Cannabinoids are a group of active compounds found in marijuana.
Marijuana contains many chemical compounds that create the different characteristics of the plant. Terpenes provide flavors and aromas, while chlorophyll in the leaves makes the plant green. But the most important chemicals in marijuana are the cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are the chemicals which give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with different receptors in the body to produce a wide range of effects, such as feeling high.
But what exactly are cannabinoids, and why are they able to interact with the body? The answer has to do with cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
Let’s take a deeper look at these fascinating compounds.
Cannabinoids in Marijuana
The marijuana plant produces as many as 113 different cannabinoids. Among these cannabinoids, THC and CBD are the most prevalent and the most well-understood.
Marijuana’s cannabinoids are produced and stored within the trichomes (crystals) of the plant. These trichomes give marijuana flowers their shiny and sparkly appearance.
Most strains of marijuana sold today are cultivated with higher levels of THC. THC is known for its psychoactive properties, and is the reason you feel “high” after ingesting marijuana.
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and actually works to counteract the high. CBD also has numerous benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
While THC and CBD are the most well-known cannabinoids, there are many other cannabinoids in marijuana that offer health benefits. Some of these include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC).
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are produced naturally by the human body. “Endo” stands for endogenous, which means originating within the body.
While these cannabinoids are distinct from those produced in marijuana, they share many similar properties and effects. This is because they interact with the same pathways in the brain and body called cannabinoid receptors.
Scientists believe there are many different endocannabinoids, but the most studied and understood are 2-AG and anandamide.
Other endocannabinoids include noladin ether, virodhamine, and N-arachidonyl dopamine (NADA).
While the functions of these cannabinoids within the body are wide-ranging, it is believed that their primary function is to promote homeostasis.
How Do Cannabinoids Work?
In order to understand cannabinoids, you have to know a bit about the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a system in the human body consisting of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors.
These receptors and cannabinoids can be thought of as a lock-and-key system. Cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors like a key fits into a lock. Unlocking the receptor causes changes in how cells function, leading to different effects in the body.
When marijuana enters your body, THC activates the endocannabinoid system by attaching to cannabinoid receptors.
There are two different types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain, and are responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
On the other hand, CB2 receptors are found mostly in other parts of the body. They are responsible for a wide range of biological functions.
The functions of the endocannabinoid system help explain the effects of marijuana. The endocannabinoid system is involved with regulating appetite, sleep, pain, mood, memory, and much more.