TribeTokes Presents

Know Your Cannabinoids!

Know your Cannabinoids

All cannabis brands are now required to provide lab results, or “certificates of analysis” with their products – but how adept are you at reading them and knowing what effects the components of the plant have on your body? We’re here to lay it out for you plain and simple so you interpret labs like a champion.

This guide covers the cannabinoids you may find in a full spectrum hemp oil including Δ9 THC, Δ8 THC, THCa, THCv, CBD, CBDa, CBDv, CBG, CBGa, CBN and CBC.

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Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, Select Spectrum & Isolate

Did you know that CBD (or cannabidiol) is only ONE of 22+ “statistically significant” cannabinoids found in cannabis? Full spectrum means that an oil or product contains all or many of the important cannabinoids that are naturally found in the plant, opposed to just CBD.

On the other hand, CBD isolate has been processed to remove nearly all traces of other molecules besides CBD – great for people who are in the military and can have absolutely no THC, or who only desire the effects of CBD and no other part of the plant. CBD isolate is often found in powder form and full spectrum CBD distillate is in oil form.

There are also new terms to account for everything in between – such as broad spectrum (distillate with other cannabinoids except THC removed) or select spectrum (some cannabinoids removed, specific ones kept or added in). The “major” (most abundant) cannabinoids are THC and CBD, and their precursors THCa and CBDa. Cannabinoids that are present in low levels (less than 1%) in most cannabis strains are considered “minor” cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBN and CBC (these are referred to as “the minors” in the industry).

What makes a cannabis strain unique is the percentage levels of all of the cannabinoids and also which terpenes are present in the strain – terpenes can have different effects on your body (energizing, sedating, anti-inflammatory, etc – read our guide to the most common plant terpenes as well!).

All of these combined provide the “entourage effect.”

The Entourage Effect

It is believed that full spectrum has more medicinal or therapeutic effects than isolate. When we consume full spectrum cannabis, our bodies take in hundreds of botanical compounds including the cannabinoid and terpenes we mentioned above. Each one provides unique effects and benefits, and their behavior may even change in the presence of other compounds. This is the entourage effect.

One example is how CBD can help counteract some negative effects of THC such as paranoia, dry mouth or dizziness. Another example is how you can have a sativa CBD strain such as our CBD Mango Haze cartridge, where the energizing limonene terpene can offset the relaxing or sometimes sleepy effect of CBD.

Synthetic Cannabinoids Vs. Natural Cannabinoids: A Detailed Comparison

In the expanding universe of cannabis science, one particular discussion that captures both public and scientific interest is the comparison between synthetic and natural cannabinoids. Both have made notable contributions to medicine, yet they differ fundamentally in various aspects. Below we discuss the characteristics, applications, and potential impacts of synthetic and natural cannabinoids.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are compounds acting as cannabinoid receptors in cells and changing the neurotransmitter release in the brain. These compounds can be found naturally in the cannabis plant or synthetically manufactured. There are many known cannabinoids, the most popular of which are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

Natural Cannabinoids

Natural cannabinoids, also known as phytocannabinoids, are produced by the cannabis plant. CBD and THC are the most abundant in the plant and have been extensively researched. THC is renowned for its psychoactive effects, giving users the “high” commonly associated with cannabis. However, CBD lacks the intoxicating effects of THC but has demonstrated a range of therapeutic applications, from anxiety and pain management to epilepsy treatment.

Cannabinoids interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex signaling network responsible for maintaining physiological homeostasis. They bind to ECS receptors, influencing various bodily functions, including mood, pain perception, appetite, and sleep.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made, laboratory-produced chemicals designed to mimic the effects of natural cannabinoids. Initially developed for research purposes, scientists created synthetic cannabinoids to study the endocannabinoid system without the legal and supply issues associated with cannabis.

However, these synthetic compounds are not identical to their natural counterparts. They often have a much stronger affinity for cannabinoid receptors, leading to potent and sometimes unpredictable effects. This potent interaction has led to numerous reported adverse health effects, especially when these substances are recreationally without regulatory oversight.

