By, Danielle Van lerberg

Active Ingredients in Marijuana

The cannabis plant is a multifunctional one. Its strong fibers can be used for building materials while its microscopic components can fight pain and produce feelings of euphoria. The plant’s varying usages can be attributed to its varying and even mysterious chemical makeup.

There are hundreds of chemical properties in marijuana, but science has pinpointed a handful that attribute to its therapeutic properties. For our purposes, there are two main categories of marijuana components; cannabinoids and terepenes.

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that attribute to the therapeutic properties of marijuana. Some cannabinoids like THC are known for being the psychoactive chemicals in cannabis, while terpenes are the chemicals that give the many differing cannabis strains their unique aromas and flavors.

So, how many chemicals are in weed? Over 500 in counting! So, let’s explore a few stand-outs!


THC-A – Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid

You can think of this as THC’s parent. If you were to look at a sample of cannabis under an electron microscope you would not see THC, you would see THC-A.  This chemical occurs naturally in the cannabis plant; on its own THC-A is non-psychoactive. When heat is applied to THC-A (through lighting your bowl or joint, or heating your vaporizer), it becomes THC, a chemical structure our bodies can process.

THC- Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic cannabinoid

or Tetrahydrocannabinol is probably the most well-known and widely recognized cannabinoid. Since it was identified by British organic chemist Roger Adams in 1940, THC has been a controversial chemical, mainly due to its psychoactive or ‘mind-altering’ effects. As a therapy, THC has proven to be helpful in battling nausea, inflammation, depression, neuromuscular pain, and much more.

From 1930-1962 popular global opinion toward marijuana experienced a negative shift, this led to nearly global prohibition of the substance.  Ironically, in the 1980s big pharmaceutical companies began making synthetic versions of THC and marketing them as anti-nausea meds for chemotherapy patients and as appetite enhancers for AIDS patients. Today, THC remains a controversial cannabinoid.

THC-V- Tetrahydrocannabivarin

This variation of THC is known as the caffeine of cannabis and is found in higher concentration in certain cannabis strains. A cannabis strain high in THC-V will provide feelings of heightened energy, or a boost. Unlike THC which increases appetite, THC-V is known for its ability to decrease appetite.

CBD- Cannabidiol

In recent years, this cannabinoid has gained more attention for its non-psychoactive and therapeutic properties. This cannabinoid has pain reliving as well as antibacterial and antifungal properties. Latter studies of this cannabinoid have shown it to be an effective treatment for epilepsy, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and much more.

CBN- Cannabinol

This psychoactive cannabinoid is known for its sedative effects.  This cannabinoid is a result of the degradation of THC. So, that crash you may be experiencing at the end of your high is actually CBN making an appearance.  If you’re looking for isolated CBN to use as a sleep aid, then click here.

CBC- Cannabichromene

This may just be the next cannabinoid to look out for. Now, many scientists are theorizing that CBC is the second most abundant cannabinoid naturally occurring in the cannabis plant, second to THC.

This non-psychoactive cannabinoid is gaining traction for its powerful antidepressant properties. Although studies on CBD are still rather infantile, early results indicate that this cannabinoid could be a better anti-depressant than CBD.

Aside from Cannabinoids, another group of compounds that act as marijuana active ingredients are terpenes. These little molecules pack flavorful and aromatic punches. Although these compounds do not produce psychoactive effects, I argue that they are in fact, active ingredients. This is because they give different strains their unique qualities, like scent and taste. Furthermore, apart from effects, scent and taste are two characteristics that are often deciding factors in strain choice/preference.

So, let’s explore these noteworthy terpenes.

D-Limonene, yes limonene, as in lemons! This terpene is also found in citrus essential oils. It has antifungal, anti-cancer, and immune-stimulating properties.

β- Mycrene

If you’re also a fan of beer than you’re in for a treat. This skunky little terpene is also found in Hops. It has anti-inflammatory, pain-reliving, and anxiolytic (anxiety reliving) properties.

Alpha- Pinene

As the name would suggest, this little terpene is responsible for that piney fragrance some strains have. Aside from the evergreen scent, this terpene also promotes neurogenesis or the formation of new brain cells.


This relaxing terpene is also found in lavender. It has pain relieving, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-convulsive properties.


Gesundhet! This spicy little terpene is also found in black pepper. It has anti-inflammatory properties and contributes to the anti-nausea properties of cannabis since it is a gastric cytoprotector, meaning it slows down the production of gastric acids.

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