Cannabinoids are a class of diverse chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors on cells throughout the body. Cannabinoids can be broadly broken down into three types based on origin, and include the endocannabinoids (produced naturally in the body by humans and animals), and the phytocannabinoids (found in cannabis and some other plants), and synthetic cannabinoids (manufactured artificially). The most notable cannabinoid is the phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another major constituent of the plant. There are at least 85 different cannabinoids isolated from cannabis, exhibiting varied effects.
A visual summary of the primary cannabinoids and their effects can be found in the above chart. Note that the most well-established effects of cannabis (such as nausea and pain relief, and “the munchies”) are often those from THC, which is the primary ingredient in most recreational or “street” cannabis. The most promising avenue of research however is into varieties high in CBD, as it does not have any psychoactive effects or detrimental long-term effects on the mind, and in fact, neutralizes the negative and psychoactive effects of THC. In fact, Sativex, which is a blend of THC and CBD in equal measure is considered by patients using it to be akin to a quick-acting anti-depressant, rather than a high inducing medication. In lieu of Sativex, there is now a company in Canada whose entire business is based around breeding strains of cannabis that have both THC and CBD in equal measure.