Marijuana Cannabinoids: A Primer
A “greening” of the landscape of cannabis policy, production, and use has opened the door for marijuana to reach mainstream acceptability and legal status. Among the many positive side-effects of this new atmosphere is scientists’ ability to access and study cannabinoids. And in just a short while, research into these elements of marijuana has flourished. In 2015 alone, the National Institute of Health (NIH) supported 281 projects involving cannabinoids at a total cost of over $111 million.
So, you may ask, what exactly are these cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that mimic the body’s natural endocannabinoids. At least 113 different types of cannabinoids have been identified, and many with documented medical value.
Although the name “endocannabinoids” sounds like a spell Harry Potter would recite before setting out on an exciting, magical adventure – they’re actually pretty amazing all on their own. No wand required. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters in your brain that keep critical biological functions (like sleep, pain, and appetite) in balance. If your endocannabinoids take a vacay, then you may end up hibernating and battling constant hunger; or stay up for days at a time without any appetite. Basically, your endocannabinoids keep you from becoming a bear.
That’s where cannabinoids enter the picture. Because cannabinoids are able to trick your brain into thinking that they are actually your natural endocannabinoids, they are granted entry into otherwise inaccessible receptors within your brain’s harm-reducing Endocannabinoid System. And in so doing, marijuana’s cannabinoids have the potential to, with no magic involved, effectively manage physical trauma, imbalances in biological functions, and promote health.
Want to know more? Of course you do.
The two main marijuana cannabinoids that put the fun in pharmacological are:
- THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), and
- CBD (Cannabidiol).
Unsurprisingly, they’ve been on the radar for a while. CBD was first isolated in the 1940s, and THC was first discovered in 1964 in Raphael Mechoulam’s lab in Israel.
And together they are more powerful than they are apart, like the Power Rangers. THC and CBD are believed to work synergistically. They are more effective together than alone.
For example, where THC makes you euphoric, CBD is the wet blanket that muffles the undesirable side-effects of THC’s euphoria, such as anxiety, rapid heartbeat, hunger and drowsiness. And if using marijuana medically, When both CBD and THC are present in sufficient amounts in the same cannabis strain or product, CBD will broaden the range of conditions that may benefit from treatment with cannabis, such as liver, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.
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