Cannabinoids: what are they?

3 Minute Read

We live in ironic times: a plant that’s been labelled criminal and dangerous is providing unrivalled relief for a variety of symptoms and conditions. When it comes to Cannabis, consuming it can have a wide range of effects. It can make you feel more energised, calm and even have medical benefits that treat seizures, chronic pain, anxiety and many other physical and mental conditions or symptoms.

But what in Cannabis creates these effects? It is none other than the exceptional cannabinoids, the naturally occurring chemical compounds in a Cannabis plant, which interacts with the human central nervous system.

Let’s take a closer look at what cannabinoids are and how they work!


The Cannabinoids are a unique facet of the Cannabis plant. They are usually created from cannabinoid acids that are present naturally in the plant. After being exposed to heat energy they are converted into respective cannabinoid compounds. These compounds give you a therapeutic experience along with pain relief and a diminished sense of stress.

They are similar to endocannabinoids that are naturally occurring within our body. The endocannabinoids are used to promote homeostasis, which regulates internal health and immune system functions. These compounds send signals to the other cells and can produce a euphoric feeling too, similar to the ‘runner’s high’.


These compounds were surrounded by perplexing questions until the 1980’s. When cannabis was researched, the study found cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. So, when cannabis was consumed they saw that these compounds are bound to the receptors. They identified them in two classes:

  • CB – 1 receptors: Commonly found in the central nervous system and the brain cells.
  • CB – 2 receptors: They are found in the immune system.

Their interaction follows a ‘lock & key’ mechanism. Cannabinoids being the key, bind to the receptors creating metabolic enzymes (fatty acid amide hydrolase [FAAH]) that further break down the cannabinoids, thus unlocking the same effects as the organic endocannabinoids would.

These are essential molecules made by the human body. Studies have identified two key endocannabinoids:

  • anandamide (AEA) aka ‘bliss molecule’
  • 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

Your body produces these exactly when you need it and keeps your internal systems running smoothly.


There are over 85 identified cannabinoids and many more thought to exist. The main heroes are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

With great research, comes the incredible fact that the interactions between cannabinoids themselves are so distinctive.

For example, CBD does not interact with the CB-1 brain cell receptors in the same way as THC. It, in fact, interferes with THC binding to receptors.

This is why when the THC content is high, you experience a psychoactive high, but if the CBD content is high, then you will experience anti-anxiety effects and relief for pain.


- CBD (Cannabidiol)

One of the most well-known cannabinoids is the CBD molecule. Unlike THC, CBD is more partial to binding with CB – 2 receptors found throughout the body. This does not produce any psychoactive effects, but in fact produces experiences that are more physiological in nature.

CBD assists with challenges such as stress, irregular appetite and insomnia, allowing the human body and mind to be at ease. It can also subside symptoms of chemotherapy, tumors and even severe mental disorders. For patients who want to induce the benefits of CBD, should consume cannabis that is lower in THC content.

- THC (Δ9 – tetrahydeocannabinol)

Out of all the cannabinoids, THC is one of the only cannabinoids that will get you ‘high’ or induce psychoactive effects. This is in the minority and in reality, the other psychoactive cannabinoids are nowhere as potent as THC.

This is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in present time, and is the first cannabinoid to be isolated. THC typically bind to the CB – 1 receptors in the brain and can produce strong effects, but even helps with pain relief, digestion and mood swings. When it comes to medicine, it helps with epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea and symptoms of HIV/AIDS.

With over 85 other recorded compounds such as CBN, CBG and CBC, many of have been labelled with high medicinal benefits. When you find the right fit in Cannabis, keep this handy piece of medicinal gold with you for an entire lifetime and reap the plethora of benefIts Cannabis contains.

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