This article aims to arm you with basic knowledge of cannabinoids and how they affect the brain and body.
It’s quite sarcastic: a plant that has been criminalized and labeled illegal in almost every country is offering much-needed relief to a variety of symptoms and ailments that pharmaceutical medicine has failed to treat.
Indeed, cannabis is a powerful therapeutic compound, but when confronted with the puzzling question of why cannabis should be legalized, not everyone can answer confidently.
Not only will you be able to understand the chemical effects of these compounds better, but you’ll be in a position to educate others on why marijuana should be the go-to remedy for several ailments and conditions.
What are Cannabinoids?
The term cannabinoid refers to naturally occurring chemical substances, irrespective of origin or structure, that stimulate the brain’s receptors and body and produce similar effects as those of cannabis Sativa. There are three main types of cannabinoids: medicinal, recreational, and synthetic.
According to research, the cannabis Sativa plant produces more than 100 cannabinoids and over 300 non-cannabinoid compounds.
However, the two most common ones are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the most popular of the two, as it is the compound responsible for the intoxicating effects of marijuana.
THC and CBD’s biggest difference is that THC has a psychoactive component, meaning it can make you feel high or intoxicated.
On the other hand, CBD is known to have anti-psycho-active components, meaning it helps regulate and neutralize the intoxicating effects of THC. It also helps reduce other adverse effects brought about by THC use, including panic attacks and anxiety.
How do Cannabinoids Work?
As mentioned before, cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds extracted from the cannabis Sativa plant.
There are over 100 types of cannabinoids. Even though most of them are derived from the cannabis plant, some are derived from other plants.
These chemical compounds work by attaching themselves to specific receptors in the body, called endocannabinoid receptors.
The endocannabinoid receptors are responsible for controlling various critical bodily functions, including sleep, appetite, movement, and body temperature.
CB1 and CB2 receptors
The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2.
The former is responsible for regulating the human brain’s functions and is mostly found in the peripheral and central nervous systems. The latter is responsible for regulating functions in the rest of the human body. CB2 is mostly found in the immune system.
When one uses cannabis, the cannabinoid compounds attach to these receptors.
When this happens, it triggers a series of reactions in the way cells communicate with each other throughout the body. In other words, they affect the way signals are transmitted from one cell to another.
Each cannabinoid triggers different physical and psychological changes in the body, depending on which receptor it is attached to.
Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the most prevalent cannabinoid. It is also responsible for bringing about psychoactive or intoxicating effects. In short, it causes the ‘’high’’ or ‘’stoned’’ feeling that users report after consuming marijuana.
THC and CBN
While THC compounds tend to have a higher affinity to CB1 receptors found in the brain, less common cannabinoids, such as cannabinol (CBN), tend to have a higher affinity to CB2 receptors found in the rest of the body.
This simply means that it is possible to elicit different results in different areas of the body, depending on the cannabinoids consumed and the receptors targeted.
This perception is the foundation of medicinal marijuana. The results are promising to the extent that cannabinoids are currently being used to make synthetic medications, such as Nabilone, Marinol, and Rimonabant.
While these synthetic cannabinoid medications are working just fine, research shows that herbal marijuana has more therapeutic compounds and far-reaching results.
Classes of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are classified into different categories, including:
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
Let’s Talk About these Lesser-Known Cannabinoids
We have dwelled largely on the two commonly known cannabinoids: THC and CBD. Other less common cannabinoids have demonstrated potential medicinal value.
After CBD and THC, CBC is the third most known cannabinoid. Just like CBD, it is also on-intoxicating.
Research has shown that it has anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anti-depressant properties. Its therapeutic benefits are enhanced significantly when used in combination with other cannabinoids, such as CBD, THC, and CBG.
It has also been proven to help promote the growth of new brain cells, which is promising as it may serve as a treatment for such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease.
CBN is produced when THC is broken down- this means it is secreted when cannabis flowers start becoming old and stale.
Therefore, we can say that CBN has mild intoxicating properties, just like THC. It has also been shown to increase one’s appetite significantly, and studies found that it has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.
