In this article we had Palette Market write about the science of cannabis and cannabinoids. We’ll explore some of the benefits that are being researched and compounds derived from hemp and marijuana being consumed by millions of people worldwide.

Top 5 Most Common Cannabinoids

The resinous female flowers of the cannabis plant produce scores of cannabinoid compounds, the most common of which are THC and CBD. However, other prominent cannabinoids can be found in certain strains of cannabis and can also be purchased in their purified form. In this post, we’ll explain in brief what cannabinoids are and discuss the properties of the top five cannabinoids.

What’s a cannabinoid?

Before we dig into the properties of individual families of cannabinoids, let’s briefly answer this question: 

“what are cannabinoids and why would I want to consume them?”

Of course, as the name might suggest, cannabinoids are molecular compounds produced by the cannabis plant. More specifically, these oily compounds are produced in the highest abundance in the resinous flowers of the female cannabis plant. 

Cannabinoids are highly active compounds that have been shown to provide a host of medicinal benefits. They achieve these benefits by regulating, modulating, and mimicking the effects of cannabinoid compounds produced naturally by our own bodies.

To be precise, the cannabinoids produced in plants such as cannabis are referred to as phytocannabinoids, while the cannabinoids produced by the human body are known as endogenous cannabinoids, or simply endocannabinoids.  

Endocannabinoids are produced by the human brain and nervous system in response to various states of health. They are the brain’s way of communicating with the body at a cellular level by relaying instructions to individual cells. Cannabinoids and other types of signaling molecules are categorized as neurotransmitters.

Individual cannabinoids come in a variety of similar structures. For example, we have not only THC, but we also have THCV and THCA, among others. The molecular differences between each form of a particular cannabinoid are subtle, and we won’t go into them here. However, their effects can vary. 

For example, while THC is responsible for the high associated with smoking, vaping or cooking marijuana, THCA — the precursor to THC — on the other hand, is non-intoxicating. 

Two additional cannabinoids that are worth discussing are cannabinol, aka CBN, and cannabichromene, or CBC. 

As with CBD, CBC is nonintoxicating but known for its analgesic and antidepressant properties. 

And CBN, although found in trace amounts in cannabis flowers, can increase as the flowers dry and age. As with THC, cannabinol can act as a sedative and pain reducer as well as an anticonvulsant and antiemetic (nausea reducer), although not as powerful as CBD.

What is CBG? A cannabinoid precursor

The cannabinoid known as cannabigerol, or CBG, is actually a precursor to the most common cannabinoids. 

As a female cannabis plant begins to flower, it starts producing a compound known as cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA for short. As the flowers mature, enzymes in the plant begin to convert CBGA into the more well-known cannabinoids. 

As with THC and CBD, CBG and CBGA are known to have powerful medicinal properties. In fact, in many cases, the effects of CBG have been reported by some users to be more pronounced to those of CBD when used to treat conditions such as anxiety and depression. 

Cannabinoid acids and “decarboxylation”

In their raw form, the dried flower clusters of the cannabis plant contain compounds known as cannabinoid acids. Cannabinoid acids are denoted simply with an A after the letter designation, such as THCA, CBDA, CBGA, etc. 

When these acidic compounds are heated to a certain temperature for a certain period of time — as with cooking, smoking, vaping, etc. — the molecule loses what is known as a carboxylate, converting them into a neutral (non-acidic) form. This process is appropriately referred to as decarboxylation

The most important point to remember here is that raw marijuana contains THCA which is non-intoxicating. When cooked, smoked, vaped, etc. the THCA converts to THC which does cause intoxication.

The most common cannabinoid acids:

  • CBGA – Cannabigerolic acid 
  • THCA – Tetrohydrocannabinolic acid 
  • CBDA – Cannabidiolic acid 
  • CBCA – Cannabichromenic acid 

Medicinal benefits of cannabinoids

Before we get into the medicinal benefits associated with each cannabinoid, let’s go over a list of the technical terms used to denote these properties and put them in simpler terms. 

For the sake of brevity, we’re only going to list a handful of the most desired medicinal properties rather than listing every single benefit. 

Remember that not all cannabinoids provide all of these benefits. This list is merely to explain the terms we’ll be using below.

Potential effects of cannabinoids

  • Antioxilitic – anxiety reducer
  • Antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral – kills germs
  • Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation
  • Antioxidant – reduces free radicals
  • Analgesic – pain reducer
  • Anticonvulsant – reduces seizures
  • Antispasmodic – reduces tremors
  • Sedative – sleep aid
  • Anti-tumor proliferation – cancer protection
  • Neuroprotectant – protects nerves and brain cells
  • Gastrointestinal aid – calms stomach and intestines
  • Antiemetic – nausea reducer
  • Immunoregulator – immune system support
  • Intoxicant – causes euphoria and intoxication

Specific medicinal effects and benefits of common cannabinoids

Now that we’ve gone over what cannabinoids are as well as pointed out a few of the various forms of cannabinoids let’s end by listing some of the specific medicinal properties of each cannabinoid.

Effects of CBG

  • Antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Neuroprotectant
  • Antitumor

Effects of THC

  • Antioxilitic 
  • Antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Analgesic 
  • Anticonvulsant 
  • Antispasmodic 
  • Sedative 
  • Antiemetic
  • Antitumor
  • Intoxicant

Effects of THCA

  • Sedative
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Gastrointestinal aid
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antitumor

Effects of CBD

  • Antioxilitic 
  • Antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral 
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Antioxidant
  • Analgesic
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antispasmodic 
  • Sedative 
  • Anti-tumor proliferation 
  • Neuroprotectant 
  • Gastrointestinal aid 

Effects of CBN

  • Sedative
  • Gastrointestinal aid
  • Antispasmodic
  • Immunoregulator

Effects of CBC

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic
  • Antibiotic
  • Antitumor

Summary of most common cannabinoids

To summarize what we’ve learned in this post, 

  • Phytocannabinoids are medicinally active compounds produced in female cannabis flowers.
  • Phytocannabinoids module, regulate and mimic to some extent the effects of our own naturally produced endocannabinoids.
  • The most common cannabinoids are CBG, THC, CBD, CBN, and CBC.
  • Cannabigerolic acid, aka CBGA, is a precursor to other common cannabinoids.
  • Mature cannabis flowers in their raw state contain the acidic forms of cannabinoids CBGA, THCA, CBDA, etc.
  • When cooked, smoked, vaped, etc. (decarboxylated) cannabinoid acids are converted to their neutral forms — CBG, THC, CBD, etc.
  • Some THC is converted into CBN as dried cannabis flowers age.
  • Each of these various cannabinoids is believed to provide a specific set of medicinal benefits.

If you’ve got any questions related to cannabis and cannabinoids that you would like answered, please contact us at info@mindfulrealm.com