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Types of cannabinoids in cannabis and their effects

The cannabis plant is a treasure of nature that contains hundreds of interesting chemical compounds, among which are the phytocannabinoids, also simply called cannabinoids or cannabis cannabinoids.

Although CBD and THC always get all the attention, there are over 100 types of cannabinoids, which interact with each other and work together to create the effect of marijuana and hemp. Stay and discover the world of phytocannabinoids: the most unique compounds in cannabis, with great possibilities.

What are cannabinoids in cannabis?


Cannabinoids in cannabis are a group of chemical compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant, including hemp and marijuana. They can also be referred to as phytocannabinoids (the prefix “phyto-” is derived from Greek and means “plant” or “vegetable”).

These differ from cannabinoids that come from other sources, mainly endocannabinoids. endocannabinoids (the prefix endo- means “inside”), which are those produced by the organism itself, and synthetic cannabinoids. synthetic cannabinoids which are those produced in laboratories and which may or may not resemble natural substances.

Chemical characteristics

Chemically, the cannabinoids in cannabis are terpenophenols, molecules composed of 21 carbon atoms, distributed in three aromatic rings and a hydrocarbonated chain. They are insoluble in water and soluble in lipids, alcohols and organic solvents.

Unlike most drugs, including the narcotics cocaine, nicotine and caffeine, cannabinoids are not alkaloids (do not contain nitrogen).

Where they are produced

Cannabinoids are produced in the trichomes of trichomes of cannabis which are tiny resinous glands that cover the whole plant, but especially the flowers (popularly called buds). The cannabinoid content varies qualitatively and quantitatively depending on the cannabis variety and its growing conditions.

By choosing seeds with specific genetics and controlling the growing environment, it is possible to obtain marijuana buds with specific characteristics in terms of flower size, cannabinoid composition and aromatic terpenes.

Functions in the plant

Cannabinoids in the cannabis plant serve biological survival functions, such as protection against predators and regulation of plant growth and development as a function of environmental stress (light conditions, soil nutrients, irrigation).

Importance of cannabinoids

What makes these compounds unique is that they activate systems in the body related to mood, immunity and fertility (source). In other words, phytocannabinoids are key to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. endocannabinoid system .

These active ingredients are the reason why marijuana has been used over the centuries both recreationally and therapeutically. When ingested, inhaled or applied to the skin, cannabinoids have different effects on the body.

How many cannabinoids does cannabis produce?

Some known phytocannabinoids include and CBD, although more than 100 different cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis, and most of them are not psychoactive (only a few such as THC, THCV and CBN).

The different types of cannabinoids in cannabis have synergistic properties, which means that their effects are enhanced when taken together, known as the entourage effect .

Cannabinoid types in cannabis

In general, the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and, in different concentration, depending on the plant variety, THC (Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, abundant in marijuana) and cannabinol (CBN).

The other types of cannabinoids are usually derived from the top 10, which include: those previously mentioned(CBG, CBC, CBD, ∆9 -THC, CBN), CBCA (cannabichromenic acid), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), CBDV (cannabidivarin), CBGA (cannabigerolic acid), CBGV (cannabigerivarin), THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin).

Cannabinoids in cannabis, types of phytocannabinoids
Infographic with some of the types of cannabinoids discovered in cannabis and their potential benefits.

Acid and neutral form of the cannabinoids

A peculiarity of cannabinoids that you should know is that they are found in the cannabis plant in their acid form, represented with an “A” at the end of its name. The acid form is the precursor of the active forms through the process of decarboxylation. decarboxylation . Therefore, THC and THCA, although they are two different types of cannabinoids, their differences are minimal. The same goes for CBD and CBDA and CBG and CBGA and so on.

In addition, cannabis has other compounds that enhance the effect of phytocannabinoids. This is the case of terpenes naturally present in hemp, which have a synergistic effect and increase the effects of phytocannabinoids(source).

