The endocannabinoid system, or the system in the body to which cannabis compounds can bind to produce specific effects, was discovered in 1992 and opened our eyes to how cannabis can provide so many potential benefits. Of course, modern researchers have only recently begun to realize the true potential of cannabis and cannabis-derived cannabinoids, which extend far beyond the increasingly popular psychoactive cannabinoid THC and the non-psychoactive, therapeutic CBD.
It is estimated that there are more than 100 cannabinoids in cannabis, but most of them are present only in trace amounts. Many of these cannabinoids have been isolated and found to have unique effects, meaning you can customize your therapeutic experience by understanding the difference between these cannabinoids and purchasing the right cannabinoid-specific products to meet your needs.
Not sure where to start? This cannabinoid guide contains everything you need to know about major and minor cannabinoids, their effects and where to buy them. Let’s start with the basics:
- Basic takeaways
- What are cannabinoids?
- CB1 receptors
- CB2 receptors
- Cannabinoids in the cannabis plant
- Types of cannabinoids and their potential benefits
- Delta-9-THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)
- Delta-8-THC (delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol)
- Beneficial Properties of Delta-8-THC
- Delta-10-THC (Delta-10-Tetrahydrocannabinol)
- CBD (cannabidiol)
- CBG (cannabigerol)
- CBN (Cannabinol)
- CBC (Cannabichromene)
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the most popular cannabinoids?
- Where are cannabinoids found?
- How are cannabinoids extracted?
- Can the body produce cannabinoids?
- How do cannabinoids work?”
- How are cannabinoids used?
- Are Cannabinoids Water Soluble?
- Can cannabinoids be absorbed through the skin?
- Where are cannabinoids found? All cannabinoids derived from hemp are legal under federal law, but state laws vary. Check out our cannabinoid product reviews to discover the best brands and products in the industry and find discount codes you can use at checkout.
- When was the cannabinoid system discovered?
- Which cannabinoids have intoxicating effects?
- How do cannabinoids relieve pain?
- Which cannabinoids to use for sleep problems?
- Which cannabinoids are legal?
- YouTube video: What are Cannabinoids? CBD, CBG, CBN, and More
- Cannabinoids are active compounds that mimic natural neurotransmitters to produce specific effects in the body.
- Some cannabinoids derived from cannabis, such as Delta-8 and Delta-10-THC, are psychoactive.
- Some products combine specific individual cannabinoids to offer targeted benefits.
What are cannabinoids?
The term “cannabinoids” generally refers to the naturally active compounds found in the cannabis plant that are generally thought to be responsible for any therapeutic or recreational effects. To be more specific, naturally occurring cannabinoids in plant material are called phytocannabinoids. However, some endocannabinoids or cannabinoids are naturally produced by the body.
Endocannabinoids are a type of neurotransmitter that perform important processes in the body by functioning as part of the body’s endocannabinoid system. Because phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids have almost identical structures, plant-derived cannabinoids can also interact with the body to produce specific effects.
In short, cannabinoids typically interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors to help maintain homeostasis. Here is the difference between them:
CB1 receptors are the only endocannabinoid receptors that can elicit psychoactivity when bound to a psychoactive cannabinoid. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and central nervous system. Activation of CB1 has been linked to functions such as appetite, metabolism, sleep, memory, cognition, immunity, mood, etc.
CB2 receptors are primarily found in cells of the immune system and have some of the same functions as CB1 receptors. However, CB2 may play a greater role in regulating various immune system functions such as appetite, pain and inflammation.
Cannabinoids in the cannabis plant
Researchers have identified more than 100 different cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are found in all cannabis strains, including high-THC strains and low-THC cannabis strains.
Cannabinoids can be broadly divided into major cannabinoids and minor cannabinoids. These categories are based on the concentrations at which certain cannabinoids naturally occur in cannabis material.
THC and CBD are considered major cannabinoids as they can be found in concentrations between 10 and 20% in many cannabis strains. Secondary cannabinoids include CBG, CBC, CBN and others. Secondary cannabinoids are more difficult to find, sometimes occurring in concentrations of 5% or less.
