What are Cannabinoids [and How Do They Work?]

Cannabinoids are becoming a hot topic. With all of the talk on medical marijuana and the legalization of it, CBD Oil, and hemp; cannabinoids are in the spotlight right now. The interesting thing is most people don’t even know they are talking about cannabinoids when on the subject of cannabis.

The Cannabinoids

When explaining how cannabis works, the conversation quickly moves to cannabinoids. There are over 80+ known cannabinoids, the most popular is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is famous for its psychoactive or intoxicating effects. The second most well-known cannabinoid is Cannabidiol (CBD).

There are two main forms of the cannabis plant of which most people know. Marijuana and hemp. While many have heard of these two terms, most think the terms marijuana and hemp are interchangeable. The reality is marijuana and hemp are both forms of the cannabis plant, but they produce cannabinoids differently. Marijuana is high in THC and low in CBD, while hemp contains more CBD and low amounts of THC.

How Cannabinoids Work

Cannabinoids work by interacting with our bodies own cannabinoid receptors. This interaction helps regulate many of our bodies systems such as our nervous and immune systems. Both cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors make up our bodies Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Endocannabinoids are naturally produced in our own bodies.


Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids which we create on demand. Humans and other mammals (including pets) produce these compounds naturally. Anandamide or the bliss molecule is created when we exercise. During exercise, our body creates an abundance of anandamide which causes what is known as a “runner’s high”.

Endocannabinoids are created when the body strays from homeostasis. Homeostasis is when a body and its systems are in balance. Once created, endocannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors and transmit a message to the cell telling it to act in a way which will return the body to homeostasis [balance].

So how do CBD and THC fit into this? Phytocannabinoids.


CBD and THC are known as phytocannabinoids [cannabinoids created in plants] and act similarly to endocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids play a major role in the therapeutic effects of cannabis as they mimic cannabinoids which are produced in the body. Like endocannabinoids, they bind to the receptors to help return our body to homeostasis.

When THC binds to a receptor, an intoxicating effect is experienced. With CBD it is the opposite as it does not have an intoxicating effect, but more of a calming experience.

If THC is present in the body, CBD actually works against its intoxicating effect. Meaning, if you eat too much of a marijuana brownie and get “too high”, CBD could actually be the thing to help bring you back to center as it blocks the interaction between THC and your cannabinoid receptors.


What has your experience been with cannabinoids?