Cannabinoids are compounds naturally produced and found in the resin of the cannabis plant. It’s these compounds which provide the well known psychoactive affects on the human body’s nervous system, but not all the cannabinoids produce the high so commonly associated with the plant. Ongoing studies are revealing the many medical benefits which can be derived from the many other cannabinoids, including reducing anxiety and pain and improving the quality of sleep. The human body also produces cannabinoids called endocannabinoids, while the cannabinoids found in plants are referred to as phytocannabinoids. The two most popularly known cannabinoids found in cannabis is THC and CBD. THC is most well-known as the substance which produces the psychoactive “high” from smoking the dried plant or using it in cooked or baked products. In their natural form, THC and CBD are cannabinoid carboxylic acids referred to as THCa and CBDa. Ingesting raw marijuana while these compounds are still in their natural state will have little effect, as they are not yet orally active and are unable to traverse the blood-brain barrier easily. A process known as decarboxylation needs to occur on these compounds before they can be easily cross into the brain and bind to your body’s cannabinoid receptors, decarboxylation is achieved by heating your weed through vaping, smoking or cooking.
Applying heat to cannabinoid carboxylic acids releases the H2O and CO2 molecules. While heat is required to convert THCa into its cannabinoid form, it doesn’t have to be extreme, as it will happen even at room temperature if left for long enough.
Out of the 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, most are produced in minute quantities, and only a few are found in any significant amount. Classifications have been applied to the main cannabinoids, with the four major groups comprising the primary cannabinoids which are produced in higher quantities Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC/THCA etc.)
Cannabidiols (CBD/CBDA etc)
Cannabigerols (CBG/CBGA etc)
Cannabichromenes (CBC/CBCA etc)
THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol acid)
THCa is the most abundant cannabinoid found in strains of weed grown mainly for drug use and is created from an enzymatic reaction with the precursor CBGa. In some marijuana strains, THCa may make up to 30% of the plant’s dry weight, which is quite remarkable when you consider that THCa is a secondary metabolite for the plant. Secondary metabolites are chemicals created by the plant which appear to have no apparent biological function such as photosynthesis, growth, reproduction, etc. The brain and body contain cannabinoid receptors throughout, and their role is to enhance communication between neurons. THC produces its effects by attaching to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors and disrupting their ability to function correctly. Heavy users of cannabis may develop a tolerance to THC through prolonged use due to decreasing availability of these receptors in most regions of the brain.
CBDa (Cannabidiolic acid)
CBDa is the most abundant phytocannabinoid in the hemp varieties of the cannabis plant, and sometimes the second most abundant in drug varieties of weed. An enzymatic reaction via the precursor CBGa is responsible for the production of CBDa. In a similar fashion to THC, heating is required to convert CBDa into its bioavailable form through the process of decarboxylation. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive because it does not interfere with the CBD1 and CBD2 receptors. It was once thought that CBD attached to the CBD2 receptors, but recent research reveals that this is not the case. CBD seems to achieve its effects by triggering the body into using more of its own cannabinoids, with CBD even counteracting the negative effects THC can produce.
CBGa (Cannabigerolic Acid)
CBGa is the third most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, with the hemp varieties most often carrying more significant amounts.
CBGa is produced through a combination of pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid and is the precursor required for the enzymatic reactions which create CBDa and THCa.
Decarboxylation of CBGa converts it into CBG in the same way that the application of heat to CBDa and THCa produces CBD and THC respectively.
CBCa (Cannabichromenic Acid)
CBCa production occurs early on during the flowering cycle, so is only found in small quantities in harvested flower.
CBGa is the precursor needed for creating CBCa through an enzymatic reaction. It can also be put through the process of decarboxylation to create CBC. UV light can also be used to decarboxylate CBC into CBL (Cannabicyclol).
CBN is not created in the plant directly but is formed via oxidation of THC (exposing THC to oxygen and heat). It’s very similar to CBD, but CBN has researchers excited about the many medical benefits it may provide such as a treatment for insomnia, pain relief, as an anti-inflammatory, and as an appetite stimulant. Also found in OG Kush, a favourite high-THC strain here at BB.