Synthetic Vs. Natural Cannabinoids: The Comparison

There are significant differences between natural and synthetic cannabinoids. Let’s explore some of them.

  • Safety and Side Effects

Natural cannabinoids like CBD and THC have been widely studied and are considered safe for therapeutic use. Their side effects, if any, tend to be mild and manageable. In contrast, synthetic cannabinoids, particularly those sold as recreational drugs, have been linked to severe side effects, including psychosis, kidney damage, seizures, and in extreme cases, death.

  • Therapeutic Benefits

Both synthetic and natural cannabinoids have therapeutic benefits. For instance, Marinol, a synthetic THC, is FDA-approved for treating vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy. However, many users report that natural cannabis provides broader symptom relief due to the ‘entourage effect,’ where the many compounds in cannabis work synergistically.

  • Legality and Availability

Natural cannabis remains illegal in many parts of the world, restricting its use and scientific investigation. Synthetic cannabinoids, on the other hand, have a more complex legal status. Some, like those used in approved medications, are perfectly legal, while others, especially those used recreationally, are illegal.

Medical Applications of Cannabinoids: Unlocking Therapeutic Potentials

Cannabinoids, the diverse class of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, have been the subject of considerable scientific research due to their profound therapeutic potential. These naturally occurring substances have proven valuable in addressing various health conditions, demonstrating efficacy in pain management, mood regulation, sleep promotion, and much more. Delve into the therapeutic applications of various cannabinoids, as supported by scientific research below:

Understanding Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are compounds that bind to the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies, specifically the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which form part of the ECS, which is responsible for various bodily processes, including mood, memory, appetite, pain sensation, and immune response.

Over 100 different cannabinoids have been identified, with the most well-known being Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). However, other lesser-known cannabinoids, such as Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), and Cannabinol (CBN), also possess intriguing therapeutic potential.

Therapeutic Applications of Cannabinoids

  • Pain Management

Cannabinoids, mainly THC and CBD, have been widely recognized for their analgesic properties. They can modulate pain by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways. Medical cannabis is often prescribed for chronic pain conditions where conventional painkillers fail to provide relief.

  • Epilepsy

The FDA-approved drug Epidiolex, which contains CBD, is a testament to the cannabinoid’s potential in treating certain forms of epilepsy. Various trials have shown reductions in seizure frequency in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two severe forms of epilepsy.

  • Anxiety and Depression

Several studies indicate that CBD may have anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. It is thought to influence how our brains respond to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in mood disorders.

  • Neurodegenerative Diseases

Preliminary research suggests that cannabinoids may hold promise in treating neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Multiple Sclerosis. They are thought to limit neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration, although more research is needed to understand such effects fully.

  • Cancer

Beyond the well-documented use of cannabinoids in managing cancer-related pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, preclinical studies have suggested that cannabinoids might have direct antitumor effects. However, these studies are preliminary, and more research is needed to establish these potential benefits.

  • Sleep Disorders

Cannabinoids, particularly CBN, are being studied for their potential to aid sleep. Early research suggests CBN may have sedative properties, and when combined with THC, its mild sedative properties may be enhanced.

Future Implications

As the regulatory landscape around cannabis continues to evolve, the prospects for future cannabinoid research look promising. More rigorous clinical studies are required to validate and expand our understanding of the therapeutic applications of cannabinoids. The existing body of research suggests that we have only just begun to scratch the surface of these compounds’ potential, and the coming years will likely bring exciting advancements in cannabinoid-based medicine.

Cannabinoids in Hemp Vs Cannabis: Understanding the Differences

When it comes to cannabis plants, two varieties often come up in discussion: hemp and cannabis. Despite being from the same plant family, they have distinctive characteristics, particularly regarding their cannabinoid content. This section highlights the differences between hemp and cannabis regarding their cannabinoid profiles.

