Cannabinoids 101: Understanding Popular Cannabis Compounds That Give It Unique Properties

With the legalization of cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds around the world, the marijuana industry is blossoming into a broad and multi-faceted industry.

What was once a largely plant-based industry, including flowers for vaporizing, oils for eating, and hemp fibers for manufacturing, is now a global phenomenon. With the rise in medical prominence of cannabinoids and other non-psychoactive marijuana derivatives, the acronym field is getting quite cluttered.

CBD, CBG, THC, CBC, CBN, what does it all mean? What’s the difference? What are the best applications for each? How are they used?

We break down each acronym into a simple-to-understand definition and compare and contrast them. By the end of this article, you can confidently claim to be the “king of cannabis acronyms.”

If you have trouble with memorization or just want a hip piece of canna art to hang on your wall, our friends at Gold Leaf have an excellent cannabinoid impact matrix chart that lays things out in a beautiful visual manner.

chart of cannabinoids and effects

What Does CBD Stand For?

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is one of over 100 naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD belongs to a class of compounds known as cannabinoids that interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system. The most well-known cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

In contrast to THC, CBD does not produce a “high” or intoxication. Instead, studies suggest that CBD may offer a range of therapeutic benefits, including relief from pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, and seizures. CBD also does not appear to have any significant side effects or potential for abuse.

CBD works by interacting with receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays an important role in regulating functions like sleep, appetite, pain, and immune system response. When CBD binds to these receptors, it may modulate neurotransmitter release, reduce inflammation, and alter gene expression. However, the precise mechanisms by which CBD produces its effects remain under investigation.

While CBD is most commonly derived from hemp plants, it can also be extracted from marijuana plants. Hemp plants naturally contain higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC compared to marijuana plants.

This means that CBD derived from hemp will generally contain less than 0. % THC and will not produce any psychoactive effects. Marijuana-derived CBD products may contain varying levels of THC depending on the plant it was extracted from.

What Are The Effects of CBD?

Cannabidiol [CBD] is a compound found in the cannabis plant that has shown promise in providing numerous health benefits. CBD has gained popularity in recent years due to its potential therapeutic effects with little to no psychoactive effects.

CBD works by interacting with receptors involved in pain, inflammation, and the immune system. Studies suggest that CBD may provide the following benefits for humans:

Relief from chronic pain – CBD appears to influence receptors associated with sensation and transmission of pain signals in the body. In animal studies, CBD reduced chronic inflammation and pain linked to diseases like arthritis. Human studies have shown that CBD may relieve pain associated with multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

Reduction of anxiety and depression – CBD may affect areas of the brain involved with feelings of anxiety and depression. Early research shows that CBD may help reduce social anxiety disorder and improve symptoms of depression.

Improved sleep – CBD may help you sleep better by reducing anxiety and insomnia symptoms. Studies show that taking CBD oil can improve sleep quality and duration in people with insomnia disorder and other sleep problems.

The human body has a complex system of receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system that helps regulate functions like sleep, appetite, pain, and immune system response. By interacting with these receptors, CBD appears to influence many bodily processes that may lead to potential health benefits. However, more research is needed, especially in humans, to confirm the full range of benefits and safety of CBD.

Where is CBD Legal?

Since most laws regulating or prohibiting cannabis are directly tied to THC, many states have no laws on the books for CBD specifically, as it is low in THC or has zero THC (depending on the extraction process).

Specifically, as long as the THC content is less than .3%, then any cannabis-derived product can legally be classified as “hemp” or “hemp oil” and thus legally manufactured and sold.

Still, as with medical and recreational marijuana use, there are often conflicts between local state laws and federal laws. The Drug Enforcement Agency separates legitimate hemp production as defined in the Agricultural Act of 2014 and CBD sales.

The DEA claims the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the “Farm Bill,” only allows for CBD research and not manufacturing and marketing directly to consumers.

