A Concise Guide to the Major Cannabinoids in Cannabis

A Concise Guide to the Major Cannabinoids in Cannabis

We have all heard about the miraculous health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) and the equally therapeutic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but most people haven’t been introduced to the rest of the cannabinoid family. Actually, there are over 100 cannabinoids and even more unique organic compounds that have yet to be fully identified.1

In the following article, we are going to take a closer look at the most important cannabinoids that health enthusiasts and recreational users alike should know about. This is especially important because cannabinoids work better when used together.

This phenomena was first observed in 1998 by two Israeli doctors and aptly dubbed it the entourage effect.2 The idea is that these various cannabinoids function separately to address different aspects of the body’s biological processes and create an improved general effect. In other words, cannabinoids work better when the entire family is present, rather than in isolated presentations.

Keeping this in mind, here is a basic overview of the 10 major CBD cannabinoids and what they do:

THCA: Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid

Believe it or not THC doesn’t actually exist within the cannabis plant. Like many of the cannabinoids, it exists in its acidic form, in this case THCA or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. THCA must be heated to release its carbon molecule and become the active THC molecule. Some of the benefits of THCA include alleviation of inflammatory conditions, protection for the brain, controlling nausea, and improving the appetite.

THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol

When THCA has been stripped of its carbon atom with applied heat, THC is born. THC binds with receptors of the endocannabinoid system and affects the nervous system as well. This produces psychoactive effects but is also a pain reliever, mood enhancer, antidepressant, and appetite stimulant. Furthermore, the effects of THC can be modulated by the presence of other cannabinoids.

CBDA: Cannabidiolic Acid

CBDA is the most abundant cannabinoid in certain varieties of the cannabis plant. This acidic compound is transformed into CBD when heated, but also has therapeutic benefits as is. For one, CBDA can be used to control the symptoms of vomiting and has great benefits to those recovering from substance abuse.

CBD oil bottleCannabidiol: CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the product of decarboxylation in the CBDA molecule and has been at the center of a revolution in the medical and health community since it was made widely available a few years back. Some of the most notable benefits include antispasmodic, neuroprotective, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and sleep enhancing properties. CBD is also believed to mitigate the psychoactive properties of THC.

CBGA: Cannabigerolic Acid

This is not only the third most common cannabinoid, but also an important precursor to many other cannabinoids synthesized within the cannabis plant. CBGA is transformed into CBCA, CBDA, and THCA, which carry a large portion of the therapeutic properties found in cannabis.

In itself, CBGA has potent benefits to treating inflammation. Because inflammation can compromise the immune system and lead to immune disorders, CBGA prevents a wide variety of undesirable health issues.

CBG: Cannabigerol

CBG is the first of many minor cannabinoids that exist in smaller amounts which can be higher or below trace levels depending on the strain, or cultivar. CBG functions as a vasodilator which preserves the structural integrity of blood vessels and can protect the structures of the brain through improved oxygen supplies.  

CBCA: Cannabichromenic Acid

Cannabichromenic acid is considered the fourth of the most important cannabinoids that have been identified and categorized for their extensive health benefits and synergistic activity. CBCA has been found especially effective when used topically to address fungal conditions that attack the skin.

CBC: Cannabichromene

CBC doesn’t share the same affinity THC has with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Instead, it interacts with other receptors that can affect the activity of the ECS. Most importantly, CBC enhances the antidepressant activities of THC and CBD through the entourage effect. CBC may also improve conditions of acne and contribute to healthy brain cells.

THCV: Tetrahydrocannabivarin

In addition to CBC, CBN, CBD and CBG, THCV is part of the cannabinoid array that provide anticonvulsant properties that can benefit those suffering from migraines and even bipolar disorders. THCV has a molecular structure almost identical to THC, but lacks the capacity to create a psychoactive response. THCV does have other benefits, for example, it activates the TRPV1 receptor making it an effective pain reliever.

CBN: Cannabinol

As THCA is broken down in the cannabis plant, cannabinol is produced. Therefore, plants that have ripened in the sun will typically have higher quantities of CBN.  When ingested alongside THC, CBN has a powerful sedating effect on the physiology and is especially relaxing. CBN is also part of the anticonvulsant array of cannabinoids and has been studied for its antibacterial properties as well. CBN, like many of the cannabinoids not listed here, has not been studied extensively, and we are still learning more about how it affects the activities of other cannabinoids.  

Final Notes on the Cannabinoids in Cannabis

The cannabinoids at work in your hemp or cannabis derived products don’t just affect the health benefits but also the legality of your products in accordance with state law. Make sure you take the time to research the potential benefits of the special organic compounds in any natural treatments you hope to use. For further advice, consult your medical provider for tips on getting the best results from alternative medication.

Photo credits: Creativan/shutterstock.com, ElRoi/shutterstock.com


By Maddy Jenner

Maddy is a researcher and an essential oil advocate and loves learning about the intersection of these categories. She loves hiking, camping, exploring and being outside.

Favorite MONQ blend: Zen

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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