The World of Cannabinoids: Nature’s Medicinal Compounds

Green leaves representing medicinal cannabis on a dark background

The word “cannabinoid” may strike a chord with its association to cannabis, but this term encompasses a vast variety of chemical compounds that interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors.

Cannabinoids, found in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, the human body, and even synthesised in laboratories, hold the key to a myriad of potential health benefits. 

The realm of cannabinoids is a captivating landscape that extends far beyond the well-known THC and CBD, with over 120 minor cannabinoids under scrutiny for their potential therapeutic roles. 

Join us as we explore the world of cannabinoids and look at two primary categories: endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids.

What is a cannabinoid?  

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found both in nature and in the human body. 

In plants, they’re called phytocannabinoids, and when found naturally occurring in the human body, they’re called endocannabinoids. 

Both have the same effects in the body.

What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

The ECS is like a communication system in our body that helps control important things like memory, emotions, pain, and more. 

It has special parts called CB1 and CB2 receptors that are found all over our body’s cells. These receptors help regulate things like hunger, alertness, and body temperature by talking to other parts of our body. Learn more about the endocannabinoid system here.

What are endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are molecules produced in our bodies.

Anandamide, which gets its name from the Sanskrit word “ananda” meaning “joy, bliss, happiness” is one of the endocannabinoids we make.

Endocannabinoids are produced in and released from the body’s tissues and organs in times of stress to bind to cannabinoid receptors and return the body to equilibrium.

What are phytocannabinoids?

Phyto means plant, so think of phytocannabinoids as plant-derived cannabinoids.

Phytocannabinoids are found in high quantities in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, but other plants can make them as well. The highest quantity of phytocannabinoids is found on the female cannabis flowers; they are less abundant in the leaves and stems.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are two most important cannabinoid components in the cannabis plant (but hundred others have been identified). They can be found in variable quantities in different types of cannabis plants. “Strain” is the term used in the cannabis world to refer to a specific type of cannabis plant.

Some examples of other cannabinoids include:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabichromenolic acid (CBCA)
  • Cannabichromevarin (CBCV)
  • Cannabichromevarinolic acid (CBCVA)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  • Cannabidivarinolic acid (CBDVA), and
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

The way cannabinoids can help with controlling some symptoms is the subject of ongoing research.

Cannabinoids in cannabis start in an acidic form. When you heat or use special lights on cannabis, these cannabinoids change into a different form by losing a molecule. This change is called decarboxylation.

When people smoke or vaporise cannabis, the heat causes many of these cannabinoids to change into a different form, making them effective. But if you eat cannabis without heating it first, these cannabinoids stay in their original form.

So for example, CBD starts as CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) and THC as THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).

Interior of Astrid Dispensary a plant based therapies clinic in Byron Bay
Astrid Dispensary Byron Bay is located within Habitat Byron Bay


THC, the primary psychoactive/euphoriant element in cannabis, holds the key to both recreation and medicine. This fascinating chemical has captivated scientists and researchers, leading to extensive studies in both animals and humans.

At its core, THC interacts with special receptors in our body known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. While CB1 receptors are primarily found in our central nervous system—essentially our brain and spinal cord—CB2 receptors are scattered in the peripheral nervous system, immune cells, and various organs. How these receptors function and their pathways within our body have become intriguing puzzles for researchers to unravel.

THC’s story goes beyond mere recreational use. In recent years, it has sparked significant interest among scientists exploring its potential as a medicine. 


CBD, a compound found in cannabis, offers a promising array of effects without the psychoactivity/euphoria associated with THC. Its ability to provide relief from pain, inflammation, nausea, and even seizures, coupled with its calming effects and brain-protective properties, make it a subject of intense research and interest. As scientists continue to uncover its mechanisms and applications, CBD holds significant potential as a natural remedy for various health challenges, paving the way for new possibilities in medical treatments.

Minor Cannabinoids

Apart from the well-known cannabinoids like THC and CBD, cannabis contains more than 120 other cannabinoids, known as minor or rare cannabinoids. These are found in smaller amounts.

We’re still learning about these minor cannabinoids, but studies show they interact with different parts of our body, including CB1 and CB2 receptors, and other pathways. 

Some of the minor cannabinoids being studied include:

Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) / Cannabigerol (CBG)

CBGA is a cannabinoid that comes before THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. As the cannabis plant matures, CBGA turns into CBG over time, so it’s not often found in large amounts in mature cannabis flowers. We don’t know as much about the medical uses of CBGA as we do about other cannabinoids, but it might help control diabetes and prevent heart problems linked to Type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed in this area.

CBG is made when CBGA undergoes a process called decarboxylation. Like other minor cannabinoids, CBG might help reduce the intensity of inflammatory diseases and peripheral pain. Its anti-inflammatory effects might happen because it connects with CB2 receptors and other targets in the body.

Cannabichromenolic acid (CBCA) / Cannabichromene (CBC)

Cannabichromenic acid (CBCA) is a precursor for CBC (Cannabichromene). CBC was discovered in 1966 and is one of the most common minor cannabinoids found in cannabis. When researchers studied cannabis plants in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, they found that CBC levels varied between 0.05% and 0.3%. In the plant, CBC’s main job is to protect the growing plant from diseases and regulate its growth.

Scientists have found that CBC has potential health benefits in studies done with animals. However, we still don’t fully understand how it works in our bodies and the reasons behind its effects.

Cannabidivarinolic acid (CBDVA) / Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

CBDV is found in certain types of cannabis plants that have a lot of CBD and very little THC. Scientists are looking into whether CBDV could help with problems related to autism, like repetitive behaviours, cognitive challenges and issues with communication and social functioning.

Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN, discovered in 1896 from Indian hemp, was the first cannabis compound identified.

Unlike other cannabinoids, CBN isn’t made by the cannabis plant itself. It forms when THC, another compound in cannabis, breaks down due to light or heat exposure, even during proper storage.

Researchers think CBN might help with pain and inflammation. It could also work as an antibacterial and increase appetite. Studies suggest it could treat stubborn bacterial infections like MRSA, making it a potential treatment for serious infections.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

THCV comes from a substance called CBGVA (cannabigerovarin acid), which is one of the building blocks of minor cannabinoids. Studies in mice suggest THCV can lessen inflammation and pain. It’s also being explored as a potential treatment for epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, but more research is needed.

In summary, cannabinoids, found in both cannabis plants and the human body, influence our memory, emotions, and pain through the endocannabinoid system. Beyond well-known THC and CBD, there are over 120 minor cannabinoids. Some, like CBG and CBC, might have anti-inflammatory properties. Others like CBN show promise as analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and even antibacterials. Research, especially on compounds like THCV for inflammation and epilepsy, is ongoing, exploring their potential therapeutic uses.

To learn more about cannabinoids or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries.


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