How Cannabinoids Translate Into Effects

By Michael Cheng | April 10, 2017

Cannabis strains vary greatly depending on their chemical makeup, like terpene profiles, and characteristics. One of the things that set some strains apart from others is their cannabinoid content. This refers to natural chemical compounds found inside the plant’s genetic makeup that dictates its chemical attributes, as well as its effects during consumption.

The cannabis plant is made up of hundreds of chemical compounds, of which roughly 85 are cannabinoids. The most popular classifications include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

If you’re not quite understanding this concept, just think of cannabis like ice cream. The plant, like the cold, sweet dessert, comes in many different flavors and combinations. A tart, lemon flavor could cause your tongue to feel tingly and relaxed, while one laced with brownies and thick fudge could leave you feeling full and hazy (like a superior THC strain).

But regardless if one is eating a lemon or chocolate-flavored scoop, all flavors and types can still be generally classified as ice cream (just like cannabis).

Classifications of Cannabinoids

There are numerous types of cannabinoids in cannabis. As mentioned earlier, THC and CBD are the most commonly researched and reported, in both recreational communities and medical fields. THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that is responsible for boosting one’s appetite, reducing pain, promoting rest in higher doses and mentally transcending highs (used to treat cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD and more).

CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for curbing anxiety and spasticity, improving moods and reducing inflammation (used to treat depression, epilepsy, diabetes and more). In fact, CBD counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC – without it, the effects of THC could dominate the experience for example, causing you to feel anxious.

Other cannabinoids found in cannabis include:

  • Cannabinol (CBN)- Sedative, anti-asthmatic; used to treat glaucoma
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)- Stimulates brain growth, anti-depressant
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)- Non-psychoactive, used as an antibiotic
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv)- Promotes weight loss, anti-seizure benefits
  • Delta(8) (THC)- Less psychoactive than Delta(9) THC; contains calming properties

Applications and Effects

For individuals consuming medicinal cannabis or those who seek certain effects, it is important to understand how these classifications make up various strains. The process is pretty simple and straightforward – all you have to do is match your symptoms with a set of cannabinoids that target those ailments. For example, if you’re suffering from chronic pain, a budtender at your local dispensary might recommend a wildly potent THC strain, like OG Kush. This hybrid strain is saturated with THC (often reaching 27 percent); but it also contains other cannabinoids that work together in a process called the entourage effect. Some like CBD or CBG can balance out and even buffer the psychoactivity of THC.

The type of cannabinoid you’re interested in consuming may also dictate the method of consumption. For instance, for muscle soreness or inflammation, a transdermal lotion with high levels of CBD would be very effective in delivering instant relief for people with busy lifestyles. Consuming a THC-potent edible, although equally effective in a different way (could help you forget about the pain), may not be ideal in this specific situation due to its delayed onset and potentially sedating effects.

“Marijuana is lipophilic, which means that it can be dissolved into a fat-soluble substance and readily enter cell membranes. In other words, it can be effective when applied topically on the skin,” explained Mark Sircus from Natural News.

Michael Cheng

Michael is a legal editor with publications for Blackberry, Lifehack.org and R Magazine. He specializes in tech startups, cannabis gadgets and fitness wearables. He enjoys spending time outdoors, being a productive father and partaking in a nightly toke after the end of a long day.

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