC. There is usually very little to no CBN in a fresh plant. 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.


A non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBG’s antibacterial effects can alter the overall effects of cannabis. CBG is thought to kill or slow bacterial growth, reduce inflammation, (particularly in its acidic CBGA form,) inhibit cell growth in tumor/cancer cells, and promote bone growth. It acts as a low-affinity antagonist at the CB1 receptor. CBG pharmacological activity at the CB2 receptor is currently unknown.


CBC is most frequently found in tropical cannabis varieties. CBC is known to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, inhibit cell growth in tumor/cancer cells, and promote bone growth. The effects of CBC appear to be mediated through non-cannabinoid receptor interactions.


THCV is a minor cannabinoid found in only some strains of cannabis. The only structural difference between THCV and THC is the presence of a propyl (3 carbon) group, rather than a pentyl (5 carbon) group, on the molecule. Though this variation may seem subtle, it causes THCV to produce very different effects than THC. These effects include a reduction in panic attacks, suppression of appetite, and the promotion of bone growth. THCV acts as an antagonist at the CB1 receptor and a partial agonist at the CB2 receptor.


Like THCV, CBDV differs from CBD only by the substitution of a pentyl (5 carbon) for a propyl (3 carbon) sidechain. Although research on CBDV is still in its initial stages, recent studies have shown promise for its use in the management of epilepsy. This is due to its action at TRPV1 receptors and modulation of gene expression.