A complete(ish) cannabinoid-ucation

by DGO Staff

New to cannabis? Here’s a user-friendly guide to how different cannabinoids work

Navigating the world of cannabis can be a daunting journey, especially if you’re new to weed. There are so many terms to learn, and trying to remember what each of them means can result in flashbacks of sitting (read: sleeping) through high school science classes.

And that’s especially true when it comes to cannabinoids. There are a whopping 150 cannabinoids out there that we currently know of — all of which are found in the cannabis plant. And it’s important to know what they do.

But we aren’t going to break down all of them for you. That would be absurd. What we are going to try and do instead is to simplify them for you.

Not only do we want you to know what you’re putting in your body, but we want you to sound like a pro the next time you are having a conversation with a buddy or are trying to understand the lingo at your favorite dispensary.

Here’s what you should know.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the most well-known and recognizable cannabinoid found in marijuana. This cannabinoid is responsible for giving you that textbook high we all know and love.

Until very recently, THC levels were one of the only ways that the quality of cannabis flower was measured.

When THC is inhaled, it goes into your lungs, and is then absorbed into your blood. From there, it reaches your brain, where it binds to receptors.

When you take edibles, the THC enters your blood through your digestive system and attaches to your receptors — just like when it’s inhaled. Once it hits the receptors, you begin to feel the high, which is typically experienced as an overall sense of euphoria in your body and your mind.
The second most prevalent cannabinoid found in marijuana is Cannabidiol, also known as CBD. This cannabinoid is a broad spectrum, and it has been highly effective at treating illnesses like certain types of epilepsy, anxiety, depression, inflammation and chronic pain — all without the feeling of being “high.” What’s more is that CBD has also been shown to alleviate the adverse effects of feeling too high, which can happen when you ingest too much THC. (Trust us; we know.)

That’s because CBD affects serotonin receptors by acting as a substitute for serotonin. Serotonin is a powerful substance that stabilizes our moods and helps us feel less anxiety, which is what can feel overwhelming when you’re too high.

And, CBD also interacts with the TRPV1 receptor, which affects inflammation, body temperature, and the perception of pain. In addition, CBD indirectly deactivates or blocks the GPR55 receptor, which is associated with cancer cell growth and bone loss.


As THC ages, it turns into the cannabinoid CBN. As such, the easiest way to find CBN is to find aged flowers.

But while CBN comes from THC, it doesn’t have the same psychoactive properties. CBN is its own molecule and does not contain THC or any other psychoactive compound that could deliver mind-altering highs, which means it won’t result in a positive drug test.

CBN has very specific effects, and it typically contributes to sleep and decreasing anxiety. It’s considered to be the most sedative out of all the compounds found in cannabis and was recently discovered from decomposed THC.

Thanks to those sedative effects, CBN can be pretty darn useful for treating insomnia, according to anecdotal evidence — and the early stages of research show that it may help aid with sleep as well.


Cannabigerol, or CBG, is often referred to as the mother of all cannabinoids, as other cannabinoids are derived from cannabigerolic acid — which is just the acidic form of CBG.

CBG is generally found in smaller quantities than other cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Most strains of the plant only contain about 1% of CBG.

Due to its rarity, the price of CBG tends to be much higher than other cannabinoids. But while the price tag can be steep, there are many potential benefits of CBG, which has led to its recent popularity.

CBG works by binding to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, and researchers think it strengthens the function of anandamide. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that has a role in enhancing pleasure, motivation, regulating appetite, promoting sleep, and reducing pain.

Unlike THC, though, CBG will not give you a high.


Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THC-A, is a precursor to THC. THC-A is converted to THC through decarboxylation, which is the fancy word for when weed is heated up to the right temperatures. Since smoking is the most common method of consuming cannabis, the high heat from the flame typically destroys the THC-A in the cannabis.

THC-A has been shown to be a pain reliever, appetite stimulant, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. The best way to consume THCA is through juicing a raw cannabis plant. Scientists also believe that THCA interacts with serotonin receptors, which may ease anxiety.


Cannabidiolic acid, also known as CBD-A, is a cannabinoid that can be obtained from raw cannabis. It is the cannabinoid precursor to CBD. CBD-A is converted to CBD after cannabis
is dehydrated or burned, and it is a non-psychoactive substance. Studies have shown CBD-A to be effective as an antioxidant, analgesic, as an antibacterial, and it also potentially prohibits the spread of cancer cells.


Cannabichromene, or CBC, was discovered over 50 years ago and is considered one of the big six cannabinoids that are prominent in medical research. CBC has shown promise in fighting cancer due to the interaction with the body’s natural endocannabinoid, anandamide.

It also appears to inhibit the uptake of anandamide, allowing it to remain longer in the bloodstream. In addition, CBC shows promise in the treatment of pain relief, inflammation, acne, depression, and it has positive effects on neural stem progenitor brain cells.


The cannabinoid THC-V has been called quite a few things over the years, but weederall and diet weed are both nicknames that stick out the most. THC-V is known to help suppress your appetite and it also has energy-boosting properties. But while it has THC in its name, THC-V does not have the same intoxicating effects as regular old Delta 9 THC does.

In addition, THC-V has been shown to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, and anxiety. And though only a few studies exist, there are no reported side effects of using THC-V.


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