Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of more than 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant, known as “cannabinoids.”
While most have probably come across the term more than a few times, many may not understand what exactly cannabinoids are and how they work to deliver numerous benefits to the body.
If you’re looking to gain a deeper understanding of cannabinoids and uncover the many benefits cannabis can deliver to your body (or you just want to outsmart that one “know it all friend”), this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need.
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are a group of compounds produced within the Cannabis and are responsible for the plant’s many therapeutic properties.
WithWhile Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the dominant cannabinoids found within cannabis, researchers have identified more than a hundred others that are naturally created through biosynthesis.
During the early discovery of cannabinoids, researchers believed that the compounds were produced exclusively within Cannabis; however, it was later revealed that cannabinoids were produced within the biological systems of numerous mammals including cats, dogs, and humans.
To establish a distinction between the two types of cannabinoids, plant-derived cannabinoids are classified as “phytocannabinoids” and endogenous cannabinoids (those that are produced within a living organism) are classified as “endocannabinoids.”
By interacting with receptors found throughout various biological systems, including the central nervous system (CNS) and immune system, endocannabinoids help to regulate the function of these systems and maintain the body’s homeostasis
By interacting with receptors found throughout the body, cannabinoids are part of an intricate signaling system known as the Endocannabinoid System.
By regulating various biological functions in the body, the Endocannabinoid System plays a vital role in maintaining homeostasis in the body
Endocannabinoids Versus Phytocannabinoids
Inside our body, there exists a natural endocannabinoid system that produces and breaks down these substances in order to regulate other systems and aspects of our body. It then stands to reason that this system existed long before humans indulged in smoking cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant, meaning that there are naturally occurring cannabinoids within our own body.
Now, these cannabinoids do not produce the same intense effects that we experience when we take in THC or CBD. Rather, cannabinoids produced in our body react with our endocannabinoid system in order to regulate processes such as homeostasis and pain reduction. Endocannabinoids have been reported to produce anti-inflammatory, anti-metastatic, and anti-proliferative effects within the body. It has also been said that they may play roles throughout the immune system, the mitochondria within cells, and react with neurotransmitters to produce a variety of effects. (However, psychoactive effects of endocannabinoids are not as potent as the effects produced by phytocannabinoids such as THC.)
When it comes to endocannabinoids, there are two main cannabinoids that play major roles in our bodies. These endocannabinoids are known as anandamide and 2-archidonyl glycerol. Anandamide is the cannabinoid most responsible for affecting pain stimuli both physically and mentally. It is also known as the “bliss molecule” due to its release when someone eats chocolate after craving it, can affect short-term memory by affecting connections between nerve cells, and is helpful in reducing the spread of breast cancer cells.
The second most common endocannabinoid, 2-archidonyl glycerol, functions much like anandamide but functions slightly differently due to its variation in chemical structure. 2-archindonyl glycerol is reported to reduce pain by suppressing the immune system and is also known to have psychoactive properties when it binds to specific endocannabinoid receptors.
As you may have already figured out and as we addressed in the first section, cannabinoids are not unique to our body. There also exists cannabinoids that naturally occur in nature, specifically in cannabis. The cannabinoids are referred to as phytocannabinoids due to their occurrence in plants rather than from within our endocannabinoid system.
Like we stated earlier in the article, there are approximately 113 phytocannabinoids found in cannabis, with THC and CBD being the most well-known and the most well-studied. Like the cannabinoids our bodies produce, phytocannabinoids typically exhibit the same traits, which are often anti-inflammatory and psychoactive in one form or another. Unlike our own body’s chemicals, however, these characteristics are generally more pronounced. This is why phytocannabinoids are more effective in treating pain and easing stress. For those who are not producing enough endocannabinoids on their own, phytocannabinoids can be extremely beneficial in helping them regulate their endocannabinoid system.