Cannabinoids are responsible for cannabis’s effects on the body. They’re also the reason why cannabis can induce euphoria and other psychoactive effects, and also why medical cannabis works to alleviate so many symptom-related ailments.
Different types of cannabinoids, along with similar compounds found in your body, come together to get you high or to help you heal. Because so many people use cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes, a little information on cannabinoids can help you to make healthy choices for your mind and body.
Cannabis contains over 500 natural compounds that are found in many plants. At least 85 of those compounds are exclusive to the cannabis plant – these are the cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are psychoactive, others are not. Out of the 85 cannabinoids, two are of particular importance: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of cannabis’s psychological effects. In other words, THC is the chemical in cannabis that is responsible for getting you “high” or inducing euphoria and other mind-altering effects.
THC and other cannabinoids in cannabis are similar to cannabinoid chemicals that naturally occur in the body. Cannabinoid receptors are concentrated in certain areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and perception of time. THC attaches to these receptors and activates them.
But before you go thinking that THC is all fun and no substance, know that it would be wrong to assume that THC has no therapeutic benefits. Scientists at the Scripps Research Center in San Diego reported that THC inhibits an enzyme implicated in the formation of beta-amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Additionally, the federal government recognizes single-molecule THC (Marinol) as an anti-nausea compound and appetite booster.
THC is the best way to measure a cannabis product’s psychoactive potency, and the average cannabis plant contains about 10% to 20%.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not have any psychoactive effects, and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis is non-psychoactive or less psychoactive than THC-dominant strains makes it a great option for medicinal cannabis patients looking for relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, seizures, and other conditions without the psychoactive effects of THC.
Scientific and clinical research suggests that CBD has amazing potential as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, MS, chronic pain, seizures, epilepsy, PTSD, depression and other neurological disorders. Research suggests that CBD has neuroprotective and neurogenic effects, and its anti-cancer properties are currently being investigated at several academic research centers in the United States and abroad.
CBD seems to offer natural protection against some of the negative side effects associated with over consuming THC. Studies suggest that CBD acts to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC, such as memory impairment and paranoia.
Different cannabinoids can be activated in the cannabis plant by treating it in different ways, such as applying heat. This is why it’s important to decarboxilate (or decarb) your cannabis flowers before cooking with them, or why in some circumstances you may wish to leave your cannabis raw. For example, THC in its raw form is actually a compound refered to THC-A, which has its own benefits, but is not psychoactive. When you apply heat to the cannabis flowers THC-A is converted into Δ9-THC, the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. Here is a list of a few of the cannabinoids and the benefits associated with them: