Top ten common cannabinoids

If you start paying attention to certificates of analysis (COA), you’ll see the top 10 common cannabinoids more often than others. Marijuana plants, also known as cannabis plants, have around 540 chemical substances, and over 100 are cannabinoids [1].

What are cannabinoids? 

Cannabinoids are simply “the chemical compounds of cannabis that have an effect on the human body when the plant is consumed [2].” They can have a lot of effects. Let’s first look at how that works. 

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The effects are made possible because of the human endocannabinoid system that has evolved to create and use cannabinoids in our physiological processes.

It is a complex cell-signaling system which is integral for maintaining health. Its CB1 and CB2 receptors are found throughout the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells of the human body [3].

Major cannabinoids may appear more often on COAs because they are naturally more abundant in the plant matter that created a product, or because they have been added as distillate or isolate during production.

Here are the 10 of the most abundant cannabinoids that appear on cannabis strains’ COAs, and what you should know about them. 

Top 10 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant

CBD

Cannabidiol (ka-nə-bə-ˈdī-ȯl) 

CBD is a cannabinoid discovered in 1940. It is often the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis— THC and CBD are the top 2. CBD does not produce psychoactive effects like THC, and may even change THC’s effects on the body when both are present [4]. Check out our Guide to CBD for more info! 

When interacting with the endocannabinoid system, CBD does not bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Rather, it interacts indirectly with the receptors through transient receptor potential vanilloid, or TRPV1 receptors [5].

There is interest and research in CBD related to anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain, but more high-quality evidence that it is effective may be needed before it is available more widely for these purposes [4].

There is also a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved version of CBD, called Epidiolex, available by medical prescription for use in treating seizures [6].

A common and easy way to use CBD is CBD Oil, and Earthy Now offers many varieties of Full-Spectrum, High-CBD, Low-THC Cannabis Oil.


CBG

Cannabigerol (kə-ˈna-bə-’ger-ȯl) 

CBG is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in trace amounts in harvested and processed cannabis. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) is the precursor of cannabigerol (CBG), and is responsible for creating most downstream synthesized cannabinoids like THC and CBD [7].

Because of this CBG is lovingly called the “mother of all cannabinoids,” but since most of the CBGa is converted into cannabinoids, traditionally there is very little left in the plant upon harvest and use.

Therefore CBG has a high production cost and it can actually take thousands of pounds of biomass to yield a small amount of CBG isolate [8]. A 2018 study indicates that CBG is a regulator of endocannabinoid signaling [9], so it may have a small part to play in much of human physiology. 


CBN

Cannabinol (kə-ˈna-bə-nȯl) 

CBN is a cannabinoid found in low concentration in the cannabis plant and is mainly a product of the aging of tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCa). In aged cannabis, THCa in the plant converts to cannabolic acid (CBNa), and when decarboxylated by air, heat or light, converts to CBN [10].

CBN is sometimes considered to have psychotropic properties [11], and can have up to 25% potency compared to Delta-9 THC [12].

It is reported that CBN is sedative but proper studies are scarce [11]. CBN has shown potential related to many medical properties, but again, more studies and data are needed before these are borne out as predictable distinct effects [12].


CBC

Cannabichromene (kə-ˈna-bə-ˈkrō-mēn) 

CBC is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid found in low to levels in cannabis. It reportedly does not affect the psychoactivity of THC, but does seem to have a different effect if THC is present [12]. Like CBD, CBC works through TRPV1 receptors and by stimulating CB2 receptors, but does not have significant activity at CB1 receptors [12]. CBC has been studied for its pharmacological uses [13], and is said to have significant pharmacological potential for medical benefits based on existing research [12].


CBDV

Cannabidivarin (kə-ˈna-bə-ˈver-ən) 

CBDV is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in low levels in cannabis [14]. It interacts with the body in various ways including via TRP receptors and CB1 receptors, the latter by affecting how the endocannabinoid system processes and modulates certain chemicals [12]. There is not much data available about CBDV’s medical uses, but it has shown potential as a tool against seizures, perhaps an even better one than CBD [12]. 


∆9 THC

Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (ˈdel-tə |ˈnīn | te-trə-hī-drə-kə-ˈna-bə-ˌnȯl) 

∆9 THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and was discovered in 1964. It is often the most prominent compound in cannabis plants, but THC levels vary quite a bit. Read the Guide to hemp derived Delta-9 THC for more info.

The 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills revised the definitions of hemp and marijuana. Now, cannabis with less than .3% Delta-9 THC is considered hemp, and cannabis with more than .3% Delta-9 THC is federally considered marijuana.