A Brief Introduction to Hemp and Cannabis

Firstly, it is essential to understand that cannabis and hemp belong to the same Cannabis Sativa plant family. However, the main difference lies in their Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid known for inducing the “high” associated with cannabis.

Cannabis can contain up to 30% THC, depending on the strain, making it the choice for recreational and medicinal use where psychoactive effects are desired. On the other hand, hemp is legally defined as a Cannabis Sativa plant containing no more than 0.3% THC, which makes it virtually impossible to experience any psychoactive effects.

Cannabinoids in Hemp

CBD is abundant in hemp, and it is not a psychoactive cannabinoid. Its medicinal potential, which includes anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and pain-relieving effects, has been the subject of substantial study.

Hemp includes a variety of useful cannabinoids, including CBD, CBG, CBC, and CBN. Together with other substances like flavonoids and terpenes, they provide what is called an “entourage effect,” where their combined medicinal effects are amplified.

Cannabinoids in Cannabis

CBD is present in cannabis, but THC is what gets the substance its fame. According to some estimates, the THC content of cannabis can range from as little as 5% to as much as 30%.

Cannabis also has a wide variety of other cannabinoids besides THC. However, the presence and potential advantages of these other cannabinoids are generally overshadowed by the high THC level.

Comparing Cannabinoid Profiles: Hemp vs Cannabis

The concentration of THC is the primary distinction between hemp and cannabis. Hemp is the preferred plant for folks who want the therapeutic benefits of cannabis but don’t want to get high. Hemp is the go-to source for legal CBD products because of its high CBD content.

Cannabis, on the other hand, is utilized by many for its euphoric effects and the tremendous medicinal benefits associated with THC. Although CBD can be present in cannabis, the amounts are typically far lower than in hemp.

Cannabinoid Safety: What You Need to Know

In recent years, the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids has sparked immense interest. From pain relief to sleep enhancement, the benefits associated with cannabinoids are wide-ranging. 

However, as with any substance affecting the body and mind, it’s essential to approach cannabinoid use carefully. Explore tips and precautions to ensure the safe consumption of cannabinoids, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes, below:

Tips for Safe Consumption of Cannabinoids

  • Start with low doses: Especially if you are new to cannabinoids, start with a low dose and increase it gradually. This strategy, often called “start low and go slow,” can help you monitor your body’s reaction and prevent any unpleasant side effects.
  • Understand the different consumption methods: Cannabinoids can be ingested in several ways, each with its unique onset time and effect duration. Smoking or vaping cannabis leads to almost immediate effects, while edibles can take up to two hours to kick in but last longer. Sublingual tinctures and topicals also provide distinct experiences. Understand these differences to choose a method that best suits your needs.
  • Hydrate and eat: Consuming cannabinoids, especially THC-rich products, can lead to dry mouth and increased appetite. Stay hydrated and have healthy snacks handy to mitigate these effects.
  • Avoid mixing with alcohol or other substances: Alcohol can enhance the THC’s effects, leading to heightened intoxication and increasing the likelihood of adverse effects. It is generally recommended to avoid mixing cannabinoids with alcohol or other substances.

Precautions to Consider

  • Medical consultation: If you are considering cannabinoids, consult a healthcare provider first, especially if you’re on any other medication. Certain cannabinoids may interact with other drugs, leading to unexpected side effects.
  • Be cautious with synthetic cannabinoids: Synthetic cannabinoids, often sold as “spice” or “K2,” can be far more potent and unpredictable than natural cannabinoids. These substances have been linked to severe health issues, so it’s best to avoid them.
  • Understand the legal implications: The legality of cannabinoid products varies by location. Ensure you’re aware of your local laws regarding cannabis use to avoid any legal trouble.
  • Don’t drive under the influence: Cannabinoids, mainly THC, can impair motor skills and reaction time. Avoid operating heavy machinery and driving when using these substances.

