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What is a cannabinoid? 5 Facts about cannabinoids in 2021

  • 4 min read

Read Time: 3-5 minutes
Blog Style: Long form / scannable
You Will: Know the different types of cannabinoids, their origins, what they do and why they're important.

What is a 'cannabinoid'?


Cannabinoids are compounds naturally produced with the cannabis plant and mammals. Typically you will hear about three varieties of cannabinoids.

  1. Phytocannabinoids - 'Phyto' is a prefix used to define something as being from a plant. These cannabinoids are found with the cannabis plant. The most researched phytocannabinoids we know of are THC and CBD
  2. Endocannabinoids - 'Endo' is an abbreviation for endogenous. If something is endogenous then it originates within a system such as an organism, tissue or cell. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced within the human body & other mammals. The most researched endogenous cannabinoids that we know of are 2-AG and anandamide. 
  3. Synthetic cannabinoids - Laboratory formulated, human made cannabinoids made to replicate and mimic the actions of naturally occurring cannabinoids. Spice is an example of a synthetically produced cannabinoid.

There are thought to be over 130 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. It is these cannabinoids that are supplemented for both medicinal and recreational purposes. When we consume phytocannabinoids they partially bind to the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies known as, CB receptors. There is no recorded death from cannabis in history. Perhaps this is because cannabinoids only partially bind to these receptors, or that we produce cannabinoids endogenously. You can learn more about CB receptors in our blog about the Endocannabinoid system. When external cannabinoids bind to our CB receptors they mimic our own human made, endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids help our bodies regulate homeostasis and have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing and health. Supplementing phytocannabinoids is no different than supplementing a plant sourced mineral or vitamin to aid our bodies stay optimized and healthy.

We refer to the two most prominent phytocannabinoids, THC and CBD, as major cannabinoids. We recognize the other phytocannabinoids as minor cannabinoids.

Major Cannabinoids

THC is an abbreviation for TetrahydrocannabinolTHC is perhaps the most infamous cannabinoid of all. Most abundant in high purity marijuana, it is responsible for 'high' sensation experienced by cannabis consumers. It's concentration in cannabis strains can vary from 10-25%. Some commonly known positives of THC are;

  • Pain Relief
  • Reduces Fever
  • Increases Airflow to Lungs
  • Preserves neuronal structure and function
  • Helps stop vomiting and nausea
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti Inflammatory
  • Muscles relaxant
  • Promotes sleep onset

CBD is an abbreviation for CannabidiolCBD is probably as well known as THC these days, thanks to a boost in popularity and consumerism since 2016. A cannabinoid also found in high THC marijuana, however it doesn't have any intoxicating properties and will not cause a 'high'. It is found in abundance in low-thc strains of cannabis such as hemp. Hemp, or industrial hemp can be very rich in CBD and its concentration in these plants can range from 5%-25%. Some commonly known positives of CBD are;

  • Pain Relief
  • Anti Inflammatory
  • Preserves neuronal structure and function
  • Anti Anxiety
  • Promotes healthier sleep
  • Cytotoxin in breast cancer
  • Stimulates healing of bone damage 

Minor Cannabinoids

CBG is an abbreviation for Cannabigerol. It's precursor CBGA (Cannabigerolic Acid) is known the mother cannabinoid due being the precursor for the major cannabinoids. Some benefits of CBG we know so far are;

  • Anti cancer
  • Anti inflammatory
  • Anti bacterial
  • Appetite stimulant

CBC is an abbreviation for Cannabichromene. Another familiar minor cannabinoid with known health benefits. CBC binds to receptors in our bodies that break down our natural human produces cannabinoids 2-AG and anandamide. By helping against the breakdown of cannabinoids, CBC aids our reception of cannabinoid effects. In layman's terms, CBC fights against the bodies destruction of cannabinoids, which in turn helps amplify cannabinoid effects.

CBN is an abbreviation of Cannabinol. Remember the term 'tetrahydrocannabinol' from THC? Well CBN is a cannabinoid that used to be THC, however due to degradation of either age or temperature it's molecular structure has changed. This is a controlled substance under MDA 1971 and intoxicating like THC.

(Over 100+ other lesser known cannabinoids)

There are dozens and dozens of minor cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. Due to inbreeding of plant varieties over prior decades the concentration of these 'non-major-cannabinoids' is becoming less and less. The reason for this is cannabis plants are generally being cultivated for a specific end use, resulting in; High-THC / Low-CBD or High-CBD / Low-THC or a 1:1 ratio of THC/CBD.

To clarify this, there is only so much space inside a cannabis plant. In this flower you will also have phytochemicals known as terpenes and flavonoids. The cannabinoid content can only take up so much space within the vessel that is the fiber of the plant. Where a strain may be 25% THC, it will not leave much room for a CBD content to be present. Likewise with a high CBD strain, you would expect to find low levels of THC because the space within the flower is populated with higher molecules of cannabidiol. If you have a 1:1 concentration of both THC and CBD, the total capacity available for cannabinoids in that flower is split between two cannabinoids more evenly, for example; 10% THC & 10% CBD.

So as you see, strains are mainly cultivated for the major cannabinoids THC and CBD. By cultivating the plants to increase levels of these two specific cannabinoids it reduces the concentration of the minor cannabinoids, which is why we usually see then in such small or only traceable amounts.

The distinction between major and minor cannabinoids is not down to one set being better than the other. It is simply because the two major cannabinoids are more abundant within the cannabis plant. Minor cannabinoids are less abundant. However, in concentration they can still show to have very effective results and perhaps the term minor doesn't do them any justice.

5 Cannabinoid Facts in 2021

  1. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in mammals and plants
  2. Humans have receptors known as Cannabinoid Receptors in our bodies which phytocannabinoids bind to upon consumption
  3. The composition of cannabinoids can change due to age and/or temperature
  4. There are thought to be over 130 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant
  5. It is not possible to consume a lethal dose of cannabis. Mainly due to our body producing its own endocannabinoids. 

I hope you found this blog informative. The blog is correct to the best of my knowledge and research. However these are early days in cannabis research and development. If you would like any further assistance or have any questions, as always please feel free to drop us an email or hit us up on our live chat. If you think any of the info in the blog is incorrect, or have any interesting facts to add I haven't mentioned I would love to hear your input.

Author Shaun Lehane

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