Cannabis sativa is a complex plant, and its cannabinoid production is complex, too.
As cannabis and cannabinoid legalization has increased mainstream acceptance, science has helped us gain an understanding of the compounds behind this plant’s therapeutic, psychoactive, and wellness properties.*
This article will explore a specific set of compounds found in the cannabis plant, cannabinoids, of which over 100 are currently identified.*
What exactly are cannabinoids, and why should we care about them? Let’s see what these compounds have in store and how to utilize them best.
What are cannabinoids?
You may have experienced the cannabis plant before, or maybe you are a curious newcomer. Either way, you’ll want to know more about the main cannabinoids and what they do.
Cannabinoids are a subset of naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant. The two most well-known and researched of the over 113 cannabinoids currently identified by scientists are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).*
THC is known for its psychoactive properties, or the intoxicating “high” people associate with cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that the wellness world has embraced for its therapeutic benefits.*
Although even people with casual knowledge of cannabis are familiar with these two main cannabinoids, they barely scratch the surface of compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant.
Research on the other cannabinoids is sparse due to the constantly evolving legal status of the plant. However, recent studies are beginning to dig into the promising benefits and properties of minor cannabinoids, including cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN), or cannabichromine (CBC), to name just a few.*
How are cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes different?
Speaking of the mysteries of the Cannabis sativa plant, cannabinoids are just one set of compounds that make this plant so special. Terpenes and flavonoids are two other umbrellas of compounds that are essential in gaining a full understanding of the plant.*
In the last thirty years, the endocannabinoid system was discovered. This vast network of receptors is found throughout the human body—in our brains, nervous system, organs, and other cells. Naturally occurring endocannabinoids in our bodies bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors and help to support a variety of bodily processes, including our psychological, digestive, and immune systems.*
It is believed that the phytocannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis plant can help support balance in our endocannabinoid system and maintain overall wellness.*
Terpenes are a set of naturally occurring compounds found in most plants. They are most known for producing aromas and flavors but can also contribute to pigmentation.
In a cannabis context, terpenes are a major factor in distinguishing strains from one another, accounting for their distinct tastes and smells. Although terpenes don’t have psychoactive effects by themselves, they contribute to the entourage effect when taken in harmony with cannabinoids and flavonoids. This can improve the overall experience of using the cannabis plant, a concept we will discuss later.*
Flavonoids are a set of compounds not specifically unique to cannabis, although there is a subset of flavonoids called cannaflavins that are only found in cannabis.
Flavonoids provide pigmentation, odor, and flavor to various plant strains. Beyond this, there is evidence that certain flavonoids, including cannaflavin A, quercetin, and orientin, may provide soothing and antioxidant benefits.*
Of these three sets of compounds, flavonoids are by far the least discussed and researched despite accounting for about 10% of the naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant, but more research is underway.*
Can you pair cannabinoids?
When it comes to whether you can pair cannabinoids together, the answer is a resounding yes.
Although there are products currently available at dispensaries, including edibles and concentrates that specifically isolate a single cannabinoid, consuming full spectrum Cannabis sativa products means you are experiencing the combination of multiple naturally-occurring cannabinoids and compounds.*
When discussing pairing cannabinoids, the interaction between THC and CBD is the most well-understood. Some research shows that CBD can temper the feelings of tension, hunger, and sedation that come from consuming THC.*
As with all things related to the plant, the complex interactions between these compounds are becoming demystified as research develops.
What are the benefits of cannabinoids?
Now that we understand what cannabinoids are and their importance in creating balance in our endogenous cannabinoid system, you’re probably curious to learn how they can benefit your daily life.
More research is needed for us to fully grasp the effects of cannabinoids, but let’s take a look at a few of the many appealing benefits of these compounds.
1. May help ease feelings of tension*
As we all know, adult life can lead to feelings of tension—from the physical to mental. These are natural symptoms resulting from the combination of environmental factors and stressors we all experience as humans.
2. Can help support overall sleep health*
From work and family life stressors to the inundation of social media and news, many of us struggle with poor sleep quality.
As more research unearths the benefits of the cannabis plant, there is compelling evidence that the effects of cannabinoids, including CBD and CBN, on our endogenous cannabinoid system can encourage overall sleep health.*
3. May help soothe feelings of discomfort*
Comfort is certainly a goal that most of us strive to achieve, but navigating our daily lives can take a physical toll. That could mean discomfort from working a physically demanding job or just the general wear and tear of life.
There is reason to believe that incorporating CBD, CBG, CBC, THC, and other cannabinoids into our lives can help us soothe feelings of discomfort.*
4. May help support emotional wellness*
Mental health has become one of the most talked about subjects in recent years, increasingly considered as important as physical health in an overall wellness picture.
As research dives into the range of benefits cannabinoids can provide us, there is evidence that through their interaction in our endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids can produce calming effects and support overall emotional wellness.*
5. May help maintain cognitive health*
The modern world is full of distractions—no one will deny it. Many of us experience moments of brain fog when we just aren’t thinking as clearly as we would like to throughout our day.
Incorporating certain types of cannabinoids into your daily routine can help support focus and memory.* It may also support blood flow and the cardiovascular system for improved energy. This might give you the edge at work, in pursuing creative projects, or while spending time with loved ones.
What is the entourage effect?
As we have illustrated, the building blocks that make up the cannabis plant are more complex than meets the eye. From cannabinoids to terpenes to flavonoids, there are many naturally occurring compounds that each bring unique benefits to the table. This is where the entourage effect comes into play in cannabis.*
The entourage effect is the theory that all the compounds within the cannabis plant work together synergistically to produce a greater whole. In other words, the full range of therapeutic effects is increased by consuming products that contain the entire cannabis plant; the harmony of all these compounds together increases the power of any individual compound on its own.*
How can you benefit from the entourage effect?
Many products on the market isolate specific types of cannabinoids such as CBD or THC. But the best way to benefit from the entourage effect is by consuming full or broad spectrum cannabis products.* These products contain all the naturally occurring terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids found in fresh cannabis.
For instance, users of full spectrum hemp extracts are more likely to experience significant therapeutic benefits than products isolating individual cannabinoids. This means a better ability to soothe feelings of tension, discomfort, and achieve a relaxed mind.*
Some cannabinoids taken by themselves can cause powerful effects of cannabis that may be too intense for some people. Such side effects can come from synthetic cannabinoids that don’t have the natural balance of the plant. The relationship between THC and CBD is a perfect example of how the entourage effect benefits us and minimizes unwanted effects.
The bottom line
Cannabis is a complex, versatile, and fascinating plant that offers much wellness potential in our daily lives. A boost of phytocannabinoids allows us to seek balance and homeostasis in the human body and improves overall well-being.
Sunmed offers a wide range of full spectrum and broad spectrum hemp extracts that capture the entirety of the plant—harnessing the power of the entourage effect to get the most from what cannabis has to offer.