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What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids: Going Beyond THC and CBD

One of the most important things for a cannabis patient to understand is what cannabinoids are, the differences amongst them, and how they interact with our body. Many are familiar with the big two – THC and CBD, but did you know there are over 100 known cannabinoids? Each one interacts differently with our endocannabinoid system, and every cannabis strain has different ratios and breakdowns of these cannabinoids. Let’s start with a definition, and general info before we take a deep dive into the world of cannabinoids.

What Are Cannabinoids, and Why Do They Matter?

Cannabinoids are classified as diverse chemical compounds that occur not just in the cannabis plant, but in your body as well. That’s right, every living, breathing human being has cannabinoids in them right now, known as endocannabinoids. Even our pets have endocannabinoid systems (do NOT give your pet your human cannabis products, however). 

On the other end, cannabinoids derived from plants are known as phytocannabinoids, which are what you ingest when consuming cannabis. 

What Do Cannabinoids Do?

Cannabinoids are what actually makes cannabis medicine. Throughout our bodies, we have an endocannabinoid system, consisting of CB-1 and CB-2 receptors. The ECS is responsible for a number of processes, including regulation of appetite, pain, mood, and memory. Endocannabinoids are responsible for helping cells communicate with other systems within our bodies. Proponents of medical marijuana insist that the reason cannabis is such a powerful form of medicine is because the ECS plays a vital role in so many of our body’s processes. Furthermore, those who experience issues with any of these processes are likely not producing enough endocannabinoids on their own, and should compensate with phytocannabinoids, which closely mimic each other.

When you consume cannabis, phytocannabinoids are released and bind to these receptors in our endocannabinoid system, which can produce both mental and physical effects.

Different cannabinoids interact with different areas of our body, and produce different results. This is why different strains of cannabis work best for different things, and it is so important for patients to understand what strains will help them the most. To better understand what strain can help you most, let’s discuss the differences between cannabinoids.

Types of Cannabinoids

There are at least 113 different cannabinoids we have discovered from the cannabis plant, but less than 10 of these are discussed regularly. This is because they are very important from a medical and psychoactive standpoint. Each cannabinoid interacts in different areas of our body, and contribute different medicinal benefits.

What Are the Main Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids can be broken down into primary and secondary, designated by the concentration they tend to be found in and the degree to which they can alter our current state. 

Primary Cannabinoids

The primary cannabinoids, as listed earlier, are THC and CBD. You will find these two terms on any cannabis product packaging, as they are found in the highest concentrations compared to the secondary cannabinoids.


THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the “high” you feel when using cannabis. But THC also contributes a number of medicinal effects. When allowed to work with other compounds found in marijuana, such as CBD and terpenes, THC can contribute to the entourage effect. This is the elevated state of healing one can achieve through consumption of whole flower, full spectrum cannabis.Some potential issues higher THC concentrated stains can help with are:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Poor appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

The tricky thing about cannabis is everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different. Some patients may find relief from anxiety with high THC strains, while others find they have heightened anxiety from excess THC. Since THC is always the limiting factor of cannabis as a medicine, it is important for new patients to practice titration, as THC is one of the few cannabinoids that can cause unpleasant side effects when taken in too high of doses.

For example, some of the other symptoms of excess THC include dry mouth, decreased reaction time, red eyes, an elevated heart rate, and impaired motor skills. These cases are rare, and it should be noted that there are still no documented records of death by cannabis overdose. 

Interested in a few high THC strains we offer at Bridge City Collective? Try out Chem Sour D, which comes in at 29.85% THC and only .009% CBD. Another option for those seeking higher concentrations of THC are vape pens and concentrates, which by nature are far more potent than flower.


CBD, the other primary cannabinoid, is known for its healing powers, and is becoming more and more popular as a medicinal modality. As we learn more about CBD, we are discovering that it alone (read: sourced from hemp) does not contribute nearly as much as when sourced from whole flower marijuana, due to the entourage effect. CBD is regarded as the most medicinally beneficial cannabinoid, with the potential to help patients with:

  • Seizures
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • IBS
  • Psychosis or mental disorders
  • Nausea
  • Migraines
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Those searching for high CBD strains would enjoy our Cherry Blossom flower from East Fork Cultivars, with a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD. Or, for a supercharged dose of CBD, try Corazon, produced by Yerba Buena, with less than 1% THC and over 20% CBD!

Secondary Cannabinoids

The secondary cannabinoids may not be found in as abundant quantities, but rest assured they are still very important. They further contribute to the entourage effect, and help maintain balance within our endocannabinoid system.

The prominent secondary cannabinoids are THCa, CBDa, CBN, and CBG, but there are many more.


THCa, or Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid, is a cannabinoid that doesn’t get enough credit. It is the biological precursor to THC, meaning it turns into THC when heated. To get THCa, you would need to extract it from the plant without heat, as it transforms through decarboxylation.

This isn’t the only transformation THCa can undergo, however. If exposed to oxygen for prolonged period, THCa will transform into CBNa, which can in turn transform into CBN, another crucial secondary cannabinoid.

While THCa doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects like THC does, it may have impressive healing capabilities. In a number of different studies, it was found that THCa can potentially:

  • Act as an anti-inflammatory
  • Reduce feelings of nausea or vomiting
  • Act as a neuroprotectant
  • Prevent or reduce tumors

While it does have these abilities, and should definitely be studies further, CBD tends to be regarded as a better cannabinoid for these types of issues. Nonetheless, THCa is a very important cannabinoid.


Similar to how THCa is the precursor to THC, CBDa is the precursor for CBD. It is found in unaltered marijuana or hemp plants, but once heated or exposed to UV light converts to CBD. Those seeking CBDa can juice the plant or extract this phytocannabinoid directly.

CBDa doesn’t bind with CB-1 or CB-2 receptors, rather interacts with the endocannabinoid directly, inhibiting inflammation. On top of this CBDa can potentially:

  • Reduce nausea or vomiting
  • Have anti-cancer properties
  • Help with psychosis

Not to be confused with CBD, CBN is known for its sedative properties. Strains high in CBN leave users feeling “couch locked”, a feeling many of us know all too well. This can be a good thing, however, for those who suffer with insomnia. CBN’s power doesn’t stop there – it has also been found to potentially help with:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Eating disorders/lack of appetite
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Growth of bone cells 

The last secondary cannabinoid we will touch on is CBG. Another nonintoxicating cannabinoid, CBG is actually the parent chemical of both THC and CBD. When exposed to heat or UV light, CBG will transform into a primary cannabinoid.

CBG is still being studies, but early tests are promising, showing it can potentially:

  • Treat glaucoma 
  • Help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Slow brain degeneration of those suffering from Huntington’s Disease
  • Block receptors that form cancerous growth
  • Act as an antibacterial agent
  • Stimulate appetite

Final Thoughts on Cannabinoids

Now that you understand which cannabinoids can have certain effects, you should have a better understanding of how to select cannabis strains that help you the most. You can always consult our expert budtenders for advice, but understand that cannabis will likely be a learning process. As mentioned earlier, everyone’s ECS differs, and cannabis is not “one size fits all”.

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