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Cannabis Education

What are cannabinoids?

2 min read

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Cannabinoids are a diverse class of organic compounds that interacts with specific targets found in the body known as cannabinoid receptors.1 These cannabinoid receptors are involved in the regulation of many functions in the body including brain and nervous system activity, heart rate and blood pressure, digestion, inflammation, immune system activity, perception of pain, reproduction, wake/sleep cycle, regulation of stress etc.1 Cannabinoids when classified according to their origin can be either endocannabinoids (made naturally by our body) or phytocannabinoids (produced by the cannabis plant) or synthetic cannabinoids (produced in the lab).2

More than 100 cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant.2 The two commonly known phytocannabinoids are ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).2 THC is the primary constituent of cannabis responsible for the euphoric effect i.e. "high" feeling, while CBD is a non-euphoric component of the cannabis plant and does not cause a high. Apart from THC and CBD, other phytocannabinoids include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), etc.2 These phytocannabinoids are present in inactive state in the plant and requires heating to be activated. Phytocannabinoids are normally extracted and reformulated for medical use e.g. oils, capsules, sublingual spray, topical creams.

Cannabis and cannabinoids have been implicated for potential use in various medical conditions including but not limited to:

  • severe refractory nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy
  • loss of appetite and body weight in cancer patients and patients with HIV/AIDS
  • pain and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis
  • chronic non-cancer pain (mainly neuropathic)
  • severe refractory cancer associated pain
  • insomnia and depressed mood associated with chronic diseases (HIV/AIDS, chronic non-cancer pain)
  • symptoms encountered in the palliative/end-of-life care setting.1

The potential therapeutic and adverse effects associated with cannabinoids depends on multitude of factors e.g. concentration of cannabinoids, patient’s age and medical condition, previous experience with cannabis etc.1 We strongly advise you to consult your healthcare practitioner to identify the most appropriate cannabinoid to manage your medical condition.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a healthcare professional nor a recommendation of any particular treatment regimen. Please consult with your healthcare practitioner for professional advice pertaining to your particular condition.


  1. Health Canada, “Consumer Information - Cannabis (Marihuana, marijuana),”. Available at
  2. Health Canada, "Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids, 2018". Available at:

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