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Cannabis and Cannabinoids Explained Simply

22 Apr Cannabis and Cannabinoids Explained Simply

The medicinal and psychoactive uses of cannabis dates back thousands of years[1], and may even be the first crop ever cultivated. However it wasn’t until recently that researchers discovered how its cannabinoids are able to affect our bodies in various beneficial ways.

Cannabis Genus
Cannabis extends into the following three species: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis. These plants differ in appearance, size, uses, and potency of cannabinoids (described later on). Within these species are countless strains, which also affect the  The most commonly used words for any type of cannabis are “hemp” and “marijuana”. Hemp usually means a variety of Cannabis Sativa containing no more than 0.3% of the cannabinoid THC, while marijuana can refer to any strain with high amounts THC.

The common cannabinoids
Cannabinoids can be found naturally throughout our bodies, and also in plants such as cannabis. The two most abundant of the more than 80 cannabinoids in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC cannabinoidsTHC is responsible for the psychoactive properties that marijuana is popularly known for. It’s well known for increasing appetite, and is accepted as medicinal in several states for neurodegenerative disorders and multiple sclerosis symptoms. THC drugs are available on the market, such as Marinol, to assist with cancer related pain, however it’s made from synthetic cannabinoids.

cannabidiol cannabinoidsCBD is non-psychoactive and may even prevent the psychoactive effects of THC[3]. As more research and anecdotal evidence points to CBD’s potential in preventing epileptic seizures[2], some states have legalized a potent CBD strain called “Charlotte’s Web” for sufferers.

Cannabinoids are not a simple fad that will come and go within a few years. These compounds are so vigorously studied throughout the world that a current PubMed search for “cannabinoid” brought up 932 pages of studies; a total of 18,637 individual works. Considering that major breakthroughs in isolating THC and CBD (and the discovery of the cannabinoid system) occurred in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s[4], it’s understandable that many people want updated scientific proof of potential long-term side effects. There’s still a lot of research to be done on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system that they interact with.

The Endocannabinoid System
The aforementioned endocannabinoid system is believed to control various biological processes, with a general goal of homeostasis. It consists of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2)[5]. Scientists have located cannabinoid receptors in several areas of the body, including the brain, spinal cord, spleen, reproductive system, and central nervous system. These receptors are embedded in cell membranes and cause different physiological processes when stimulated[6].

Cannabinoids in Research
As mentioned earlier, cannabinoids are already being used for many potential benefits.

US Patent 6,630,507, called “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” includes the following:

“Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention.”

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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always check with your physician before starting any new supplement program.



  1. History of Hemp.
  2. Gloss D, Vickrey B. Cannabinoids for epilepsy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Jun 13;6:CD009270. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009270.pub2.
  3. Zuardi AW, Crippa JA, Hallak JE, Bhattacharyya S, Atakan Z, Martin-Santos R, McGuire PK, Guimarães FS. A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol: 30 years of a translational investigation. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(32):5131-40.
  4. Martin A. Lee. The Discovery of the Endocannabinoid System. BeyondTHC.
  5. Pertwee RG. Pharmacology of cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors. Pharmacol Ther. 1997;74(2):129-80.
  6. Dustin Sulak, DO. Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System. NORML. January 13th, 2014.
  7. Chagas MH, Zuardi AW, Tumas V, Pena-Pereira MA, Sobreira ET, Bergamaschi MM, dos Santos AC, Teixeira AL, Hallak JE, Crippa JA. Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Nov;28(11):1088-98. doi: 10.1177/0269881114550355. Epub 2014 Sep 18.
  8. F M Leweke, D Piomelli, F Pahlisch, D Muhl, C W Gerth, C Hoyer, J Klosterkötter, M Hellmich, and D Koethe. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Citation: Translational Psychiatry (2012) 2, e94; doi:10.1038/tp.2012.15. Published online 20 March 2012
  9. Carter GT, Abood ME, Aggarwal SK, Weiss MD. Cannabis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: hypothetical and practical applications, and a call for clinical trials. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2010 Aug;27(5):347-56. doi: 10.1177/1049909110369531. Epub 2010 May 3.
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