At Stardust Hemp, we love cannabinoids. They’re one of the one of the most important types of compounds made by the cannabis plant. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant distinguished by its low amount of THC and its abundance of CBD.
It’s Not All About the THC
Since cannabis has been bred to have super high levels of THC, its lost a lot of the other contributing compounds. When a plant’s resources are directed to pound out THC, other cannabinoids are sacrificed, and so is the entourage effect — how cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids work together in your body and brain to be more therapeutically effective.
A recent study conducted by the University of Colorado and published in JAMA Psychiatry found that THC content was a poor indicator of potency. This is why synthetic THC has proven to be less effective than smoking cannabis … the phytonutrient team is missing.
So in this post, we thought we’d run down the lineup of some of the most well known cannabinoids and their effects. Let’s start with a quick peek at:
- what cannabinoids are
- where cannabinoids come from
- how cannabinoids work
- how to say cannabinoid (check it out here)
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact in some way with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), mainly through cannabinoids receptors. CB1 and CB2 are currently the two known cannabinoid receptors.
We have naturally occurring cannabinoids in our bodies called endocannabinoids. The ones that are known so far are anandamide and 2-AG. These neurotransmitters activate the ECS to produce various effects.
What Is the ECS?
The ECS is a master regulatory system in humans (animals too). It works to keep our chaotic inner world as balanced as possible. It regulates the central nervous system, the immune system, memory, sleep, metabolism, appetite, skin health, weight, and more. (Read this quick and dirty guide for more ECS intel, or this article for a deeper dive into your insides.)
Phytocannabinoids and the ECS
We all have natural occurring endocannabinoids inside. Anandamide and 2-AG are the two that have been identified so far, and they activate the receptors in the ECS to help maintain homeostasis — your overall inner well-being. Of course, like many hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals in our bodies, endocannabinoids can be deficient or out-of-whack.
Enter phytocannabinoids. These plant-derived cannabinoids (found most abundantly in cannabis) act similarly to the natural endocannabinoids within your ECS. This explains why marijuana is so medicinal. In fact, were it not for scientists’ fascination with the effects of THC on the brain, we would not have discovered our own endocannabinoids. Noticing that there was a receptor in the brain (CB1) that was sensitive to THC, they then guessed that there must be a similar natural occurring chemical in the body. And in 1992, anandamide was discovered.
Which Cannabinoids Get You High?
THC is the phytocannabinoid that is most abundant in cannabis (although not hemp flower) and most psychoactive — that we know of so far. There are lesser cannabinoids that occur in much smaller amounts that have shown to be intoxicating in high amounts. Research has shown that THCV in high doses can be intoxicating. CBDL is also thought to be psychotropic. But both of these cannabinoids are found in such low quantities in cannabis that they are not even on the radar.
A List of Cannabinoids Found in Hemp Flower
Even though THC is a rock star in medical marijuana, in hemp it’s like that show Undercover Boss where the big guy has to go in and be a worker bee. In hemp flower, THC is there to contribute to the entourage effect and nothing more. By law, hemp can only contain .3% or less THC, an amount that can not get you high.
So why have it at all? As you will see, CBD, the dominant cannabinoid in hemp flower, is a much busier cannabinoid than THC. It has a wide range of effects and it interacts with the ECS in many ways, not just with cannabinoid receptors. When trace amounts of other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids assist with CBD … the results are compounded.
So, if you’re looking for benefits beyond getting high, keep the THC — just not as the CEO of your flower.
CBD is known as a promiscuous molecule. Not only does it attach to CB receptors, it gets friendly all manner of receptors and enzymes to have its effects. This highlights why CBD has such a wide range of therapeutic effects.
Our brains have highly specialized cells called neurons. In order to communicate, these neurons release neurotransmitters—chemical messengers like dopamine and serotonin. These interact with the receptors on the neurons. Similarly, the ECS has cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. These are designed to receive the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG. Guess what? CBD doesn’t just hang with the cannabinoid receptors.
CBD acts differently than THC when it comes to cannabinoid receptors. It blocks rather than stimulates. This is why strains that have a high CBD to THC ratio will not get a person “very” high. The CBD works to downshift THC’s effects by blocking it’s landing site.
In other receptors, though, CBD takes direct action. Some of these include:
Opioid Receptors—CBD binds directly with opioid receptors. This explains its pain-relieving effects, but also the role CBD may have in the treatment of drug addiction. Opioid receptors are the targets for drugs like morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. CBD’s influence on opioid receptors could help deter opioid drug abuse.
