How Many Different Cannabinoids Are There?
If we asked a hundred patients to name the different cannabinoids, we are sure everyone could come up with at least two. And unless you have researched cannabinoids and the therapeutic effects they can have, you probably may not know there are many others.
How many more cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant? Brace yourself…there are hundreds! The number varies, but there appear to be almost 200 different cannabinoids that have been identified. And each cannabinoid has the potential to provide wellness benefits for patients who are looking for therapeutic alternatives.
Now that you have recovered after learning how many cannabinoids there actually are, it is important to learn more about them. Because as you explore different strains for your wellness needs, the cannabinoid content may help you narrow your choices. Some cannabinoids work better together (even though scientists haven’t figured out why).
Pre-Built Human Receptors Exclusively for Cannabis
You may have heard cannabis referred to as “the healing herb.” That is an acknowledgment that the cannabis plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Granted, for most of human history, we never understood why it worked. Ancient people were just really glad it did.
In the grand design of evolution, somehow, humans developed cannabinoid receptors. Exclusively designed to engage our central nervous system with cannabinoids, specifically cannabis and hemp plants. That’s right. Inside our bodies, there are receptors that have one job; absorb cannabinoids and jump into action, whether that action is high-energy psychoactive, talkative and happy, calm, body numbing, deeply cerebral, or sedative in effect.
Where Are Cannabinoid Receptors Located?
Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout your body. The network of receptors (and the functions they perform) are called the “human cannabinoid system.” The cannabinoid receptors send messages through your body’s central nervous system.
There are shared functions between the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but by intelligent design, there are higher concentrations of each receptor in strategic areas:
Cannabinoid One Receptors (CB1)
This cannabinoid receptor is found throughout the central nervous system. The CB1 receptor is highly concentrated in the areas of the brain responsible for thinking (cognition), memory, perception of pain, and muscle movement or motor coordination.
When it comes to cannabinoids, the CB1 receptor prefers THC. It does not bind with cannabidiol (CBD), which means CBD has no effect on the receptor. But THC, on the molecular level, looks a lot like a natural neurotransmitter called anandamide. Also known as the “bliss” molecule. Now you know where the “perma smile” is coming from.
The active compounds in THC interact with the CB1 receptors. And that is where the psychoactive effects start to occur. Once THC hits the CB1 receptors, you can experience a variety of symptoms or more than one.
Some of the symptoms may include:
- Euphoria and improved happy mood
- Enhanced or altered perception
- Increased appetite
- Pain relief
- Nausea relief
When CB1 receptors absorb THC, it may trigger a wave of effects that can also increase emotional happiness, relieve pain, and reduce anxiety. It causes a release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, which cues a wave of contentment for at least a few hours.
Cannabinoid Two Receptors (CB2)
These important receptors are located in higher concentrations throughout the immune and also in the peripheral nervous system (tissues). Unlike the CB1 receptor, cannabinoid two receptors actually like CBD. and dislike THC.
While the psychoactive effects of cannabis are caused by the CB1 receptor, the CB2 receptor is more focused on triggering positive wellness effects. That can include help with chronic pain and inflammation. Some researchers believe that those positive effects can also help patients with autoimmune disorders.
Cannabinoid two receptors that absorb cannabidiol (CBD) may provide benefits that can last for several hours longer than THC’s psychoactive effects. Now you know why cannabidiol CBD is so popular for patient use.
How Many Cannabinoids Actually Exist?
There are at least 113 cannabinoids present in marijuana. They are stored in the crystals (trichomes) of the plant and contribute to the sparkly appearance of its flowers in addition to being located in the leaves and stems in smaller amounts.
While THC and CBD are the most well-known cannabinoids, researchers are finding out more about the others and the benefits they provide. Some act on pain, while others affect sleep or appetite; different cannabinoids may affect mood, muscle movement, or how your body responds to illnesses such as fibromyalgia, cancer, skin conditions, or conditions that impact memory, such as Alzheimer’s.
There are 3 main types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, produced by the body; phytocannabinoids, which come from plants; and synthetic cannabinoids. Medical cannabis supplements the body’s own supply by providing cannabinoids that can help if our own system is lacking what it needs. Scientists have discovered 9 major phytocannabinoids that have medically beneficial properties.
Introducing the Two Famous Cannabinoids You Already Know
Neither one of these two cannabinoids need an introduction, as they are well known. The first is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). And the second is cannabidiol or CBD. Both Sativa strains and Indica cannabis have THC and CBD content. However, cannabidiol (CBD) levels can be lower or negligible in some strains of cannabis.
