THC, CBD, CBC, CBN. The acronyms within the cannabis world can be overwhelming, but understanding what each one is and how they work will enable you to better understand—and use—marijuana.
What are these elements? Cannabinoids: The chemically active compounds found in the flower-bearing limbs of the cannabis plant. There are nearly 85 types of cannabinoids, and they are the reason why marijuana makes us feel the things we do. When cannabinoids enter our system, they imitate naturally produced compounds—called endocannabinoids—and interact with specific receptors throughout the central nervous and immune system to create a variety of effects.
Each cannabinoid has its own characteristics, healing benefits and medicinal uses. And although they create a powerful entourage effect when used together, let’s break down the differences independently:
Scientific Name: Tetrahydrocannabinol
Characteristics: THC is the most common element found in cannabis and the cannabinoid with the most psychoactive power. It has a molecular makeup that fits “perfectly” with our body’s receptors to produce an influential amount of intoxicating effects.
Healing Benefits: Analgesic, anti-emetic, anti-proliferative, antioxidant, euphoriant
Use to: Relieve pain and nausea, relieve stress and depression, protect brain cells and stimulate their growth, improve appetite
Scientific Name: Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid
Characteristics: THC-A is the non-psychoactive, or non-active, and acidic relative of THC found in the trichomes of raw and live cannabis. This cannabinoid is one of the most abundant compounds found in the plant, but converts into THC over time when dried and harvested. THC-A also coverts into THC through a process known as decarboxylation.
Healing Benefits: Anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-emetic
Use to: Relieve arthritis and lupus symptoms, nausea and appetite loss, insomnia, muscle spasms and cancer relief, treat neurodegenerative diseases, treat arthritis
Scientific Name: Cannabidiol
Characteristics: The second most popular concentrate found in cannabis behind THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and counteracts many characteristics of THC. Although it doesn’t bind to your endocannabinoid receptors nearly as well as THC, it still interacts with the body to provide calming effects and improved moods.
Healing Benefits: Anti-emetic, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-oxidant and anti-depressant
Use to: Lower blood sugar levels, help with acne and ADD, reduce vomiting and nausea, reduce seizures
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Scientific Name: Cannabidiol Acid
Characteristics: This cannabinoid is the acidic precursor to CBD. It’s the “inactive” element found in the cannabis plant, that eventually turns into CBD when heated and gone through decarboxylation. Because there’s a strong focus on CBD, CBD-A research still has a long way to go.
Healing Benefits: Anti-inflammation, anti-proliferative
Use to: Reduce inflammation and inhibit growth in tumors and cancer
Scientific Name: Cannabinol
Characteristics: To get CBN, just expose THC to air and oxidize it—or simply attempt to use an improperly stored, old stash. It’s considered to have weak psychoactive traits and can diminish the effects of THC, reducing its potency. Known for its sedative effect, CBN is ideal for those looking for a treatment without psychoactive characteristics.
Healing Benefits: Anti-insomnia, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive
Use to: Relieve pain, promote bone cell growth, stimulate appetite, sleep
Scientific Name: Cannabigerol
Characteristics: It’s considered a “minor” cannabinoid but works synergistically with the others. Testing is limited, which means we don’t know the full extent of CBG’s potential. However, CBG is believed to counteract THC effects and instead deliver a balanced effect to the body as a whole.
Healing Benefits: Anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant
Use to: Decrease anxiety, aid sleep, relax muscles, help with IBD, treat glaucoma, inhibit tumor growth
Scientific Name: Cannabigerolic Acid
Characteristics: CBG-A is the matriarch of the cannabis plant: It is the first cannabinoid formed in the plant and the producer of nearly all other major cannabinoids like THC-A, CBD-A and CBC-A. Because of this, research is focused primarily on its role in the biosynthesis process, but it certainly has its own medicinal qualities to boot.
Healing Benefits: Analgesic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative
Use to: Relieve pain, slow bacterial growth, reduce inflammation, inhibit cancer cell growth
Scientific Name: Cannabichromene
Characteristics: You might be surprised to know that CBC—not CBD—is the second-most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis. It certainly doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but this cannabinoid works in tandem with others and amplifies the positive benefits of THC without producing any psychoactive properties.
Healing Benefits: Anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, anti-bacterial, analgensic
Use to: Relieve pain, stimulate healthy bone growth, promote brain growth, inhibit cancer cell growth, reduce inflammation, fight depression