THC: The psychoactive compound responsible for the effects of marijuana.

The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychotropic compound in cannabis responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. It acts on CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which may result in changes in perception, mood and cognition.

CBD: The non-psychoactive cannabinoid with therapeutic potential and health benefits

Cannabidiol (CBD) is another type of cannabinoid present in marijuana (the most abundant after THC), which is also found in high amounts in hemp (non-THC cannabis). It produces no psychoactive effects and has been widely investigated for its therapeutic potential in a variety of health conditions, including anxiety, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and palliative care in cancer, among others. If you want to learn more about the subject, don’t miss the post on the medicinal properties of CBD .

CBD interacts with cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well as with other neurotransmitter systems in the body such as vanilloid receptors type 1 (TRPV1), serotonin receptors (5-HT1A), adenosine receptors and nuclear PPAR-γ receptors. Through these interactions, CBD has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic and anticonvulsant properties, which is why its research is mainly focused on the development of medical treatments.

Why does THC get high and CBD does not?

THC and CBD are very similar, they even have the same amount of atoms. But their different molecular structure determines that their pharmacological properties are different. THC gets high because it binds to cannabinoid CB1 receptors, which are widely distributed in the brain and are responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

On the other hand, CBD does not place because it has little affinity with this receptor, so it does not produce the effects of its activation. CBD is even a negative allosteric modulator of the CB1 receptor, which means that its binding not only does not activate the receptor, but is also capable of decreasing its activity. Thus, CBD reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. If you want to know more, we talked in depth in the post about the differences between CBD and THC. differences between CBD and THC .

    Minor cannabinoids: Lesser-known cannabinoids and their characteristics

    Cannabigerol or CBG

    The cannabigerol (CBG) is considered the mother of cannabinoids, since its acid form (CBGA) is the precursor of the other compounds. All cannabinoids are derived from two cannabinoids: cannabigerolic acid (abbreviated as “CBGA”) and cannabigerovaric acid (CBGVA). Some authors refer to CBGA and CBGVA as “the grandparents of cannabinoids” or “the mother cannabinoid”, because all other subtypes are derived from them(source). The process from which the other cannabinoids are formed is called cannabinoid biosynthesis .

    Cannabinoid biosynthesis in the cannabis plant. Adapted from source.
    Cannabinoid biosynthesis in the cannabis plant. Adapted from source.

    Although found in lower amounts compared to THC and CBD, CBG has aroused great interest due to its potential anti-inflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective properties.

    Cannabichromene or CBC

    The cannabichromene (CBC) is a minor non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant in small amounts. Like CBD and THC, CBC is derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGa). Early research on this cannabinoid has shown that it has potential therapeutic benefits, such as antimicrobial, analgesic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory effects in the intestinal tract, stimulation of brain cell growth, antiproliferative effects on cancerous tumors and efficacy in relieving migraines.

    Cannabinol or CBN

    The cannabinol (CBN) is another type of cannabinoid that is very little known. Unlike the other cannabinoids, it is formed as THC ages, i.e., by degradation or oxidation of THC. For this reason, it is often found in greater quantities in those marijuana buds forgotten in a drawer for months. Although CBN does not place, or not much (it is not clear), it can enhance the euphoric effects of THC.

    Similar to other cannabinoids, research on CBN (which is quite limited at the moment) shows that it has antibacterial, neuroprotective, appetite-stimulating, anti-inflammatory effects and analgesic properties for pain relief.

    Tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV

    The tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is gaining popularity due to its potential appetite suppressant effects (only demonstrated in animal studies), although its research is in early and limited stages. Although it has three letters in common with THC, unlike THC, THCV does not appear to have psychoactive effects.

    As with other minor cannabinoids, it also appears to have a therapeutic role in various diseases and disorders, such as Parkinson’s, psychosis, pain and epilepsy. However, research in humans is limited and it is not possible to draw any conclusions.

