Guide to Medical Marijuana – Chapter 4

What Are Cannabinoids?

You probably already know how marijuana affects you, but do you ever wonder how a single plant can produce so many different effects? From an enjoyable high to being able to treat various medical conditions, many of marijuana’s best qualities are due to cannabinoids. The medical pot plant creates various compounds naturally, and each has its own potential side effects and specific benefits.

Research is ongoing and continues to show promise of potential medical benefits from a variety of compounds. Getting an understanding of the various types of cannabinoids and how they affect you will provide you with more insight on the plant and its therapeutic benefits for our medical condition.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabis has a whole range of chemical compounds in the plant comprising its characteristics. Chlorophyll in its leaves make the plant green, while terpenes provide aromas and flavors. However, cannabinoids are essential chemicals in cannabis.

Cannabinoids provide the marijuana plant with its medical properties. CBD, THC and other cannabinoids interact with various body receptors to deliver a whole range of different effects.

cannabis sativa plant contains 480 natural components

The cannabis sativa plant contains more than 480 natural components. Sixty-six are cannabinoids, which are unique chemicals of the plant. You’re probably already familiar with THC, as it is already researched and well known. It’s the cannabinoid producing marijuana’s psychoactive effect.

Cannabinoids and other plant components reduce the effects of THC.

Cannabinoids work a lot like other chemicals your body makes involving memory, appetite, pain and movement. Research shows cannabinoids may:

  • Relieve pain and reduce inflammation
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Relieve nausea and vomiting chemotherapy causes
  • Slow tumor growth and kill cancer cells
  • Increase the appetite and promote weight gain in individuals with AIDS and cancer
  • Relax tight muscles in MS patients

Cannabinoid agonists or cannabinoid-related compounds help with a whole range of health conditions, including:

What Is the Difference Between Cannabinoids?

The primary differences between each cannabinoid are dependent on how psychologically active they are.

There are subclasses of cannabinoids, which include:

Probably the most abundant of all the cannabinoids is CBD which contributes more than 40 percent of marijuana resin. This cannabinoid is also said to lessen THC’s psychoactive effects and has anti-anxiety effects.

When you expose THC to air, it oxidizes and turns into CBN. CBN is only mildly psychoactive and reduces the effects of THC when interacting with it. So, if you were to leave unused cannabis out for a while, it would end up with more CBN and less THC, losing its potency.

Cannabinoids (primarily CBD and THC) are secreted by marijuana flowers to offer relief to a whole range of symptoms like inflammation, pain, nausea and anxiety. They imitate our body’s natural compounds called endocannabinoids for activating health maintenance and internal stability. So, how can they interact with our bodies? It has to do with your endocannabinoid system and its cannabinoid receptors.

Your Endocannabinoid System

To completely understand cannabinoids, you’ll need to learn a little about your endocannabinoid system. This is a human body system consisting of cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids.

cannabinoids change how cells function

These cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids mimic a lock and key mechanism. Much like you insert a key into a lock, cannabinoids bind to your receptors and unlock them to cause a change in how your cells function. This results in a certain effect in your body.

Your endocannabinoids play an important role in providing homeostasis (internal stability) and keeping you healthy. They facilitate cell communication. When you have issues with your endocannabinoids, it can lead to physical difficulties and other problems caused by an imbalance in your body.

When you use weed, the THC activates your endocannabinoid system as it attaches to your cannabinoid receptors.

You have two types of these receptors:

  1. CB1 receptors: CB1 receptors are mainly in your brain and cause marijuana’s psychoactive effects.
  2. CB2 receptors: CB2 receptors are in other areas of your body and cause many biological functions.

The endocannabinoid system functions can help you understand marijuana’s effects. Your endocannabinoid system regulates memory, appetite, pain, mood, sleep and more.

Common Benefits of Cannabinoids

While each cannabinoid has its specific benefits, there are some common ones in most types of these cannabinoids. Some main benefits of cannabinoids include the following.

  • Pain relief: Cannabinoids in cannabis provide an analgesic effect, so they can be helpful for chronic pain. Patients who use medical marijuana can control their pain. Some individuals even find weed to help improve their health condition causing their pain. The herb improves pain so well, it often works better than traditional pain relievers.
  • Antibacterial: Many cannabis cannabinoids provide an antibacterial effect to help with antibiotic-resistant infections. Those who can’t get relief from their infection now have another option to treat it. Other cannabinoids have antifungal effects.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Some medical conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, cause inflammation. Cannabinoids reduce this inflammation, so they offer medicinal effects for health conditions like this.
  • Appetite stimulant: When you use cannabis, you may find getting the munchies funny. However, for some people who are sick and need to gain weight, the munchies can be a benefit.
  • Antitumor effects: Some cannabinoids reduce or slow tumor growth. For people dealing with cancer, this is huge since it gives them another way to fight the disease. Marijuana also gives cancer patients receiving chemotherapy a way to reduce their nausea and vomiting, which are typical side effects of the treatment.
  • Brain and nerve cell protection: Some cannabinoids help protect brain and nerve cells. They may even help you to grow new ones.
  • Antispasmodic: Patients with epilepsy or other disorders causing spasms or seizures often use cannabis due to the antispasmodic effect certain cannabinoids have. They reduce or get rid of seizures epilepsy causes, improving patients’ lives tremendously — particularly those who frequently have seizures. Cannabis allows them to live their lives more normally.
  • Antioxidant: Medical marijuana provides your body with an antioxidant effect as well because of certain cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are helping to fight the free radicals in your body that cause damage.
  • Antidepressant: Although some individuals may experience anxiety or paranoia when they use marijuana because of the THC, many cannabinoids provide an antidepressant effect. Medical weed balances out and improves your mood which is good for people struggling with depression.

The areas of your brain cannabinoids interact with determine their actual effects. Interactions occur in your limbic system. This is the area of your brain affecting cognition, memory and psychomotor performance. They also interact with your mesolimbic pathway, the area linked to feelings of reward, as well as in areas of pain perception.

Although researchers and scientists are still learning about the endogenous cannabinoid system, they’re putting a lot of focus on the potential of man-made cannabinoids known as “synthetic analogs” and their potential medical uses.

Exploring the CBD Cannabinoid in Medical Cannabis

When it comes to medical pot, CBD is the central cannabinoid coming into play. However, there are other cannabinoids at work, too. When you’re struggling with a chronic medical condition negatively impacting your life, CBD can help. It’s the cannabinoid that’s changing the way people think of marijuana as a medicine.

cbd doesn't affect you the way THC does

CBD doesn’t affect you as THC does. You don’t get the euphoric effect making you high. The evidence is growing about all the medical benefits CBD provides.

CBD activates receptors in your body, including:

  • Adenosine: A receptor involving the regulations of your sleep-wake cycle
  • Serotonin: A receptor involving your mood control
  • Vanilloid: A receptor involved in mediating your body’s pain signals

CBD also regulates your endocannabinoids. The compound blocks the FAAH (fatty acid) known to break down your body’s anandamide (natural endocannabinoid).

Anandamide helps to regulate many essential functions you have like pain, sleep, pleasure, reward and more. CBD boosts the anandamide in your body and keeps the FAAH from breaking it down into smaller parts. CBD also connects with your body’s receptors to regulate your immune system and body temperature as well as actively reduce inflammation.

Whether cannabinoids are produced in a plant or your body, they interact with your body’s cannabinoid receptors and your endocannabinoid system, causing different positive effects on your health.