What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in the
Cannabis sativa plant that interact with the body’s
endocannabinoid system (ECS). You’ve probably heard of the two most famous cannabinoids,
delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and
cannabidiol (CBD). There are hundreds of different compounds in cannabis, but only some
of them are classified as cannabinoids. Other cannabinoids that are beginning
to get recognition from the public include
delta-8 THC, CBG, CBN, and THCA.
Cannabinoids and their ratio in a cannabis product can produce different
effects on consumers. Researchers are beginning to uncover the fact that
when it comes to user experience and treating certain conditions with
medical cannabis, terpene and cannabinoid profiles are far more important
than whether a strain is
sativa or indica.
Let’s explore the three most well-known cannabinoids, what they are
known for, and the differences between them.
Up first is probably the most famous cannabinoid of all time–delta-9
THC, or THC for short. Think of this as classic THC. This is the THC you
heard about in health class growing up. This phytocannabinoid is famous
for its psychoactive effects, or “high,” it produces when
consumed. The effects of delta-9 THC are usually increased appetite, elation,
relaxation, talkativeness, and laughter. Consuming delta-9 THC at high
levels has also been linked to negative side effects, such as paranoia
There is research to support that delta-9 THC has the potential to treat a wide range of
medical conditions. The strongest evidence exists for analgesia (pain
relief), nausea and vomiting, and some neurological disorders, such as
multiple sclerosis (MS).
Cannabidiol (CBD) is psychoactive in the sense that it can influence mood
(e.g., reduced anxiety), but unlike THC it does not produce a high or
altered mental state when consumed. It is often sold in the form of tinctures
that are administered sublingually. However, with the passage of the 2018
Farm Bill and the expansion of the CBD market, you can now find CBD in
almost all forms, including flower, edibles, and concentrates. There are
a few different types of CBD, including CBD isolate (which contains only
CBD and no other cannabinoids), broad-spectrum (which contains all the
cannabinoids naturally present in the cannabis plant minus THC), and full-spectrum
(which contains all of the cannabinoids, including THC).
CBD has been studied extensively for its analgesic, anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing), and
anti-inflammatory properties. CBD is a powerful
antioxidant more potent than both vitamin C or E. Research is still in its infancy,
but there is powerful evidence that CBD possesses medicinal properties
that could help patients with a variety of different medical conditions.
Although it does not produce a feeling of intoxication, consuming CBD can
make the user experience a heightened sense of relaxation, drowsiness,
dry mouth, and decreased appetite.
Delta-8 THC is a phytocannabinoid produced by cannabis and hemp plants
in small amounts. It is a common misconception that delta-8 THC is a synthetic,
or man-made, cannabinoid. The delta-8 THC products you see at the store
are not made of a synthetic cannabinoids like the synthetic marijuana
pharmaceutical product dronabinol or the dangerous street drug K2/Spice.
Delta-8 THC does occur naturally in the cannabis plant, but since it only
occurs in small amounts, scientists have found a way to extract more of
it from CBD through a process called isomerization. The passage of
the 2018 Farm Bill allowed CBD and therefore delta-8 products to flood the market due to
its legalization and regulation of hemp.
Delta-8 THC produces some of the same effects as delta-9 THC, including
heightened relaxation and increased appetite. It produces a less potent
high than delta-9 THC as well as greater focus and energy levels.
Although researchers are just beginning to study the medical benefits delta-8
THC may have for patients, there is already evidence that it may help
relieve nausea and vomiting,
stimulate appetite, and
help with seizures.
Differences Between CBD, Delta-9 THC, and Delta-8 THC
Now that we have covered all the specifics of delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC,
and CBD, let’s briefly review the differences between them.
Delta-9 THC produces the most intense high, or feeling of intoxication.
Similarly, delta-8 THC also produces a high, though it is less potent.
CBD does not produce a high when consumed. Both delta-8 and delta-9 THC
can help stimulate appetite, while CBD taken in isolation may decrease appetite.
A consumer may experience negative effects when consuming delta-9 THC,
such as paranoia or anxiety due to the potent high. However, these negative
side effects are less likely to occur when consuming delta-8 THC due to
its less potent high. CBD has anxiolytic properties that decrease the
likelihood of you experiencing any negative effects like those mentioned above.
Delta-8 and delta-9 THC will show up on a drug test, but CBD isolate will
not. It’s important to note that if you consume broad-spectrum or
full-spectrum CBD, it’s possible that it may show up on a drug test
because it contains all the other cannabinoids.
Finally, the legality of each of these cannabinoids differs. CBD and delta-8
THC are technically legal under the Farm Bill. However, there is some
gray area surrounding delta-8 THC in particular. Some states have outlawed
delta-8 THC due to the unregulated nature of the market in the name of
consumer safety. Delta-9 THC is legal in states that have a recreational
or medical cannabis program for adults or patients registered with the state.