What is a Cannabinoid?

First things first – a Cannabinoid is a type of chemical in the Marijuana plant that causes drug-like effects within the brain and body. These interact specifically within the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the immune system. To break it down even further, Cannabinoid refers to every chemical substance that joins to the Cannabinoid receptors that are present all over our brain and body. These are compounds that are found in the cannabis plant (or synthetic compounds) that interact with the Endocannabinoid system.

But wait, what is the Endocannabinoid system? The Endocannabinoid system is made up of natural molecules known as cannabinoids and the pathways in which they interact with. This is a unique communications system found in the brain and body that affects many important functions. Together these parts work as a whole to regulate a number of activities including mood, memory, appetite, and more. More specifically it regulates motor movement, control, and coordination. It helps regulate learning and memory, emotion and motivation, and pain modulation.

Similar to Opioids, Cannabinoids produce their effects by interacting with specific receptors located within the Endocannabinoid system; as well as different parts of the CNS. Within these systems Cannabinoids regulate how cells communicate or how they send, receive, and process messages. There are two main Cannabinoid Receptors called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain! They are found and can affect the Basal Ganglia, the limbic system, the Hippocampus and Striatum. These receptors are also found in the Cerebellum and both male and female reproductive systems. CB1 receptors however are absent from the Medulla Oblongata which is the part of the brain system responsible for respiratory and cardiovascular functions. CB2 receptors are predominantly found in immune system or immune derived cells that are only found in peripheral nervous system.

So, there are three types of Cannabinoids that people use – recreational, medicinal, and synthetic. This includes cannabis (the dried leaves and flowers specifically), HU-210, UR-144, JWH, Hemp and more! Don’t worry we will explore all the different types as there are over 100 distinct cannabinoids. The most commonly used cannabinoids are Butane Hash Oil (dabs), Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabis (it is a cannabinoid drug), Medicinal Cannabis, and Synthetic Cannabinoids (mimics the effect of cannabis). 

The main active Cannabinoid and most commonly know is Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol otherwise known as THC. This is the primary intoxicating compound in cannabis. The other major Cannabinoid is Cannabidiol otherwise known as CBD. Classical Cannabinoids are concentrated in a viscous resin that is specifically produced in structures known as grandular trichomes. THC has strong psychoactive effects, CBD has anti-psychoactive effects that controls or moderates the high that is caused by THC. CBD also helps reduces some of the negative effects of THC like anxiety and paranoia. A good way to look at this is it’s like driving a car, THC is the gas pedal and CBD is the brake!

Stay tuned for more on CBG, CBN, and CBD next week! 





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