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Cannabinoids, the molecules of happiness

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are substances produced by our body or by plants that affect neurotransmitters, mood and pain perception. Although this is one of the body’s most primitive cellular communication mechanisms, it was only discovered a little more than half a century ago, and its benefits are still unknown to most people.

In this post you will find everything you need to know about cannabinoids: what they are, what types there are, how they act and how we can increase their effects on the body, based on the latest scientific evidence. Discover all that cannabinoids can do for you!

See all types of cannabinoids

Definition of cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are chemicals produced by some animals and plants. Its name derives from cannabis, because these components were first isolated from the marijuana plant, cannabis CBD and hemp(Cannabis sativa L.).

The mechanism by which these substances have an effect on the body is acti v on the endocannabinoid system through binding to the CB1 and/or CB2 cannabinoid receptors. These receptors play an important role in the control of neurotransmitters. In addition, cannabinoids also activate TRPV, GPR55, GPR119, GPR18 receptors and affect various physiological systems, including the immune, nervous and reproductive systems (1, 2).

How the endocannabinoid system works
How the endocannabinoid system works (infographic)

Cannabinoids in cannabis bind to the same receptors as endocannabinoids, and have effects on the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, GABA and serotonin.

Types of cannabinoids

Cannabinoids can be classified according to their origin into three types:

  • Endocannabinoids The prefix “endo-” comes from Greek and means “inside”. These are the cannabinoids produced by our own body . The two most studied endocannabinoids are anandamide or arachidonoylethanolamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol (2-AG).
  • Phytocannabinoids: these are cannabinoids that come from the plant world, basically from cannabis. They can be obtained from CBD buds or in extract form (CBD oil). The most abundant cannabinoids are cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidiol (CBD) and, in different concentrations depending on the plant variety, ∆9 -THC and cannabinol (CBN).
  • Artificial or synthetic cannabinoids are those produced by man for scientific purposes. Laboratories are very interested in the study of the endocannabinoid system because of its promising role in the development of new drugs. However, there are also cannabinoids of this type on the market, such as “spice”, “zen”, “skunk” or “k2”. Their commercialization is poorly regulated and they tend to generate more adverse effects than natural cannabinoids(3, 4).

What effects do cannabinoids have on the body?

Phytocannabinoids or plant cannabinoids are able to mimic the body’s own endocannabinoids and exert effects on the body. They do so precisely through the activation of the endocannabinoid system.

It seems that these compounds have a remarkable importance at the cerebral level, where they act as neuromodulators and have a tonic effect(5).

Although their functioning is complex, we could summarize that cannabinoids act by regulating the release of neurotransmitters such as GABA, dopamine and serotonin(6, 7, 8).

Cannabinoids affect the neurotransmitters GABA, dopamine and serotonin, providing well-being.

GABA regulates brain excitability, resulting in a feeling of calmness. Dopamine is the “pleasure neurotransmitter“, which drives us to achieve something we consider positive. Serotonin is known as the ” happiness hormone” because it influences emotions.

In addition, cannabis has other active ingredients that enhance the effect of the cannabinoids themselves. This is the case of terpenes, which have a synergistic effect and intensify the effects of phytocannabinoids(9).

    Horizon of cannabinoid therapies

    In reality, cannabinoids are much more complex and have more effects than their influence on the release of neurotransmitters. In this regard, there is now an extensive scientific literature on the effects of cannabinoids in marijuana and cannabis, especially CBD, and their potential therapeutic applications for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and pain.

    For example, it has been observed that endocannabinoid levels are higher in the areas of the brain related to pain (central gray matter or periaqueductal)(10), and it is investigated as a possible therapy in patients with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease(11, 12, 13, 14).

    CBD flower buds
    CBD flower buds, the origin where CBD is extracted from

    What you need to know about cannabinoids

    If you want to keep learning about CBD and cannabinoids, stay tuned to our blog! Do you have any questions? Write or call us, we want to help you!

    If you have never heard of cannabinoids before, here is a summary of the most important ideas about cannabinoids:

    What are cannabinoids?

    Cannabinoids are chemicals produced by animals and plants. Those produced by our body are called endocannabinoids, and those synthesized by plants are phytocannabinoids.

    What are phytocannabinoids?

    More than 70 cannabinoids are known in cannabis. The best known phytocannabinoids are CBD and THC. Phytocannabinoids are active principles of cannabis.

    Which plant is the richest in phytocannabinoids?

    Cannabis is the plant richest in cannabinoids, specifically marijuana and CBD cannabis strains. Industrial hemp has a lower concentration of cannabinoids. There are other plants that produce cannabinoids, although their structure is different from those of cannabis.

    What are the functions of cannabinoids?

    Cannabinoids (whether their own or from cannabis) influence the release of the neurotransmitters GABA, dopamine and serotonin. When this occurs, effects are produced in the organism.

    What is the use of cannabinoids?

    Phytocannabinoid therapies are currently being developed and it is likely that in the future there will be more and more drugs with these active ingredients.

      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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