Cannabinoids are the driving force behind the chill effects when you pop some CBD gummies. Learn all about how they work.

Ever wonder what exactly goes down in your brain when you eat a CBD gummy to relax after a long day?

You sprawl out on the couch, pick up a book or a puzzle while you wait, and, before you know it, the day's worries have melted away. You're cool and collected, and probably curious about how non-psychoactive chemicals from hemp can have such a profound effect.

The human endocannabinoid system is incredibly expansive, and there are at least 144 cannabinoids found in plants that interact with it. Your brain and nervous system are full of cannabinoid receptors that activate when these substances enter your body.

Your body makes its own cannabinoids in response to exercise (that’s one place the “runner’s high” comes from!) and other events, but supplementing them can also help soothe your woes on a nerve-wracking day.

What are phytocannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are naturally found in a few plants—most notably cannabis, but also Echinacea and a few others.

When cannabinoids occur in plants, they’re called phytocannabinoids. The ones that are naturally produced by your body are called endocannabinoids. There are over 140 phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant.

These chemicals can profoundly affect your state of mind, helping you relax and keep your composure when you're struggling with nervousness and agitation.

The most famous cannabinoids—both of which are phytocannabinoids found in plants—are:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC
  • Cannabidiol or CBD

THC is one of the few psychoactive cannabinoids, which means any product that contains it could get you high. So, if you’re looking to quiet your mind without the euphoria, CBD is probably the way to go. But there are other varieties (called “minor cannabinoids”) that you should know about, too.

Cannabis produces cannabinoid acids

Strictly speaking, THC, CBD, and the rest start as acids. Heating them (or decarboxylating them) changes them to a stable form—and in THC’s case, a psychoactive form that can get you stoned.

The average cannabis plant has around 3 to 6% CBDA, the acid that converts to CBD when you heat and consume it. Depending on the strain of the plant, the THC content could be up to 20% or higher.

THCA and CBDA aren’t the only cannabinoid acids that give hemp its signature chill. In fact, 75% of the plant is made up of terpenes and other cannabinoids, such as:

  • CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid
  • CBCA, or cannabichromenic acid
  • CBGVA, or cannabigerovarinic acid
  • THCVA, or tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid
  • CBDVA, or cannabidivarinic acid
  • CBCVA, or cannabichromevarinic acid

Together with THCA and CBDA, these substances make up the majority of most cannabis plants. More research needs to be done on the effects of all the different cannabinoids, but most of them seem to work better in harmony with other types.

Your body and cannabinoids

All cannabinoids activate cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nervous system to help people chill out and calm down. And your body responds better to multiple cannabinoids at once instead of just one. The cannabis plant contains over 100 different cannabinoids and terpenes, and they all work better together.

The main types of non-psychoactive CBD products are broad-spectrum and isolate. The difference is that broad-spectrum contains multiple cannabinoids and terpenes found naturally in hemp or cannabis, while CBD isolate doesn't include anything but pure CBD.

When people use broad-spectrum products that contain CBD plus other cannabinoids and terpenes, many report a stronger “chill-out” effect, minus the high found in products that contain THC. You might have to take a higher dose of an isolate to equal the impact of a broad-spectrum CBD gummy. This synergy of compounds is called the “entourage effect.”

Cannabis isn’t the only way to activate your cannabinoid receptors. Naturally-occurring chemicals in plants like Kava, Echinacea, and even the tea plant can bind to cannabinoid receptors in your nervous system, mimicking some of the effects of chemicals like CBD. That's why Kava and Echinacea teas are often marketed as "chill out" or "de-stress” beverages!

Most cannabinoids won't get you high!

If you're looking for a little boost without the high, cannabinoids could be your jam. Except for THC, the vast majority of them won’t get you stoned.

Another exception is cannabinol (CBN)—a waste product that happens when THCA or THC are exposed to air and light for too long. CBN is mildly psychoactive but otherwise similar to CBD.

You can avoid psychoactive effects altogether by picking broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate products. Steer clear of full-spectrum products that can contain THC, THCA, and CBN. CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD never contain psychoactive compounds, as long as you buy from a reputable supplier who tests their products!

In fact, CBD isolates and broad-spectrum products legally must have less than 0.03% THC.

What can cannabinoids do for you?

Cannabinoids like CBD can help you take control of your mind and let go of the inevitable stress of daily life. We all carry a lot of weight these days, and it’s easy to feel the pressure start to affect your ability to quiet your mind.

Popping a few CBD gummies or a couple of drops of tincture may help you tackle those errands that you’ve been putting off for months, or help you reset when you need to find your equilibrium.

Broad-spectrum CBD might be for you if you struggle with:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty staying calm
  • Negative thoughts
  • Self-doubt