MOCA - Modern Cannabis Blog

A Beginner’s Guide to Cannabinoids

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis sativa plant as well as the human body. Endocannabinoids produced by the body and phytocannabinoids found in cannabis both bond to the same receptors throughout the human brain and body.

Possible effects include a feeling of euphoria (like the “runner’s high” felt after exercising, or “the giggles” after smoking), stress relief, and the alleviation of pain.

While researchers have found well over one hundred unique cannabinoids so far, not all of them will appear in any one strain, and many appear at levels too low to detect in lab testing. We’ll go over a few that you are most likely to find in significant amounts in products at MOCA.

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The molecular structure of THC

What is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a compound responsible for the psychoactive effects one feels after smoking or ingesting cannabis. A powerhouse of antibacterial, cancer-fighting, and symptom-relieving properties give it endless medical and recreational applications.

THCA is the precursor to THC; it requires heat to convert it into the THC usable by the human body. This process, known as decarboxylation, is often accomplished by simply burning dried cannabis in a pipe or other smoking device. Common kitchen heat sources (like ovens and water baths) are used for activating cannabis for use in edibles, tinctures, topicals, and other methods of ingestion.

What are CBD (cannabidiol) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid)?

CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis sativa plant. It’s found in both industrial hemp plants as well as the marijuana plants grown by the medical cannabis industry.

CBDA is the precursor; it will often be seen in low-THC concentrates for dabbing from cultivators such as Shelby County Community Services.

What’s the difference between THC and CBD?

It’s an oversimplification to think of THC as the “fun” cannabinoid and CBD as the “medicinal” one. They’re both pain-relieving, neuroprotective, antiemetic, anti-inflammatory antioxidants that generally work best in tandem.

They are unique in some ways, however. For example, CBD is vital for preventing seizures in some patients with or without epilepsy. It can act as an antipsychotic for patients with schizophrenia and can help with substance use disorders, including nicotine and alcohol. In an isolated form, it can be given to people who should not, for whatever reason, become intoxicated.

THC increases appetite, aids sleep and can have mood-elevating effects in patients with conditions like depression or PTSD. Unlike CBD, which is generally well-tolerated, high doses can sometimes cause symptoms of anxiety like racing thoughts or a rapid heartbeat.

It may be contraindicated for patients with kidney or liver issues, or anyone with a history of disassociation or psychosis. For these reasons, it’s important that anyone who uses THC should be aware of all side effects and has been counseled about dosing.

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What are CBG (cannabigerol) and CBGA (cannabigerolic acid)?

CBGA is sometimes referred to as “the mother of all cannabinoids” as it is the master acidic precursor to not just CBG, but also CBD, THC, and many other common cannabinoids.

CBG treats glaucoma by bonding to endocannabinoid receptors in the eye, managing or reversing the course of the disease by reducing intraocular pressure.

Selecting products high in CBG may help people with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS) not only cope with nausea and appetite loss, but also address their symptoms by reducing chronic inflammation that results in abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea.

What are CBC (cannabichromene) and CBCA (cannabichromenic acid)?

CBC, a non-psychoactive chemical descendant of CBG, has similar effects to other cannabinoids, with research pointing towards use as an antidepressant and anti-inflammatory. Scientists believe it helps regulate the effects of other cannabinoids. Like all cannabinoids, it has a chemical precursor, CBCA.

What are CBN (cannabidol) and CBNA (cannabinolic acid)?

As THC reacts to oxygen in the atmosphere, it loses hydrogen molecules and oxidizes into cannabinol, a less-potent cannabinoid that’s known for helping people fall asleep. CBNA is the precursor to CBN.

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Learning more about how major cannabinoids work together with terpenes, pigments, and polyphenols to create a full experience allows you to select strains and products that are tailored for your individual relief. For more information about specific terpenes, check out this article from Greencamp.