For some time these cannabinoids were neglected. However, modern research suggests that these minor cannabinoids may have their own therapeutic benefits and may play a critical role in the environmental impact of full-spectrum cannabinoid products. In this case, cannabinoids have synergistic effects that enhance each other’s benefits.
Types of cannabinoids and their potential benefits
Delta-9 is the most popular form of THC and the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in traditional cannabis products. It is also the best known and most researched cannabinoid and underpins much of what we know about the health benefits of cannabis. Many times you will hear Delta-9 referred to as “THC.”
Of course, Delta-9-THC is still heavily restricted by federal law, but it is legal in some states and available for adults.
Benefits of Delta-9-THC
Delta-9-THC is often touted as having significant pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits and is approved for medical use in some areas for the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lupus <6
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Ulcerative Colitis
Where to buy:
Delta-9 is a controlled substance that can only be purchased from state-licensed outlets in states where cannabis is legal.
Delta-8-THC is another form of THC found in lower concentrations. But cannabis producers have found a roundabout way to produce Delta-8 in more significant quantities using CBD derived from legal cannabis plant material.
In other words, Delta-8-THC is a federally legal version of THC that is only mildly psychoactive. It potentially has about 2/3 lower psychoactive effects and therapeutic effects similar to those of traditional THC.
Delta-8 is often described as having relaxing effects more relevant to Indica cannabis strains. Its chemical structure is almost identical to traditional THC, but the two compounds differ in their double bond arrangements. This small difference produces very different effects. Of course, products containing Delta-8-THC can be made to replicate some of the most popular cannabis strains, including Sativa and Indica strains.
Beneficial Properties of Delta-8-THC
Research on Delta-8-THC is limited, but it is thought to be potentially useful for addressing the same ailments for which traditional THC can be used. This means that Delta-8 may be useful for dealing with pain, inflammation, nausea, sleep disorders and more.
But because it is less potent, many suggest that it is less likely to cause some of the negative side effects associated with THC, such as paranoia and anxiety. Some studies even suggest that it is a better solution than traditional THC due to its more manageable psychoactive effects.
For example, in a study involving pediatric cancer patients, Delta-8-THC was found to be 100% effective in dealing with chemotherapy-induced nausea. The authors of the study noted that Delta-8 is a better solution than Delta-9 in this case because it can be administered in higher, more effective doses without the same side effects, even in children.
When you shop Delta-8 online, you can easily find Delta-8 gummies, vapors, flowers, oils and more. Because it can be made from industrial hemp, it is much more affordable than traditional THC products. However, you should note that Delta-8-THC is not yet legal in all US states.
Where to buy:
Many CBD brands sell products containing Delta-8-THC. Some brands, such as Cannabis Life, focus exclusively on Delta-8-THC products. Vida Optima offers a variety of Delta-8 products such as Elev8 hard candies and Elev8 vaping carts.
Like Delta-8, Delta-10-THC is a hemp isomer that is said to be less potent than traditional THC products. Many people describe it as having a more energizing and uplifting effect, while Delta-8 is generally more relaxing.
Many people prefer Delta-10 because it is extremely mild, making it a good starting point for new THC users. Keep in mind that Delta-10 is still new on the market and is not as readily available as Delta-8. It is also more difficult to produce, which is why many products containing Delta-10 contain Delta-8-THC. However, you can find Delta-10 in the form of edible tablets, vaporizations or oils.
Benefits of Delta-10-THC
There is less evidence about the uses and potential benefits of Delta-10, but it is still believed to act similarly to other therapeutic products containing THC. It is often said to be useful for relieving pain, increasing energy, improving mood, stimulating appetite, reducing stress and boosting creativity, but more research is needed to fully understand its therapeutic potential.
Where to buy:
Binoid is a leading cannabis brand and one of the first to enter the Delta-10 market. They offer a variety of vaporizers and tincture oils for Delta-10.
Apart from the many THC versions available, most cannabinoids are not psychoactive. However, CBD easily becomes the most popular non-intoxicating cannabinoid available today. It was the first cannabinoid discovered and isolated from the cannabis plant and is the second most studied cannabinoid, just behind THC.
In fact, a CBD-based pharmaceutical product has even been approved by the FDA. This prescription drug, called Epidiolex, is used as a seizure-reducing aid in the treatment of severe childhood seizures.
CBD is the most common hemp-derived cannabinoid on the market, and the available formulas are virtually limitless. You can find CBD oils, gummies, drinks, topicals, edibles, syrups, vaporizers and more.
Researchers are still studying the way CBD interacts with the body, but so far it is not believed to interact directly with endocannabinoid receptors. Instead, it is thought to act indirectly at receptor sites and influence the way other compounds interact.
Therefore, the benefits of CBD are thought to be extremely extensive and could potentially include chronic and neuropathic pain relief, anxiolytic effects, sedative properties and even neuroprotective properties. Some studies have even suggested that CBD may be useful for managing certain neurodegenerative conditions or other chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or colitis, but more research is needed.
Where to buy:
Many CBD brands on the market offer a variety of gummies, oils, topicals and more. Charlotte’s Web Full Spectrum CBD Gummies, Joy Organics’ organic CBD oil tincture and FOCL’s day and night CBD capsule pack are great options.
CBG is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is rapidly gaining popularity. CBGa, the precursor to CBG, is sometimes called the “mother of all cannabinoids” as it is the precursor to most other cannabinoids, including THC and CBD.
CBG is a popular supplement found in many CBD oils designed to improve mood and inflammation, but you can also find standalone CBG gummies, capsules and more. CBG is also one of the cannabinoids commonly used in topical preparations.
Benefits of CBG
Researchers have not yet finished studying the potential benefits of CBG. However, it appears that it may help stabilize mood and may have beneficial antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Where to buy:
Many CBD brands also offer various products containing CBG. Some of our favorites are Absolute Nature Full-Spectrum CBD+CBG Strawberry Gummies and CBDfx 2:1 CBD+CBG Oil.
CBN is a small cannabinoid that is formed in cannabis when THC is broken down. CBN is therefore considered mildly psychoactive, albeit to a much lesser extent than traditional THC. Most people report no psychoactivity when taking doses between 10 and 20 mg.
CBN is becoming increasingly popular and can be found in numerous formulations from gummies to oils, beverages and more.
Benefits of CBN
There is currently little scientific evidence to support the claim, but many users associate CBN with improving sleep and suggest it has a calming effect. CBN is also believed to be responsible for the sleepy effects associated with improperly stored or aged cannabis. This is because THC is converted to CBN over time, so older cannabis will have a much higher CBN content.
Some sources also attribute CBN to anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial against inflammatory pain, but more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits.
Where to buy:
Many cannabinoid products designed to aid sleep combine CBD and CBN. Our favorites include Receptra Naturals Serious Rest CBD+CBD Gummies and Vida Optima Dream Full-Spectrum CBN+CBD Sleep Tincture.
CBC is a minor cannabinoid, but research on its potential benefits is minimal. However, it is found in small concentrations in cannabis and has only recently become popular as a stand-alone supplement. It is often combined with CBD to combine the benefits and is most commonly found in tincture, gum or softgel form.
Benefits of CBC
Researchers believe that CBN may be more similar to CBD than other cannabinoids because it acts indirectly on both endocannabinoid receptors but does not bind directly to either. It is also known to interact with several receptors outside of the endocannabinoid system, such as vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV1) and transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1), both of which may influence the way pain is perceived.
Where to buy:
CBD is not as common as other cannabinoid products, but you can still find some tinctures, soft gels, etc. The Raw Botanics Co. has a small selection of high quality CBD + CBC products, including Relax 1000 mg CBD + CBC Oil and Relax 750 mg Broad Spectrum CBD + CBC Softgels.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most popular cannabinoids?
THC and CBD are the most popular and best known cannabinoids on the market today. However, CBG, CBN and Delta-8 are rapidly gaining popularity due to their unique therapeutic potential.
