Cannabinoids 101

CBD 101: Understanding the Basics

October 12, 2019 2 min read

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Facts Matter

CBD is an emerging market. So, as a leading expert in the field of CBD research, the first thing we want to see emerge is accurate information about CBD. 

Like any new subject, understanding the facts is made easier through some basic terms and definitions.


Cannabis

Cannabis refers to the plant Cannabis sativa, which originated in Central Asia, and has been used medicinally for more than 5,000 years. There are thousands of varieties of the cannabis plant, which differ in their compounds. Compounds in the cannabis plant include phytocannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and more than 120 other phytocannabinoids, in addition to other compounds like terpenes. The proportion of compounds in the cannabis plant determines its pharmacological properties.

Hemp

Hemp is a cannabis plant variety. According to its legal definition, hemp refers to cannabis plants with low levels of THC (not more than 0.3% in the US and not more than 0.2% THC in Europe). Hemp was one of the earliest plants with industrial applications in the production of textiles.

Cannabinoids can be divided into 3 categories:

Phytocannabinoids

Plant-based compounds or cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant as well as other plants that may or may not act on cannabinoid receptors. While two phytocannabinoids—cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—are the best known, scientists have identified more than 120 phytocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids

Endogenous ligands to the cannabinoid receptors that have neuromodulatory effects in the body.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Compounds artificially synthesized to mimic the structure and/or function of endocannabinoids or phytocannabinoids.

First identified in 1940, CBD—or cannabidiol—is one of more than 120 phytocannabinoids that scientists have identified. It appears in significant concentrations in the hemp plant. CBD isn’t intoxicating, and there is ongoing research being conducted to determine its potential favorable effects on anxiety, inflammation and epilepsy.

Over 200 terpenes can be derived from the cannabis plant. They are responsible for the distinctive smell and flavor of cannabis and can potentially be pharmacologically active. Although currently under study, some terpenes may have benefits while others can cause allergic reactions and hypersensitivities. It is important to distinguish between different terpenes because they can have very different effects or no effect at all.

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of more than 120 phytocannabinoids that have been identified. First discovered in 1964, THC is primarily responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis and is actively being investigated for its health effects on pain, nausea and appetite. 

While certain cannabis varieties can contain up to 30% THC, this phytocannabinoid occurs in only trace amounts in the hemp plant (not more than 0.3%, by definition).