Cannabinoids are a group of substances found in the Cannabis plant, which is the source of marijuana and hemp (1).
Over one hundred different cannabinoids have been identified in the Cannabis plant, and two are known for treating pain and a variety of symptoms and conditions today - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound which produces a “high”, and cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp that does not lead to a “high” (1) (2).
CBD is often used to help reduce chronic inflammation and pain associated with diseases like arthritis, ease nausea, help with migraines and seizures, improve sleep, and reduce anxiety (3) (4).
Cannabinoids, like THC, affect the body through the endocannabinoid system (the body system that regulates many essential functions like sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and reproduction) which produces substances similar to the cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant (5).
It is currently unclear how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system of the body as it helps with pain and symptoms associated with various conditions because it does not seem to bind to known CB receptors the way THC does and may restrain rather than activate signaling (6).
Cannabinoids are believed to have fewer and milder side effects than the pharmaceutical drugs they replace, but some reported side effects of taking CBD include dry mouth, light-headedness, low blood pressure, and tiredness (7). Studies (animal) have found that CBD can damage male reproductive systems, and may be transferred through breast milk, according to the FDA (8).
Finally, two more-recently discovered cannabinoids, cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC) have been found to have healing properties associated with mood, pain, brain health, and digestion (9) (10).