What are cannabinoids?

Let’s start with the basics – what are cannabinoids, anyway? Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, influencing various physiological processes to promote overall well-being and homeostasis.


What’s the difference between THC & CBD?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are by far the 2 most well known cannabinoids in cannabis. THC is known for its psychoactive effects, creating the euphoric “high,” while CBD offers potential therapeutic benefits without the intoxicating properties, which some medical card patients love as they can find relief for their symptoms without impairment. 


What does the endocannabinoid system actually do in the body?

The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis, impacting processes such as pain sensation, mood, appetite, and memory – so needless to say, some pretty important things!


Is it true that there’s an endocannabinoid known as the “bliss molecule” and if so, does it really make us happy?

Yes and no. Anandamide, often referred to as the “bliss molecule,” is one of the primary endocannabinoids produced by the body. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda,’ meaning joy or bliss. This well known endocannabinoid does play a key role in mood regulation, stress response, and emotional well-being, contributing to feelings of happiness and contentment – but no molecule alone can truly make you happy!


Cannabinoids and inflammation

Cannabinoids, especially CBD, have been shown to demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties, potentially offering relief for conditions characterized by excessive inflammation, such as arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease. As another example, THC has been shown to reduce gastric inflammation caused by the commonly used NSAID diclofenac, which in turn may help diclofenac work more effectively in the body.

What is the “entourage effect?”

You may have heard the term “entourage effect” before in the medical cannabis industry. This refers to the synergistic interaction of various cannabinoids and terpenes and how they work together to enhance the overall therapeutic effects of cannabis. Teamwork makes the dreamwork!

The discovery of cannabinoids

Cannabis is one of the first plants to have been used as a medicine. However, it wasn’t until much more recently that we discovered cannabis is the unique source of a set of compounds (well over 65 of them!) that we now know as cannabinoids. There were pharmacological experiments happening with one cannabinoid at a time back in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960’s and 1970’s there was suddenly a lot more research being done – partially because cannabis was becoming very popular recreationally in the UK around this time. 

Finally in the mid-1980s, conclusive evidence that cannabinoid receptors do indeed exist as researchers thought came out of biochemical neuropharmacologist Allyn Howlett’s laboratory at St. Louis University. There’s been plenty of research done since then but that’s the answer in a nutshell! (Source)

Less common cannabinoids

THC and CBD are by far the most well known cannabinoids, but there are plenty of others worth noting. For example, CBN, CBC, CBG, and THCV, are considered “rare” cannabinoids since they tend to be less abundant in cannabis. They each have unique and beneficial properties:

  • CBN has been called a “weaker version of THC,” and has shown sedative properties that could relieve conditions like insomnia.
  • CBG is known for being packed with fatty acids, antioxidants, and nutrients.
  • CBC is being looked at for it’s ability to potentially affect the brain and nerves which in turn could reduce pain and swelling.
  • THCV decreases appetite and up-regulates energy metabolism, which is beneficial for patients trying to lose weight or manage their type 2 diabetes.

Ongoing research on cannabinoids

The amount of research being done on cannabinoids isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. Just to name a few:

What does the future of cannabinoids look like?

We can optimistically expect more forward movement with the legalization of cannabis on a state by state basis. As the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) states: “More states are likely to embrace broader cannabis legalization.” 

The U.S. cannabis market is also projected to grow significantly, with retail cannabis sales possibly reaching $53.5 billion by 2027. (Source)