Did you know that the human body produces its own cannabinoids? They are termed endocannabinoids with that prefix “endo” giving us a clue that it comes from the “inside”.
Our body has many systems working to regulate and maintain the body’s functions and processes. There is what they call Endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is involved in maintaining homeostasis in the body and in variety of disease states. There are 2 types of endocannabinoids that are present in the human body, and these are anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol. They attach to receptors called Cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1, CB2) and initiates process, and in turn causing changes to the body.
The popular cannabinoids in the market are categorized as phytocannabinoids. The prefix ‘phyto-‘ implies it comes from a plant. These are derived from the plant Cannabis sativa or C. indica. These are being studied extensively due to their promising therapeutic effects in variety of conditions. There are more than 80 phytocannabinoids compound found in marijuana alone and the most notable and well understood are THC and CBD. THC comes from the marijuana strain, while CBD comes from the hemp strain. THC has an agonistic effect on the CB1 receptor, making it more likely to cause intoxication. The CBD, on the other hand, has minimal effects on the CB1 receptor, thus leading to a negligible psychoactivity in comparison to THC.
Another category of cannabinoids is called synthetic cannabinoids. These are laboratory-derived THC products that were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. An example would be Dronabinol, which is in the form of capsule containing THC in sesame oil. It is to be taken orally and was approved for treatment of nausea and vomiting experienced by patients being treated for cancer, as well as for the treatment of anorexia causing weight loss to patients infected with AIDS.
To summarize, there are 3 important cannabinoids namely Endocannabinoids, Phytocannabinoids and Synthetic Cannabinoids. Both the phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids basically behaves like how endocannabinoids interact with their receptors. This has led to a wide interest on research to understand their chemical structure and pharmacological activity; more importantly, their effectiveness as therapeutics in certain disease states.