What Exactly is a Cannabinoid?

By Steven Molina

What Exactly is a Cannabinoid?

These Non-Cannabis Plants Will Help to Heal Your Body


Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for many years. By now we’ve all heard about cannabinoids – the compounds in cannabis that offer us their healing properties. However, many of us are unaware that there are other foods that also contain their very own cannabinoids – along with a unique set of healing properties – as well. 


What Exactly is a Cannabinoid?

A cannabinoid is a naturally occurring compound found in plants, most notably the Cannabis Sativa plant. Of the 480 compounds found in Cannabis, 66 of those are considered cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids affect the user by interacting with receptors in the different parts of the central nervous system. Interactions typically take place in our limbic system, which is the part of the brain that affects memory, cognition, and psychomotor performance. They’re also widely distributed in areas of pain receptors, which is why cannabis is often prescribed as a pain reliever.

There are 3 major classifications of cannabinoids:

Phytocannabinoids are the cannabinoids produced by plants.

Endocannabinoids are the cannabinoids produced within the body of humans and animals.

Synthetic Cannabinoids are the cannabinoids produced in a laboratory.

Two kinds of cannabinoid receptors have been found to date, and they’re called CB1 and CB2[1]. The major difference between the cannabinoids is the extent to which they are psychologically active.

The most common cannabinoids in Cannabis are THC and CBD, with CBD making up approximately 40% of Cannabis resin. THC is the only plant cannabinoid that produces a clear psychological effect on its own[1].

Health Benefits of Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids have long been used for therapeutic purposes due to the health benefits that they offer:

1. Body Weight Regulation

Cannabinoids may be a great option for those struggling to control their weight, especially for those struggling with obesity or anorexia. Cannabis has long been known to increase appetite and food consumption. A study conducted in 2006 showed that Endocannabinoids target the CB1 receptor, helping to play a role in appetite control peripheral metabolism, and body weight regulation[3].

2. Diminishing Pain

Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may prove useful in pain modulation by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways[3].

3. Insomnia 

Cannabinoids THC, which are prevalent in cannabis, are a sedative. In a study run on the effects of marijuana extracts and THC on sleep patterns, reduced eye movement density was noted[7].

4. Cancer

Cannabinoids have been found to act on various cancer cell lines. They were also found to be suppressors of angiogenesis and tumor invasion[3].

Non-Marijuana Plants that Contain Cannabinoids

Cannabis isn’t the only plant that will give you the healing power of cannabinoids. While these plants won’t have the same effect as the Cannabis plant, they will still offer you many benefits.


cannabinoidIndigenous to New Zealand but found throughout the world, liverwort contains large amounts of perrottetinenic acid (or bibenzyl cannabinoid), which is similar to THC, the psychoactive component in the cannabis plant. This cannabinoid has been known to treat bronchitis and alleviate problems with the gallbladder, liver, and bladder[4].

The fresh liverwort plant should be avoided due to its irritating properties. The best way to harness liverwort is through infusion or an extract of the herb. Dosage should not exceed 3.8 grams of the dried herb, which is roughly the equivalent of 4 teaspoons of a 3-6 percent infusion[6].


Echinacea has been known to fight anxiety, fatigue, migraines, and arthritis. It’s different from cannabis in that it uses cannabimimetics instead of cannabinoids to engage the endocannabinoid system, particularly the CB2 receptor. the N-alkyl amides (NAAs) in echinacea are responsible for regulating the immune system, pain, and inflammation[5].

Echinacea is available as an essential oil, or in pill form. 

Helichrysum Umbraculigerum

This daisy, which is native to South America, has strong mood-stabilizing and anti-depressant properties due to its large amount of cannabigerol (CBG), which are also found in the cannabis plant. 

One of the best ways to take advantage of this plants health benefits is using it as an essential oil. You can inhale the scent, apply it to the skin, diffuse your home with it, or add it to your bath.

Black Pepper

cannabinoidBlack pepper has been found to function as a cannabinoid with its compound beta-caryophyllene (BCP). BCP binds to the CB2 receptors, giving it the effect of reducing inflammation. This dynamic plant has potent anti-inflammatory properties and helps to relieve pain caused by arthritis and osteoporosis.

Black pepper is readily available, and many people have it in their pantry already. You can sprinkle it on your meals as a spice, or chew on the peppercorn itself. 

It’s always important to check with a healthcare professional before adding any new foods or supplements to your diet. Whether you’re for or against the use of cannabis, it’s undeniable that the cannabinoids within certain plants offer a wide variety of healing benefits. You don’t need to alter the state of your mind in order to heal your body. 



[1] National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. Cannabinoids. http://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/cannabinoids.htm

[2] Natalya M. Kogan, Raphael Mechoulam. (2007, Dec). Cannabinoids in Health and Disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202504/

[3] Kirkham TC, Tucci TC. (2006, June). Endocannabinoids in appetite control and the treatment of obesity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16787229

[4] Toyota M, Shimamura T, Ishii H, Renner M, Braggins J, Asakawa Y. (2005, Oct). New bibenzyl cannabinoid from the New Zealand liverwort Radula marginata. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12372871

[5] https://www.marijuana.com/news/2017/05/9-plants-that-contain-therapeutic-cannabinoids/ 

[6] https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-liverwort.html 

[7] Feinberg I, Jones R, Walker J, Cavness C, Floyd T. (1976, June). Effects of

marijuana extract and tetrahydrocannabinol on electroencephalographic sleep patterns. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/178475