What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptors (and sometimes other receptors, too). They include anandamide and 2-AG, which are produced naturally by the body (endocannabinoids); and cannabinoids from the cannabis plant or any other plant in nature, like THC and CBD (phytocannabinoids). Cannabinoids can instruct the brain to carry out certain functions, e.g. THC’s CB1 receptor agonism gives instructions to the brain that increase the desire for food.

The cannabis plant contains six main cannabinoids, but there are up to 150 of them. The big six cannabinoids are:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – acidic precursor is cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). Non-intoxicating, and has anti-psychotic properties.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – acidic precursor is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). Psychoactive.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC) – acidic precursor is cannabichromenic acid (CBCA). Non-intoxicating.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) – acidic precursor is cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBG is the “parent” cannabinoid, and THC and CBD start off life as CBG.
  • Cannabinol (CBN) – THC degrades into CBN over time, so there is no acidic precursor. Slightly psychoactive.
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) – acidic precursor is tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid (THCVA). THCV is anti-psychoactive in small doses, but psychoactive in larger doses. These effects at different dosages is referred to as “biphasic”.

You can get more information from our cannabinoid-terpene table. The peppery terpene, beta-caryophyllene, is also considered a cannabinoid as it is a selective partial agonist of the CB2 receptors in the immune system. This gives beta-caryophyllene anti-inflamatory effects.