What Are Cannabinoids?

What are Cannabinoids – Cannabinoids are chemicals that develop in both plants and animals to help control and mitigate stressors. Mammals like humans and pets produce endocannabinoids on-demand when experiencing mental or physical stressors. Likewise, plants (particularly cannabis) also produce cannabinoids (a.k.a. phytocannabinoids), possibly for similar reasons. For example, some speculate that cannabis plants produce cannabinoids to help protect them from predators and infections. Others suggest that cannabinoids might help protect the plant from excessive UV exposure. Importantly, phytocannabinoids interact with the same receptors that endocannabinoids do, which is part of a greater Endocannabinoid System. Consequently, ingesting phytocannabinoids like CBD might help people and animals fight stressors to maintain balance within the body.
what are cannabinoids

Acidic Versus Non-Acidic Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids develop in mushroom-shaped resin glands called trichomes. Notably, raw cannabinoids contain carboxyl atoms, which may alter its ability to interact with cannabinoid receptors within the body. However, when cannabinoids become exposed to heat or light, they lose this acidic compound, thus improving its ability to interact with the EC system.

Generally, processors remove these carboxyl atoms by heating raw cannabis (hemp) at a low temperature for about 30 minutes or so. This process, called “decarboxylation” improves the cannabinoid’s ability to interact with cannabinoid receptors, thus making the herb more potent. However, some manufacturers avoid the extra processing to sell raw cannabinoid products, instead. When referencing a CBD product label, note whether the cannabinoids listed include an “a” (acid) to determine if the product contains raw or processed cannabinoids.

Notably, researchers have found that both raw and decarboxylated cannabinoids pose potential therapeutic benefits. However, the specific benefits of each substance may vary. Here’s what we know so far about the most common cannabinoids in hemp.

What Are Cannabinoids? Top 5 Hemp Cannabinoids

Scientists have identified more than 100 different cannabinoids, five of which are relatively common in hemp. Below are the five most common hemp-based cannabinoids.


Cannabigerol, or CBG, know as the “Mother of all Cannabinoids” tops our list because it is the precursor to all other cannabinoids. As cannabis flowers develop, the cannabinoid transforms into other cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, and THC. Its acidic form, CBGa, may help improve cardiovascular conditions, metabolic disorders, and some cancers. In its non-acidic form, CBG could help fight inflammation, pain, and nausea.

Notably, most hemp products contain very little CBG because most has transformed into other cannabinoids by harvest season. However, some hemp breeders now develop CBG-heavy varieties specifically for commercial production.

Essentially, breeders select cultivars with a disruption along the biosynthetic pathway that blocks the plant from transforming CBGa into more mature cannabinoids like CBDa and THCa. In doing, they have created unique hemp strains with exceptionally high CBG levels and almost no THC whatsoever. These varieties are extremely compliant, though still less prevalent than traditional hemp cultivars. As such, CBG products are sometimes difficult to attain.


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the most prominent cannabinoid in hemp and a common addition to many health and wellness products. Notably, CBD is a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, which means it partially blocks receptors, thereby controlling the flow of information within and between cells throughout the body.

CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, is especially well known for its proposed pain-relieving and mood-boosting properties. However, it may also strengthen bonesimprove sleepfight infections, and more according to some studies. CBDa is less well researched, but preliminary studies suggest it may have anti-convulsant, anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancerogenic properties.


CBD, or Cannabichromene, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that may support neurogenesis or brain cell development. It also seems to possess anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. However, CBC only activates CB2 receptors, which are cannabinoid receptors located outside of the brain and spinal cord. As such, its therapeutic potential is best when combined with other cannabinoids like THC or CBD. In its acidic form, CBCa may possess anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.


Tetrahydrocannabinol, a.k.a. THC, is the most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana-type cannabis. This psychoactive cannabinoid may cause consumers to feel “high” or otherwise inebriated and remains illegal throughout most of the world.

Notably, both hemp and marijuana type cannabis produce THC. Hemp simply refers to cannabis that produces 0.3 percent total THC or less. Anything above that threshold is “marijuana,” and is therefore restricted highly regulated. Because THC levels are so low, hemp products generally will not cause consumers to feel high or otherwise intoxicated. However, even very low THC may exert some therapeutic benefits, especially when consumed alongside other cannabinoids like CBD via a phenomenon called the Entourage Effect.

Regarding the cannabinoid itself, THC is highly psychoactive, which means that it may affect a consumer’s thoughts and cognitive processes. It may also deliver powerful physical sensations, such as floating feelings or numbness in the limbs. THC also possesses powerful pain-relieving and mood-elevating properties but may cause some mental discomfort in high doses. THCa, its acidic precursor, seems to display anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and neuroprotectant properties.


Cannabinol or CBN concludes our list as it is actually a degraded form of THC. The substance is less psychoactive than THC and possesses more heavily sedative (albeit shorter-lived) properties. As such, CBN is a great sleep aid and may also help relieve pain and inflammation and anexity. Consequently, consumers may be able to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer as they can truly rest more comfortably.

Final Thoughts About These Top Hemp 5 Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are a crucial part of our well-being. Whether made internally or supplemented from plant sources, cannabinoids help the body maintain balance despite a stressful environment.

To learn more about hemp-based cannabinoids, contact us or follow us on Facebook.

Image by Erin Stone from Pixabay