Cannabinoids are the natural-occurring chemical compounds that are found in cannabis flowers on the Cannabis sativa plant.
The plant secretes over 480 various compounds, but only between 80-100 of them are considered cannabinoids.
Of these identified cannabinoids, many have proven their medicinal qualities.
Not only are they widely used to treat and ease a variety of symptoms, but a selection of cannabinoids has been legally approved for medical use and prescriptions as well.
How Cannabinoids Work
Cannabinoids work by imitating endocannabinoids, which are naturally found in the human body.
Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like compounds that work to maintain the body’s natural homeostasis.
Although they were only discovered by scientists in the 90’s, further taxonomic investigation tells us that the endocannabinoid system evolved long before (approximately 500 million years ago).
They’re present among all vertebrates, from mammals to birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles – all forms of vertebrates produce endocannabinoids in their system.
Endocannabinoid receptors are present in the brain, nerves, and the entire body, including our immune cells, bones, fat tissues, skin, skeletal muscles, blood vessels, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys.
They’re very much involved in the complex homeostatic process which keeps us thriving as we deal with the environmental stressors around us.
They ease pain, helps with memory and mood regulation, stress, sleep, and immune functions, to name a few. They are highly-versatile molecules that participate in various complex processes in the body.
To achieve this, endocannabinoid receptors form a complex system in the body, facilitating intercellular communication.
When cannabinoids imitate endocannabinoids in our bodies, they work to mediate and enhance this intercellular communication network.
It helps to understand that when we experience a variety of symptoms in our bodies such as inflammation, pain, and anxiety, among others, it implies an imperfect response by our endocannabinoid system.
This is when complications in our bodies can be felt.
What cannabinoids do to help mediate this is to bind to receptor sites in our bodies. Of the various cannabinoids so far identified, they specifically bind to certain receptors only.
The most common form of cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), binds to receptors in the brain (CB-1), whereas, CBN (cannabinol), binds to receptors found across the body (CB-2).
Types of Cannabinoid Acids
There are at least 8 major cannabinoid acids secreted by the Cannabis sativa plant.
These cannabinoid acids need some form of activation, often through heat, to produce the various chemical compounds inherent in each of them, so they can be used for treatment.
These are the 8 major cannabinoid acids:
- CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
- THCA (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
- CBDA (Cannbidolic acid)
- CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)
- CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid)
- CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
- CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)
- THCVA (Tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid)
There are two well-known cannabinoids associated with the cannabis plant and these are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol or cannabidolic acid).
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the most well-known chemical compound, being the one responsible for most of the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
There is a strong interplay between THC and CBD.
The former has strong psychoactive effects, while the latter contains anti-psychoactive effects that regulate the “high” effect, which can result from the use of THC.
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is known best as causing a person to get “high.”
CBD or cannabidiol is used to help ease the negative effects that often result from the use of THC, like anxiety or paranoia.
What Cannabinoids Can Treat
The different chemical compounds found in Cannabis sativa plant have different effects on the body.
The two main cannabinoids THC and CBD are widely-known as they’re also the ones mainly used to treat symptoms and cure for a variety of diseases.
Some of the medical conditions that can be helped by cannabinoids include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Chron’s Disease
- Loss of appetite
- Eating disorders
- Mental health conditions like Schizophrenia
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscle Spasms
Well-known medicinal effects of cannabinoids are their ability to reduce pain, vomiting and nausea resulting from chemotherapy, and tightening of muscles from Multiple Sclerosis.
Ongoing research is still being conducted, however, because there isn’t enough evidence just yet to support all claims of the medicinal and therapeutic capabilities of cannabinoids for all these conditions.