Prior to the revised definition of hemp, the word “THC” used alone often referred to ∆9 THC, even though there are other types of THC (see below).

∆9 THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system via CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, some of which are located throughout the body including parts of the brain that affect “thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and movement [15].” THC has been widely studied and used for medical reasons [19]. Nabiximols, aka trade name Sativex, is a medical preparation of THC, made by GW Pharmaceuticals [16]. It is available for prescription in 25 countries, and is being tested for use in the United States [17].  


∆8 THC

Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (ˈdel-tə |ˈāt | te-trə-hī-drə-kə-ˈna-bə-ˌnȯl) 

∆8 THC occurs naturally in the cannabis plant, but in low quantities. It has a double bond on the 8th carbon chain, and Delta-9 has a double bond on the 9th carbon chain. This small distinction is enough to produce slightly different cognitive and physical effects [18]. Research in 1973 compared Delta-8 to Delta-9 THC and reported that Delta-8 produced effects similar to Delta-9, at a third less potency [19].

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) additionally stated that Delta-8 THC has psychoactive and intoxicating effects, similar to Delta-9 THC, and that concentrated amounts of Delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived CBD [20]. Modern Delta-8 products have been called “marijuana-light” and “diet weed” which aligns with these findings.

Purchase premium Delta-8, Delta-9, and Delta-10 from our friends at Earthy Select


∆10 THC

Delta-10-Tetrahydrocannabinol (ˈdel-tə |ˈten | te-trə-hī-drə-kə-ˈna-bə-ˌnȯl)

∆10 THC is another cannabinoid that occurs in low levels in cannabis. Following the pattern, it has its double bond on the 10th carbon chain, and is reported to have similar but lower intensity effects to Delta-9. Delta-10 has been described as a mood-enhancer [21]. Not much data is available on the effects of Delta-10 on the body. Delta-10 THC is not easy to manufacture and must be refined extensively, so you usually don’t see it in abundance. Because of this, a lot of products combine Delta-10 with Delta-8 [22]. 


THCA

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (te-trə-ˌhī-drə-kə-ˈna-bə-nȯl-ˈik |ˈa-səd)

THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the non-psychoactive acidic precursor to THC found in raw and live cannabis. “In its natural state, the cannabis plant goes through a vegetative and then flowering stage where it produces cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the source of many therapeutic cannabinoids. Enzymes called synthases convert CBGA into THCA and other cannabinoids such as CBDA or CBCA before being converted to their parent compounds [23].” As the plant dries, the THCA slowly converts to THC, and heat expedites this conversion through a process known as decarboxylation [24].

THCA may indeed have therapeutic benefits but academic studies are limited. Research published in 2017 found that THCA’s clinical use may be hampered by its relative instability due to minimal binding affinity at CB1 [25]. On the other hand, there is interest from the industry in continuing research and developing applications for this common cannabinoid. 


THCV

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (te-trə-ˌhī-drə-kə-ˈna-bə-ˈver-ən)

THCV is found in cannabis alongside THC but it is not clear whether it is psychoactive [26]. THCV interacts with the endocannabinoid system via the CB1 receptor and to a lesser extent, on the CB2 receptor [27]. A theory is that since THCV can block the CB1 receptor, known to stimulate appetite, it could reduce appetite. Preliminary evidence for this is based on animal research and more published scientific studies may be needed to support these benefits in humans [26].

Parting thoughts on the 10 most abundant cannabinoids

Now you know more about THC and CBD and the other cannabinoids native to cannabis cultivars, some with psychoactive properties and some without. Cannabinoid research continues.

These and additional important cannabinoids hold massive potential for medicinal benefits and prescription medications. Medicinal properties based on the cannabinoids present in a consumer product will need to be assessed for anti inflammatory properties, neuroprotective properties, antidepressant effects, efficacy against chronic pain and other health benefits.


Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up to date but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis is evolving. The author is neither a lawyer or a legal expert, nor a doctor or medical expert. You should check with your local authorities and medical providers before buying or using any products.