You may know their names, but how much do you know about THC and CBD? Many patients may not know that the ideal medical marijuana strains can have low to moderate THC, but the cannabidiol (CBD) content can be very helpful. Some patients may see better results with high CBD content strains compared to traditional prescription medications.
Here is what you need to know about these two rockstar-level cannabinoids:
THC is the best-known of all the phytocannabinoids, and it is one of the few that has psychoactive properties. It is the only one that exists in a concentration high enough in the dried marijuana plant to enable a patient to experience a “high” when ingested.
Tetrahydrocannabinol binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and immune system by stimulating the release of dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical produced by our bodies. It affects mood, memory, perception, thought, and movement.
The THC cannabinoid has many therapeutic applications for patients due to these effects on our psychological state. It is also effective in fighting cancer, as well as the side effects of chemo and radiation, such as nausea, pain, and loss of appetite.
When you visit a medical cannabis dispensary, you may notice that certain strains with high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) may be more expensive. That is for a good reason because there are far more clinical studies about cannabidiol than THC. And there is a lot of science telling everyone that CBD can be really valuable for wellness.
Cannabidiol affects CB2 receptors which are found in the body’s immune system. Not only is it non-psychoactive, but it also counteracts some of the mind-altering effects of THC. You may hear of high-CBD content contributing to a “balanced strain.” It may reduce some of the cognitive impairment and reduce the physical effects of THC.
It is used to treat anxiety and other psychiatric conditions, pain, seizure disorder, muscle spasms, tumors, and inflammation, and protects the nervous system. In addition, it can be used in conjunction with other plant cannabinoids like THC to treat nausea, pain, and cancer.
Since most CBD oil is currently sourced from hemp plants, it is legal to buy and use in all 50 states if you want to try CBD products. Federally legalized in 2018, CBD products can be purchased online and shipped to any state as long as the THC content is 0.30% or less.
If you are a patient that uses medical marijuana and you cannot find products derived from high-CBD content strains, you can take cannabidiol separately. Cannabidiol products are available in tinctures, tablets, vapes, and edibles. Sometimes you can find smokable hemp flower, which contains no THC, and add that to your bowl or pre-roll to increase CBD content.
How Major Cannabinoids Work Better Together
All cannabinoids work together and either amplify or cancel out each other. One example of this is how cannabidiolic acid in CBD can reduce the psychoactive effects of THC. Cannabinoids work in a harmonic way that science doesn’t understand yet. But clinical trials have called the process the entourage effect.
It is not just the cannabinoids that can contribute to wellness benefits; terpenes and other natural phytochemicals also play an important role. For example, some studies suggest combining CBD with linaloo terpene can help with anxiety.
Some terpenes have been studied for their anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects and are an important part of the entourage effect. Helping someone relax emotionally can also help reduce or relieve pain, muscle spasms, sleep disruption (insomnia), and other symptoms.
Other combinations, such as THC, cannabidiol (CBD), and beta-caryophyllene terpene, have been studied for enhanced anti-inflammatory effects. Many chronic symptoms are made worse by high inflammation in the body. The potential benefits of multiple major cannabinoids with a powerful terpene
Think about cannabinoids and the entourage effect as a puzzle for researchers. Some day, studies may determine the exact strain, THC and CBD ratios, terpenes, and potency to individualize the best type of cannabis for patients to use.
What About Those Other Cannabinoids?
Research into cannabinoids is gaining momentum, but so far, studies have focused primarily on two types of cannabinoids; THC and CBD. But there are many more that we don’t know much about. And how they may work to benefit human health. Aside from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), there are seven other major cannabinoids that (research suggests) may promote wellness.
1. Cannabigerol (CBG)
CBG is produced as cannabis grows but only exists in small quantities in mature plants. It turns into other cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, and is sometimes referred to as a “mother” or “stem cell” cannabinoid.
This cannabinoid is non-psychoactive before converting to other forms and has shown much promise in treating cancer, glaucoma, pain, inflammation, anxiety, and bowel/bladder problems. Scientists are learning how to determine what causes CBG to change into the various cannabinoids; this is helping them develop high-THC or high-CBD strains.
2. Cannabinol (CBN)
CBN is the only cannabinoid that doesn’t originate with CBG. Instead, it is formed as THC degrades. In addition to being a sign that your cannabis is going bad, it has medical applications, including use as a sedative, pain reducer, and natural antibiotic. It may also help patients living with fibromyalgia.
