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Cannabinoids: what are they, how do they work, and the difference between CBD and THC

Cannabinoids: what are they, how do they work, and the difference between CBD and THC

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds derived from industrial hemp and marijuana plants. The most commonly known, and found, cannabinoids in hemp are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Among them are over 100 of their lesser-known counterparts, including cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabichromene (CBC).

How do cannabinoids work?

Though plant natives, cannabinoids have a similar molecular structure to our body’s naturally produced endocannabinoids, chemical compounds that interact with our Endocannabinoid System or ECS. Discovered in the 1990s, the ECS is believed to have a hand in regulating our overall wellness and homeostasis, among many other systems in the body.

The ECS is believed to have an effect on:

  • Peripheral and central nervous systems
  • Reproductive system
  • Stress response
  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Bone and skin health
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammation
  • Memory and learning

The Endocannabinoid System has receptors throughout the body that regulate the various systems, and their corresponding cellular processes, listed above. Research suggests when cannabinoids enter the body they bind to or block certain receptors catalyzing any number of different responses. Different cannabinoids are believed to interact with the ECS in different ways, thus resulting in different effects.

What is the difference between THC and CBD?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the commonly known psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana that induces the “high” effect most people are familiar with. THC is believed to bind to CB1 receptors located in the brain and central nervous system catalyzing feelings of euphoria, relaxation, anxiety, as well as increased appetite, and may affect sleep, memory, and motor function.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive, non-addictive and is typically derived from industrial hemp, hemp with less than 0.3% THC. Current research suggests CBD may work as an “indirect antagonist,” reducing the effects of different chemical compounds in the body by blocking them from binding to certain receptors. CBD also is believed to eliminate the enzyme responsible for consuming and thus decreasing the body’s own endocannabinoids, allowing more to remain in circulation in the body.

Cannabinoids may in some cases counteract each other. For example, it is believed that cannabidiol could offset anxiety induced by THC consumption by inhibiting THC from binding to certain receptors. However, in general, cannabinoids are believed to actually work quite cohesively together through a biological phenomenon known as the Entourage effect. Likely contributing to each other’s overall effectiveness in the body.

Further research will be necessary to determine more conclusively the relationship between cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System. As well as further identifying the many cannabinoids and their different effects in the body. But from what we know, the resulting applications in medicine and wellness could prove to be great assets in combating dozens of different health conditions and ailments.