Have you ever noticed how much terminology there is when we start talking about cannabis? It can be terribly confusing, and even professional journalists are inclined to mix up words. To help you out, we’ve complied this short cannabis dictionary with commonly used cannabis terminology.
It may not be 100% complete, but if you’re new to this subject or are suffering from terminology overload, it will straighten things out for you! You’ll also learn more about some of the ingredients in cannabis extracts and how they are believed to work.
Cannabidiol: Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid. Unlike, THC, it is not psychoactive. It was once the most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis, but selective breeding has led to lower cannabidiol levels and higher THC levels in the last decades.
However, certain strains of industrial hemp still provide a rich source of this cannabinoid. Cannabidiol is being researched in order to determine which of the wide variety of medicinal uses attributed to it in anecdotal evidence can be confirmed.
Cannabigerol: A non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is believed to have anti-bacterial properties and may have an effect on intra-ocular pressure. It may also reduce anxiety and have uses as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, but has not been widely studies.
CBG is present in low concentrations, and is not generally found in significant amounts in high THC strains of cannabis.
Cannabinoid receptors: These receptors are located throughout the body, in the brain, central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.
Together with lipids known as endocannabinoids, they form the endocannabinoid system which is believed to regulate appetite, memory, pain sensations and mood.
Cannabinoids: Cannabinoids are lipids that act on the endocannabinoid receptors in the body. They can either be produced within the body (endocannabinoids) or come from external, plant-based sources (phytocannabinoids). Synthetic cannabinoids have also been developed.
Cannabis: Cannabis is a genus of plants consisting of three species: Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, and Cannabis ruderalis. Indica and sativa are the most common species, but contrary to popular belief, species does not indicate cannabinoid composition and psychoactivity. All species are cross-fertile.
CB1 receptor: There are two types of cannabinoid receptors in the body, and this was the first one to be identified. Receptors are associated with the brain and nervous system and outlying tissues and organs.
The body’s natural endocannabinoid, anandamide binds with these receptors as does the phytocannabinoid, THC. Another endocannabinoid, 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) binds with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, as does the phytocannabinoid, CBD.
CB2 receptor: This cannabinoid receptor is very similar to the CB1 receptor, and is believed to explain the effects of cannabis on the immune system. THC and anandamide do not bind with this receptor, but AG-2 and CBD act on both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CBD: An abbreviated form of the name “cannabidiol” (see cannabidiol).
CBG: An abbreviated form of the name “cannabigerol” (see cannabigerol)
Decriminalization: This means that although the substance is still considered illegal, those found in possession of it for personal use will not be prosecuted.
Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol: Also known as THC, this is the psychoactive component (cannabinoid) of Cannabis. It acts on the CB1 receptors and has medical uses, but causes the “high” which makes cannabis a target for recreational use.
Endocannabinoid system: The endocannabinoid system consists of the cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoids that act on them. An additional portion of the brain is believed to play a role, but this area has not as yet been identified.
Endocannabinoids: These are cannabinoids that are produced in the human body. Together with the cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids form part of the endocannabinoid system.
Entourage effect: This term is used to describe the effect by which a whole plant extract produces a greater effect than a single compound extracted from the plant. It is believed that all the molecules in the plant work together to enhance the effect of cannabinoids. Terpenes are among the compounds believed to contribute to this effect.
Flavonoids: Flavonoids are compounds found in fruit and vegetable matter. This is a large group of nutrients characterized by anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. They are believed to play an important role in human health.
Gateway drug: The Gateway theory postulates that people who use marijuana are likely to progress to “stronger” drugs. The FDA recently conceded that there is insufficient evidence for the Gateway theory.
Hemp: Although this word is often used to indicate all types of cannabis, it should ideally only be applied to industrial hemp which contains only trace amounts of psychoactive THC. In this context, hemp is not used recreationally, but has a slew of uses thanks to its fibers. High CBD varieties with low THC content are regarded as industrial hemp.
Homeostasis: Homeostasis is a process whereby the human body creates its own inner balance, maintaining health. The endocannabinoid system is believed to play a role in homeostasis.
Legalization: In legalization models, the production, sale and use of a substance is legal. Currently, we can distinguish between full legalization and legalization for medical use in the cannabis context.
Marijuana: As with common usage of the word Hemp, this term is often applied to both psychoactive and non-psychoactive forms of Cannabis.
Some people use the term “Medical Marijuana” to distinguish between psychoactive and non-psychoactive Cannabis, but this is misleading, since high THC forms also have medical uses. Ideally, the term “Marijuana” should be used for psychoactive varieties, while the term “Hemp” would describe non-psychoactive strains.
Psychoactive: THC produces feelings of euphoria and alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness in high doses. These effects on perception qualify THC for its status as the psychoactive compound in Cannabis. In some literature, the term “psychotropic” is also used.
Synthetic cannabinoids: Cannabinoids can be created artificially. They are used in certain pharmaceuticals and also in dangerous recreational formulations that are many times stronger than natural cannabis and have been linked to overdoses and psychosis.
Terpenes: Terpenes give certain plants their distinctive aroma. They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are believed to have anti-cancer properties. Terpenes are believed to work with cannabinoids, enhancing their effect.
THC: An abbreviation for Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.