Cannabinoids: The Natural Medicine Behind Medical Cannabis

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Cannabinoids: The Natural Medicine Behind Medical Cannabis

A treasure trove of anecdotal evidence exists behind medical cannabis’ efficacy as a natural remedy. What inside cannabis causes these reported medical effects? Enter cannabinoids. Continue reading to learn how these chemical compounds work to provide cannabis’ effects.

For those just beginning to look at medical cannabis, many know a few distinctions, like an Indica vs. Sativa plant, but even few cannabis experts know every compound that makes up the plant. There are 66 different known cannabinoids. These chemicals are found in the cannabis plant, and a great deal has medical properties. Learning the basics of cannabinoids can help you better understand cannabis’ large range of efficacy across treatment and remedy options for patients. Cannabis naturally acts upon something everyone has inside their body, the endocannabinoid system.

In this article, you’ll learn and discover about Cannabinoids, the natural medicine behind medical cannabis.

Table of Contents

Your Endocannabinoid System

Your Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system has been found to regulate mood, appetite, pre and postnatal development, and many more cognitive functions

Why does cannabis have such distinct medical effects? It’s all thanks to your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Your body has a system of receptors that, when bound to, produce medical effects. Cannabinoids from cannabis can bind to the system’s receptors, the culprit behind cannabis’ power as a medicine.

Normally endogenous, or body made cannabinoids bind with these receptors to produce natural regulatory effects with regard to pain, appetite, and memory. When cannabinoids are present, the ECS creates similar bodily effects. When you consume cannabis, cannabinoids bind your ECS receptors, CB1, in your body,  and CB2 in your brain. Whether you get more cannabinoids binding to your CB1 or CB2 receptors depends on the strain of cannabis, which we will discuss in more detail. The important takeaway is that strains can be cultivated to maximize certain cannabinoid effects, thus creating more efficacious, personalized medicine.

Strains high in THC target CB1 receptors, producing mindful effects like improved concentration, euphoria, and creativity.

The THC Class

While THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most popular and well-known cannabinoid, there’s actually a few different types of THC present in medical cannabis. There is THCa, which becomes THC when combusted, and THCv. Both bind to CB1 receptors, most commonly found in the brain. THC, the end product of THCa, produces the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. When you picture the euphoria and elevated mood produced by medical cannabis, you should give credit to the THC class of cannabinoids. These natural chemicals work to provide users with the mindfulness they need to start their day, work on projects, and even fight pain and cancer.  Check out a more in-depth detail of each THC cannabinoid below.

It has pain relief and cancer killing properties


THCa is why medical cannabis must be dried and cured following cultivation. When cannabis flowers are freshest, in the pre-cure process, they possess a slick and sticky texture, coated in THCa. If one were to combust this live cannabis they wouldn’t receive many benefits. As the plant is cured the THCa slowly turns into THC, and when combusted or vaporized it will provide users with THC’s benefits. THC has anti-inflammatory properties, provides pain relief, can curb nausea and inhibit cancers growth. Most medical cannabis strains have high levels of THCa. For instance, many current dispensary strains provide an average of more than 24% THCa.

thc molecule

A THCv molecule, the second most abundant in the THC class


It is very similar to THC, in fact, it’s only molecular difference is a 3 carbon side chain, depicted above. THCv will cause euphoric sensations, much like THCa, often described as more intense. This causes a stimulation of energy that can help those who need invigorating effects to take on the day, while also providing some relief for depression. The biggest difference between THCa and THCv is their properties when it comes to appetite. THCv has been found to produce an appetite suppressant effect. While common adage tells you cannabis may give users “munchies,” or improved appetites, THCv is thought to be the reason why most cannabis users are skinnier on average. High levels of THCv tend to be found in strains of African descent.

CBD’s provide cannabis’ many medical benefits without psychoactive effects

It provide cannabis’ many medical benefits without psychoactive effects

The CBD Class

Of any cannabinoid, Cannabidiol, or CBD, may be the most abundant in cannabis flower, making up almost half of combusted cannabis resin. CBD, and similar cannabinoids house much of cannabis’ medical properties. It has been known to fight anxiety, lower inflammation, relieve pain, nausea, and fight seizures in people who suffer from epilepsy. CBD has become an almost billion dollar industry because it, and cannabinoids like it, provide medical benefits without a psychoactive therapeutic effect, or high. In fact, one of the first ever primarily CBD strain, Charlotte’s Web, was created for a little girl suffering from epilepsy. Learn more about the CBD class below.

CBDa is known to specifically help child patients who want to avoid cannabis’ psychoactive effects

It is known to specifically help child patients who want to avoid cannabis’ psychoactive effects


CBDa becomes CBD when combusted, vaporized, or consumed in an infusion. CBD is lauded for its stability. When you ingest CBD you don’t feel any chemical effects akin to a “high” or what we call euphoria from THC. But you still get the benefits. These benefits include relief from epilepsy, pain management, and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes CBD rich strains a go-to for child patients, as well as patients who seek medication during the workday. In addition, it can be used in many different forms, even in topical, salve forms.

CBGa acts as a muscle relaxer and sleep aid

It acts as a muscle relaxer and sleep aid


CBGa becomes the cannabinoid CBG when combusted, vaporized, or consumed in an infusion. This compound has been found to contribute to cannabis’ efficacy for treating glaucoma, as well as inhibiting tumor growth. What we know most about CBG is that it helps our muscles relax, and can lower inflammation. These paired actions make CBG an effective sleep aid, and strains that have higher amounts of CBGa tend to be less head heavy and more relaxing.

I hope you now have a better idea of the medicine behind the hubbub of medical cannabis as a natural remedy. Taking the time to compare and contrast cannabinoid levels may help you find the strain or remedy that is right for you and your medical cannabis experience.

Chris Matich

Chris Matich is a professional writer, journalist, and editor living in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris blogs for His writing interests include LGBT+ people/issues, sports writing, and blogging. Chris currently writes about web optimization, blogging practices, medical cannabis, and cannabis lifestyle. He writes fiction and creative nonfiction in his spare time.



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