A lot has been said concerning the potential benefits of CBD products and the psychoactive properties of THC. While there is an increased interest in the use of benefits of CBD, its safety, and the vast array of other benefits, most people are kept in the dark concerning the large family of compounds that made these activities possible. In this article, we shall take a look at the cannabinoids, what they are, how they act, their receptors, and the science behind them.

What are cannabinoids?

The first reference to the use of the cannabis plant for therapeutic benefits dates back to 2000BC when Ancient Chinese physicians applied the whole plant extracts to battle wounds to aid healing and prevent the possible contamination from microorganisms. In 1966, a group of compounds were successfully extracted from the cannabis plant and were discovered to possess some properties that allow them to interact with receptors of an endogenous system that regulates cognitive activities. This new system consisted of endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) that act on the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the cannabinoid system. Later, compounds like CBD and THC were found to mimic the activities of these endocannabinoids or neurotransmitters to modulate the activity of the cannabinoid system.

Cannabinoids can be described as naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant or secreted by animals to control cognitive activities. The cannabis plant alone has about 480 different compounds with over 100 capable of interacting with the endocannabinoid system receptors and are termed cannabinoids.

What are the types of cannabinoids?

As stated earlier, the cannabinoid is a large class of chemical compounds extracted from the cannabis plant with over 100 different members. Some of the commonly studied members of the cannabinoid family include but are not limited to the following;

  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabinodiol (CBDL)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabicyclol (CBL)
  • Cannabielsoin (CBE)
  • Cannabitriol (CBT)
  • How do cannabinoids react in the body?

It is impossible to discuss the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids without making reference to their interaction with the cannabinoid receptors. Information gathered from research shows that the endocannabinoid receptors are actively concentrated in the central nervous system, and peripheral organs (CB1 receptors), or the immune system (CB2) receptors, and they serve as receptor cells that promote the activity of cannabinoids.

The effect elicited by the cannabinoids is dependent on the receptor involved, or the brain area stimulated. Understanding the role of each receptor will give us a clearer picture of the benefits of cannabinoids.


What are the Functions of the endocannabinoid receptors?

The CB1 receptor

CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system and peripheral organs like the pancreas, where they produce their modulatory effects. They have been identified as the primary target for anandamide and THC. Their expression in the brain and other parts of the nervous system is responsible for the psychoactive activities of THC and has been found to play antagonistic roles in the treatment of metabolic syndromes. Apart from these activities, CB1 receptors are also responsible for the following;

Anxiety control:

  • Cardiovascular activity
  • Drug and behavioral addiction
  • Gastrointestinal activity
  • Maintenance of internal balance

CB2 receptors

CB2 receptors are found in active concentration in the immune system. They serve as the receptor cells for 2-AG and CBD. their expression in the immune system makes them the perfect receptors for eliciting anti-inflammatory properties. They have been identified to also limit the psychoactive effects of THC and other CB1-based remedies. Some of the activities of the CB2 receptors have been reported to include eliciting therapeutic effects in peripheral disorders, prevention of osteoporosis, antagonistic targets, and they play active roles in neuroinflammatory or neurodegenerative components. The CB2 receptors have found use in the management and control of diseases like Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.

Are there Differences between cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids differ based on their interaction with the cannabinoid receptors and the degree of psychoactivity. While some cannabinoids like CBD primarily act on the CB2 receptors, others like THC are known to interact with the CB1 receptors. This determines the level of psychoactivity they elicit on the users.

Bottom line

There is an increased interest in studying the potential benefits of cannabinoids and their potential side effects on the body. Cannabinoids are great at regulating cognitive activities, thus contributing to their potential health benefits. You also be interested in: What Are the Different Types of Cannabinoids?

Don’t forget to contact us if you have questions on the use of cannabinoids.

Ian Parkes

Ian has been writing for a number of high growth industries for the past decade. Having plied his trade in the craft beer industry, Ian drew parallels between that and the world of CBD and soon became fascinated. Ian enjoys writing about innovation in the industry, particularly as it relates to the development of the leading brands.

See all posts by Ian Parkes

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