What are Cannabinoids?

Basic Introduction to Cannabinoids

While still in the ground, cannabis plants develop cannabinoid acids that have antibacterial and insecticidal properties to keep bugs and bacteria off of the plant to protect itself. The main acids are THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. When these are exposed to energy (like heat in the decarboxylation process) they become activated, drop the Acid, and become more recognizable as the known cannabinoids:


  • THC (Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol; d9-THC)
  • CBD (Cannabidiol)
  • CBN (Cannabinol)
  • THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)
  • CBG (Cannabigerol) 
  • CBC (Cannabichromene)


Cannabinoids impact our minds and bodies through receptors embedded in our cells called endocannabinoid receptors and enter our Endocannabinoid System.


THC is one of the most well know of these due to the “high” associated with it. However, it is also used for the relief of nausea and vomiting, insomnia, appetite loss, and inflammation15. This makes high THC strains useful for people with cancer, sleep issues, gastrointestinal conditions, chronic pain, and more.


CBD has a weak binding affinity for both receptors in your body, meaning they do not interact strongly with each other. It is actually known to block THC from CB1 effectively decreasing the side effects of a high9. Instead of simulating CB receptors like other cannabinoids, CBD instead increases the endocannabinoids your body produces naturally by slowing down the production of the enzymes that break those endocannabinoids down8.

While it does not stimulate the CB receptors, CBD has a unique way of stimulating opioid receptors to regulate pain8, dopamine receptors to regulate motivation, and serotonin receptors to regulate drug-seeking behavior8.


THCV being so closely named to another cannabinoid can be deceiving. In contrast to THC, THCV is mainly known as an appetite suppressant13. It is thought to work like CBD, by blocking THC from the CB1 receptor, negating the feeling of hunger2. 


CBC is another non-intoxicating cannabinoid because it doesn’t bind well to the CB1 receptor. However, it does bind to other receptors linked to pain perception (TRPV1 and TRPA1). CBC is commonly used to treat acne because of its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. 6



CBG is often called the Mother of All Cannabinoids because its acidic form, CBGA, is one of the first cannabinoids to form and is the precursor to the three main cannabinoid lines: THC, CBD, CBC. Like CBD, CBG is thought to strengthen the function of the endocannabinoid anandamide, leading to pain relief without the “high” of THC. 6

*These are the most common cannabinoids. More than 100 other cannabinoids have been identified14.


  1. Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know. (n.d.). National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know
  2. Chen, J. (2021, August 19). THCV: Everything We Know About So-Called ‘Diet Weed’. Healthline. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/substance-use/thcv#safety

  3. DeFino, J. (n.d.). CBC Cannabinoid’s Benefits Are Actually Very Different From CBD. Icecreamwala Dermatology. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.icecreamderm.com/about-us/articles/newsletter/featured-article/cbc-cannabinoids-benefits-are-actually-very-diff/

  4. Gans, S. (2021, December 10). Cannabigerol (CBG): Uses and Benefits. Verywell Mind. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/cannabigerol-cbg-uses-and-benefits-5085266

  5. Havelka, J. (2017, March 22). What is CBG (cannabigerol) & what does this cannabinoid do? Leafly. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-cbg-cannabinoid

  6. Havelka, J. (2017, December 6). What Is CBC and What Are the Benefits of This Cannabinoid? Leafly. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-cannabichromene-cbc-cannabinoid

  7. Jikomes, N. (n.d.). What Is the Endocannabinoid System and What Is Its Role? — Elm City Wellness CBD massage acupuncture facial continuing education. Elm City Wellness. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.elmcitywellness.com/endocannabinoid-system

  8. Jikomes, N. (2016, October 10). Cannabidiol (CBD) & Its Potential Effects on the Brain. Leafly. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.leafly.com/news/cbd/what-does-cbd-do

  9. Kendall, D. A. (2018, November 13). Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules. Frontiers. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2018.01259/full

  10. Mandal, A. (2019, February 26). What are Cannabinoids? News Medical. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Cannabinoids.aspx

  11. Mandal, A. (2019, February 26). What are Cannabinoids? News Medical. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Cannabinoids.aspx

  12. Park, SH., Staples, S.K., Gostin, E.L. et al. Contrasting Roles of Cannabidiol as an Insecticide and Rescuing Agent for Ethanol–induced Death in the Tobacco Hornworm Manduca sexta. Sci Rep 9, 10481 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47017-7

  13. Rahn, B. (2015, February 3). What is THCV and what are the benefits of this cannabinoid? Leafly. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-thcv-and-what-are-the-benefits-of-this-cannabinoid

  14. What are Cannabinoids. (2021, August 31). Verilife. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.verilife.com/blog/guide-cannabinoids-and-their-effects

  15. What is THC? | Cannabis Glossary. (n.d.). Leafly. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.leafly.com/learn/cannabis-glossary/thc