Deconstructing the Cannabis Plant

Even the most experienced cannabis consumers may not be fully aware of the complex components that make up the cannabis plant and the various products that result from it. With hundreds of cannabis varieties currently available on the market, it is crucial to gain an understanding of its basic anatomy and the different ways these varieties can affect your mental and physical state. Every strain has a unique ratio of THC and CBD that will dictate its effects on your body and mind. Knowing these facts can ensure responsible use.

To start, many of you may not be aware that cannabis and marijuana are not the same thing. Although marijuana is made from the cannabis plant, the large family of cannabis plants includes many species and varieties. The term “cannabis” covers a larger variety of products than marijuana.



The Science of Cannabinoids

Components of Phytocannabinoids

The Endocannabinoid System

The Science of Cannabinoids

Cannabis sativa L. has been used therapeutically for thousands of years. Research into the psychotropic effects of the plant has led to the discovery of cannabinoids, which are now separated into 3 classes: phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids.

Components of Phytocannabinoids

Scientists have only recently gained a thorough understanding of different cannabinoids and their potential medical benefits. Over 100 naturally occurring compounds are found in the cannabis plant. The most common cannabinoids include CBDsa, CBD, THCa, THC, THCV and CBDV. Lesser known cannabinoids include CBN, CBG and CBC.

THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)

Occurs naturally in the cannabis plant and is used to produce THC.

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)

Commonly known as delta 9, THC is the by-product of heating THCA. THC is a major cannabinoid derived from cannabis. It is primarily responsible for the psychotropic effects of marijuana. THC has both recreational and therapeutic uses.

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

A less known cannabinoid that is still under investigation for its potential benefits in aiding with symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease, insulin sensitivity, and type 2 diabetes.

CBDA (Cannabidolic acid)

Occurs naturally in the cannabis plant and is used to produce CBD.

CBD (Cannabidiol)

The by-product of heating CBDA. One of the primary cannabinoids derived from cannabis. Lacks the psychotropic effects of THC and has been extensively researched for its medicinal and therapeutic potential.

CBDV (Cannabidivarin)

A less known cannabinoid that is currently under investigation for its potential in alleviating symptoms of epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder.

CBN (Cannbinol)

A mildly psychoactive cannabinoid with very little existence in fresh plants. CBN is produced from the degradation of THC. This process is known to create a sedative effect.

CBG (Cannabigerol)

A non-psychoactive cannabinoid that occurs very minimally (<1%) in the cannabis plant. CBG is known to have antibacterial properties. CBG can be responsible for slowing bacterial growth, promoting bone growth and inhibiting cancer and tumor cell growth.

CBC (Cannabichromene)

A non-psychoactive cannabinoid that occurs naturally in the cannabis plant. CBC shows potential for relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and inhibiting cancer and tumor cell growth.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a naturally occurring system in the human body that plays important roles in regulating the central nervous system and a variety of physiological processes such as mood, memory and appetite. The recent identification of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies has triggered an explosion of studies exploring the ECS and its regulatory functions in health and disease. The ECS is always working to achieve homeostasis, or balance, within the body.

The three key components of the ECS include:

  • Cannabinoid receptors:sit on the surface of our cells and transmit information about changing conditions within the body. This communication kick-starts the appropriate cellular response.
  • Endocannabinoids: small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors. They are made from fat-like molecules within cell membranes and are synthesized on-demand. The two major endocannabinoids in the ECS include Anandamide and 2-AG.
  • Metabolic enzymes: synthesize and degrade endocannabinoids after they are used.

Two primary cannabinoid receptors in the ECS include:

  • CB1 receptors are typically found in the brain and throughout the nervous system. Cannabinoids that target these receptors can produce effects on coordination, pain tolerance and metabolism. These are the receptors that interact with THC to produce psychoactive effects.
  • CB2 receptors are distributed throughout the peripheral organs in the body, serving as facilitators of the immune system, muscular system, and cardiovascular system.

How It Works

Both endogenous (created within) and exogenous (external) cannabinoids bind with receptors in the endocannabinoid system. When a cannabinoid like CBD bonds with the CB1 or CB2 receptors in the body, it has been shown to alter and improve the capabilities of that receptor, thereby improving the functionality of that receptor. This interaction not only helps to maintain the body’s vital health functions, but is key in restoring the homeostasis, or balance, within the body. This is the source of CBD’s many health benefits.

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