Cannabinoids are the most important chemical compounds in the cannabis plant and have been broadly studied. In cannabis there are also other compounds such as terpenes, vitamins, and chlorophyll. All these chemical compounds create the different characteristics of the plant. While, terpenes provide flavors and aromas, cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties.
The cannabis plant contains at least 80 different cannabinoids, many of which have medical value. Nowadays, cannabis products and cannabis strains have been created to contain larger doses of different cannabinoids. Among these cannabinoids, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most well-studied and the most famous for the recreational and medical properties respectively. Besides these two famous cannabinoids, there are few other important cannabinoids that play a significant role in the medical and recreational properties of cannabis. CBN (cannabinol), GBG (cannabigerol) , CBC (cannabichromene) and THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) are some of the most important cannabinoids. Some of these cannabinoids are psychoactive and some that are not. THC is the most prevalent psychoactive cannabinoid, while CBD is completely not psychoactive.
These cannabinoids, also well-known as phytocannabinoids – cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant- are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoid system are crucial terms that need to be understood as well as that they constitute a fundamental concept in understanding cannabis and its medical properties.
The endocannabinoid system is a system in the human body comprised of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoid molecules, and their metabolic enzymes, and constitutes a crucial molecular system that the body uses to help maintain homeostasis. Endocannabinoid system regulates sleep, appetite, digestion, hunger, mood, motor control, immune function, pleasure, pain, memory and temperature regulation.
Cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells and exist in all throughout the body, giving them a wide variety of functions. There are two main receptors in the body, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2). CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are primarily found outside of the nervous system, in places like the peripheral organs especially cells associated with the immune system and the peripheral nervous system. However, both receptors can be found throughout the body.
The keys for these cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) are called endocannabinoids and they are produced naturally by cells in the human body. While these cannabinoids are distinct from those produced naturally in cannabis plant, they share many similar properties and effects. This is because they both interact in the same way. Endocannabinoids are molecules that, like the plant cannabinoid THC, bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors. There are two major endocannabinoids which are well-studied: “Anadnamide” and “2-Arachidonylgycerol”.
The reason that plant cannabinoids have psychoactive and medicinal properties within the body is because we have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that they can interact with. Cannabinoids act in the human body through the body’s endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids bind to receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Therefore, different cannabinoids have different effects depending on which receptors they bind to.