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Whether you use cannabis to mellow out, treat pain, or chase a full body buzz, the experiences you unlock are all thanks to your endocannabinoid system (ECS). This complex and naturally occurring cell-signaling network is where the magic happens, with neurotransmitters binding to cannabinoids like CBD and unlocking all kinds of benefits from your dry flower, extracts, edibles, and vapes.
It really is an incredible process, but it is a little complicated so bear with us as we cover how the endocannabinoid system works and how it interacts with different cannabinoids.
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
Whether you consume cannabis or not, every human body is regulated by an endocannabinoid system. The complex and naturally occurring cell-signaling network that affects a myriad of functions, both psychological and physiological. When you consume cannabis products, cannabinoids start to interact with the ECS and attach to cannabinoid receptors. It’s this process that unlocks the different benefits associated with cannabis, ranging from euphoric highs to genuine pain relief.
Naming the Endocannabinoid System
If you’re wondering how the endocannabinoid system got its name, the answer is THC. Back in the 1990s, a team of Israeli and American researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system when investigating the effects of THC on the human body. When tracking how the powerful cannabinoid interacted with the human body, they identified a complex system of naturally occurring neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters (also known as endocannabinoids) bind to cannabinoid receptors and receptor proteins in the endocannabinoid system and trigger all kinds of effects, mostly good.
Basically, the endocannabinoid system was discovered thanks to research into Cannabis sativa plant and its signature cannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This makes the name a fitting tribute to the plant.
Now we know more about the science behind the endocannabinoid system, let’s take a look at how cannabinoids affect the body.
How Cannabinoids Affect the Body:
Second to THC, CBD is one of the most widely recognized cannabinoids. Unlike THC which forms strong bonds with cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain to create feelings of euphoria, CBD has a much milder effect. It gets its anti-inflammatory properties from the ability to interact with the TRPV1 receptor, which regulates pain and inflammation. Studies also suggest it the activates the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor, making CBD an effective cannabinoid for treating anxiety and other psychotic disorders.
Derived from THC, cannabinol (CBN) is a mild psychoactive that was first discovered in the late 1800s. It’s come a long way since then, with consumers coveting CBN for its ability to bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors and unlock a range of therapeutic effects. It’s a powerful pain reliever, an excellent anti-inflammatory, and is also used as a sleep sedative. As an anticonvulsant, CBN is also used to treat epilepsy patients and reduce the intensity of seizures.
While cannabigerol (CBG) does bind to the CB1 and CB2, it’s nowhere near as intense as THC. On the contrary, it acts as a competitive antagonist for CB1 receptors and buffers the psychoactive effects of THC. CBG-rich strains also work wonders when it comes to fighting pain, inflammation, and nausea. This has won it bigtime brownie points with consumers looking to treat conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and even cancer. You’ll hear it referred to as the mother of all cannabinoids, a nod to its role in creating derivatives like THC and CBD.
If you’ve ever tried Delta-8 you’ll be familiar with the smooth, clear-headed highs associated with the cannabinoid. Officially known as Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol, this cannabinoid binds to CB1 receptors in the same way as Delta-9, the hard-hitting THC that will get you sky high. While it has similar mechanics, D8 has a slightly different molecular structure and shape.
These subtle differences have a big impact when it comes to the experience, with Delta-8 promising a sharp and focused high with none of the anxiety or paranoia that can come with Delta-9-THC. Basically, it’s interactions with the endocannabinoid system are much less intense, meaning your neural pathways aren’t completely overwhelmed.
While some cannabinoids are discovered thanks to dedicated research programs, others storm onto the stage out of nowhere. Delta-10 definitely falls into the latter category. The story starts back in 2020, when California was being ravished by wildfires. In a bid to fight the fires, planes dropped bucketloads of retardant over the blazes, which also happened to land on surrounding cannabis crops. Down the line, a California-based cannabis concentrate company noticed strange crystals forming during the extraction and distillation process. While they looked similar to the known cannabinoids CBC and CBL, testing revealed a brand new cannabinoid created by the retardant-soaked cannabis. It was named Delta-10 and has created big waves in the cannabis industry.
While it does offer the same psychotropic properties as THC, the effects are mild and mellow, winning it comparisons to Delta-8. It’s also noticeably more energizing than Delta-8, making it great for if you’re chasing a smooth high without the sedative effects.
Powerful and potent, THCO is known as the “spiritual cannabinoid” for a reason. It’s a synthetic analog of Delta-9, meaning it doesn’t occur naturally in the cannabis plant but does promise the same psychoactive properties. In fact, it’s up to three times stronger than regular THC and packs a serious punch when it comes to interacting with the endocannabinoid system. While there’s not too much information regarding what specific cannabinoid receptors THCO interacts with, there’s no denying this cannabinoid makes an impact.
Because THCO is an acetate, it can take longer to kick in than other cannabinoids. You might hear it referred to as the “creeper”, a reference to the initial slow burn that eventually builds into a full on high. The experience can be pretty intense, with some users comparing it to the psychedelic trip you’ll get from magic mushrooms.
Choosing your Cannabinoids
The ability to cultivate specialty strains and isolate specific cannabinoids has revolutionized the way we enjoy botanicals. Gone are the days when Indica or Sativa were the only terms used to characterize cannabis. Thanks to modern science, we now have an in depth understanding of the 100+ cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, as well as how they affect the endocannabinoid system. Finding your perfect fit is all part of the fun, so don’t be shy about trying a new strain, experimenting with edibles, or making the switch to vapes.