There’s a lot of fun science behind cannabis — what’s it made of? How does it work? What’s the best way to consume it? — but it can feel confusing, especially to someone who’s new to the MJ life. We’ve put together everything you need to know about the most important part of cannabis: cannabinoids! Learn all about what they are, what they do and how they can help you.
So, What’s a Cannabinoid?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that are found inside the resin of the cannabis plant. There are a lot of different cannabinoids in cannabis — about 160 have been identified so far — and they all have different effects on the body when consumed.
The two most well-known cannabinoids are (Tetrahydrocannabinol) THC and Cannabidiol (CBD.) THC is famous for creating a euphoric “high,” while CBD is often used for anxiety, relaxation and pain management without the psychological effects. Other types of cannabinoids include:
- CBG is thought to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- THCA is similar to THC but doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects. It’s thought to help with inflammation.
Are Cannabinoids Different From Terpenes?
When researching cannabis strains online, you’ll find the phrase “terpenes” pop up. Terpenes are also chemical compounds found inside cannabis, but they are primarily responsible for imparting flavors and aromas, while cannabinoids are used for physical effects. If you’ve heard marijuana described as “citrus-y” or “floral,” that’s due to the terpenes.
Some common terpenes include:
- Bisabolol has notes of chamomile and is thought to have antimicrobial effects.
- Linalool has floral notes and is used as a mood booster.
- Myrcene is the most common terpene and has earthy, herbal notes.
- Pinene has an intense pine aroma and is thought to reduce nausea.
- Limonene has bright citrus notes.
- Eucalyptol has a refreshing scent and is used to reduce inflammation.
Cannabis is now sorted into different categories, called chemovars, based on its cannabinoid and terpene profile.
How Do Cannabinoids Interact with My Body?
Our bodies have something called the endocannabinoid system, which is designed to interact with different chemical compounds naturally produced in our bodies using protein-based cells called receptors. Some of these receptors, called CB1 and CB2, also interact with the cannabinoids in cannabis.
Once you consume cannabis, the cannabinoids will bind to the receptors in your brain and central nervous system and create different effects, from appetite stimulation to sleepiness. What effects you’ll feel are dependent on the type and potency of cannabis you are using.
Do Cannabinoids Have Benefits?
Yes! Because cannabinoids interact directly with your brain and central nervous system, they can offer a lot of different physical and mental benefits. New research is happening every day about the ways cannabis can help, but the most common uses today are:
- Reducing pain and inflammation, especially chronic diagnoses like arthritis and glaucoma
- Increasing appetite in AIDS and cancer patients
- Improving muscle control in people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease
- Treating mental illnesses, including PTSD, depression and anxiety
- Managing addiction, like helping people quit smoking
If you have a chronic illness or need pain management, you should speak to your doctor about the best way to introduce cannabis into your treatment plan.
What Do I Ask My Budtender About Cannabinoids?
Budtenders know everything there is to know about cannabis, and they are your best resource for finding the perfect type of marijuana for your lifestyle. Before heading to your local dispensary, think about what your goals are for consuming marijuana. Are you looking for medicinal benefits or something more recreational? Do you want something to pep you up or help you wind down? These answers will help point your budtender in the right direction.
Also think about what kind of flavors and experiences you enjoy. Do you love citrus or fruit flavors? Do you prefer non-smoking alternatives? The nice thing about cannabis is that it’s endlessly customizable to your preferences. Don’t be afraid to try different brands and methods before settling on the one that is most enjoyable to you.
Budtenders are your friends. They are friendly, knowledgeable and love talking to customers about marijuana. When you visit, don’t worry about asking too many questions or taking your time; dispensaries are designed with the customer experience in mind. Budtenders want to help you feel comfortable and confident in your purchase.
Once you describe your goals and preferences, the budtender will help you choose the right chemovar for your lifestyle. They’ll walk you through the different potencies, effects and flavors, and before you know it, you’ll be a regular pro yourself.