What Are Cannabinoids?



Have you ever wondered what gives cannabis its effects? Or maybe you’ve noticed that some cannabis strains are more prone to making you feel euphoric and energetic, while others make you extremely hungry, relaxed, or sleepy. 

While many essential factors contribute to the effects of cannabis, it’s hard to know what the cannabis plant would do without cannabinoids. Here at Buds’ Goods, we have you covered and can help you understand the basic science behind them. 

So what are they?

Cannabinoids are a group of diverse chemical compounds that bind to special cannabinoid receptors in our brains and body. When this happens, cannabinoids can interact with our endocannabinoid system—a signaling network in our body that regulates many functions. 

Cannabinoids are most well known for their role in cannabis, but they are found in other foods like black pepper and hops as well. If you’ve ever tried a marijuana product, you can thank cannabinoids for the effects. 

However, some types of cannabinoids don’t lead to feeling high. So, where are these cannabinoids found?

Types of cannabinoids and where they come from

The three main classes of cannabinoids are phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids. 

Each of these three classes comprise many types of cannabinoids that all have slightly different chemical compositions. 


Phytocannabinoids are a class of cannabinoids naturally produced in and derived from plants. They’re most well known for being found in the cannabis and hemp plants. 

Phytocannabinoids are produced within the glandular trichomes in the flowers of the cannabis plant. It’s thought over 100 cannabinoids can be present depending on the plant and how it was grown. Some of these are present in high concentrations, but others are only found in minuscule amounts so they don’t appear to play a significant role in the plant’s metabolism. 

Some of the major cannabinoids most often talked about include: 

  • Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC) 
  • Delta-9 THC (this is what people mean when they say  “THC”) 
  • Delta-10 THC 
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) 
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabidiol CBD)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabigerivin (CBGV)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  • Cannabichromevarin (CBCV)

Out of these cannabinoids, THC and CBD are the most well known. Some cannabinoids, such as CBD, can also be extracted from hemp. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC and can therefore not get a person high. 


Did you know that your body can naturally make its very own cannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids, or endogenous cannabinoids, act as chemical messengers. Now, while your body won’t be producing its own THC or CBD anytime soon (such genetic modifications aren’t on the horizon), these endocannabinoids have a similar structure to the cannabinoids that are found in cannabis. Because of this, they too can bind to the cannabinoid receptors on the surface of our cells. 

The two major endocannabinoids include:

  • Anandamide (AEA)
  • 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Synthetic cannabinoids

Unlike phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids are produced in a lab and don’t occur naturally. 

Synthetic cannabinoids, sometimes known by the slang term “spice,” are most often used in the form of powdered chemicals mixed with other chemicals and sprayed onto herbs to be consumed. They can also be combined into a liquid and vaped. 

These synthetic cannabinoids are designed to mimic phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids by binding to the same receptors in the brain and body to produce a high. 

However, it’s vital to know that they are not the same as their natural counterparts. Synthetic cannabinoids can be dangerous, so you should avoid using them. They’re often a lot stronger than cannabis-derived cannabinoids, so they may have much more powerful effects than you’re used to. 

Some of the potential adverse effects of consuming synthetic cannabinoids include:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Heart problems

Thankfully, you can take steps to avoid synthetic cannabinoids by making sure to read the COA (Certificate of Analysis) carefully when you purchase products from a dispensary. Also, you should only source cannabis products from licensed, reputable dispensaries that have good reviews. 

How can you use cannabinoids, and what products are they found in?

People use cannabis-derived cannabinoids for recreational and medicinal purposes. 

Since cannabinoids are a fundamental part of the cannabis plant, they’re found in all the different ways cannabis is consumed.

Some common examples include: 

Smoking cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are found in the leaves or buds of cannabis plants, which can be smoked or vaped. These products typically contain other compounds such as terpenes, which may interact with the cannabinoids, working with them to provide a more significant effect. 

Orally consuming cannabinoids

You can consume cannabinoids orally in a concentrated form. Examples include THC or CBD isolate, oils, tinctures, or capsules. They may need to be swallowed or simply placed under your tongue. Some concentrates can also be smoked or vaped. 

You’ll also find cannabinoids in edibles like brownies or gummies. These usually contain other compounds found in the cannabis plant as well. 

Topical products

Topical products such as creams or gels also contain cannabinoids. These products work because the skin and hair follicles absorb the cannabinoids. 

Effects of cannabinoids

Likely, the most well known effect of cannabis is its psychoactive property, also known as the ability to get you “high.” Not all cannabinoids can do this, though. While THC can get you high, CBD and some other cannabinoids don’t have psychoactive properties. CBD may even help to regulate the high from THC. 

But cannabinoids have a whole range of other effects. 

Phytocannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system by binding to receptors on the surface of cells. When they do this, they can help the body regulate its own functions. These may include mood, the immune system, memory, pain, and neurological functioning.

Based on these effects, cannabinoids may have several medicinal benefits. Although the research is currently limited, some evidence suggests cannabinoids may help:

Cannabinoids have many other potential medical uses, but those listed above are what they’re most often used and researched for. 

The specific effects depend on the particular type of cannabinoid. Several cannabinoids may interact with each other to produce the effects. Another thing to remember is that hundreds of different cannabis strains exist. 

Each strain has a slightly different composition of cannabinoids, giving them a unique cannabinoid profile. For example, some varieties of cannabis tend to have higher concentrations of THC and lower concentrations of CBD. Others, however, may have higher concentrations of CBD and lower THC content. 

Other factors, like the method of consumption and a person’s individual tolerance, also influence the overall effect that cannabinoids have. 

Like everything that you take into your body, cannabinoids have potential side effects, especially when consumed at high doses. 

When ingesting cannabinoids, you may experience

  • Dry mouth (cottonmouth)
  • Dry or red eyes
  • Headache
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure 

In most cases, these side effects can be alleviated or prevented by taking a lower dose.

Cannabinoids and terpenes 

Cannabinoids have another interesting function in the cannabis plant. They work with another group of chemicals called terpenes, which contribute to the unique aromas and flavors of different cannabis strains. This interaction is called the “entourage effect,” and it can influence the overall psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant. 

Legality of cannabinoids 

Remember, before using cannabis in any shape or form, make sure you fully understand your state’s laws as each state has its own unique laws for THC as well as CBD, Delta-8 THC and other cannabinoids mentioned.

Curious about cannabinoids? Visit us today

Cannabinoids are essential components in the cannabis plant. Hopefully, you now understand the basics of cannabinoids and why they’re so important. 

Still have some curious questions about cannabinoids? Pop into one of our dispensaries in Worcester, Abington, or Watertown. Our knowledgeable and friendly budtenders can help you learn more about the exciting world of cannabinoids. We’d love to see you there!

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