Still, the lack of federal prosecution and the exploding popularity of CBD means it is much more likely to be legalized than it is to be criminalized.

cbc cbg cbn cbd differences

What Is CBG and How is it Different Than CBD

Like CBC, CBG or “cannabigerol” is a non-psychoactive hemp extract containing less than 1% THC, making it generally well accepted for therapeutic applications.

Within the definition, CBG is actually considered to be the “mother cannabinoid,” as both THC and CBC are derived from this compound.

Specific enzymes in the cannabis plant break CBGA (cannabigerol acid) into both tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THC producer), cannabidiolic acid (CBD producer), and cannabichromenic acid (CBC producer).

Still, this doesn’t make CBG psychoactive as the acid requires ultraviolet light (which plants receive naturally from the sun) to break these acids down into their more recognizable THC and CBC forms.

What Are The Effects of CBG?

CBG is efficiently utilized by the human endocannabinoid system making it a popular treatment for:

  • Eye-related medical conditions such as glaucoma
  • Vasodilation
  • Decrease of inflammation
  • Protect neurons (studied in mice)
  • Inhibit cancer cell growth (studied in mice)
  • Antibacterial properties
  • Appetite stimulation (in mice)
  • Control of bladder dysfunction

As with most non-THC-related cannabinoids, research is ongoing involving this “mother cannabinoid” and its potential therapeutic and medical applications.

Does it get you high? No.

Where is CBG Legal?

CBG, as long as it is not produced from the flower (bud) of the plant, is legal in the United States under the Agricultural Act of 2014, which protects hemp production and hemp-based products of which CBG belongs.

medical benefits of cannabinnoids

CBC Definition

CBC is short for Cannabichromene, which is a lesser-known chemical naturally found in cannabis plants. Similar to CBD, it is one of the 113 cannabinoids found in the plant and extracted for therapeutic uses.

Cannabichromene is a phytocannabinoid with a chemical composition similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, tetrahydrocannabivarin, cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabinol. This compound was discovered in 1966, making it a relatively recent chemical.

What Are The Effects of CBC?

Few studies have been done on CBC. A 2010 study found that CBC, along with cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, has antidepressant effects as well as neurogenesis properties. Few studies with CBC in isolation have been conducted.

In mice, one of the most pronounced effects is anti-inflammatory properties. However, this was done with the presence of THC, which is usually removed for OTC CBC oils, so whether the anti-inflammatory effects were directly a result of the CBC or synergistic function between CBC and THC have yet to be determined.

Users of CBC oil state that it can help with the following:

  • Acne and other skin dysfunctions
  • Anti-Anxiety effects
  • Calming of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Strengthening of bone density
  • General analgesic and pain relief

Where is CBC Legal?

Even “popular” chemicals like CBD fall into legal gray areas between state and federal law. There is even less of a precedent for rare compounds like CBC. Still, as long as THC content is below .3%, the oil should be technically legal with protection found under the same Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) that protects other industrial hemp derivatives.

CBN Definition

Cannabinol is one of the more popular yet rarer non-psychoactive compounds found naturally occurring in cannabis plants. CBN itself is a metabolite or byproduct of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) synthesis.

how CBN is made

CBN is most common in aged cannabis plants material such as highly oxidized hemp products, low-quality farmed cannabis, and non-chemically produced hashish. Unlike the other cannabinoids mentioned in this article, CBN itself does not come from the CBG mother chemical. It is instead a degraded byproduct of tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA).

This happens when cannabis plants are exposed to sunlight over an extended period of time to the point where the THCA converts into CBNA (cannabinolic acid). CBN is simply a decarboxylation (release of carbon dioxide from plants) of CBNA.

What Are The Effects of CBN?

  • Some of the more notable effects of CBN on the human body include:
  • Sedative effects for sleep assistance
  • Increased bone density over time
  • Increased skin health and burn treatment
  • anti-inflammatory
  • Pain relief
  • Anti-Anxiety

Where is CBN Legal?

