Cannabinoids are active chemical compounds found in numerous plants including cannabis. These compounds come with a multitude of health benefits and can be used to alleviate various symptoms and issues. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are 4 classifications of cannabinoids.

The NIH supports a wide portfolio of research on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. This research portfolio includes fascinating studies utilizing the whole marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa), but a majority of the studies focus on individual cannabinoid compounds.

Individual cannabinoid chemicals may be isolated (CBG, CBD, THC, CBC, CBN) and purified from the cannabis plant or synthesized in a laboratory. There are also naturally occurring (endogenous) cannabinoids found in the body.

The 4 Classifications of Cannabinoids


Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids found in leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds collected from the Cannabis sativa plant.


Endogenous are cannabinoids made by the body. Some examples include N-arachidonoylethanolamine or anandamide (AE) or 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

AE and 2-AG activity can be manipulated by inhibiting their corresponding hydrolases FAAH or MAGL, preventing their degradation.

2-AG is a neurotransmitter that modulates the cells that it encounters. These instructions happen on a certain rhythm conducted by the body’s internal clock. For example, research has shown that during the afternoon is when levels of 2-AG naturally peak; when it’s time to relax and recharge as the day falls into night.

Purified cannabinoids

Purified cannabinoids are the 3rd classification of cannabinoids. They are naturally occurring cannabinoids purified from plant sources:  examples include cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The three main cannabinoids – cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN)can be isolated from a purified extract of cannabis by preparative gas chromatography in satisfactory amounts and with a degree of purity similar to that of the sample substances provided by the United Nations Narcotics Laboratory.

Synthetic cannabinoids

The 4th classification of cannabinoids is synthetic cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids are synthesized in a laboratory: examples include CB1 agonists (CPP-55, ACPA), CB2 agonists (JWH-133, NMP7, AM1241), CB1/CB2 nonselective agonist (CP55940), ajulemic acid (AJA), nabilone, and dronabinol.

Classifications of Cannabinoids source:

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