There are 100+ cannabinoids in the hemp plant. Here, we discuss the difference between the most common: CBD, CBN, CBG, CBC, CBDV, and CBDA. Before we get started, I wanted to share what each acronym represented so you are aware of what we are discussing below. You will see them throughout this article.
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
- Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
What Are Cannabinoids?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Cannabinoids are a group of substances found in the cannabis plant.” That sounds simple, but they are also responsible for the plant’s many medicinal effects, with each compound offering distinctive properties and benefits.
Cannabinoids were first discovered in the early 1900s by R.S. Cahn in the United States and Lord Todd from the U.K. – specifically CBN. To date, scientists have discovered more than 110 cannabinoids, with the pharmacology of them beginning in the early 1960s. These extracts interact with cannabinoid receptors on the surface area of cells located in different nervous system regions and modify how they communicate.
The two main types of receptors are CB1 and CB2:
- CB1 receptors are associated with the brain and nervous system
- CB2 receptors link to the immune system.
The side effects of cannabinoids on your system depend on the area of the brain it reacts to.
For example, the limbic system alters cognition, memory, and psychomotor performance; therefore, side effects on the limbic system affect the pleasure, reward, and pain response.
How Does The Body Use Cannabinoids?
Your body responds to every cannabinoid compound differently and processes them through the endogenous cannabinoid system – better known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS. Receptors that help regulate health and homeostasis throughout the body make up this complex system.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “this system plays a critical role in physiological and behavioral processes, and extensive research effort is being devoted to the biology, chemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology of cannabinoids.”
Scientists have identified these receptors in nearly every major organ system, from the brain and spinal cord to the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, enzymes aid these receptors in the cleanup of endocannabinoid system processes, helping our bodies maintain a stable internal environment.
When activated by exposure to cannabinoids, those receptors become reactive. This means they can affect key body processes, including mood, memory, appetite, and pain. The specific effects of cannabis-derived products depend on the particular compound used and the location of the receptors that bind with that compound.
Classes of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are categorized into subclasses:
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabinodiol (CBDL)
- Cannabielsoin (CBE)
- Cannabitriol (CBT)
- Cannabicyclol (CBL)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
Differences Between Cannabinoids
The key difference between cannabinoids is their psychoactive properties. For instance, CBC, CBD, and CBG are not psychoactive, whereas CBDL, CBN, THC, and others vary in their psychoactivity level.
However, CBD does have a significant anti-anxiety effect that is also used to counteract the mental side effects of THC. CBN is mildly psychoactive because it is an oxidized, much less powerful version of THC. It is the effects of light, air, and heat on poorly stored THC.
What is CBD?
CBD is the most commonly known cannabinoid besides THC. It is short for cannabidiol. Unlike the other well-known compound derived from cannabis, THC, CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects. That means you can use it for medicinal purposes without getting high, so it’s safe to utilize even when you plan to work or drive.
It is the most well-researched of the cannabinoid compounds, and its applications are extensive. Studies show that CBD can be used as a potential treatment for:
- Daily aches and pains (sports injuries, bumps, and bruises, etc.)
- Chronic pain
- Inflammatory conditions including arthritis
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures and convulsive disorders
- Skin conditions including acne, rashes, and eczema
What is CBDA?
Cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA, is a cannabinoid produced by the stems, leaves, and flowers of some cannabis plants. Through a process called decarboxylation, the acid is removed from CBDA, transforming it into CBD. This process is most often performed by heating or smoking cannabis varieties that are high in CBDA. For this reason, CBDA is sometimes considered the “precursor” to CBD.
CBD and CBDA share similar molecular structures, so their therapeutic effects are also similar. However, CBDA has been the subject of less extensive scientific study. Scientists learned that CBDA works primarily as an inhibitor of the COX-2 enzyme within the endocannabinoid system. This lead to an exploration of its effectiveness as a treatment for inflammation.
Recent studies have also tested the efficacy of CBDA for certain types of cancer and as an antiemetic.
One final difference between CBD and CBDA arises in possible methods of consumption. Because CBDA is only found in raw hemp plants that haven’t been exposed to excessive heat or sunlight, it’s commonly extracted by juicing the plants, where it is added to salads or other uncooked dishes for ingestion. Live resins, tinctures, and other non-activated extracts can also be sources of CBDA.
What is CBN?
CBN is the abbreviation for cannabinol, another compound within the cannabinoid family. As we mentioned, it was the first cannabinoid isolate. CBN is produced when THC is heated or exposed to oxygen; it also occurs naturally as the cannabis plant ages. Even though CBN is derived from THC, it doesn’t share the psychoactive properties, meaning you won’t get high from CBN alone.
Within the endocannabinoid system, CBN binds to receptors less effectively than many other cannabinoids. However, it has been studied extensively as a beneficial compound to improve sleep health. Scientists have discovered that CBN acts as a powerful sedative, with effects comparable to common sleep-inducing pharmaceuticals like diazepam.
According to PubMed, CBN studies on mice show that it can inhibit muscle relaxation when combined with CBD. Additional studies suggest that this effect amplifies when used in combination with THC.
