CBD is no longer an exciting word. We have become quite used to the term CBD recently but do we know what it consists of? Following our blog in which we clearly explained the endocannabinoid system now we are going to dive even deeper into the world of cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids, What Are They?
First of all: what are cannabinoids? Cannabinoids are actually chemical substances (signal molecules) which fit certain receptors in our endocannabinoid system. This system is distributed throughout our whole body. And not only in humans. Each living creature has such a system: dogs, horses, fish, birds and even certain molluscs.
Each living creature has an endocannabinoid system
Putting it simply, the endocannabinoid system is the signalling device for our body. It doesn’t repair anything itself, but fires off signals to the brain so that the latter sends in reinforcements. This system monitors the body very accurately, right down to cell level. Because cannabinoids can attach themselves to certain receptors, this stimulates certain responses in our bodies.
Would you like to know more about the endocannabinoid system? Then also read our blog ‘At last: a Clear Explanation of the Endocannabinoid system’.
Three Types of Cannabinoids
Although cannabinoids have a particularly strong presence in hemp and cannabis plants, they occur in other things as well. Thus, we - that is living creatures like humans and animals - also produce them and they can be copied synthetically in the laboratory.
The best-known cannabinoids at the time of writing are THC and CBD (short for cannabidiol). CBD is one of hundreds of other cannabinoids which exist. If you actually examine the basic principle of cannabinoids, three general types can be differentiated. This selection is derived by looking at their origin.
- Phytocannabinoids: cannabinoids which are formed by resin glands on flowers and leaves of cannabis plants (hemp and weed plants), such as CBD.
- Endocannabinoids: the body’s own cannabinoids such as anandamide.
- Synthetic cannabinoids: artificial cannabinoids from the laboratory.
Phyto means plant and as the name itself suggests, phytocannabinoids are the cannabinoids which are formed on the cannabis plant. Many different cannabinoids are produced by the plant itself via the resin glands on the leaves and flowers. There are many different phytocannabinoids but we’ll limit ourselves to the five best known.
The hemp plant
1. CBD(A) (Cannabidiol (acid))
CBDA is actually the acidic precursor of CBD. The extra A in CBDA stands for ‘acid’. By nature there is only a very small amount of CBD on the plant and much more CBDA. This acid form (CBDA) is the rawest form of cannabis. By heating CBDA or exposing it for a long period to UV light, this acid form is converted to CBD.
2. THC(A) (Tetrahydrocannabinol (acid))
This is the self-same story as for CBDA. THCA is heated to produce THC. You cannot get high from THCA. This substance has a psychoactive effect only after it has been heated.
N.B. By nature most weed plants produce much more THCA and a little bit of CBDA. With hemp plants the exact opposite is true. This is also the reason why you cannot get high or stoned from hemp. Hemp plants are used in the production of CBD products.
3. CBC (Cannabichromene)
Next to CBDA and THCA, CBC is the most frequently occurring cannabinoid in cannabis (hemp and weed plants). CBC is known to delay the breakdown of endocannabinoids which leads to an increase in the body’s level of endocannabinoids.
4. CBG(A) (Cannabigerol (acid))
CBGA is the precursor of CBG. CBGA is converted into CBG by heating. CBG is seen as the ‘stem cell’ or ‘mother cell’ of other cannabinoids. If you look at the structural formula, this forms the basis from which comes the formula for three other important cannabinoids: THCA, CBDA and CBCA.
Structural formula of CBG
CBN is actually the waste product of THC. When THC is broken down by light or heat, CBN is formed. Because this cannabinoid is actually a waste product, it is infrequently encountered in plants. You should note that because CBN is a waste product of THC, it still has the mild psychoactive effect of THC.
Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters which are produced by the body itself. These substances exist for only a short time and are particularly prevalent in our endocannabinoid system where they bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The short existence of these substances is mainly due to the enzyme FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) which breaks them down. There are two well-known endocannabinoids in this category.
This was the very first endocannabinoid discovered by scientists at the beginning of the ‘90s. The name refers to the feeling of happiness which the substance invokes mentally and physically.
2-AG was the second endocannabinoid discovered by scientists. This endocannabinoid is found in high concentrations in the human brain.
Synthetic cannabinoids are all cannabinoids which do not occur naturally in our bodies or in plants. These cannabinoids are made by man in - probably - a laboratory. In some cases, these cannabinoids are used in certain medicines.
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Would you like to know more about how cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system? Or how this system works in our bodies? Then check out our blog as well: ‘At last: a Clear Explanation of the Endocannabinoid system’..