January 18, 2022

Understanding cannabinoids

Kat Kuchtjak
April 7, 2021
January 18, 2022

The massive array of compounds contained by a cannabis plant presents a lot to unpack. Terpenes present the aromatic compounds that steer your high. The cannabinoid content of a particular cultivar alters how your body chemically responds to a certain strain.

Cannabis as medicine

To understand cannabinoids, one must examine how they correlate to the body’s endocannabinoid system. The receptors in the endocannabinoid system create and maintain equilibrium throughout various systems of the body.

The Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is complex and works to promote internal balance through intercell communication. Cannabis products naturally mirror the system by binding to the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in the human brain. By acting like these molecules, cannabinoids can alter the effects of your high.


Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that the cannabis plant naturally secretes. THC and CBD are the most commonly known cannabinoids, with CBD now becoming globally known as a non-psychoactive component of the plant that provides relief for those in need.

Cannabinoids, in conjunction with the body’s system of absorbing them, can cause temporary changes within your:

  • Nervous System
  • Stress Receptors
  • Sleep Cycles
  • Mood
  • Metabolism

THC (Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol)

THC is the primary compound found in the resinous glands of a cannabis plant, and is directly responsible for psychoactive effects. It mirrors the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids and attaches to these receptors to alter and enhance sensory perception. THC creates a feeling of euphoria by enhancing dopamine levels in the brain.

CBD (Cannabidiol) : The modern cure all?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is increasing in popularity because it has been legalized in the United States. You can find anywhere from gas stations to high-end organic food markets across the country. Not all CBD is the same, and the high CBD products purchased at a dispensary are still likely to contain a few milligrams of THC.

Scientifically speaking, those one or two seemingly trivial milligrams of THC can enhance the effects of using CBD alone. This is why someone who purchased CBD from a state that only allows Hemp, may say it doesn’t work. It does work, it simply isn’t enough on its own unless taken in very high doses. But pure CBD can still be helpful to those who need lighter nerve relief without any mental distraction. The THC component of the marijuana plant remains the key to activating your endocannabinoid system.

CBN (Cannabinol)

A cannabinoid whose popularity is on the rise is CBN, or cannabinol, which attaches to the CB-2 receptor and therefore is felt physically rather than mentally. Often, a fusion of various cannabinoids will have the most powerful and relieving effect. An edible high in THC, CBD, and CBN is the perfect combination for pain relief followed by deep sleep.

Gron Chocolates, an artisan edible company out of Portland, OR, has recently released a line of gummies and chocolate bars that feature this 1:1:1 ratio that includes CBN. This image features the dark chocolate and vanilla bean bar dusted with a savory hint of sea salt.

THC-A (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)

THC-A is known most prolifically to concentrate consumers, because it is the primary compound in crystals, also known as “diamonds.” This cannabinoid is normally separated from its terpene counterpart and sold as an isolate. When consumed, THCA has a stimulating effect that can clear your mind and enhance focus.

Select is a West Coast company that sells THC-A Crystalline in its raw form.

Other cannabinoids include:

  • CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
  • THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)
  • CBG (Cannabigerol)
  • CBC (Cannabichromene)
  • CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
  • CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)
  • CBDV (Cannabidivarin)
  • CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid)
  • THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)
  • CBGV (Cannabigerivarin)
  • CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
  • CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)

The cannabis plant exhibits a variety of complexities. Dutchie's upcoming cannabinoid menu feature can help you learn more about these various compounds and how to predict your own physiological reactions. A basic understanding of the chemical composition of these cannabinoids can also help you discover the ideal relief for whatever ails you.

About the author
Kat Kuchtjak