Reviews of CBN have also highlighted it as a possible stimulant for bone tissue growth. These findings share that CBN may activate stem cells that facilitate new bone production, making it potentially useful for healing fractures and aging through osteoporosis.
Studies have also explored the analgesic, antibiotic, anticonvulsant, and anti-inflammatory applications of CBN. However, CBN is not widely available as a supplement at this time.
What is CBG?
Like the other compounds in this overview, CBG – short for cannabigerol – is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with various promising medical applications. CBG is the precursor to its more famous cousins, CBD and THC. Like CBDA, exposure to light or heat breaks down CBG in the cannabis plant into these better-known compounds.
Most strains of cannabis contain relatively little CBG, often less than 1%. However, that doesn’t mean this cannabinoid is any less promising when it comes to potential applications.
CBG interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors. During these interactions, it’s thought to naturally increase dopamine levels, regulating sleep, mood, and appetite. CBG is also believed to obstruct GABA uptake in the brain and block serotonin receptors—both positive implications for treating anxiety and depression.
Studies have found CBG especially useful for specific physiological systems and symptoms, including:
- Glaucoma – Endocannabinoid receptors are highly concentrated in the eye structures, and CBG has been shown particularly effective at reducing the intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma.
- Cancer – A recent study offered promising results for CBG as a cancer-fighting compound, with the potential to block the receptors that cause cancer cell growth. Scientists saw inhibition in the evolution of colorectal cancer cells in mice treated with CBG, offering an exciting new avenue of treatment for cancer patients.
- MRSA – A study conducted in Europe revealed the antibiotic properties of CBG, discovering that it was useful in topical applications at combating Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains that are resistant to several classes of antibiotics.
CBG has also been studied as a potential treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, nerve cell degeneration, appetite stimulation, and bladder dysfunction disorders.
What is CBC?
Exposing CBDA to heat or ultraviolet light breaks down the acid and leaves you with Cannabichromene (CBC). Non-intoxicating, like other CBD compounds, CBC is less known than most cannabis derivatives. However, scientists have discovered a variety of potential applications for this cannabinoid.
CBC binds most effectively within the endocannabinoid system with the vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV1) and transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) – both of these receptor types link to the body’s perception of pain. This means that CBC may function as an alternative to traditional painkillers like NSAIDS but without their potentially harmful side effects. CBC may be particularly effective for treating inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, primarily when used in combination with THC.
Studies have shown that CBC may be a potential cancer fighter, second only to CBG in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Though research in this field is limited so far, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBC may also make it an effective acne treatment; studies suggest that it could prevent the sebaceous gland inflammation at the root of many types of acne.
While these therapeutic benefits overlap with many other cannabinoids, CBC is differentiated by what’s known as the “entourage effect.” Researchers believe that CBC may work synergistically when used with other cannabinoids to provide even more effective treatments for many of the conditions outlined above.
What is CBDV?
CBDV is similar to CBD on a molecular level, but recent research has shown its applications are uniquely fit for people with neurological disorders.
Preliminary studies on mice show that CBDV has enormous untapped potential in treating epilepsy and similar neurological conditions. As an anticonvulsant (antiepileptic), CBDV may be able to help patients who have epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions in which seizures may occur.
Along with reducing the duration and intensity of seizures, CBDV may help prevent convulsions if a seizure does occur. CBDV is so promising that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Eodiolex created by GW Pharmaceuticals, a cannabis-focused European company. GW also began the second stage of studies into whether this cannabinoid can help treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Additionally, Chemotherapy patients may use CBDV who experience vomiting and nausea. Also, as a treatment that relieves symptoms of Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Like all of the cannabinoids discussed above, CBDV is non-psychoactive.
Which Cannabinoid Works Best?
If you’re considering cannabinoids as a treatment option for any medical condition, start by talking to a doctor you trust. This is the best way to find out if a cannabinoid fits your needs. We are not medical professionals; we are scientists, researchers, writers, and cannabis advocates.
Finding out which cannabinoid works best for you is a process that should be done with care and by always following the laws within your state of residence. You should also consider the prescriptions you are on. According to NCBI, it has drug-drug interactions and “can reduce or potentiate the effects of other drugs.”
There are many research and information avenues to help guide you to find what is best for you. Medical professionals are usually very open to discussing your options in treating your ailments.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Due to FDA Regulations, we recommend that you do your own research on CBD products. We also suggest that you read the reviews on our website; where our customers record their real-world results of using our products.
Cannabinoid Differences F.A.Q.
CBD, CBN, and CBG are all cannabinoids within the hemp plant. But when consumed, their effects differ. CBN is great to use for sleep as it calms the body down, much like CBD. CBG on the other hand has more of a lively, up beat effect when taken.
The benefits of CBG range from mood enhancement, metabolism, pain management, and CBG helps with inflammation.
Yes, you can take CBD and CBG together. When CBD and CBG are taken together, it gives the body and mind a balanced feel, as CBD usually has a calming effect and CBG can have more of a lively effect. So if you always get tired when you take CBD, try taking CBG with it to keep you balanced.
CBG can help with anxiety. Scientists are believing CBG binds to different endocannabinoid receptors that alleviate anxiety.