Where are cannabinoids found?
Cannabinoids can be found in many other plants and occur naturally in the human body. Most commonly, however, “cannabinoids” refers to compounds found in the cannabis plant.
How are cannabinoids extracted?
Cannabinoids are usually extracted from cannabis by various extraction methods such as CO2 or ethanol extraction. Different extraction methods can produce cannabis extracts of similar quality. However, it is important to ensure that the products are independently laboratory tested for potency and purity to ensure that all residual solvents and potential contaminants are removed.
Can the body produce cannabinoids?
Yes, cannabinoids are produced in all mammals via the endocannabinoid system. The most common endocannabinoids are anandamide (known as the “bliss” molecule and similar to THC) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (called 2-AG and identical in structure to CBD). These types of cannabinoids are called “endocannabinoids.”
How do cannabinoids work?”
Cannabinoids from cannabis are similar in structure to the endocannabinoids produced by the body. Because they are almost identical, they can bind to receptor sites in the body to change the way the body sends and receives messages related to many different regulatory and healing functions.
How are cannabinoids used?
Cannabinoids are often used recreationally or therapeutically and can be consumed in a variety of ways. You can enjoy the potential benefits of cannabinoids simply by smoking or vaporizing cannabis flower. There are also many different tinctures, edibles, vaping oil and more, uniquely formulated to meet a variety of strength and health needs.
Are Cannabinoids Water Soluble?
Cannabinoids are typically oil-based in their most natural state and are insoluble in water. However, some manufacturers use unique nanotechnology to create small cannabinoid molecules that are more bioavailable and water-soluble. Check out these water-soluble CBD tinctures to learn more.
Can cannabinoids be absorbed through the skin?
Yes, cannabinoids can be used topically to harness their therapeutic benefits. However, psychoactive cannabinoids will not make you intoxicated when applied topically. Some people use topical CBD products in combination with systemic methods to improve pain or target local inflammation.
Where are cannabinoids found? All cannabinoids derived from hemp are legal under federal law, but state laws vary. Check out our cannabinoid product reviews to discover the best brands and products in the industry and find discount codes you can use at checkout.
When was the cannabinoid system discovered?
The endocannabinoid system, or the system in the body where cannabinoids can bind and interact, was discovered in 1992. Since then, research has advanced significantly and researchers now recognize that all major and minor cannabinoids have independent effects on the body.
Which cannabinoids have intoxicating effects?
Most cannabinoids are not psychoactive, so you will not get high from them. However, there are many different types of THC with psychoactive properties. Traditional THC or Delta-9-THC is the best known, but it is still considered a controlled substance by federal law and can only be purchased in certain states. Delta-8, Delta-10 and newer forms of THC can be produced from hemp and are federally legal, so they may be easier to obtain.
How do cannabinoids relieve pain?
Researchers are still working out the details of how cannabinoids may reduce pain, but they have highlighted several mechanisms that may be involved.
First, cannabinoids may bind to the same receptor sites responsible for sending and receiving pain signals, which may block the absorption of pain signals. Additionally, some cannabinoids may interact with the body in a way that produces anti-inflammatory effects.
Inflammation is often a precursor to pain, so some cannabinoids could theoretically help reduce pain by reducing inflammation. Because they target pain through multiple mechanisms, some cannabinoids may be useful for managing even chronic pain, but more research is needed.
Which cannabinoids to use for sleep problems?
The best combination of cannabinoids for managing sleep problems depends on which specific diseases disrupt sleep. For example, many people prefer mood-enhancing formulas to combat sleep loss caused by anxiety. In general, however, a combination of two cannabinoids (CBD and CBN) is usually chosen for nighttime use.
Which cannabinoids are legal?
Cannabinoids derived from cannabis are legal. Since all cannabinoids can be found in both federally legal cannabis material and cannabis material classified as “marijuana”, it is very important to check the source of your cannabinoid products before you buy them. Take a look at our brand reviews to find the most trusted cannabis brands.