Cannabinoids. What are they? And why should you care?
Well, you should care because they’re the active ingredient in medical marijuana. In fact, when we talk about the benefits of marijuana, what we’re really talking about are the benefits of cannabinoids.
Because without the benefits of cannabinoids, marijuana is just a cool-looking plant you can use to make cooking oil and rope. Yes, the terpenoids would still give it some medicinal power. But it wouldn’t be the same.
So…What Are Cannabinoids Exactly?
They’re chemical compounds. The one you’re probably most familiar with is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
THC is an important cannabinoid – definitely the most important in popular culture. Although it’s highly beneficial, it’s not the only player in town.
Marijuana has over 100 different types of cannabinoids. You probably don’t need to know every single one of them, but you should at least know the top 5. We’ll list those 5 in a bit.
Because we want you to understand the benefits of cannabinoids, we need to talk a little about how cannabinoids affect the body.
That probably sounds like we’re about to drag you into biology class, but don’t worry. We’ll make it short and interesting. Well…short, at the very least.
Why the Human Body and Cannabinoids Like Each Other
Believe it or not, the human body was built to work with cannabinoids.
The body make its own cannabinoids, which are similar to marijuana’s cannabinoids. Furthermore, these human-produced cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids. Marijuana’s cannabinoids are known as phytocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system doesn’t get as much air time as the nervous system, the cardiovascular system or digestive system. But it’s extremely vital to the proper functioning of the body.
It is a system made up of lipids, enzymes and receptors that all work together to promote your body’s homeostasis – a state of internal balance and equilibrium. In other words, it makes sure that all the different parts of your body are working well together.
Cannabinoid receptors are found all throughout the body as part of individual cells. When your brain produces endocannabinoids, they travel through the body and bind with these receptors, changing the way that the cell behaves.
There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain, nervous system and outer organs. They bind with the endocannabinoid anandamide as well the phytocannabinoid THC.
CB2 receptors are located in organ systems outside the brain such as the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and the digestive system. CB2 binds with the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD).
Using Marijuana to Regulate Your Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system regulates your memory, appetite, metabolism, pain, stress levels, immune system and sleep.
Medical marijuana, in turn, helps you to regulate that entire system. Consequently, marijuana can be a powerful treatment for a wide range of illnesses.
The endocannabinoid system’s “lock-and-key” feature allows marijuana’s phytocannabinoids to bind with your body’s endocannabinoid receptors and change the behavior of your cells. In fact, this one of the key benefits of phytocannabinoids; they mimic the behavior of endocannabinoids.
For example, let’s say you’re feeling pain. Your nerve cells communicate with your brain, saying, “Hey! We’re in pain.”
You consume medical marijuana. As a result, cannabinoids enter your body, find cannabinoid receptors and bind with them. They’ll tell your nerve cells to calm down. The cells obey, and the pain diminishes.
Some medical researchers speculate that illnesses such as migraines, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome might be related to deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system. Medical marijuana could treat these illnesses by filling in where the endocannabinoid system is failing.
However, clinical cannabinoid deficiency is still a theory. Because of this, more research needs to be done to move it from speculation to fact.
Top 5 Cannabinoids
1. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
The queen of the cannabinoids. THC is psychoactive, but it does more than just “get you high.” It can also treat
- Pain and inflammation
- Sleep disorders
Unfortunately, THC is linked to negative side effects such as anxiety and paranoia. But there’s good news. There’s another cannabinoid that can reduce these side effects, and it’s called…
2. Cannabidiol (CBD)
CBD is non-psychoactive. It can reduce THC’s negative side effects and also treat
- Pain and inflammation
- Psychotic illnesses
3. Cannabichromene (CBC)
CBC doesn’t just share an acronym with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It also fights inflammation, certain types of tumors and depression.
4. Cannabinol (CBN)
This lesser-known cannabinoid can treat
- Appetite loss
- Certain bacterial infections
CBG is non-psychoactive and can treat
- Certain bacterial and fungal infections
- Certain types of cancer
Cannabinoids and the Entourage Effect
Some patients are all about the THC, and they want products with high percentages of it. In fact, when we’re talking about marijuana concentrates, we’re really talking about THC concentrates.
We’re not knocking THC. It is a huge part of why medical marijuana works. Furthermore, chronic pain patients can definitely benefit from products that have high levels of THC.
However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Because if we isolate THC at the expense of the other cannabinoids, we’ll miss out on all that medical marijuana has to offer.
In order for you to experience the true benefits of cannabinoids, they need to be working together – synergistically. This is known as “the entourage effect.” Cannabinoids compliment one another, so they’re more powerful as a team than they are individually. Like the Avengers!
Use the Benefits of Cannabinoids to Your Advantage
Do you need an anti-inflammatory? An analgesic? A sleep aid? Ask your dispensary for product recommendations based on your medical condition. Also, Digipath Labs offers a free patient handbook at select dispensaries; it contains a list of cannabinoids and terpenoids along with their specific benefits.
Finally, if you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of cannabinoids but don’t have a Florida medical marijuana card, schedule an appointment with us today!