What are Cannabinoids and What do They do to the Body?

Cannabis flowers are so valuable because they are packed with chemical compounds that have proven medicinal benefits. While cannabinoids are far from the only beneficial components derived from cannabis, they are the reason why hemp and marijuana plants are quickly becoming the United States’ number one cash crop.

Cannabinoids are responsible for the notorious ‘high’ produced by marijuana and the undeniable medical benefits of hemp. We have much to uncover about cannabis compounds, but we are learning more every day thanks to the rising demand for cannabinoids other than CBD and THC.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis and a handful of other plants. THC and CBD are the most significant, but others such as CBC, CBG, and CBN have seen a rise in demand since hemp was legalized in 2018.

All cannabinoids are produced at one point during the cannabis plant’s lifecycle. The three most abundant are THC, CBD, and CBC. All three are synthesized from the precursor, CBGa. Early in life, CBGa forms and is converted primarily into CBDa and THCa, the acidic forms of the two well-known cannabinoids. During the extraction process, cannabinoids are activated or decarboxylated into the form we enjoy in CBD oil and other hemp-derived products.

The Most Prominent Cannabinoids

CBD was the first cannabinoid to drive demand other than THC. However, once hemp-derived products were legalized, the extraction process that kept small amounts of other cannabinoids, including THC, CBC, CBN, and CBG, became the most popular way to consume CBD.

The idea of utilizing multiple cannabinoids at once for added medical benefits is known as the ‘entourage effect.’ Proponents of full and broad-spectrum CBD products believe that incorporating other cannabinoids, even in small amounts, provides additional value as opposed to isolate extracts.


THC and CBD have dramatically different effects on the body, even though they have almost identical molecular compositions. A slight difference in structure allows THC to bind with receptors in the brain producing psychoactive effects directly.

While THC is widely viewed as the cannabinoid from marijuana and CBD is the cannabinoid that produces medical benefits, the notion is a drastic oversimplification. THC and CBD interact with one another, and both share beneficial properties. Dr. Ethan Russo’s Taming THC states that CBD displays “the unusual ability to antagonize CB1 at a low nM level in the presence of THC, despite having little binding affinity and supporting its modulatory effect on THC-associated adverse events such as anxiety, tachycardia, hunger, and sedation in rats and humans.”

Other Significant Cannabinoids

We have a significant amount of data that identifies the capabilities of THC and CBD; the other cannabinoids, however, are seriously lacking scientific research. As demand grows for cannabinoids like CBN, more research is being conducted regarding possible medical applications.


The third most prominent cannabinoid has the unusual ability to bind with TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptors. Research shows that the receptors play a role in processing pain. More research is needed, but companies are already capitalizing on CBC’s early potential as a pain reliever without any known side effects.

See Best CBD Products for Pain Relief


Like THC, CBG can directly bind with endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2; however, the cannabinoid is non-intoxicating. A 2013 study found that CBG performed well at lowering inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease.

See Best CBG Oil Products


The cannabinoid is currently being marketed as a sleep aid; however, the only study to provide evidence was conducted in 1975. It’s also worth noting that the CBN isolate didn’t perform as well as the CBN extract that contained THC.

See Best CBN products for sleep

Enjoy Cannabinoids Safely

As cannabinoids become more available, it’s essential to understand that we are just learning how the body processes these potent chemical compounds. While all are considered safe, we highly recommend starting with a low dose and working your way to more significant amounts, even if you are using non-intoxicating cannabinoids.