The Core Five Compounds Found in Cannabis

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10, or even five years ago, marijuana was synonymous with “getting high.” But since then, research has begun to scratch the surface and emit some notable, empirical results proving the cannabis plant’s medical power. Now, we know there are at least 483 different chemical compounds in marijuana, but the effects of most are still a mystery. Yet thanks to testing results and studies, we know the most important and frequently found chemicals in cannabis–and they’re end effect on the user. The most common and prevalent of these compounds, THC, produces that psychoactive high. The rest differ and are often barely found in many strains. But when found and studied, these compounds have some superlative powers that can help a wide array of maladies now and in the future.

When you walk into a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, you will most often find these five compounds and their percentages accompanying a strain as most medical states now require testings that produce percentages of these chemical compounds. Here’s what those compounds are, what those percentages mean,  how they will impact your mind and body, and which compounds are best for your condition (s).

1. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)

THC delivers the high, stoney effect in almost all marijuana strains.  THC’s psychoactive quality occurs when the compound is activated (lit with fie) from THCV (THC in stagnant form). The compound then binds to the cannabinoid receptors producing the common high–which is also synonymous with a runner’s high
Most modern strains range anywhere from 10-30% in THC (15-20% is industry standard), but some strains check in as low as 5% and testing numbers have been reported near 35% for strains like Alien Dawg (Alien OG x Chem Dog). If you suffer from anxiety and prefer a lighter smoke, veer towards certain strains, like Purple Kush (and the purp family) with lower THC counts and lighter impact. If you’re a frequent smoker with a high tolerance, strains with higher potency, like OGs, will be more your speed. The higher the THC percentages, the more psychoactive the strain will likely be. In addition to its high THC is an appetite suppressant with a variety of medical benefits. Some known benefits of THC are that helps fight glaucoma, forms of cancer (particularly in treatment), insomnia, PTSD, and anxiety disorders.

Strains with THC in it: nearly all.

2) CBD (Cannabidiol)


The seizure stopper and the Sorcerer’s Stone of the cannabis sphere, CBD is pure medicine. CBD has a wide range of proven medical effects, chief among them preventing seizures in epileptic children. The compound has been featured on CNN and its oils are actually legal in over 30 states. Some strains of hemp with almost zero trace of THC within are very rich in CBD. Percentages of CBD in strains range from as low as 1% (in THC-heavy strains) to as high as 25%. Strains on the lower spectrum of CBD percentage are often overshadowed by THC. Typical ratios of CBD to THC in major CBD-heavy strains are 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1. To increase these ratios and purify CBD, flowers are frequently extracted to make oils which are then in turn used to make edibles and tinctures. Oftentimes, CBD comes with a distinct, cherry flavor that’s reminiscent of cough syrup’s flavor profile. Since CBD is not psychoactive, those without ailments may find little to no effect from CBD.

Common CBD-Rich Strains: Charlotte’s Web, Cannatonic, ACDC, Harlequin, Pennywise and Spectrum

3) THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

Considered the caffeine of cannabis. THCV supplies a racy, instant jolt that shines through in certain, often Sativa strains of marijuana. Unlike cannabis’ other core compounds, THCV is actually an appetite suppressant. Like THC, THCV is psychoactive and carries trippy, elated effect. THCV must reach 428 degrees Fahrenheit to reach its activation. Amongst its medical benefits, THCV stimulates bone growth and helps Diabetes as it aids in maintaining blood sugar levels. If you want a high energy strain, look for THCV strains or ask your medical dispensary which strains may be high in it. Likewise, if you get anxious and prefer Indicas, steer clear of this compound.

THCV heavy strains include: African Hazes, Lemon G, Durban Poison, Skunk, Dutch Treat

4) CBN (Cannabinol)

A compound with less available studies and viable information, think of CBN as your CBD Light. CBN is thought to share characteristics and benefits of CBD, mainly sleep aid. The calming chemical also has shown promise as an MRSA topical. Since CBN is converted from THC, there are usually very (if any) trace amounts in most strains, typically hovering in the 1% range. But, when present, CBN values tend to appreciate over time as the longer cannabis sits around the more CBN it’s likely to produce. Thanks to modern extraction methods, scientists are fast discovering how to isolate CBN (much like CBD), making it the healthy sleep aid of the future.

5) CBG (Cannabigerol) 


The up-and-coming compound to keep an eye on, CBG has powerful potential as a recent discovery indicates that CBG may well be the parent for both THC and CBD compounds. That means we wouldn’t have THC and CBD without CBG, which eventually turns into those compounds. Like CBD, CBG has known relaxing benefits. Now being coined the “stem cell” for all other cannabinoids, CBG functions by blocking GABA and relaxing muscles.

If you don’t want to get high and are strictly using cannabis for its medical benefits, then you should look for strains with under 1% THC and only CBD, CBG, and CBN. Some hemp strains of cannabis have under .3% –which qualifies it as hemp, and is not “cannabis.”

As noted, isolating these compounds has begun in some advanced circles, and the knowledge on cannabis’ core properties and the other many compounds within should continue to broaden in the coming years!