As with other cannabinoids, CBN is legally protected as it does not contain THC. It is simply a THC byproduct. It is commonly found in agricultural circles where high volumes of natural hemp plants are exposed to oxygen and ultraviolet light, which work to create CBN out of THCA.

THC Definition

Tetrahydrocannabinol is the mac-daddy that is the psychoactive component of cannabis that causes users to feel “high” when consumed. THC is the chemical that also determines whether a hemp product is legal or illegal depending on whether or not it is present in quantities of over .3%.

THC exists in the cannabis plant as a lipid that is active in the plant’s natural defense against insects, animals, harmful ultraviolet light, and other natural stressors.

This compound is found in varying quantities in medical and recreational marijuana and in very, very low quantities in agricultural cannabis.

Thus, if seeking the benefits of THC, most American citizens will need to live in a state where marijuana has been legalized, as THC itself is still technically illegal at the federal level and does not enjoy protection under the Agricultural Act of 2014.

CBD vs THC comparison chart

What Are The Effects of THC?

THC gets you high. It also has a lot of other benefits associated with other cannabinoids, including:

  • Treatment of multiple sclerosis
  • General pain relief
  • Combats nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Neuroprotectant
  • Sleep aid
  • PTSD treatment
  • Topically antibacterial properties
  • Natural antioxidant (when consumed orally)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Bronchodilator (non-smoked forms)
  • Muscle relaxant
  • Anticonvulsant

Where is THC Legal?

THC is legal in all states where medical marijuana use has been legalized. It is also, by default, legal in states where recreational marijuana laws have been passed.

It is still technically illegal at the federal level; however, prosecution has been almost non-extent in the 31 states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Cannabis is the Sum of ALL of its Cannabinoids

Many of the cannabinoids are only now being studied in controlled laboratories, and so their complete spectrum of benefits is not yet fully understood. No longer are discerning consumers only caring about how much THC is in a flower and instead question CBD, CBN, CBG, and terpene quantities as well.

Much of this is because of archaic marijuana prohibition laws that made research costly and slow.

Now however, with the growing popularity of legal cannabis and the de-criminalization of this miracle plant, there are more and more researchers receiving funding to study the long-term effects of CBC, CBG, CBN, CBD, and THC itself.

We will continue to update this resource as new studies are completed and more knowledge is published on the medical and chemical impacts of these truly unique chemical compounds.

What are the main cannabinoids?

The main cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Some of the most well-known cannabinoids include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), each with distinct effects on the body.

What are the effects of cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, influencing various physiological processes such as mood, appetite, pain sensation, and memory. Depending on the specific cannabinoid and its interaction with receptors, effects can range from relaxation and pain relief to altered perception and increased appetite.

How do cannabinoids work in the body?

Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis. They bind to cannabinoid receptors, primarily CB1 and CB2 receptors, affecting neurotransmitter release and modulating various physiological functions.

What is the difference between THC and CBD?

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychoactive compound that produces the “high” commonly associated with cannabis use, while CBD (cannabidiol) is non-psychoactive and is known for its potential therapeutic benefits, such as reducing inflammation and anxiety, without the intoxicating effects.

What are the benefits of cannabinoids?

Research suggests that cannabinoids, particularly CBD, may offer potential therapeutic benefits, including pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties, anxiety reduction, and support for certain neurological disorders. However, more clinical research is needed to fully understand their efficacy and potential applications.

Are cannabinoids legal?

The legal status of cannabinoids varies across different jurisdictions. While some cannabinoids, such as THC, remain classified as controlled substances in many regions, others, like CBD, have been legalized for medicinal and, in some cases, recreational use, depending on local regulations.

How are cannabinoids used in medicine?

Cannabinoids have been explored for their potential medicinal applications in treating conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and certain mental health disorders. Pharmaceutical formulations containing cannabinoids, especially CBD, have gained attention for their therapeutic potential, although more research is required to establish their clinical efficacy and safety.

Leave a Reply