Cannabinoids 101

Everything You Need to Know About Cannabinoids

Photo Credit: Kodil Oils

It’s a crazy cannabis market out there. New products are created and added to shelves daily, leading to an overwhelming amount of options for the average cannabis consumer.

Gone are the days of buying dime bags of mystery weed in grocery store parking lots. Today, you can find out everything about your weed; where it was grown, when it was harvested and packaged (and subsequently how long it was cured) and even the cannabinoid make up.

If you’re like: what the f*ck is a cannabinoid? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what you need to know to make the best choices the next time you’re at a dispensary.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. These compounds give the cannabis plant unique properties in your system, and change how cannabis interacts with your body and your mind. You’ve likely heard of THC and CBD, two of the most popular cannabinoids on the market- but there are over 100 identified cannabinoids!

In any given cannabis strain, there are multiple cannabinoids present. Usually, strains are dominated by THC, but even the small presence of other cannabinoids can change how a strain interacts with your system. This is called the entourage effect, when the chemical compounds in cannabis work together to create a unique and complex experience. Most other cannabinoids are minor, meaning they appear in small quantities in the cannabis plant. But don’t let that fool you- each cannabinoid brings its own unique value to the table, with mental, physical, and medical benefits you need to know about.

Major Cannabinoids


Short for: Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol

Why we love it: The OG. The one that started it all. The intoxicating, psychoactive, can’t-get-enough-of-it cannabinoid.  THC is the most common cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, known for its psychoactive, intoxicating properties. This cannabinoid will get you high, high, and higher. Most strains grown commercially are THC dominant, which means they’ll have an intoxicating effect on you. Whether that puts you on the couch or on the treadmill is more dependent on the strain, mix of other cannabinoids, and your personal endocannabinoid system.

Where you’ll find it: EVERY.WHERE. THC is the most abundant and popular cannabinoid in modern cannabis, and you’ll find it everywhere and anywhere you can purchase cannabis, including flower, concentrates, tinctures, topicals, oils, and capsules.


Short for: Cannabidiol

Why we love it: CBD is having a moment, but don’t let the hype turn you away. CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid in both cannabis plants, after THC but it appears in hemp plants too. Unlike its “wild” cousin, CBD is more of a chill type, reducing stress levels, promoting focus, and reducing pain without an overpowering high sensation. Consuming this cannabinoid won’t hit you over the head with the high, but you may feel lighter overall or less stressed.

Where you’ll find it: These days, CBD is everywhere from dispensaries to gas stations. Stick to CBD-specific stores or dispensaries to get the highest quality products for the best experience. (Nothing good ever comes from the gas station CBD).

Minor Cannabinoids


Short for: Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid

Why we love it: THCA is found in raw cannabis plants, and is the precursor to THC. Consuming THCA will not get you high, but it can reduce inflammation throughout the body, and it’s thought to have neuroprotective qualities (be good for your brain neurons) as well. THCA turns into THC when heated at low temperatures, like being lit in a bowl.

Where you’ll find it: THCA is found in the highest quantities in raw cannabis plants, including the leaves. These dark leafy greens have a similar nutrient makeup to spinach or kale, so you can cook with them in the same way. Or you can throw them in a smoothie or turn them into juice.

Photo Credit: CBD Oil Review


Short for: Cannabidiolic acid

Why we love it:  CBDA offers anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce nausea, and increases serotonin production in your brain. Even without getting you high, CBDA can make you feel good!

Where you’ll find it: Since CBDA is abundant in the raw cannabis plant, you can cook with the leaves, blend or juice them, or reach for CBDA-specific capsules, tinctures, and topicals.


Short for: Cannabigerol

Why we love it: CBG is a minor cannabinoid with major potential. While it makes up less than 1% of the cannabinoids in commercially grown weed, some growers are experimenting with high CBG strains. Similar to CBD, CBG is non-intoxicating but offers stress and pain-relieving properties. CBG can induce a mild sense of euphoria, reduce inflammation in the gut, protect neurons in your brain and even block receptors that cause cancer cell growth!

Where you’ll find it: CBG appears in small quantities in many modern cannabis strains, but some growers are experimenting with breeding higher CBG. You can also purchase CBG tinctures.


Short for: Cannabichromene

Why we love it: CBC is a non-intoxicating minor cannabinoid with a list of exciting medical applications. CBC delays the breakdown of cannabinoids produced in your brain, so they stay in your bloodstream longer, which can help stabilize your mood, increase focus, and keep your body healthy. It also prevents cancer cell growth, reduces inflammation, and can even help fight acne!

Where you’ll find it: CBC exists in low quantities within cannabis, but you can find CBC-specific tinctures online.


Short for:  Cannabinol

Why we love it: CBN is created as cannabis ages, so it’s found in highest concentrations in older weed. This non-intoxicating cannabinoid stimulates the appetite, and has antibacterial and neuroprotective properties, making it a key cannabinoid for further scientific medicinal research. You may have heard CBN works well for sleep, but research suggests this is only when consumed with THC.

Where you’ll find it: CBN is most abundant in older cannabis, particularly plants that have been exposed to oxygen. You can also find CBN-specific edibles and tinctures.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Short for: Tetrahydrocannabivarin

Why we love it: THCV is similar to THC in molecular structure, which begs the question: will it get you high? The science here isn’t conclusive, as the cannabinoid is not extensively studied but the answer is maybe- further testing and research is needed. But the most exciting property of THCV is appetite-suppressing, suggesting it may be good for weight loss. THCV is the anti-munchies cannabinoid!

Where you’ll find it: THCV occurs naturally in the cannabis plant, in the strongest concentrations in African sativas. Strains with a high THCV content include Durban Poison, Durban Cheese, and Pineapple Purp.


Short for: Cannabidivarin

Why we love it: Similar to CBD, CBDV won’t cause an intense intoxicating experience. But what it will do is regulate brain function, making it an area of research for treating epilepsy and muscle dysfunction.

Where you’ll find it: CBDV is found mainly in Indica strains from Africa and Asia, as well as any strain high in CBD.  

Final Thoughts

We want to hear from you. Which of the above cannabinoids do you like best and what new cannabinoids have you learned about recently?

Jessica Reilly is copywriter, content strategist and cannabis aficionado. She combines her passion for cannabis with her talent for writing at Jessica Reilly, Writer and runs the Cannabis Creative Blog. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Written by: Jessica Riley

Edited (for SEO) by: Veronica Castillo

Sponsored by:

Herb of Life Cultivation, LLC

Korasana (with partner Zero Point Extractions)

Peacock/ Wunderkind CBD

The Botanical Joint

Just Bee Kynd 

I Slang Sea Moss   

The Bitchy Hippie

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