References

  1. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know
  2. https://www.maximumyield.com/definition/4237/cannabinoids
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabidiol
  5. https://myremedyproducts.com/what-are-cb1-and-cb2-receptors-and-how-does-cbd-work-with-them/
  6. https://www.epidiolex.com/
  7. https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/cbg-the-mother-of-all-cannabinoids-with-broad-antibacterial-activity/95824/
  8. https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/cbg-vs-cbd-what-are-the-differences-312232
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021502/
  10. https://deltaseparations.com/how-to-extract-cbn-oil-cannabinoil/
  11. https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-cbn#cbn-benefits-uses
  12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1054358917300273
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabichromene#cite_note-Turner2017-2
  14.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabidivarin
  15.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrahydrocannabinol
  16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabiximols
  17. https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/news-posts/2020/11/05/sativex-nabiximols-phase-3-trial-cannabis-extract-treatment-ms-spasticity-opens-us/
  18. https://www.hempgrower.com/article/delta-8-cannabidnoid-how-its-made-extraction-testing-measuring/
  19. https://ascpt.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cpt1973143353
  20. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol-delta-8-thc
  21. https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/delta-10-tetrahydrocannabinol-thc-infinitecal-acs-laboratory/
  22. https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-delta-10
  23. https://blog.lunatechequipment.com/thca-isolate
  24. https://originalfarm.com/what-is-thca/
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510775/
  26. https://www.healthline.com/health/substance-use/thcv#effects
  27. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrahydrocannabivarin

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will CBD products show up in a drug test?

There is a risk of failing a drug test. It depends on the type of CBD product one is using.

Drug tests for marijuana generally identify THC or its metabolites. Although tests do not screen for CBD, full spectrum CBD products contain low quantities of THC that can make a person fail a drug test. If you anticipate taking a drug test, we suggest checking with your employer or test administrator for clarity prior to taking full spectrum CBD products.

Is it legal to send CBD related products through the mail?

Yes, but even though cannabinoids and their products are federally-compliant, individual states may have their own regulations about purchasing or using hemp-based products and cannabinoids, and these are subject to change. You should check your state and local rules about THC and CBD before ordering. Earthy ships nationwide.

Are hemp products safe? 

Yes, cannabinoids and hemp derived products are safe when they are produced with proper and safe practices.

What does “hemp-derived” mean?

Hemp-derived means made from hemp, sometimes also referred to as industrial hemp. The Farm Bills established new federal legal definitions and rules for hemp, including that hemp and “and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” may be used for production, sales, transport, and use. 

Will CBD products show up in a drug test?

There is a risk of failing a drug test. It depends on the type of CBD product one is using.

Drug tests for marijuana generally identify THC or its metabolites. Although tests do not screen for CBD, full spectrum CBD products contain low quantities of THC that can make a person fail a drug test.

If you anticipate taking a drug test, we suggest checking with your employer or test administrator for clarity prior to taking full spectrum CBD products.

How do I know how much is the correct dosage?

While products have a suggested dosage listed on each package, the strength of the effects on a particular person will be different depending on a few things: the dosage level, body weight, food or other substances in the system, personal body chemistry, and experience level with cannabis products.

High CBD, low THC cannabis can produce a range of effects from clear-headed alertness & energy to calm & relaxation.

Generally speaking, it is recommended that you start with the lowest dose and gradually increase it until you reach satisfactory results. Consult your healthcare provider with specific questions about using any therapeutic products.

The certificate of analysis (COA) has become a common document in the world of cannabis business and technology. It is a sign that hemp-derived cannabinoids like CBD are common in most of the country, including states without organized medical or adult use cannabis programs. This article will look at what a COA is all about.  

What is a COA?

You can find them on the website of every seed producer, retailer, and wholesaler of cannabis products: a specific form, or certificate, that is a database representing a particular product’s chemical basis. Database just means that it holds and presents information.

The layout and details of a certificate of analysis may vary, but the purpose is the same. It is a document associated with a cannabis derived product, “attesting to its laboratory analysis for cannabinoids and in some cases adulterants, heavy metals and pesticides, mold, etc. [1].” 

That’s the scope we are concerned with in this article, but the word COA is applicable to more than cannabis products. Generically, it is ”a document containing test results that are provided to the customer by the supplier to demonstrate that product meets the defined test [2].” As such it could be used as a proof of specifications for any product, but it is generally associated with manufactured products like food, chemicals, research products, and pharmaceuticals. The COA benefits customers and producers alike.

Note that it can also mean certificate of authenticity, which is a similar proof or way to address confirmation of a product’s source of manufacturer. A certificate of authenticity may then be associated with consumer goods, computer software or hardware, art, antiques, sports memorabilia, collectible items, etc.

So the COA ensures a certain quality of produced goods, it is a quality assessment to make sure that the purity, potency and safety of the product from a manufacturer is within its specification range. A COA may seem to be primarily customer-facing but it benefits customers and producers alike. Customers and producers can both have confidence that what is claimed on the packaging is in fact true, connecting both parties to measurable standards on which to base business and interaction. 

What should be on a COA? 