Cannabinoids 101: A Quick Guide


THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol aka Δ9 or Delta 9 THC)

THC is the best known cannabinoid and is responsible for a euphoric high. Everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different, so for some people THC leads to sedation, while others get a burst of energy. Other potential side effects include positives such as pain relief and laughter, and negatives such as memory impairment, dry eyes and mouth, paranoia or dizziness. Some people who experience the negative effects prefer THC strains with a high CBD ratio to counteract them (as we learned about re: the entourage effect).

Let’s take a quick look at the other lesser known compounds with similar molecular structures but different effects from THC, that you may come across on a lab report.

Delta 8 THC has a very similar structure to Delta 9 THC: Delta-8 has a double bond on the 8th carbon chain, and Delta-9 has a double bond on the 9th carbon chain. This may seem like a small difference, but that’s why chemistry is fascinating – it’s significant enough to produce different cognitive and physical effects. Delta-8-THC communicates with CB1 and CB2 receptors to help balance several functions including pain, appetite, mood, hormones, inflammation, and blood pressure. UNLIKE Delta-9, which can produce a hazy or sedative effect, Delta-8 can make you clear headed and energized. This his huge news for consumers who want to feel buzzed and desire the healing effects of cannabis, but don’t want to feel out of it / need to function or maintain energy and clarity – especially during the day. Read More: Delta 8 Vapes 101

THCa, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a precursor to THC, i.e. it converts to THC as the plant dries or is heated (known as decarboxylation). THCa is beginning to demonstrate therapeutic potential for inflammation, nausea and other conditions. It is non-intoxicating (doesn’t get you high).

THCv, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is similar to THC in molecular structure and psychoactive properties, but it also serves as an appetite suppressant, curbs anxiety, and may stimulate bone growth over time.


CBD (Cannabidiol)

CBD has become increasingly popular since industrial hemp (e.g., a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC) was reclassified as an agricultural commodity in the U.S. in December 2018, opening the doors for legal interstate commerce for hemp-extracted CBD.

More research is needed to better understand the range of CBD’s benefits, but the list is constantly expanding. CBD is popularly used for pain, inflammation, anxiety withdrawal. CBD can be ingested for full body effects, but also have benefits when applied topically due to its anti-inflammatory effects and its interaction with our skin’s pain receptors. Our CBD skincare and CBD pain cream are examples.

You may also come across CBDv or CBDa as well on a lab result, so let’s touch on those as well.

CBDv, or cannabidivarin, was discovered 50 years ago, but research is just commencing in a meaningful way for some serious or life threatening illnesses, as well as nausea. Similar to CBD, CBDv does not get you high. Strains that are high in CBD also typically tend to be higher in CBDv, so you will likely see this on lab results.

CBDa, or cannabidiolic acid, is a precursor to CBD in that it converts to CBD over time and when exposed to heat. This is similar to how THCa is a precursor to THC – easy to remember because they both have the “a” after it 🙂 CBDA may relieve inflammation and associated pain by blocking COX-2 enzymes, which are associated with inflammation from injury or infection.

You may also come across CBDv or CBDa as well on a lab result, so let’s touch on those as well.

CBDv, or cannabidivarin, was discovered 50 years ago, but research is just commencing in a meaningful way for some serious or life threatening illnesses, as well as nausea. Similar to CBD, CBDv does not get you high. Strains that are high in CBD also typically tend to be higher in CBDv, so you will likely see this on lab results.

CBDa, or cannabidiolic acid, is a precursor to CBD in that it converts to CBD over time and when exposed to heat. This is similar to how THCa is a precursor to THC – easy to remember because they both have the “a” after it 🙂 CBDA may relieve inflammation and associated pain by blocking COX-2 enzymes, which are associated with inflammation from injury or infection.

CBD (Cannabigerol)

CBG, or cannabigerol, is thought to be particularly effective in treating eye issues because it reduces intraocular pressure. It is also being tested for gastrointestinal issues, bladder issues and as an antibacterial. There is a lot of promise for this little molecule!

To obtain higher yields of CBG, breeders are experimenting with genetic manipulation and cross-breeding of plants.


CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid, is a precursor to THCa, CBDa and CBCa. Specific enzymes in the plant break CBGa down and “direct” it toward one of the three lines, which then convert into THC, CBD or CBC when heated or exposed to ultraviolet light #SCIENCE


CBN (Cannabinol)

CBN, or cannabinol, is a non-intoxicating compound that may be found to be an antibacterial, appetite suppressant, neuroprotectant and anti-inflammatory. CBN is best known as the cannabinoid created when THC ages. For that reason, it’s usually present in high amounts in older cannabis. It’s extremely expensive to produce, but we can get it for free in flower that has been sitting around for a while!

Current research on CBN is limited with very few studies demonstrating its effects in the human body. However, our team at TribeTokes is most excited about CBN research being done as an antibiotic. We all know that antibiotics can wreak havoc on your body, and there are scary diseases out there that are antibiotic resistant that CBN may address. Fingers crossed!

Fun Entourage Effect Fact: CBN is known for making people sleepy. It turns out, CBN does not make you tired on its own, but when combined with THC it makes you feel even more sleepy than from THC on its own.

CBC (Cannabichromene)

CBC, or cannabichromene, binds with 2 major receptors in your body that are linked to pain perception (TRPV1 and TRPA1). Activating these receptors also leads the body to release higher levels of anandamide (“the bliss molecule”), and therefore CBC may support a positive, healthy mood.

Recent studies are showing CBC to be a powerful inhibitor of acne, as it prevents excess sebum production and sebaceous gland inflammation (in laymen’s terms – less oil and puffiness!). Stay tuned for more skincare products with CBC in our future.

HHC molecule

HHC (Hexahydrocannabinol)

HHC, or hexahydrocannabinol, is a hydrogenated version of THC. When hydrogen atoms are added to the molecular structure, the result is a more stable compound, so it may not degrade into other cannabinoids on the shelf as quickly as D9 THC. Hemp naturally contains HHC, but only in very small amounts. A complicated process is used to add hydrogen atoms to THC to extract a usable concentration using high pressure and a catalyst.

HHC binds with similar receptors as THC, but not as strongly. Therefore, HHC can have THC-like effects on the body and mind, but is less potent.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do cannabinoids work in the body?

Cannabinoids work by interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system, which is a cell-signaling system crucial in maintaining physiological homeostasis. It consists of endocannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoids), receptors, and enzymes. Cannabinoids from cannabis, like THC and CBD, mimic endocannabinoids and bind to these receptors, particularly CB1 and CB2 receptors, influencing various physiological functions ranging from pain perception to mood regulation.

What is the difference between the cannabinoids CBD and THC?

THC and CBD are cannabinoids but have different effects on the body. THC has psychoactive effects, meaning it can create a ‘high’ feeling. It is also known for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and appetite-stimulating effects. On the other hand, CBD is non-psychoactive and doesn’t induce a ‘high.’ It has been researched for potential health benefits, including anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and seizure-reducing properties. It has also been shown to mitigate some of the psychoactive effects of THC.

Are there other cannabinoids besides THC and CBD?

Although there are plenty of identified cannabinoids (over 100), THC and CBD are the most studied. Other significant cannabinoids include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC). These cannabinoids are in smaller amounts but are gaining attention for their potential therapeutic properties.

Are cannabinoids legal?

The legality of cannabinoids varies greatly depending on the jurisdiction and the specific cannabinoid in question. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, CBD derived from hemp (Cannabis sativa plants containing less than 0.3% THC) is legal at the federal level in the United States. Still, it can be regulated differently by each state. THC and cannabis-derived products are legal for medical or recreational use in many states but remain illegal under federal law. Always check the laws in your area.

Are cannabinoids safe to use?

Generally, cannabinoids are considered safe to use but can cause adverse side effects, especially if you take them in large amounts. Common side effects include changes in mood and appetite as well as drowsiness or dry mouth. It is also important to note that cannabinoids can interact with other medications. Always consult a doctor or healthcare provider before starting any new supplement or medication, including cannabinoids.

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