3. Cannabichromene (CBC)
CBC is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been found to be extremely beneficial in working with THC as an anti-inflammatory drug due to the “ensemble effect,” where two or more cannabinoids working together exert an enhanced effect.
CBC has also been found to stimulate bone density and inhibit cell growth in tumors, as well as containing antibiotic and antifungal properties. It is unique because it is the only cannabinoid that interacts with receptors outside the endocannabinoid system.
4. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
THCV can help relieve stress, and research shows it can help to reduce or even prevent anxiety and panic attacks. For this reason, it may play an important role in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe depression, and other symptoms addressed in mental health care.
It is also neuroprotective, so it is ideal for treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Unlike THC, THCV works to suppress the appetite, so it is not recommended for patients suffering from cachexia or anorexia nervosa.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin is only found in some strains of cannabis, unlike THC. It acts on both CB1 and CB2 receptors. Its effects include appetite suppression, the promotion of bone growth, and the reduction of anxiety. It does have psychoactive properties, but they are significantly less than those of THC.
5. △-8-THC, or Delta-8-THC
Delta-THC is also a less-psychoactive cannabinoid. It possesses the ability to kill cancer cells, reduce the size of tumors, stimulate the appetite, and functions well to prevent vomiting, especially when associated with chemotherapy. It is particularly helpful in decreasing the side effects of chemo and radiation.
Hemp-derived Delta-THC products are popular because they can provide the same psychoactive and “body high” effects as THC. Natural delta cannabinoids blend with others, and the cannabinoid produce a somewhat balanced effect. But there are no long-term human health studies to suggest that the use of Delta-THC isolates or concentrates is safe.
6. Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
CBDV is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid. As another example of the ensemble effect, it heightens the anti-seizure effects of CBD as well as showing promise in preventing or decreasing the frequency and severity of nausea and vomiting.
Research into CBDV has suggested it may help with seizures and chronic pain. Unfortunately, it is found in very small quantities in most cannabis plants, with the highest levels being found in certain Indica strains (landrace) grown in the Himalayas.
7. THCA and CBDA
There are acidic variations of THC and CBD. These are released via decarboxylation or exposure to low heat (THCA 220°F, CBDA 248°F). At home, decarboxylation is most often accomplished by putting the raw flower in the oven at a low temperature for several hours in order to bring it to a temperature where THC and CBD are converted to their active form.
The process changes the chemicals into a form that the body can utilize. THCA, in its raw form, can be effective as an anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory medication, while CBDA has shown promise in treating certain types of tumors and cancer treatment.
What Cannabinoids Will Work Best for Me?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive guide to exactly predict the best cannabinoids for a specific symptom or health problem. But your cannabis doctor and healthcare provider can suggest ratios and types of cannabinoids that may help best.
Keeping a patient journal can be useful, and it can help you narrow down specific strains and cannabinoids that provide you with the best results. When you try a new strain, make notes about how it made you feel and whether you achieved improvement in your symptoms.
Researching new strains is important to help you understand which types (and routes of intake) work best. It is a process of trial and error, but you can always ask for guidance from your marijuana doctor or trusted local dispensary.
Make DocMJ Your Cannabis Healthcare Provider
Our team at DocMJ treats patients across the United States every day. We specialize in providing quality cannabis healthcare services, education, and medical card health evaluations. The first important steps toward applying for your medical cannabis card and the benefits of being part of your statewide medical cannabis program.
Schedule your appointment, and ask for expert advice from a physician about types of cannabinoids and whether medical marijuana is right for your wellness goals. Physicians at DocMJ are medical cannabis experts. We’re ready to help you explore your alternative medicine options.
With over 25 years of specialty training in Internal Medicine, as well as fellowship training in Functional and Sexual medicine, Dr. Maginso added Plant Medicine (Medical Marijuana) to her niche practice as of 2017. She is licensed in the State of Florida and attended the University of the East (UERM) in Quezon City, Philippines as well as the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, NJ.
She joined DocMJ in 2019 to align with a known group of compassionate physicians that empower their patients to be better versions of themselves. Her favorite hashtag is #powerpassionperformance, using the combination of optimized bioidentical hormones, medical marijuana, plasma therapies, and sexual wellness.
She is an author, speaker and community advocate for Medical Marijuana, Sexual Health, and the empowerment of mature women.