For those of us who slept through high school chemistry, it’s understandable that CBD, CBG, CBC and other cannabis-related scientific acronyms all look the same. But there are major distinctions between these cannabinoid classes, and we’re going to help you understand how they differ.
First off, cannabinoid is the overarching term for compounds found in cannabis. The best‑known is the psychoactive compound that makes people high, TetrahHydroCannabinol — commonly known by THC. While human knowledge of cannabis properties dates back centuries, it wasn’t until 1964 that chemists in Israel were able to isolate and identify this component of the plant.
Today, there’s just as much focus being placed on CannaBiDiol — the cannabinoid better known as CBD. Cannabidiol is non-psychotropic, so it is considered safe, non-addictive and therapeutic. In fact, there is tentative evidence CBD can actually neutralize the psychoactive effects and memory loss associated with THC. This is why CBD is frequently promoted as a helpful agent for pain, inflammation, skin rash, sleep disorders, anxiety and other conditions.
However, CBD is not approved for use as a food ingredient or dietary supplement, and products containing CBD cannot make health claims. And because cannabis is still a controlled substance under federal law, the available scientific studies lag well behind the trend — with little oversight whether a CBD product actually contains what it purports to.
Other cannabinoids one encounters include CannaBiNol — CBN — the primary product of THC degradation that is mildly psychoactive. Plus three additional non-psychoactive cannabinoids, CannaBiGerol — CBG; CannaBiChromene — CBC; and CBC’s natural degradation into CannaBicycLol — CBL.
Cannabis plants themselves all have different cannabinoid profiles — the specific mixture of cannabinoids they produce. Stains of plants intended to be used as fiber — what we commonly call hemp — are bred to produce less cannabinoid content, particularly negligible THC. Strains intended for medical use are often bred for high CBD, while strains intended for recreational use are bred for high THC. A final note: the amount of terpenes in a plant — the aromatic oils that give plans their distinguishable scents — will often temper the effect of the cannabinoids within.