Dopamine Receptors—CBD’s direct interaction with these receptors is believed to influence addiction and depression. Dopamine receptors are involved in regulating behavior and thoughts. Through these receptors, CBD can affect motivation and reward-seeking behavior associated with drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Serotonin Receptors—Direct interaction with serotonin receptors in the brain, gives CBD the potential to treat anxiety, depression, the drug-seeking behavior involved in addiction, and more.
Additionally, CBD works to increase anandamide levels. Anandamide (AEA), an endocannabinoid made naturally in our brain, is responsible for regulating movement control, appetite, pain, and our overall sense of well-being.
CBD helps keep anandamide around longer by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down anandamide—fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH).
In this wide variety of interacting with your body, CBD along with other phytonutrients has some pretty amazing effects, such as neuroprotective, anticonvulsant, anti-tumor, anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, bone-healing stimulant, antipsychotic, antispasmodic … the list goes on and is still being discovered.
Since about 2018, CBG has been considered the new CBD. Like CBD, CBG is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that comes from the cannabis plant. And, similarly, it also seems to act through several different mechanisms to work its magic.
But mature cannabis plants do not end up with much CBG in them. This isn’t without purpose. CBG, known as the mother of all cannabinoids or the stem cell cannabinoid, is the first cannabinoid. Technically, it is a version of CBG called CBGA (cannabigerolic acid). It is the cannabinoid from which all other cannabinoids are made.
Also like CBD, CBG exists in hemp in much higher levels than it does in THC-dominant cannabis. Research shows that the higher levels of CBG in hemp may be caused by a recessive gene. The theory is that the plant prevents the formation of one of the cannabinoid chemical reactions. To learn all about the fascinating life-cycle of CBG, check out this article.
Like CBD, CBG also affects the body by causing an increase in anandamide levels.
In the brain, CBG inhibits the uptake of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for reducing excitability (anxiety and fear responses). In one particular study, it was discovered that the effects of CBG on GABA were far greater than those of CBD and THC.
Therapeutic benefits of CBG include: bone-stimulating properties, slowing of tumor growth, neuroprotective effects, treatment for depression and anxiety, possible treatment for glaucoma, anti-inflammatory, treatment for overactive bladder, and powerfully active against MRSA.
Similar to other cannabinoids, THCV interacts with the ECS — but in a way that depends on the amount consumed. At low doses, it appears to block the CB1 receptor and doesn’t produce intoxicating effects — kind of like CBD.
But when dosage is dramatically increased, THCV engages with CB1 receptors similarly to THC. At this level it causes a very stimulating and clear-headed euphoric state. It’s thought to be similar to the “high” you get with THC, but happens more quickly and doesn’t stick around as long.
THCV’s effects are experienced when taken in low dose and include: weight loss, reducing body fat, increasing energy, having anticonvulsant properties, and decreasing edema and hyperalgesia (pain sensitivity).
CBN, unlike all other cannabinoids, does not come from CBGA. Because it is a metabolite of THC. CBN is what THC degrades into when exposed to air, time and heat.
While it does not have the psychoactive effects of THC and is a sign of expiring weed, CBN is known as a natural sedative. Especially when combined with other cannabinoids like CBD. Also, it can decrease the inflammation around puffy morning eyes, reduce neural and muscle spasms, fight depression, and improve mood. Additionally, it can help with appetite stimulation, stimulation of bone growth and development, prevention of glaucoma, analgesic effects, and anti-inflammatory effects.
This is the team player cannabinoid. CBC all about the entourage effect — how cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds work together to enhance effects.
The CBC cannabinoid binds poorly with CB1 receptors, and is, therefore, non-intoxicating. Instead, it binds to other receptors in the body, enhancing the body’s natural endocannabinoids. This is how lesser known cannabinoids like CBC contribute: by doing the behind-the-scenes heavy-lifting.
CBC is known to reduce pain and inflammation. Studies show that when paired with CBD and THC, those effects are enhanced.
Along with CBG and other cannabinoids, CBC is found to have powerful anti-tumor properties in studies.
CBC also regulates the uptake of anandamide, allowing it to stay in the body longer.
Taken on its own, CBC has antidepressant effects because of its positive effects on brain cells. When combined with CBD and THC, which exert their anti-depressant effects differently, you get the power of the entourage effect working to counteract depression.
A 2016 study showed that, along with other cannabinoids, CBC has anti-acne properties. Furthermore, CBC has some potent antifungal and antibacterial effects against organisms like Staph and E. coli.
How Many Cannabinoids in Hemp?
Like high-THC cannabis, over 100 cannabinoids have been discovered in hemp. But nobody knows just how many there are. As far as the cannabinoids that have been discovered, we’ve only scratched the surface in understanding their effects. But cannabinoid science is a rapidly growing field now that cannabis is not so strictly prohibited. It is likely that we will be learning about the benefits of cannabinoids on humans and animals for decades to come.