Cannabinoids are amazing. For thousands of years, people have sought them out for their unique and valued effects. The cultivation of cannabis is mentioned in the historical texts of numerous societies from around the world, who have lauded the plant for its medicinal and industrial uses. The idea that cannabinoids are something to be prohibited is a relatively new concept in society, which ignores the potential benefits that cannabinoids have to offer.
Because of attempts to ban cannabis, our knowledge of cannabinoids remains somewhat limited. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the chemical structures of cannabinoids like THC and CBD were truly understood. It is also around this period that many important cannabinoid isomers were first discovered, such as delta-8-THC, CBG, and THCv.
Thankfully, the world of cannabinoids is different now. Cannabinoids are far more accessible, and we know more about them than we ever have before. But it can still be difficult navigating the wealth of information that exists about cannabinoids online.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to choose the cannabinoid product that is right for you.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are a versatile group of compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. There are both endogenous cannabinoids, which are produced by your body, as well as exogenous cannabinoids, which must be consumed from an outside source. They are a vital, system-regulating component that affects a wide array functions, such as: sleep, hunger, memory, inflammatory and immune responses, body temperature, and emotional processing.
Exogenous cannabinoids, like those which come from the cannabis plant, tend to affect these functions to varying degrees, which is why it’s important to understand the effect of the specific cannabinoid you intend on consuming. Many substances which people would not traditionally think of as affecting the cannabinoid system do in fact have some effect, such as acetaminophen, which has an indirect action on CB1 receptors, which are believed to be responsible for part of acetaminophen’s pharmacologically proven anti-inflammatory effect.
For cannabinoids with a more direct action on these receptors, such as THC, CBD, and others, the effect may be more varied. Most cannabinoids have some level of efficacy for the CB1 and CB2 receptors, though their complexity is not yet fully understood. There is still a lot of research to be done on cannabinoids, but the current evidence is promising.
How Do You Use Cannabinoids?
There are a few different methods of consuming cannabinoids. The most popular route of administration that comes to mind when people think of cannabis is smoking, but this method creates carcinogenic byproducts as a result of the carbon combustion reaction that occurs when smoking organic matter. Despite the general proclivity of cannabinoids towards slowing or stunting tumor growth, heavy smoking of cannabis is still associated with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, though the danger is overall lesser than smoking tobacco.
Vaping cannabinoids does not carry the same risk of carbon combustion, as the cannabinoids are heated into a gaseous vapor rather than heated to the point where they combust. This makes vaping an effective method of cannabis consumption that prevents cannabinoids from being destroyed by high heat, though there are many types of equipment involved which alter the process to varying degrees. Some vaping enthusiasts use herb vaporizers, while others use concentrate vaporizers, or even both.
Concentrates like isolates and distillates provide a more potent cannabinoid experience, and also have a longer shelf-life than cannabis flower, which is prone to mold and degradation. These concentrates are also easy to use for edibles, as they can quickly be heated and poured into a recipe. If you aren’t interested in the process of making your own edibles, there are also many types of pre-made edibles available, such as gummies, softgels, or tinctures.
Additionally, there are some routes of administration which aren’t usually considered as a route of administration, such as topically absorbed creams and salves which are able to transfer cannabinoids directly through the skin. Studies show that cannabinoids like CBD are effective at reducing pain intensity when taken topically.
Some also take cannabinoids sublingually or buccally, which allows cannabinoids to pass through the thin membrane of skin that protects the sensitive areas of your mouth. Sublingual and buccal administration of cannabinoids has a slower onset than vaping or smoking, but a quicker onset than edibles, as these methods bypass the need for absorption in the GI tract and are able to pass directly into the bloodstream.
Because of differences like these, the route of administration you choose can have a significant influence on the metabolism of each cannabinoid, resulting in different effects, even when using the same cannabinoid. When trying a new cannabinoid product, it’s best to start with a low dose and work your way up until you know how it will affect you.
What Are The Major Cannabinoids?
There are over 100 different cannabinoids that have been identified in the cannabis plant. While many of them appear similar, each cannabinoid has key characteristics that distinguish it from the rest. Understanding these differences helps to paint a better understanding of the unique nature of cannabinoids.
Cannabinol (CBN) -
Discovered in 1940, CBN was the first cannabinoid to be identified and isolated. This is likely due to cannabis being kept in poor storage conditions, as THC converts to CBN when exposed to heat, light, and air. It has a serene, cozy effect that is well suited for nighttime.
Likely the most well-known of all cannabinoids, THC is highly psychoactive and has a euphoric, intoxicating effect. Isomers of THC include delta-9-THC, delta-8-THC, and delta-10-THC. Many users who experience anxiety with THC prefer using delta-8 and delta-10, as they have a comparable, but less potent effect than their more potent cousin.
As cannabinoids grow ever popular, so follows CBD. Described by some to be ‘non-psychoactive’, CBD is being researched for its anxiolytic potential. It has a relaxing, subtle effect, which makes it a flexible cannabinoid that suits almost any situation. CBD has an antagonistic effect on CB1 receptors, which helps calm some of the anxiety that may result from overconsumption of cannabinoids like delta-9-THC.
Also known as the “mother cannabinoid”, CBG is one of the first cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. It acts as the source cannabinoid that creates most other cannabinoids. On its own, it has a mild stimulatory effect, but is not intoxicating like other cannabinoids. CBG is also used for its analgesic and inflammation reducing effects.
Cannabichromene/ Cannabitriol (CBC/CBT)
Similarly to CBD, CBC is considered non-psychoactive, while CBT is slightly more psychoactive, and has a refreshing boost. Both cannabinoids are widely used for their synergistic properties, or “entourage effect”, which is the phenomenon that happens when cannabinoids work together to increase their effect. CBC and CBT pair well with any of your favorite cannabinoids.
One of the newest cannabinoids to hit the market, HHC is the hydrogenated relative of THC. It is naturally occurring, but can also be converted from other cannabinoids. HHC has a similar effect to THC, which can best be described as cerebral and uplifting, without as much cloudiness.
Acid-forms (CBDa, CBGa, THCa)
These cannabinoids are the acidic versions of the cannabinoids they resemble. Acid-form cannabinoids must be decarboxylated before they can be used in edibles. This is normally accomplished using heat. Many acid form cannabinoids are being researched for their therapeutic effect, such as CBDa, which has been studied for its antiviral properties in patients with COVID-19.
Varins (CBDv, THCv)
The varin cannabinoids have an energetic and lively energy, similar to caffeine. They provide a welcome counterbalance to more typically sedating cannabinoids, and have some benefits that most people wouldn’t normally associate with cannabinoids, such as THCv’s potential for appetite suppression. CBDv and THCv are great for any time you need a little pep in your step.
O-Acetates/Phorols (CBNo, HHC-O/ THC-P, HHC-P)
Caution, these cannabinoids are potent. You should only use these if you know what you are doing, as it can be easy to overdo them without an understanding of their strength. Cannabinoids like these are powerful tools which have a high affinity for the cannabinoid receptors, and can thus be multiple times as potent as their counterparts.
Which Cannabinoid Should I Try?
In the end, choosing which cannabinoid to use is a deeply personal decision that is dependent on a multitude of factors, most of important of which being your individual preference. If you are looking for an ‘indica-like’ cannabinoid, you might enjoy CBN, CBD, or delta-8-THC. If you’d prefer a ‘sativa-like’ cannabinoid, you may like THCv, CBDv, or HHC. Ultimately, the choice is yours. We hope this article has provided you with all the information you need to help you choose the cannabinoid product that is right for you.