In addition, CBN is a strong sedative and pain reliever. It has been proven to reduce the pressure at the eye’s ocular region, making it a possible treatment option for glaucoma disease.
A study done in 2005 on mice and rodents found that CBN could delay Lou Gehrig’s disease’s onset of symptoms.
Such findings show that this cannabinoid has the potential to ease the symptoms and delay the progression of such neurodegenerative diseases like ALS.
CBG is found in very minimal quantities, mostly because it is only present when the cannabis plant is still young.
Just like CBD, it is non-intoxicating and thus a good choice for therapeutic value. Studies show that this cannabinoid has antifungal, anti-depressant, and antibiotic properties.
It has demonstrated the ability to treat such skin diseases as psoriasis and promote bone growth. Aside from that, it has anti-tumoral properties and can treat some types of cancers.
Best of all, it is a really potent painkiller (even more powerful than THC).
Can I find cannabinoids in other plants?
Although most people focus on cannabinoids found in cannabis, other plants possess these amazing substances.
The cannabinoids are usually present in flowers and roots. We also have to mention the Kava plant as a great source of CBD.
Not only is this plant full of cannabinoids, but the human body can easily absorb this form of the substance. Surprisingly, you can also find the substance in black truffles.
Keep in mind that all these plant species have to be processed if you want to get the most out of its cannabinoids. Even then, they cannot compare with the potential benefits that hemp plant and cannabis can provide.
As you probably know, there is a major CBD revolution in the world right now.
A lot of countries have decided to legalized medical marijuana in the last few years. This has to do with the plant’s awesome benefits.
Another major reason people prefer using CBD over traditional drugs is that they’re less likely to cause side effects. Most products are made of organic hemp or cannabis, so you don’t have to worry about hazardous pesticides.
Cannabis’s medical properties have everything to do with cannabinoids present within. CBD, in particular, is really potent, but experts recommend that you use various cannabinoids together.
Focusing just on cannabidiol may not be enough. Instead, you can get much better results by using all cannabinoids at once, creating a so-called “entourage effect.”
We are still not completely certain how these substances work for various medical conditions. Additional research is needed for more conclusive evidence.
However, based on what we’ve seen so far, cannabinoids can be used for ailments such as:
- CBD oil for Anxiety
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms and related conditions
- Atherosclerosis and improvement of the heart’s function
- Various inflammations
- Skin issues, etc.
The doctors are already prescribing medical marijuana for some of these issues.
A lot of patients use it after chemotherapy or if they have severe inflammations. It is also used for certain mental problems, stress, and insomnia. For some conditions, we still have too little data to recommend it.
We will see how we can use these substances and what new knowledge we can attain in the near future.
Although most scientists regard cannabinoids as safe substances, you still need to take some precautionary measures before using them.
First and foremost, it is not recommended to use them together with alcohol and drugs. Keep in mind that CBD can cause various effects on our body and mind, so using them in conjunction with mind-altering substances can be really tricky.
There are several cases where patients used cannabinoids with ecstasy and methamphetamine, leading to severe issues for users.
Although cannabinoid products are often advertised as natural, organic medicines, they have some similarities with traditional drugs. Perhaps the best evidence of this is the fact you cannot drive or operate machinery after using CBD.
Medical cannabis is forbidden for kids. However, there are some cases where small children used it to treat some serious medical conditions. In the future, this might change as well.
No matter what, if a person is vulnerable in any way, it is suggested that they have a helping hand nearby after consuming cannabinoids. This is especially true for those who have existing heart issues and those with mental problems.
Can you become addicted?
There are certain misconceptions and partial information when it comes to dependency.
As you well know, cannabis can cause dependency after a while. For now, we are not 100% sure if cannabinoids themselves cause this issue. Nevertheless, you should be aware of this.
Potential issues that the abuse of cannabinoids can cause include lower IQ, attention issues, mild depression, other cognitive issues, and increased risk of developing mental problems.
As seen above, cannabinoids have limitless therapeutic benefits.
Researchers have barely uncovered the numerous uses of these incredible compounds.
With the gradual relaxation of cannabis restrictions worldwide, we are likely to witness the flooding of therapeutic applications and the benefits of cannabinoids in the next 10 or so years.