What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are a group of fat soluble molecules that are produced naturally in all humans and in almost all animals except insects. Cannabinoids are found naturally in a variety of plants where the hemp plant is the most famous. The journey to the discovery of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system started in 1895 when scientist Thomas Wood, together with his colleagues Sivey and Easterfield, was able to isolate and identify the first-ever herbal cannabinoid, cannabinol (CBN) from the hemp plant. Since then about 130 cannabinoids have been identified only in the hemp plant. However it was first in 1964 that researchers began to understand more about the nature of the cannabinoids after the well known Israeli researcher Dr Ralph Mechoulam and his colleagues isolated and identified the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It was later in the early and mid-1990s that researchers located and identified the body’s own produced so called endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-arakidonoylglycerol. This led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system which is a cannabinoid receptor signal system that helps regulate homeostasis in the human body. This was a major breakthrough and paved the way for over 20,000 published studies on cannabinoids.
Today, it is published on average about one new scientific study per day on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system.
Endocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The body produces its own cannabinoids, which are called endocannabinoids where the most wellknown is anandamide. Cannabinoids regulate intracellular communication and modulates and coordinates homeostasis in our body systems such as the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, endocrine system, respiratory system, reproductive system and musculoskeletal system. The endocannabinoid system or shortened ECS is thus one of the body’s largest signal systems. There are currently identified two types of cannabinoid receptors in the body CB1 and CB2 this is being expanded with a new type called CB3 receptors.
CB1 receptors in the body are mostly in the brain but also in the cardiovascular system and stomach.
CB2 receptors in the body are mostly in the immune system and the central nervous system.
Cannabinoids that occur in plants are called phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are abundant in nature and new phytocannabinoids are discovered continuously. The hemp plant is the plant that so far seems to have the most phytocannabinoids about 130. There are also a lot of phytocannabinoids in plants like cacao, black pepper, rosemary, maca, black truffle and echinacea to name a few. Phytocannabinoids act on the body’s endocannabinoid system and all phytocannabinoids have unique effects in the body. Phytocannabinoids usually have a synergistic effect with a plants other compounds. This makes it very difficult to measure specific effects on isolated cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids in the Hemp Plant
The hemp plant is the plant in the world that has the most unique and varied range of cannabinoids. Today there are about 130 cannabinoids identified in the hemp plant, such as THCA, CBG, CBN, and CBA. In its original raw state all phytocannabinoids are in acid from, and they then have an A after, so they would be called CBGA or CBNA for example. Upon heating or combustion of the plant, the cannabinoids are converted by decarboxylation and are called CBG or CBN instead. Cannabinoids are completely different depending on whether they are in their acid form or have gone through a decarboxylation where carbon dioxide is released from the molecule.