See How The Body's Intrinsic Cannabinoids Work

Endocannabinoids serve as a natural check on the nervous system.
Learn how they help the body maintain homeostasis.


Cannabinoids break down into 3 main classes:
endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids are chemicals produced inside of your body that attach to the same receptors as some phytocannabinoids.


Flowering Cannabis Plant


Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals made in a laboratory to mimic phytocannabinoids, which are chemicals found naturally in the cannabis plant

Synthetic Cannabinoids

The Effects of Naturally-occurring Cannabinoids

Cannabis sativa L. is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family.1 It has been used therapeutically for thousands of years, while also being notorious for its “high”-inducing psychotropic effects.2 But now with the discovery of cannabinoids, we are able to better understand the cause of these effects.

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Test your knowledge

THC and CBD are 2 different cannabinoids that both cause the high that is commonly associated with marijuana.23-25

1. Grotenherman F. Cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids. 2006;1(1):10-14. 
2. Pertwee RG. Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. Brit J Pharmacol. 2006;147(Suppl 1):S163-S171. 
3. Ramer R, Schwarz R, Hinz B. Modulation of the endocannabinoid system as a potential anticancer strategy. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10:1-17. 
4. Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: signaling and function in the central nervous system. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):1-23. 
5. Maccarrone M, Bab I, Biro T, et al. Endocannabinoid signaling at the periphery: 50 years after THC. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2015;36(5):277-296. 
6. EPIDIOLEX [package insert]. Carlsbad, CA: Greenwich Biosciences, Inc.; 2018.  
7. FDA News Release: FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. Accessed August 20, 2019.
8. United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Marketing Service. Accessed August 20, 2019.
9. Ibeas Bih C, Chen T, Nunn AVW, Bazelot M, Dallas M, Whalley BJ. Molecular targets of cannabidiol in neurological disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):699-730.
10. Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. 
11. Vandrey R, Raber JC, Raber ME, et al. Cannabinoid dose and label accuracy in edible medical cannabis products. JAMA. 2015;313(24):2491-2493.
12. FDA Warning Letters and Test Results for Cannabidiol-Related Products 2015 to 2019. Accessed August 20, 2019.
13. Marinol [package insert]. North Chicago, IL: AbbVie Inc; 2017. 
14. Cesamet [package insert]. Somerset, NJ: Meda Pharmaceuticals Inc; 2015. 
15. Syndros [package insert]. Chandler, AZ: Insys Therapeutics, Inc; 2017. 
16. Ruthirakuhan M, Herrmann N, Gallagher D, et al. Investigating the safety and efficacy of nabilone for the treatment of agitation in patients with moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's disease: study protocol for a cross-over randomized controlled trial. Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2019;15:1-7. 
17. Peball M, Werkmann M, Ellmerer P, et al. Nabilone for non‑motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: a randomized placebo‑controlled, double‑blind, parallel‑group, enriched enrolment randomized withdrawal study (The NMS‑Nab Study). J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2019;126(8):1061-1072. 
18. Mascal M, Hafezi N, Wang D, et al. Synthetic, non-intoxicating 8,9-dihydrocannabidiol for the mitigation of seizures. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):1-6. 
19. National Institutes of Health. Search results: synthetic cannabinoids. Accessed August 20, 2019.
20. National Institutes of Health. Search results: dronabinol. Accessed August 20, 2019.
21. National Institutes of Health. Search results: nabilone. Accessed August 20, 2019.