Kim DelMonico, OCBMAGONLINE contributing writer

A cannabinoid is a chemical compound that reacts with cannabinoid receptors in the body.  There are three types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, that are produced naturally in the body; phytocannabinoids, found in cannabis plants; and synthetic cannabinoids, that are manufactured artificially.

When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids bind to receptors throughout our bodies.  Different cannabinoids bind to different receptors, which cause different effects.  There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors.  Cannabinoid receptor type 1, or CB1 receptors, are found primarily in the brain, in the basal ganglia and the limbic system.  Cannabinoid receptor type 2, or CB2 receptors, are predominantly found in the immune system throughout the entire body.

Cannabis contains at least 70 different types of cannabinoids and each have a different effect on the body.  Here is an overview of some of the most common types of cannabinoids and how they affect the body.


Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)

THCA is the main component of raw cannabis.  THCA converts to Δ9-THC when it is burned, vaporized, or heated to a certain temperature.  THCA contributes to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory effects, which means it can be used to treat arthritis, lupus, menstrual cramps, muscle spasms, and  pain.  It is also an antiproliferative, which means that it may potentially help slow the rate of diseases and forms of cancer.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.  THC acts as a mild analgesic or painkiller.  THC has been used to treat medical conditions including PTSD, neuropathic and chronic pain, insomnia, nausea, inflammation, arthritis, migraines, cancer, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and glaucoma.

Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)

Cannabidiolic acid is the precursor molecule to cannabidiol.  CBDA becomes CBD through decarboxylation.  This is usually accomplished through smoking or cooking the plant.  CBDA has no known psychoactive effects.  Preliminary research into CBDA indicates that it may be helpful in treating inflammation, nausea and vomiting, cancer, and psychosis.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol is non-psychotropic.  There is evidence that CBD treats chronic pain and is used as many in the form of a topical oil treatment.  In June 2005, Health Canada approved Sativex, a patented medicine from cannabis that contains CBD and is prescribed for central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis.  Some of the most popular high CBD strains of cannabis include: ACDC, Charlotte’s Web, Ringo’s Gift, and Harle-Tsu.

Cannabinol (CBN)

Cannabinol is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that is produced from the degradation of THC.  It is produced when THC is heated or exposed to oxygen.  CBN has been shown to have powerful sedative effects.  Just 5mg of CBN has been shown to be as effective as 10mg of diazepam or other pharmaceutical sedatives.  CBN may contribute to stimulating bone tissue growth, which could have potential uses in healing bone fractures.  CBN is anti-inflammatory and has pain relief properties.  CBN is found in higher amount in aged, poorly-stored cannabis.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

Cannabigerol is a non-psychoactive substance that has been shown to promote apoptosis in cancer cells and inhibit the growth of tumors in mice.  It is also known to kill or slow bacterial growth and reduce inflammation.  CBG has many potential medicinal uses.  CBG has been shown to reduce inflammation, protect neurons, and inhibit cancer growth in mice.  CBG is also an effective antibacterial agent.  CBG is present in low levels in most cannabis strains. 

Cannabichromene (CBC)

Cannabichromene is non-intoxicating, which means that it does not produce a euphoric high.  CBC has shown potential as a cancer fighter, inhibiting the growth of tumors in mice.  It has also been shown to block pain and inflammation and have a positive effect on neural stem progenitor cells, which are essential to healthy brain function.  CBC has been shown to inhibit acne and work in conjunction with THC and CBD to deliver antidepressant properties.  CBC is found in high levels in landrace strains from India.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

Tetrahydrocannabivarin is only present in some strains of cannabis.  It is most prevalent in central Asian and southern African strains of cannabis.  THCV is being studied as a potential treatment against obesity-associated glucose intolerance.  THCV is an appetite suppressant and has shown potential in its ability to help with diabetes, to reduce panic attacks, to control symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and to stimulate bone growth.  A common strain with high amounts of THCV is Durban Poison.

Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

Cannabidivarin is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid.  CBDV has shown potential to become a treatment for epilepsy and other neurological conditions.  CBDV has also been shown to have appetite-suppressant qualities.  CBDV is good at reducing the nausea and vomiting that results from a variety of pharmaceutical drugs and treatments.  CBDV is more prevalent in low-THC and high-CBD strains of cannabis.  Common strains that contain CBDV include Critical Mass, Harlequin, and Mandarin Kush.

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