What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds that are crucial in activating cannabinoid receptors on cells that repress the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. In layman's terms, they are natural occurring psychoactive chemicals. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring in the human body and animals, these are referred to as endocannabinoids, and found in cannabis and other plants including echinacea. Cannabinoids can also be produced synthetically and are found in commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals such as Marinol and Sativex.
Over 85 cannabinoids have been identified in peer-reviewed research publications, including Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidol (CBD). Recent ground-breaking research on CBD is encouraging and exciting with regards to its anti proliferative, anti-epeleptic, anxiolytic, anti-diabetic, anti-insomniatic and neuroprotective effects. The combinations of cannabinoids naturally occurring at different rates in different strains, or even batches of medicine, can make them more or less effective to treat certain health conditions.
Clases of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are separated into the following subclasses:
- Cannabigerols (CBG)
- Cannabichromenes (CBC)
- Cannabidol (CBD)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabinodiol (CBDL)
- Cannabicyclol (CBL)
- Cannabielsoin (CBE)
- Cannabitriol (CBT)
Effects of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids interact with specific cannabinoid receptors precent on the surface of cells.These receptors are found in different parts of the central nervous system and the two primary types of cannabinoid receptors in the body are CB1 and CB2.
A naturally occuring substance in the brain that binds to CB1, referred to as anadamide, was discovered in 1992. This cannabinoid-like chemical and others that were later discovered are referred to as endocannabinoids.
The effects of cannabinoids is dependent on the area of the brain involved. Effects on the limbic system may alter the memory, cognition and psychomotor performance; effects on the mesolimbic pathway may affect the reward and pleasure responses and pain perception may be altered.
Differentiating Between Cannabinoids
The main way cannabinoids are differentiated is based on their degree of psychoactivity. CBG, CBC and CBD are not know to be psychologically active agents whereas THC, CBN and CBDL alone with other cannabinoids are know to have varying degrees of psychoactivity.
The most abundant of the cannabinoids is CBD, which is thought to have anti-anxiety effects, with the possibility of counteracting the psychoactive effects of THC. When THC is exposed to air, it oxidizes and forms CBN, which interacts with THC to lessen its impact. Cannabis that's left out unused will have a less potent effect when smoked, due to the increased CBN:THC ratio.