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Cannabinoids were first discovered in the cannabis plant, which is how they got their name; however, cannabinoids have since been synthesized and found in other living things. Because of this, there are now three main categories of cannabinoids: synthetic cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and phytocannabinoids.
Synthetic cannabinoids are man made chemicals produced in a laboratory. They are being used in experimental pharmaceuticals as an alternative to medical marijuana. Endocannabinoids are present in all mammals, and they are part of our endocannabinoid system or ECS, which is very important for regulating many body functions. Endocannabinoids and the ECS are why synthetic and phytocannabinoids have an effect on our bodies. Phytocannabinoids are the “original” cannabinoids and are found in various plants, including industrial hemp.
Phytocannabinoids are similar enough to our endocannabinoids that they can bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS. This allows them to modulate the ECS’s natural regulatory functions. However, each cannabinoid is slightly different from the next, and research is bearing out that individual cannabinoids can have unique therapeutic properties.
As you can see in the chart above, CBD is the most exciting cannabinoid to date because research has shown its remarkable potential for a wide variety of therapeutic applications; however, it would be hard to call any particular cannabinoid the “most important” cannabinoid due to what is being called the “Entourage Effect”. This term describes a neat phenomena that occurs when multiple cannabinoids are administered. In conjunction with each other, cannabinoids exhibit a synergistic effect. For example, THC and CBD together are a more powerful analgesic than either alone. Additionally, preclinical and anecdotal evidence of medical marijuana’s ability to combat cancer imply that it is a combination of cannabinoids in “whole plant complexes” that may provide the cancer curing benefits rather than cannabinoid isolates. Hopefully, future research will illuminate specific ratios of cannabinoids as being particularly effective in combating specific illnesses.