Cannabinoids: A Fundamental Understanding
Please explain to me what exactly is a cannabinoid?
The definition of a cannabinoid is simple. A cannabinoid is nothing more than a small molecule that interacts directly with cannabinoid receptors or the endocannabinoid system, found in all humans, mammals, and other forms of life. These long-fatty chained molecules are what possess the direct effects of any Cannabis product.
Ok, so are there different kinds of cannabinoids?
There are four different types of cannabinoids have been identified. The first type is endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids. These cannabinoids are produced naturally in the body, such as anandamide aka the bliss molecule. The second type is phytocannabinoids: cannabinoids produced explicitly by the cannabis plant. Examples for this group include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The third is a group called exogenous cannabinoids, which are cannabinoids produced in nature outside of the human body. This class includes the cannabis plant and other plants such as salvia divinorum that contains the psychedelic compound salvia divinorum-a, a cannabinoid. Lastly, a group known as synthetic cannabinoids are human-made and produced using an artificial process. This group includes drugs such as Rimonabant and JWH-017, better known by its street name K-2. All the cannabinoids listed are cool, just don’t do the synthetic ones; they are NOT cool dude.
Ok there are many groups, but how many cannabinoids are out there?
There are hundreds of different cannabinoids known currently. What is even more interesting is that over one hundred of them have been discovered just in the cannabis plant. Each cannabinoid has different effects on cannabinoid receptors as well as other receptors located in the body. Scientists have been mixing up dope in pots long before Quavo came along to see what kind of cannabinoids exist out there. New cannabinoids are being discovered every day, so it is fascinating to see what science discovers next.
How do cannabinoids work?
Cannabinoids will work by interacting with cannabinoid receptors along with the endocannabinoid system. This interaction is referred to as a “lock and key” interaction because only unique molecules (the keys) can interact with specific receptor sites (the locks). The “lock and key” model for how cannabinoids interact with these receptors can be seen in the image below. [ima attach the image]
Ok, locks and keys are cool, but why do they each behave differently?
AIGHT, so this science sh*t can be a lot so to simplify it, I compare cannabinoid interaction similarly to how to drive a car. When cannabinoids bind, they can interact in three ways: agonist, antagonist, or inverse agonist.
Agonist interaction is comparable to putting a car in drive and burning rubber. This interaction effectively turns the protein receptor on if you will, and provides the euphoric feeling people feel when consuming most Cannabis products. Common agonist effects are generated by cannabinoids such as THC, CBN, CBG, and anandamide.
Inverse agonist interaction is equivalent to putting a car in reverse and fleeing the scene. Inverse interaction is exactly how it sounds; by acting in the opposite way of an agonist. Inverse agonist cannabinoids are not found naturally within the plant and are synthetically produced to mimic THC’s opposite effect. They possess similar results to antagonists and even bind to cannabinoid receptors similarly.
Antagonist interaction is comparable to setting the car in neutral or trying to drive with a blown transmission; you’re not going anywhere. Antagonists act as blockades by not letting any forward or reverse movement in the protein receptor. This action effectively inhibits any interaction from other molecules to the protein. These special effects are activated by ingesting cannabinoids like CBD, which is why you don’t feel necessarily high, but less anxious. Through blocking reactions of the receptor, it disables it from any form of stimulation. This is why CBD can treat anxiety, which is often overstimulation of mental stimulus that translates to physical sensations.
Ok, Josh, this is cool, but my plug told me it’s all about the terpenes, is that true?
Ah, the terps. Technically they’re right, but not in the way they think they are. All cannabinoids are terpenes, but not all terpenes are cannabinoids. Terpenes are defined as a large class of compounds that can come from various areas in nature. These compounds are most often associated with their aromatic features and smells. Still, they do not necessarily possess fragrances and flavors. Cannabinoids are merely a class of terpenes. They’re produced through a similar process that terpenes are making them part of the class. Terpenes DO NOT interact with cannabinoid receptors; otherwise, they would be deemed as cannabinoids. Terpenes do produce effects that we explore in our other article here.
So when I consume Cannabis, it’s all in the cannabinoids is what you’re saying?
Precisely fam. The main driver of the effects you feel are cannabinoids interacting with cannabinoid receptors and other body areas. Terpenes help with the assisting effects and can play roles in the feeling leading up to it; however, your experiences are from cannabinoid interactions. Now you know that before consuming any product, especially Cannabis, check the lab report to see what you’re ingesting. Looking at cannabis product cannabinoid levels and terpene reports will help you understand how this plant may effect you.