What Are Cannabinoids and How Do They Differ From Each Other?

six big cannabinoids


Cannabis is a complex plant with more than 100 cannabinoids identified to date. Two particular compounds tend to get most of the attention: THC, which gives you that "high," and cannabidiol (CBD), which provides anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic effects. But there are other compounds in the plant as well, including some that have been largely ignored by researchers.

Some cannabis consumers know the basics of THC and CBD, but many cannabis consumers don't know about the other compounds that give marijuana its effects. Since the beginning of cannabis research, studies have shown that consuming cannabinoids together creates an entourage effect that is more effective than either compound taken alone.

As such, you should know more about the lesser-known cannabinoids to fully understand how they interact with your body.

Cannabinol (CBN)

Exposure to heat or natural elements can cause THC to break down into CBN, a cannabinoid rumored to offer sedative effects.

When THC is dried and exposed to oxygen and heat, CBN can form. This is considered to be mildly intoxicating, but research suggests it is one-quarter as potent as THC.

CBN has shown promise in treating sleep disorders, relieving pain and inflammation, as well as other medical conditions.

In cellular models of the disease, CBN has been shown to have antibacterial properties. One 2008 study conducted in Italy showed that CBN could prevent methicillin-resistant infection (MRSA), which is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Fresh hemp will contain a lower amount of CBN-a than aged varieties, as the hemp ages so the amount of CBN increases.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

CBG is often referred to as the mother of all cannabinoids. This is because it's the precursor to other cannabinoids, including THC and CBD.

In most strains of cannabis, CBG is found in smaller amounts than other cannabinoids. For example, only 1% of CBG can be found compared to 20 to 25% of CBD or 25 to 30% of THC.

Like CBD, CBG has been used to treat pain without the psychoactive effect of THC.

Research has shown that cannabidiol can have therapeutic effects as well.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

Did you know that cannabichromene (CBC) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant? CBC is the lesser-known member of “The Big Six”  but that doesn't mean it isn't important.

CBC doesn't get you high like THC, but it's an effective treatment for major pain. The reason is that it binds poorly to CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain, but is capable of interacting with receptors outside of the ECS, which distinguishes it from other cannabinoids.

Research shows that CBC may help treat a variety of health conditions, including depression and anxiety, pain, inflammation, some types of cancer, neurological conditions, and acne.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the primary cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD is not psychoactive – meaning it does not produce a “high”.

Many studies have shown CBD to contain many antioxidant and neuroprotective substances that are essential for human health, because of this CBD is very popular in medical establishments and can be used to treat over 50 medical conditions, including ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, addictions, and anxiety.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of cannabis's effects on the mind. It acts much like the cannabinoids that are naturally made by your body.

THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which then influences neurons that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, coordination and time perception.

Research suggests that THC may be used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including pain relief. And recreational use can cause a sensation of euphoria and relaxation.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

THCV is a lesser-known cannabinoid found in cannabis that offers many unique effects and benefits.

THCV, is similar in molecular structure and psychoactive properties to THC, but it provides a variety of different effects.

For vaporizer enthusiasts: THCV has a boiling point of 428 °F (220 °C), so you will need to turn up the temperature when using it instead of its more common cousin, THC.