Many stoners don’t just smoke to get high, but are looking to connect deeper with the green goddess. In order to truly understand how the cannabis plant affects the human brain and body, you need to learn the basics of cannabis chemistry. While the effects from consuming cannabis can be vast and complex, the same thing goes for the plant’s chemical makeup, which we still don’t know the extent of. We break down everything you need to know about one of the active compounds in cannabis and how it produces various effects.
Most smokers are focused on two specific types of cannabinoids: THC and CBD. I’m sure you’ve heard of both and you might already know the basics about the effects and medicinal health benefits of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are active chemical compounds that are naturally produced by the cannabis plant. It’s estimated that there are hundreds of cannabinoids, though it’s very difficult to study since most are produced in extremely trace amounts. True cannabinoids start out as cannabinoid acids. These acids are made by the plant to ward off predators since they have insecticidal properties. Cannabinoid acids must be exposed to heat such as baking (edibles) or burning (smoking or vaping) in order to become a cannabinoid. For example, THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid), two of the most highly occurring acids in cannabis, will drop the “A” and turn into THC and CBD when heated.
After THC and CBD, the next most prominent marijuana cannabinoids are:
Since CBD is so common these days, being found in everything from lotion to your morning coffee, many people wonder if the cannabinoid CBD gets you high. The answer is no. CBD does not produce psychoactive effects making it perfect for working professionals, busy parents, and others who need to remain clear headed throughout the day but benefit from its stress and anxiety reducing effects. THC is the only substance in the cannabis plant that is known to have psychoactive results and is what’s responsible for getting you baked. No cannabinoid acids including THCA, the precursor to THC can get you high. There have been studies looking into the effects of THCV, which may have psychoactive properties at very high doses and none at low doses. However, this cannabinoid is not found in high concentration in commercial cannabis and further research is needed to confirm this.
The chemical compound produces certain effects when they link with certain cannabinoid receptors within the body’s central nervous system. Two common receptors are those in the brain (CB-1) and in the body (CB-2). Studies have found a few different naturally-occurring substances in the human body that act like cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. This substance also interacts with cannabinoid receptors. Our body’s endocannabinoid system regulates communication between cells, essentially maintaining internal balance and overall health.
When ingesting cannabis, the final effects will depend on which receptors the cannabinoids connect to. THC for example prefers the CB-1 receptor associated with the brain, while the lesser known CBN cannabinoid often links with the CB-2 receptor. Each cannabis strain has a unique cannabinoid profile, which determines the final therapeutic effects depending on the type and quantity of the chemical compounds. This simple fact is the foundation of marijuana as a medicine since the cannabinoid makeup will determine its effects. The connection between ailments and cannabis are undeniable. So much so that synthetic cannabinoids have been created and used as a prescription drug to treat specific illnesses. Patients have noted improvement to both mental and physical aspects such as stress and anxiety relief, insomnia, inflammation, treatment of epilepsy and depression, and others. People also swear by cannabinoids’ pain relief properties.
The cannabinoid makeup of your cannabis product is key if you’re looking to treat a specific issue. Look deeper into the cannabinoid and terpene profile of the products you choose as both make a difference to the final effects that are felt. A great starting point is asking your local budtender about various strains and their chemical makeup. They will often be very knowledgeable about treatment related to common medical issues. This is especially true for medical marijuana dispensaries. Today, cultivators develop cannabis strains, tinctures, and other products that contain higher levels of specific cannabinoids. Do some research ahead of time to see which cannabinoids are best for your symptoms so you choose the right products.
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