A certificate of analysis can come in a variety of formats but generally includes similar identifiable features. We can break them down to three basic components: first the top or header section, second the body section, and third the bottom or footer section of a COA. 

Typically a COA form will have a top section to identify the lab doing the testing, the name of the company whose product is being tested, the product sample that is being tested, and a particular batch identifier. A date of testing, or a date of issuance of the COA, is also common. 

Skipping to the bottom, the end of the COA or footer area will usually have info about the testing facility. This can include the lab’s official seals or signatures of approval, and/or elements like address, contact info, licenses, notes, and disclaimers. 

The header and footer of the form contain crucial identification and functional elements that make the COA official and operational. If a QR code (quick response code) is included it may be in the header or footer too. QR codes are simply barcodes that have fast machine readability by smart phone cameras, so they have become popular linking tools since their invention in 1994 [3].

What is a COA lab equipmentReading results on a COA

The body of the COA has the information about what was tested for, a chemical for example, and shows what the results of the tests actually were. Cannabinoid potency is very often the first set of results on the COA. Results of most interest, like potency or “total THC” or “total CBD,” may also be included as a sidebar or separate area. You should see many of the top 10 common cannabinoids represented on the COA. Each cannabinoid found in the sample will be listed, generally in order of amount found, highest to lowest.

LOD and LOQ

Each compound’s line will have a LOD and LOQ number. Limit of detection (LOD) and limit of quantitation (LOQ) are parameters used to validate analytical methods [4]. 

LOD is the smallest amount of concentration of an analyte in the sample that can reliably be distinguished from zero. 

LOQ is the lowest concentration of the analyte that can be determined with an acceptable repeatability and trueness.

These two measurements work together to establish a signal-to-noise ratio—in overly basic terms, to determine what amount of a compound is minimally-measurable, vs. the ability of the instrument to accurately minimally-measure said compound [5]. Suffice it to say that LOD and LOQ are important testing factors in lab analysis and COAs. 

Some COAs also include a measurement of uncertainty, letting you know the variability of a test’s accuracy. This is generally expressed as a “plus/minus” amount or percentage. The actual measurement may be above or below the listed measurement by the acknowledged amount. 

Mass vs. percent 

Results for each cannabinoid or other compound will commonly be given in a measured amount of weight, and in percentage of the total product weight of tested samples. Both are important, and especially for certain hemp derived cannabinoids. 

Now you know about COAs

COAs keep producers and consumers on the same page regarding what is and isn’t in each product. Computer software technology speeds up the testing and dissemination of the data, giving retailers and end consumers easy access to information about which cannabinoids and other compounds are present in a product. 

You can now use your knowledge to explore the COAs of your favorite products in more depth, and to be better informed about future products. 


Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up to date but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis is evolving. The author is neither a lawyer or a legal expert, nor a doctor or medical expert. You should check with your local authorities and medical providers before buying or using any products.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certificate_of_analysis
  2. https://asifood.com/food-safety-terms-conditions/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code
  4. https://bitesizebio.com/48459/excel-lod-loq/
  5. https://juniperpublishers.com/omcij/pdf/OMCIJ.MS.ID.555722.pdf

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to send CBD related products through the mail?

Yes, but even though these products are federally-compliant, individual states may have their own regulations about purchasing or using hemp-based products, and these are subject to change. You should check your state and local rules before ordering. We ship nationwide.

Will CBD products show up in a drug test?

There is a risk of failing a drug test. It depends on the type of CBD product one is using. Drug tests for marijuana generally identify THC or its metabolites. Although tests do not screen for CBD, full spectrum CBD products contain low quantities of THC that can make a person fail a drug test. If you anticipate taking a drug test, we suggest checking with your employer or test administrator for clarity prior to taking full spectrum CBD products.

Do you get high off of CBD? 

High CBD, low THC cannabis can produce a range of effects from clear-headed alertness & energy to calm & relaxation. CBD is not psychoactive and is used for effects of its own.

The strength of the effects on a particular person will be different depending on a few things: the dosage level, body weight, food or other substances in the system, personal body chemistry, and experience level with cannabis products.

How do I know how much is the correct dosage of CBD?

The strength of the effects on a particular person will be different depending on a few things: the dosage level, body weight, food or other substances in the system, personal body chemistry, and experience level with cannabis products. High CBD, low THC cannabis can produce a range of effects from clear-headed alertness & energy to calm & relaxation.

Generally speaking, it is recommended that you start with the lowest dose and gradually increase it until you reach satisfactory results. Consult your healthcare provider with specific questions about using cannabinoid products.