Cannabinoids: Here's How They Work

by greenrush
Cannabis leaf

As cannabis becomes an increasingly accepted method of treatment for a variety of ailments and health problems, scientists, seed creators and medical patients are beginning to take a closer look at the chemistry of the brain and of cannabis itself. Here, we review four of the most important cannabis-derived compounds, or cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG, and study the varied effects they have upon the human body.


[caption id="attachment_449" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Cannabinoids: Thc-rich trichomes THC-rich trichomes. Image by[/caption]

Cannabis gets much of its medicinal properties from cannabinoids, a group of 85 medical compounds which interact with cannabinoid receptors and receptor proteins that occur naturally in human beings. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the principal psychoactive agent in cannabis, is the most researched and pharmacologically desired of all the cannabinoids. However, in recent years, a stronger understanding of other cannabinoids, including CBD, CBG, and CBN, has paved the way for an innovative focus on cannabinoid-rich strains which bring new benefits to medical cannabis users.

[caption id="attachment_450" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Cannabis THC oil Image by[/caption]

In the 1990s, researchers successfully isolated the psychoactive compound present in cannabis, called THC, and found that the chemical closely resembled other naturally-occurring compounds present in our bodies called endocannabinoids. Like endocannabinoids, cannabinoids act upon the CB1 and CB2 receptors located in our endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating appetite, sleep, emotion and movement. However, unlike naturally occurring endocannabinoids such as anandamide, THC targets receptors in a less selective way, activating and inhibiting cannabinoid receptors located in the hippocampus, cerebellum and basal ganglia.

THC acts upon CB2 receptors and nerve terminals located in the dorsal root ganglion of the spinal cord, causing antinociception or pain relief. In addition, THC causes relaxation of body muscles, alteration of the senses, drowsiness, and boosts appetite. Its antiemetic properties make THC-rich cannabis strains a great all-natural therapeutic option for those who suffer from nausea and motion sickness or are recovering from chemotherapy. Strains which boast high THC levels may also help reduce aggression, and are used to treat a variety of different ailments including multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative disorders, and epilepsy. THC is thought to dampen the potency of other pharmacologically valuable cannabinoids present in cannabis, a deficiency which has led to a new focus on producing crossbreeds with balanced cannabinoids.

Seed creators and budtenders are constantly designing new cannabis strains, and there are a number of THC-rich hybrids out there at the moment, including Overlord OG and OG Kush. For a tidy selection of both strains, head down to Medithrive, The Harborside Health Center, or the True Healing Collective.

[caption id="attachment_451" align="aligncenter" width="640"]OG Kush Image by[/caption]

Cannabinoids: CBD

CBD is one the most important cannabinoids and the second most common cannabis-related compound found in cannabis after THC. CBD is non-psychotropic, which means that it does not produce any of the mind-altering effects associated with other cannabinoids. Nevertheless, CBD possesses a number of medical properties which make it an important ingredient in any medical cannabis strain.

This cannabinoid inhibits FAAH, a naturally occurring enzyme that breaks down the endocannabinoid chemicals which regulate appetite, sleep patterns, and other core body functions. CBD is also thought to boost the release of calcium at the intracellular level, which may aid muscle contraction and neurotransmitter release.

[caption id="attachment_453" align="aligncenter" width="618"]Child being treated with CBD oil drop Image by[/caption]

CBD has been recognized as an anticonvulsant, which suggests that it may have use as an antiepileptic agent in the future. This cannabinoid has also been shown to reduce tumors, anxiety, depression, and psychosis, in addition to possessing neuroprotective qualities. According to one researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, CBD “can be used for treating diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, liver inflammation, heart disease and diabetes.”

In recent times, CBD’s emerging significance as a key cannabinoid has lead to the creation of a new line of CBD-rich strains with low THC values. The Israeli-made Avidekel strain is one such case. Clocking in at a whopping 15.8% CBD and containing zero THC, this strain is a great option for those who are seeking optimum medical benefits without the mind-altering effects produced by THC.

[caption id="attachment_452" align="aligncenter" width="720"]CBD-rich strain Image by[/caption]

In 2011, the Stanley Brothers developed a super CBD variant called Charlotte’s Web that contains up to 20% CBD. Named after a three-year-old epileptic child who was successfully treated with this cannabinoid-rich hybrid, Charlotte’s Web has made a name for itself as one of the best all-purpose medical strains out there.

[caption id="attachment_454" align="aligncenter" width="640"]CBD oil Image by[/caption]

For more information on CBD-rich seeds and strains, check out True Healing Collective to sample their CBD-rich oil.


Cannabinol is generally only found in small amounts in cannabis, but is formed regularly as part of the THC oxidization process. THC reacts to prolonged exposure to air by developing into CBN, losing the majority of its medicinal properties in the process. Cannabinol stimulates CB1 and blocks CB2 receptor cells, causing temporary imbalances in the endocannabinoid system.

[caption id="attachment_456" align="aligncenter" width="600"]CBN-rich cannabis Oxidized cannabis. Image by[/caption]

As a psychoactive cannabinoid, CBN produces mild analgesic and sense-altering effects, but the impact it has on our body is minimal in comparison with that of THC. However, CBN is a strong sleep inducer, and the primary reason why cannabis is often prescribed as a sleeping aid for those who suffer from insomnia or other sleep-related issues.

[caption id="attachment_457" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Sleep-inducing cannabinoids Image from[/caption]

As a topical, CBN has demonstrated potent antibacterial properties and is effective against certain methicillin-resistant bacteria. Tinctures with high CBN levels designed to function as sleeping aids have begun to appear in recent times, while there are a number of CBN-rich nighttime strains currently on the market, such as Jorge’s Diamonds and Strawberry Haze. To find out whether your local dispensary carries one of these CBN-rich hybrids, visit our website today.

[caption id="attachment_458" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Stawberry Haze Oxidized cannabis. Image by[/caption]


Cannabigerol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid which affects a range of receptors found in the body. CBG is thought to play a key role in assisting THC and CBD effectivity by extending the duration of effects and enhancing transmitter receptivity. This cannabinoid reduces intraocular pressure, which makes it a great therapeutic agent for those who suffer from glaucoma. In addition, CBG may also provide relief from inflammatory bowel disease.

[caption id="attachment_459" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Cannabinoids CBG-rich cannabis plant. Image by[/caption]

Though the medical relevance and function of CBG is still not completely clear, seed designers value CBG-rich cannabis varieties such as the Italian Bernabeo as great breeding lines.

Research on cannabinoids and how they work is still in its infancy. But as our understanding of how cannabinoids interact with our brain grows, seed designers will continue to develop even more complex cannabinoid profiles designed to maximize treatment effectiveness and patient relief. 

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