The anatomy of cannabis: 5 components you need to know

In many ways, marijuana is a scientist’s dream. The plant is filled with unique chemicals and compounds that can have a profoundly positive impact when they interact with receptors in our bodies. These effects range from helping people relax after a long day to easing the suffering that comes with conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

With marijuana quickly advancing as a medical product, scientists have been further investigating the potential of the plant and its compounds. So far, researchers have identified five primary components that show great promise in helping patients not only treat their symptoms, but maybe even eliminate the underlying problem.


THC, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, is probably the best known of the chemical compounds found in marijuana. This component is responsible for the euphoric and psychoactive effects of the plant and as such, is the most sought-after component for recreational users.

Apart from recreational effects, THC has a wide array of applications as a medicine. It’s often used to ease the pain and nausea that comes with cancer treatment and can help with the management of chronic pain. Newer studies have also shown that it may be able to delay the progression of ALS as well as ease painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis.


Cannabidiol has become nearly as well known as THC in recent years, largely due to CBD’s effectiveness as a medicine. One of its main benefits as a treatment is that it’s non-psychoactive, making it more appealing to a greater number of patients than THC.

CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-psychotic; it can also help control nausea. The compound is already being used to treat arthritis and mood disorders, and has also shown great potential in aiding cancer treatment.


THC is formed when tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is left to dry. THCA itself is not psychoactive, but may still harbour some of the same medical properties as THC. This means patients can take much larger doses of THCA than they can of THC. Some proponents suggest that juicing raw marijuana is the best way to extract the THCA from the plant to treat immune system conditions like lupus.


CBN, or cannabinol, is a further degradation of the THCA compound that is created when THC is exposed to oxygen and light. On its own, CBN produces much milder psychoactive effects than THC, but CBN can increase THC’s psychoactive effects in patients. Though not often considered as a medicinal product, it has been used as an anti-spasmodic and can help those suffering from glaucoma, inflammation and insomnia. For recreational users, the effects are undesirable, leaving them groggy or dizzy.


Another non-psychoactive compound, cannabichromene (CBC) is the second most abundant compound found in marijuana. CBC has piqued the interest of scientific communities as it has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, CBC has been shown to stimulate brain growth as well as potentially inhibit tumors and fight cancer.

Considering there are at least 483 compounds unique to the cannabis plant, these five only scratch the surface. With greater access to the plant and the ability to conduct proper studies, scientists will be able to learn more about the chemistry of cannabis and what other medicinal purposes it can be used for.

So there you have it and, now you’re as smart as me.

Be, Ba, de – That’s all Folks