What Are Cannabinoids?

Whether you are new to the world of hemp or a long time advocate, you will no doubt be familiar with the word cannabinoids, but what are they and where do you find them?

Let’s dive in and look at this in a little more detail whilst trying to answer some of the frequently asked questions around cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids and Cannabis


When people are talking about cannabinoids, most commonly this refers to the various naturally-occurring, active chemical compounds found in the Cannabis plant.


Although some cannabinoids exist in other plants, the vast majority are found only in cannabis and the proper name for these compounds are Phytocannabinoids, meaning plant-derived. Scientists believe there could be close to 100 special compounds, known as cannabinoids found in cannabis, and industrial hemp. Some of the compounds are found in the fresh plant and some of them occur once it has been dried.


Examples of well-known phytocannabinoids that you will probably of heard of include Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabinol (CBN) and of course Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the one known for giving people the “high” feeling. Cannabinoids are produced in tiny glands on the surface of the cannabis plant called trichomes.


Trichomes protect the plant in a variety of ways, including insulating, which helps keep frosts away from leaf cells, camouflage, and attracting pollinators.


What Are Endocannabinoids?



What most people don’t realise is that our bodies produce some of their own cannabinoids naturally and this applies to most animal life as well, these are known as endogenous or endocannabinoids which literally means created from within.


It is important to distinguish that phytocannabinoids from cannabis and some other plants are not the same as the endocannabinoids created in our bodies but they do have a similar chemical structure and effect, and the body utilises them in a similar way.


Did you know for example that human breast milk even contains endocannabinoids?


Phytocannabinoids can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle by including certain plants into your diet or by taking health food supplements such as a full-spectrum hemp oil.


Cannabinoids can be absorbed through the skin which is why they are popular now in many topical creams and balms. Cannabinoids both (Endo and Phyto) play a key part in maintaining our bodies endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is important for our health and wellbeing.


What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?



Quite simply synthetic cannabinoids are not a cannabis product, they are artificial cannabinoid compounds created in laboratories, which are made by chemical synthesis, designed to imitate the natural product.


Whilst there are a few legal synthetic cannabinoids that have been developed by scientists, synthetic cannabinoids have been used to concoct dangerous products like man-made synthetic cannabis (given names like Spice), which are vastly more potent than the real thing and where artificial chemicals are sprayed on dried plant material so they can be smoked or infused in CBD vape juice that can be used in vapes.

Worst still many of these products are labelled “Not for human consumption”, hopefully giving you a clear indication that synthetic cannabinoids should be given a very wide berth.



Do cannabinoids exist in other plants?



Until recently, many believed cannabinoids were only found in the cannabis plant, and whilst this is true for many of the cannabinoids identified, it might surprise you to know that yes, phytocannabinoids have also been found in other plants as well. Just some of the plants identified to contain phytocannabinoids include black pepper, echinacea, liverwort and ginseng, they have even been found in rare black truffles.


Cacao, beloved by chocolate fans far and wide also contains compounds that are structurally very similar to endocannabinoids, although the content of the cannabinoid-like compounds found in chocolate varies widely, it tends to be in higher concentrations in both dark chocolate and raw cacao.


There is still much to learn about the benefits of the huge variety of phytocannabinoids and terpenes found in plants, Terpenes (known as phytochemicals) are responsible for giving plants their taste and smell, examples of terpenes you might recognise include the distinctive aromas of lavender, pine trees and of course cannabis.


The earlier mentioned black pepper plant, for example, contains high levels of a terpene called beta-caryophyllene (BCP) but there is now a lot of debate as to whether BCP is actually a terpene or a cannabinoid as it acts and has properties similar to cannabinoids, even though it’s been identified as a terpene. BCP is found in the essential oils of many plants, including rosemary, cloves as well as hops which are used to make beer, it is also found abundantly in cannabis/hemp.


We hope this blog has been helpful and given you some insight into the world of cannabinoids


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Sources:



https://www.fundacion-canna.es/en/cannabinoids

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endocannabinoid

indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/plant-hair.php

https://www.prima.co/magazine/top-5-plants-with-cannabinoids/