    Cannabidivarin or CBDV

    The cannabidivarin (CBDV) is another cannabinoid that is produced by the cannabis plant in small quantities, and about which rather little is known. Its potential in the treatment of epilepsy, autism and other disorders has been investigated. Although studies on CBDV are very limited, it has been found to be a well-tolerated compound with no psychoactive effects.

    Cannabigerivarin or CBGV

    Cannabigerovarine (CBGV) is another type of minor cannabinoid whose effects on the body are virtually unknown. Although little is known about CBGV, it is believed to interact with CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. It is also considered to act with the effect of other cannabinoids in the so-called entourage effect.

    Differences between the different types of cannabinoids

    The main difference between the different types of cannabinoids studied is their degree of psychoactivity, which also determines their legality. Each cannabinoid, such as the popular CBD, CBG and THC, has a unique chemical structure, which influences the intensity with which they induce their effects when consumed. For example, the two best known cannabinoids, CBD and THC, show opposite responses: CBD is associated with anxiolytic effects, while THC produces intoxicating and psychoactive effects. In addition, CBD could mitigate the adverse effects of THC.

    On the other hand, the non-phytocannabinoid composition of cannabis is also receiving a lot of interest, in particular the terpene and flavonoid content(source), because they can modify the effect of the cannabinoids themselves. It has been shown that these plant components can also have medicinal effects by providing properties and enhancing the effects of the cannabinoids themselves.

    Differences between hemp and marijuana

    The amount and type of cannabinoids is affected by genetic and environmental factors, such as humidity and insolation.

    Depending on its genotype and phenotype, a cannabis plant will have a different ratio of THC and CBD, which will mark the differences between hemp and marijuana. differences between hemp and marijuana. . Although botanically they are the same plant and share physical characteristics, cannabinoid production is determined by genetic material. In particular, enzymes produced by the plant, determined by genes, are responsible for the biosynthesis of different types of cannabinoids.

    In addition, genetics also influence the development of the physical structure of the plant, resulting in high fiber yields for industrial uses or in hemp seeds for food use or hemp oil extraction hemp oil in the case of industrial hemp.

    What other plants have cannabinoids, apart from hemp?

    Cannabis has long been considered the only plant containing phytocannabinoids, but there are some exceptions. A type of bibenzyl cannabinoid called perrottetinene has been isolated from the herbs Radula perrottetii and Radula marginata. Apparently, it is said that the effects of perrottetinene may be more potent than those of THC.

    In addition, there are other plants with components that affect the endocannabinoid system, the cannabimimetics. For example, cocoa (due to its content of anandamide, an endocannabinoid), black pepper, hops, helichrysum (Helichrysum umbraculigerum, with a cannabinoid very similar to cannabigerol or CBG), electric weed (Acmella oleracea), echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida — produces cannabimimetics that bind to CB2), kava(Piper methysticum), rue(Ruta graveolens), carrot and other apiaceae (for their falcarinol content), and even tea catechins(Camellia sinensis).

    Another cannabimimetic is terpene beta-caryophyllene present in cannabis itself.

    Are cannabinoids terpenes?

    Cannabinoids are molecules different from terpenes. Chemically, they are terpenophenols composed of 21 carbon atoms, formed by three aromatic rings and a hydrocarbonated chain.

    Are terpenes a type of cannabinoids?

    Terpenes are not cannabinoids, but they may also have other properties, such as enhancing the effect of cannabinoids.

    Are cannabinoids alkaloids?

    No, cannabinoids are not a type of alkaloid. While cocaine, nicotine and caffeine are classified as alkaloids because they contain nitrogen molecules, the cannabinoids found in cannabis differ from these substances in that they do not contain any of their properties.

      Andrea Rezes Esmeraldino
      Cannabis researcher and trainer : Expert in CBD products of Cannactiva. With extensive experience in the cannabis world, Andrea is an expert in Cannactiva's CBD products. He deals every day [...]

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