Cannabinoids: A Field Guide To Cannabis Compounds


Ever since the discovery of the body’s natural endocannabinoid system in the late 1980’s, we’ve come to understand that the brain makes its own “endogenous” cannabinoids naturally, and that these compounds play a critical role in regulating many of the body’s most basic functions.

Dr. Dustin Salak, a leading researcher and practitioner of what some have dubbed cannabinopathic medicine wrote that:

“Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment”

These receptors not only work in the body’s natural endocannabinoids, they also fit the pot plant’s cannabinoids like a lock fits a key, which explains how one plant can provide so many seemingly unrelated health benefits.

While THC is by far the best known and most psychoactive of cannabis’ unique chemical compounds, there’s also CDB, CBN, CGB, THC-A, and eighty other cannabinoids worth know, as each one has its own distinct medical benefits.

Most retail cannabis shops display THC and CBD percentages for the strains they sell. In the neat future, a whole range of nutraceuticals will widely be available, offering tailored cannabinoid blends designed to boost specific functions in the body. For now, here’s a primer on the key compounds to keep in mind.


If you know only one cannabinoid, it’s definitely THC, and with a good reason. Other cannabioids have medicinal/therapeutic properties after all, but none of them make music sound better, and ice cream taste better, like THC. One of the safest therapeutic substances known to man, it’s proven to help treat and prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other serous conditions. Also, it can get you high as tits.


A precursor, acidic for of THC that gets you high as tits, THC-A is non-psychoactive and found in abundance in freshly harvested cannabis. THC-A must be heated to the point of decarboxylation (around 200 degrees Fahrenheit) before it converts to THC, which explains why you can’t just eat raw bud to get high. THC-A offers many of the same benefits as THC, including anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-spasmodic properties.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol has been on the radar of both the pharmaceutical industry and the medical-marijuana community for decades. Non-psychoactive, CBD actually works to temper the high  of THC, which explains why underground cannabis breeders laregly unwittingly bred it out of the cannabis gene pool during prohibition. It is a safe, highly effective treatment for pain, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, spasticity, MS, Alzheimer’s,cancer, and a host of other serious conditions.

Cannabinol (CBN)

An oxidation product of THC, CBN is less psychoactive than its antecedent, with a strongly sedative effect. So if you’ve ever smoked weed that put you right to sleep, a high CBN profile was probably the reason — which is great if you are an insomniac, but terrible if you are at a networking event. Most of the time CBN forms when you let your herb sit around for a prolonged period of time with exposure to high heat, light, and an unsealed container. It can also happen if you cook your edibles too long or at too high of a temperature.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

Rarely found in commercially available cannabis except in trace amounts, CBC is non-psychoactive, with sedative, anti-anxiety properties. CBC has also been proven to enhance the pain-relief properties of THC.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

Non psychoactive and commonly found in low levels (less than 1% in most samples), CBG has demonstrated pain relief, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory benefits. It also reduces intraocular pressure, associated with glaucoma.