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What Are Cannabinoids?

October 8, 2020 • • General

Why do some strains of cannabis make you sleepy while others make you feel energized? The answer has to do with the types of cannabinoids found in the plant’s flowers.

  The flowers of the Cannabis Sativa plant naturally produce a wide variety of chemical compounds called cannabinoids, the most widely recognized of these being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Cannabinoids are also responsible for the physiological effects and benefits that medical marijuana provides. CBD, for instance — which does not cause the euphoric high typically associated with cannabis use — has long been known to be an effective method for
managing epileptic seizures, while THC-heavy strains have been valued throughout history for their anti-nausea and pain-killing properties.

The reason cannabinoids affect us the way they do is where things start to get very interesting. The human body contains a network of receptors distributed across the surfaces of our cells called the
endocannabinoid system. While not yet fully understood by scientists, this system is known to play a key role in how the body regulates appetite, memory, mood, and more.

Because cannabinoids like THC and CBD are chemically similar to the natural compounds our bodies already produce, they bind with our endocannabinoid receptors. Part of medical cannabis’ therapeutic benefits also stems from its ability to help manage deficiencies in the  endocannabinoid system.


THC is the commonly recognized cannabinoid known for its intoxicating, euphoric effect. After it enters the bloodstream, it typically binds with endocannabinoid receptors both in the brain and the peripheral nervous system. These CB1 receptors help the body manage and process memory, pain, nausea, temperature, and even some motor functions.

CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are found throughout the body and do not cause the psychoactive high associated with using marijuana. CB2 receptors have been shown to help
regulate inflammation and even fight cancer cells, and while THC can also bind with CB2 receptors, it has more of an affinity for CB1 receptors. CBD, on the other hand, stimulates the CB1 and CB2 receptors rather than binding with them, which allows the receptors to process other cannabinoids more efficiently.


As cannabis flowers age and are exposed to oxygen, THC breaks down into a compound called cannabinol (CBN). CBN tends to bind with CB2 receptors distributed throughout the body, rather than across the brain. CBN has been observed to have a sedative effect, as well as potential anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic benefits. However, it has been the subject of far less study than either THC or CBD have, so more research is necessary for healthcare providers to have a precise understanding of its effects.

Choosing the Right Cannabinoids Profile

The effect that individual cannabinoids have will vary depending on what kind of receptors they typically bind with, which can actually allow medical marijuana patients to select strains and medications better suited to meeting their needs.

If you’d like to learn more about the cannabinoid profiles of your medical marijuana treatment — or if you’re curious whether cannabis might be right for you —
contact us today. Lakewood Medical Center is proud to provide approachable and easy-to-understand cannabis-based care to new patients, as well as expert advice and refined treatment plans for those with a little more experience. Schedule a free consultation today and we’ll do everything we can to help you get the relief you’re after.