What are Cannabinoids? A 2020 Guide

CBD may be in the spotlight right now, but it’s far from the only facet of hemp that’s important.  That’s because hemp contains as many as a hundred different cannabinoids or cannabis-like compounds. The CBD we’ve come to know and love is just the start! 
  • Cannabinoids: A Technical Definition
  • The Health Benefits of Cannabinoids
  • Hemp’s Most Common Cannabinoids
    • CBD
    • CBDa
    • THC
  • Rare & Trace Cannabinoids
    • CBG
    • CBN
  • Cannabinoids vs. Bacteria
  • Endocannabinoids

Cannabinoids: A Technical Definition

Because of the unusual order in which cannabis-related chemistry concepts (that’s a mouthful) were first discovered, the technical definition for cannabinoids is a little strange.  Technically, any substance that activates the human body’s endocannabinoid receptors can be considered a cannabinoid. In other words, even phytocannabinoids don’t have to come from cannabis; they can come from other plants, too! Cannabinoids from other sources are called dietary cannabinoids. And while this article will focus on the hemp cannabinoids present in CBD oil, we’ll also take a brief look at more unusual cannabinoids a little later on. 

The Health Benefits of Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids do two major things to the human body…and both of them are incredibly beneficial. They 1) turn on fat-burning metabolic pathways and 2) reduce stress. Here’s a closer look at these interrelated benefits.

1. Cannabinoids for fat burning

Cannabinoids like CBD seem to increase the body’s propensity for fat burning — that is, burning fat, not carbs, as a source of metabolic fuel. Why’s this so important? Because fat is cleaner-burning.  According to Dr. Bob Melamede, cannabinoids also promote metabolic balance. “Efficient carbohydrate metabolism drives creation [via] CB1,” Dr. Bob explains, while “cellular/organismic maintenance repair, recycling and reconstruction is driven fat burning [via] CB2. The balance of these two metabolic subdivisions determines health and longevity.”  In other words, fat burning and overall health go hand in hand. CBD’s ability to increase it becomes all the more important when one considers that most people on a standard American diet are solidly stuck in carb-burning mode. 

2. More cannabinoids = less stress

Stress, if left unchecked, can have a devastating impact on one’s health. Thankfully, cannabinoids seem to reduce one’s overall stress levels. And it gets better. What cannabinoids really seem to do is improve the body’s ability to deal with stress — almost like an adaptogen!   Indeed, CBD has been known to lower the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol since at least the 1990s And when stress is lower, all sorts of good stuff can happen. Just imagine: if you had less stress, would you sleep better? Would your mood improve? Stress affects all of us in different ways, which partially explains why everyone responds to CBD’s stress-relieving qualities differently! 

Hemp’s Most Common Cannabinoids

Mature hemp flowers contain dozens and dozens of cannabinoids. While most of them are only present in trace quantities, they still confer synergistic benefits. Here’s a look at some of the top ones.  


Short for cannabidiol, CBD is hemp’s most significant cannabinoid. Mature hemp flowers may contain up to 25% CBD by dry weight.  In addition to increasing fat-burning and reducing stress, CBD may work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-proliferative, and more. 


CBDa, or cannabidiolic acid, is basically CBD’s “raw” form. It doesn’t activate the endocannabinoid system quite like CBD does, but don’t think CBDa isn’t powerful — it’s probably better for boosting serotonin than any other cannabinoid.  CBDa also seems to be great for gut health, so great that some indigenous cultures use it to combat parasite problems.  


THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is probably the most infamous cannabinoids of them all. It’s the one that gives cannabis the ability to get a person high! And THC, surprisingly enough, is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in hemp. Most mature hemp flowers contain close to 0.3% THC. That’s not nearly enough to get you high…but it is enough to synergize with CBD and help it work better. 

Rare & Trace Cannabinoids


It’s only fitting that we’d list CBG as the first of the trace cannabinoids. Why? Because CBG, or cannabigerol, is the source from which every other cannabinoid is derived. It’s known as the “mother cannabinoid.” Mature hemp only contains a few percentage points of CBG, but even this small amount is responsible for some of the plant’s health benefits.  CBG may reduce inflammation, especially neuro-inflammation. CBG may also lower intraocular pressure enough to alleviate eye problems like glaucoma.   And then there are the compound’s antibacterial effects. “CBG proved to be marvelous at tackling pathogenic bacteria,” confirmed one very recent study.


CBN, or cannabinol, is practically CBG’s antithesis. Every other cannabinoid reduces (i.e., breaks down) to CBN if exposed to sunlight for long enough, and even perfectly matured hemp flower contains a little of it. Good thing, too, because CBN has some pretty unique qualities. It’s said to promote relaxation and sleep, and like CBD it makes a great topical since it’s quickly absorbed through the skin. 

Cannabinoids vs. Bacteria

If we had to ascribe a third primary benefit to cannabinoids in general (you know, in addition to fat-burning and stress reduction), it’d probably be bacteria-fighting. Most cannabinoids are antibacterial in nature — and most of hemp’s terpenes are, too!   CBD’s antibacterial effects are so pronounced that some companies are looking at using it as a pharmaceutical. “When applied in combination with a range of antibiotics, CBD increased antibacterial effects of selected antibiotics, depending on bacteria type,” explained a study that looked at CBD’s effect on the bacterial cell membrane.  “CBD, in combination with specific antibiotics, may thus possibly be used as an adjuvant to selectively target bacteria to sensitize them to antibiotic treatment and reduce antibiotic resistance.


There’s another big concept you should know about, something we haven’t mentioned yet: your body produces cannabinoids, too!  It’s true; they’re called endo (inner) cannabinoids. These special cannabinoids play a vital role in nearly every facet of your life; they primarily serve to maintain homeostasis and regulate emotions. For more info on ECB’s themselves, check out this dedicated article about the endocannabinoid system While phytocannabinoids can be used to boost your body’s endocannabinoid levels, they’re not the only tool in the toolbox. Certain activities can boost your eCB levels, too! These activities are called cannabimimetic. According to one insightful study, cannabimimetic activities include running, yoga, and even acupuncture. 

Where to Buy CBD Near Me?

If you’re ready to get your daily dose of cannabinoids, we’re ready to help! Intentional CBD offers products for both human wellness and animal health.  Ordering is convenient, too: we offer free local delivery within the U.S. Virgin Islands and free shipping to any part of the United States. Call (678) 404-9398 to place an order or buy premium CBD online. That’s it for now, Take Care!

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