“Cannabinoids” is a plural noun that refers to the naturally occurring plant chemicals found in cannabis.

What are Cannabinoids?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most famous cannabinoid, and the main psychoactive component in cannabis. Today, cannabidiol (CBD) is almost as well known as THC.

Despite the fame of THC and CBD, there are more than 100 different cannabinoids in cannabis, which exhibit a range of effects. Cannabis synthesis begins with several cannabinoid acids which must be decarboxylated or made active, usually with heat.

Heat creates other cannabinoids, as well as related cannabinoid acids and corresponding cannabinoid compounds:

CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid) —> THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid), CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid) —> [remaining CBGA] —> CBG (Cannabigerol)

THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) —> THC (Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol)

CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid) —> CBD (Cannabidiol)

CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid) —> CBC (Cannabichromene)

CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid) —> CBGV (Cannabigerivarin)

THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid) —> THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid) —> CBDV (Cannabidivarin)

CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid) —> CBCV (Cannabichromevarin)

With exposure to oxygen and time, THC gradually breaks down into CBN.

Cannabinoids: Usage and Meaning


  • “Depending on which cannabinoids are present in the medicine, it may or may not be intoxicating.”
  • “I heard that CBN is a sleep cannabinoid, I’m going to ask my budtender about that!”
  • “I know that the entourage effect is real, and I appreciate all of the cannabinoids, but THC is still my favorite.”

What Cannabinoids Do in the Body

Plant cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce medicinal and psychoactive effects. For example, THC produces a “high” by activating the CB1 receptor within the brain. Molecules such as cannabinoids rarely interact with only one type of receptor, and often they interact with many.

List of Cannabinoids and Cannabinoid Uses

Although there are more than 100 plant cannabinoids, most are present at very low levels, and are therefore difficult for scientists to detect and research. However, there are several important cannabinoids you are likely to find in cannabis:

CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)

THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)

CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)

CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)

THC (Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol)

CBD (Cannabidiol)

CBG (Cannabigerol)

CBC (Cannabichromene)

CBN (Cannabinol)

CBGV (Cannabigerivarin)

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

CBDV (Cannabidivarin)

CBCV (Cannabichromevarin)

For the cannabinoid uses, please see their individual entries.

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