The marijuana plant, or Cannabis Sativa L., is already renowned for its euphoria-inducing highs and recreational exploits. But within the last decade or so loosening restrictions on the plant has sparked a renewed interest in the potential medicinal benefits as well, with many studies both already completed and underway.

But what exactly is it that gives this plant so many unique applications for both recreation and health?

That would all be thanks to chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. If you don’t know yet what those are, why they are important, or want to dig in deeper on the topic, this is the guide for you.

So what are cannabinoids exactly?

The cannabis plant is made up of several naturally occurring compounds. Compounds such as terpenes and chlorophyll are responsible for giving the plant its unique flavors, aromas, and color while cannabinoids are the compounds responsible for marijuana’s effects on the human brain.

Scientists believe there are about 113 naturally occurring cannabinoids found in marijuana. Some have been widely studied, such as THC and CBD, while others have only recently started to gain the attention of the scientific community.  These cannabinoids interact with receptors in the brain and body to produce various effects.

How cannabinoids interact with the brain

The human body is equipped with an endocannabinoid system, which is a system of the body which consists of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. The cannabinoids that occur naturally in the body are referred to as endocannabinoids, and though they share similar properties with the cannabinoids found in marijuana, they are quite different. Both cannabinoids and endocannabinoids, however, interact with the same cannabinoid receptors in the body. Endocannabinoids have many functions within the body. Dopamine, a chemical compound known for producing happy feelings, is one of the most widely known endocannabinoids.

The cannabinoids in marijuana interact with the body and brain in the same way as endocannabinoids, binding to the cannabinoid receptors in your body to produce various effects. There are two major types of receptors, CB1 and CB2, with CB1 receptors being found mainly in the brain and CB2 receptors being found throughout the rest of the body.

The endocannabinoid system controls a wide range of functions in the body including pain, sleep, mood, memory, and regulating appetite, which is why these are areas often affected by marijuana.

Popular types of cannabinoids and their effects

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): THC is by far the most well-known cannabinoid found in cannabis. THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain producing a psychoactive effect that gives you the “high” feeling that has made marijuana so popular for recreational use. Some strains of cannabis contain as much as 30% THC.

Along with the high feeling, THC can produce feelings of euphoria, time distortion, relaxation, sensory perception, and increased appetite (known as the “munchies”).

Some also experience side effects as a result of THC including dehydration (or “dry mouth”), dizziness, anxiety, paranoia, blood-shot eyes, and increased heart rate. Strains with high THC contents are more likely to cause side-effects.  

Cannabidiol (CBD): The next most recognizable cannabinoid, found in both marijuana and hemp plants, is CBD. CBD has been making a big splash in the medical community in recent years, showing promise in its ability to treat a variety of physical and mental disorders.

Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive properties. CBD is actually even known to balance out some of the negative effects of THC, making it more and more popular for recreational users to seek out strains of cannabis with higher levels of CBD if they are prone to feeling anxious or paranoid from THC.

CBD has also shown great promise in treating conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, epilepsy, insomnia, chronic pain, and the side effects of chemotherapy.  

Cannabigerol (CBG): Though lesser known than the above, CBG actually serves as the building block from which all other cannabinoids are produced through an enzymatic process.

Most common strains of cannabis are fairly low in CBG, but as research on this particular cannabinoid increases, we may start seeing more strains bred to produce higher levels.

So far, CBG has shown potential for reducing inflammation, pain relief, and functioning as both an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

Cannabinol (CBN): CBN is a cannabinoid that is not created by biological processes in the plant. Instead, CBN is the result of THC that has been improperly stored. When THC is exposed to too much light or heat, the THC molecules morph into CBN.

CBN has exhibited antibacterial and anticonvulsant effects, as well as working as a sedative, pain reliever, and appetite stimulant.

Cannabichromene (CBC): Though CBC isn’t talked about much yet, it is actually one of the most prevalent cannabinoids found in most strains of marijuana after THC.

CBC doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors as well as THC, so it is not known for producing the same high feeling. However, CBC does have the ability to attach to CB2 receptors, with research showing promise for its use as an effective painkiller and anti-depressant. CBC also has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties and is currently being tested as a treatment for acne.

Closing Thoughts

Where only beginning to understand the spectrum of cannabinoids that exist and how they interact with our body’s own natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) to elicit certain physiological downstream effects.

As more research emerges, one thing is certain, the future of cannabinoids as potential therapeutic and medicinal aids looks brighter than ever before. You can enjoy the effects of cannabinoids through our products here at Rebel that all contain CBD.