If you have spent any time around cannabis, then you have probably heard the term cannabinoid thrown around. However, the deeper you dive into finding out what a cannabinoid actually is, the more questions arise. Cannabinoids are much more than just THC and CBD, you can spend days diving down this specific rabbit hole.
What Are Cannabinoids?
According to the Kensey Lab at the University of Connecticut, there are different variations of cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are plant-based cannabinoids. This is what people typically think of when they think of the word cannabinoid. Phytocannabinoids are used by cannabis plants (both hemp and marijuana) as part of their natural makeup. For instance, you will often hear someone with cannabis cultivation experience say that stress produces more THC. Growers will apply certain stresses on marijuana plants to produce the desired higher THC potency. While it takes experience and patience, many growers can train the plants by understanding how phytocannabinoids work and using them to produce a quality crop.
On the other hand, Synthetic cannabinoids are cannabinoids that are produced in a laboratory. While synthetic cannabinoids are sold under aliases such as "K2" and "Kronic", they do not interact with humans the same way as phytocannabinoids do. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, " These substances bear structural features that allow binding to one of the known cannabinoid receptors, and produce effects similar to those of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)." It is also worth noting that synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic marijuana are not the same as the natural plant and the cannabinoids it produces. In fact, synthetic marijuana hurts the image the cannabis community as a whole is trying to correct (think of it as what marijuana would be if the anti-cannabis propaganda were true).
Finally, there is the endocannabinoid system, which is found in every living being. According to the Kensey Lab, "Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the body (that is, endogenously produced)." You may hear someone talk about CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are what ingested cannabinoids from the cannabis plant bind to produce various effects.
What Do Cannabinoids Do?
Typically, when you hear someone speak about cannabinoids, they are talking about phytocannabinoids. Some of the most common include THC, CBD, CBN, Delta-8, and CBG. All of these cannabinoids can be found in both hemp and marijuana, though in varying amounts. Certain cannabinoids, such as THC and Delta-8, produce the psychoactive effect that gets people "high". Others, such as CBN, promote tiredness or hold anti-inflammatory properties, like CBD. Each cannabinoid has its own unique effects that impact each person differently and can change based on how they interact not only with an individual but with other cannabinoids as well.
It is worth taking into consideration that individuals taking prescribed medication or with certain pre-existing conditions should consult with their doctor before trying hemp or marijuana products. Introducing cannabinoids could potentially cause unwanted side effects or problems.
How Many Cannabinoids Are There?
At the time of this writing, researchers cannot agree on the exact number of cannabinoids found within a cannabis plant. Numbers range between 60 and 113 depending on the source. The major disagreement stems from whether to count subsectors of cannabinoids (such as THCP and CBND) as separate cannabinoids or together with their parent cannabinoid.
Cannabinoids are an ever-evolving topic worth deep-diving into. Legal hemp and marijuana have provided researchers with much-needed material to explore minor cannabinoids that we previously knew nothing about. Even now, we are still learning new ways cannabinoids interact together and influence us.