Cannabinoids were first described as chemical compounds uniquely
produced by cannabis plants. However, it has since been determined that the human body
actually produces its own cannabinoids known as endogenous cannabinoids or
endocannabinoids. The human body has its own built-in endocannabinoid system (eCs) that
works to keep the body in balance or homeostasis, by performing different functions, specific
to each area of the body. Endocannabinoids, as well as those uniquely produced by cannabis,
phytocannabinoids, act on the specialized endocannabinoid receptors found all over the body.
The greatest concentrations of endocannabinoids receptors are found in areas that
affect memory, cognition, coordination, movement, appetite, and emotions. Endocannabinoid
receptors are predominantly located in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands,
organs, immune system, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells,
endocrine glands, and reproductive organs. The fact that the phytocannabinoids, found in
cannabis, affect so many different receptors throughout the human body, may explain why
humans have had such a strong relationship with cannabis for many thousands of years.
Some sources report over 100 different cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis, however only a handful are well known for having medicinal and psychoactive effects on the body. THC, CBD, CBG, CBC and CBN are the most popularly known cannabinoids, but they aren’t directly produced by the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants actually synthesize a cannabinoid acid, CBGA, which is the chemical precursor to the cannabinoid acids THCA, CBDA, and CBCA.
Specific enzymes in the plant break down the CBGA and direct it toward one of the
three cannabinoid lines. The resulting THCA, CBDA, and CBCA must be activated or
“decarboxylated”, in order to yield the sought after cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBC. The
process of decarboxylation is essentially adding heat to the cannabis product, such as lighting a
bowl of flower, taking a dab of hash, or making edibles. Alternatively, CBNA, the precursor to
CBN, is a result of the decomposition of THCA molecules.
CBGA is most often directed toward synthesizing other cannabinoids, and therefore is
found in far less quantities in dried flower than the other cannabinoids. The tiny amount of
CBGA left in the plant when it’s harvested becomes CBG when decarboxylated. Because it is
found in such low levels, CBG is considered a minor cannabinoid, however it does have a
reported medicinal value. Studies of CBG are limited, but it has been known to be useful as a
sleep aid, a potent pain reliever, and a mood stabilizer. CBG is acts on the endocannabinoid
receptors in the eye, reducing intraocular pressure, making it effective in treating glaucoma.
CBG is showing promise as a cancer treatment, as it’s been shown to inhibit the growth of some
types of cancer cells. Research has also shown CBG to be an effective anti-bacterial agent,
especially against MRSA. CBG is a completely non-psychoactive cannabinoid, and the extent of
its medicinal value is currently unfolding.
THC is the most active of all the cannabinoids, and the source of the “high” feeling
cannabis is known for. Cannabis plants are rich in its biological precursor THCA. The
decarboxylation of THCA to THC can be activated through exposure to UV light, but most often
happens when you light that joint or turn your favorite flower into some cannabis butter. When
we offer potency results, we are referring to the THCA content in a percentage value, and this
can be understood as how much potential THC the cannabis could have once it’s been
decarboxylized. THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it acts primarily on the central
nervous system, affecting temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness, and
behavior. THC is the most intoxicating of all the cannabinoids and its consumption can induce
euphoria and enhanced senses.
THC has also been found to offer relief from muscle spasms and convulsions, be a
helpful sleep aid, reduce nausea and vomiting, be an effective pain reliever, as well as provide
improvement in energy levels. One negative side effect of consuming high levels of THC is
short-term memory loss, due to its reduction of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine’s activity in
the brain. Another widely known side-effect of THC is appetite stimulation, causing the
“munchies” smoking cannabis is known for. THC has value in preventing and halting tumor
growth, but its strong psychoactive properties make it difficult for many to use in
chemotherapy. Knowing how much THC or THCA is found in a particular strain can help you
make the right choice when shopping for flower. A higher percentage of THCA will most likely
mean you will get “higher” when you consume it.
CBD is the best known and most extensively researched cannabinoid beside THC. Unlike
THC, CBD is not psychoactive. However, it does possess sedative properties. CBD is well known
for its extensive medicinal value. While studies are not complete, scientists have determined
that isolated CBD is able to provide relief from nausea, vomiting, tumor growth, anxiety,
depression, neurogenerative disorders, epilepsy, convulsions, and immunity issues. CBD is also
reported to lower prostaglandin levels in the body which can help reduce the cramps, pain, and
inflammation associated with menstruation. Clinical trials have also shown that CBD can
counteract the anxiety, memory loss and other adverse side effects reported after consuming
or inhaling too much THC.
The CBC that results from the decarboxylation of CBCA is non-psychoactive. CBC binds
with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body associated with pain perception, making it an
effective pain reliver. Like CBG, CBC is highly potent at inhibiting new cancer cell growth.
Studies show that CBC has a positive effect on the cells that are responsible for function and
homeostasis in the brain. These specific brain cells are very important as they counteract the
oxidative stress, toxicity, and inflammation that create neurogenerative diseases like
Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that CBC reduces the inflammation and excessive lipid
production in the sebaceous glands associated with bad acne. CBC is also a powerful
antibacterial and anti-fungal, making it very useful as a topical. Other studies have shown that
when CBC is combined with THC and CBD it has a powerful anti-depressant value.
The cannabinoid acid CBNA should be understood as the degradation product of THCA. Prolonged exposure to air, due to improper storage, can cause the THCA in dried cannabis to become CBNA, which becomes CBN upon decarboxylation. CBN has been researched far less than the other cannabinoids, and its medicinal value is slowly being recognized. Limited studies of CBN have demonstrated that it is useful in sedation, appetite stimulation, treatment of glaucoma, pain relief, fighting MRSA bacteria, immune function treatment, treatment of insomnia and anxiety, and treatment of bone disorders. As a by-product of THC, CBN can have mildly psychoactive properties and has value as a potent anti-convulsant. CBN is considered partially responsible for the well-known sedative effects of cannabis. If the medicinal effects of CBN are what you are after, simply leave some of your flower out, unsealed, and exposed to the air. The THCA will naturally covert to CBNA, and then to CBN when you apply heat.
Most of the research and reported physiological effects discussed above are based on
studies performed on isolated cannabinoids, meaning only one cannabinoid at a time. Some
studies of THC and CBD combined show that together they are a more potent anti-tumor force
than either is alone, as well as a stronger pain reliever. As mentioned before, consuming CBD
with THC can help mitigate the feeling of being “too high” after smoking or eating too much
THC. Studies on all the cannabinoids combined, such as the way they occur naturally in
cannabis, are very limited as cannabis is still federally illegal. One can only assume that
combined together, cannabinoids are far more potent and medicinally valuable than they are