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What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in Cannabis. There are over 480 different compounds but only slightly more than 60 are termed cannabinoids.

The most well known cannabinoid is THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another important component, making up about 40% of plant resin extract.

Classes of cannabinoids

The cannabinoids are separated into the following subclasses:

  • Cannabigerols (CBG)

  • Cannabichromenes (CBC)

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

  • Cannabinol (CBN)

  • Cannabinodiol (CBDL)

  • Other cannabinoids including cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE) and cannabitriol (CBT)

Cannabinoids in cannabis interact with the body through the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is involved in physiological processes including appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory. The body has 2 types of cannabinoid receptors present, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the merve cells of the brain, spinal cord and some peripheral organs like the spleen and endocrine glands. In the brain stem, the concentration of cannabinoids is low, which may be why cannabis use is not associated with sudden death due to depressed respiration, for example. The CB2 receptors are mainly found on white blood cells, in the tonsils and in the spleen. The immune cells also express CB1, although there are fewer of them than CB2. In the immune system, one important function of the cannabinoid receptors is the regulation of cytokine release. Stimulation of the CB1 receptor produces marijuana-like effects on the psyche and circulation, while no such effect is seen when the CB2 receptor is activated. Therefore, selective CB2 receptor agonists have become increasingly popular subjects of research for their potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

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