Cannabinoids 101: Glossary of Cannabis Terms

Below we break down some of the commonly used terms in cannabinoid medicine.

Bioavailability - Bioavailability refers to the extent a substance or drug becomes completely available to its intended biological destination(s). Intravenous administration has a bioavailability of 100%, due to varying absorption levels of membranes in the body, for example oral mucosa or the intestine, that level is appreciably lower. 

Cannabinoid Receptor - Cannabinoid receptors are an essential component of the body’s endogenous, or endocannabinoid system (ECS). Every function in our body requires balance, or homeostasis, to perform at maximum capacity. Parts of the endocannabinoid system located in cells throughout the body that are activated by cannabinoids, influencing appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Two types of cannabinoid receptors have been discovered, including cannabinoid receptor type 1 and cannabinoid receptor type 2.

  • CB1 - A vitally important protein in the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS). CB1 is the main target of delta-9-THC, the primary intoxicating ingredient in cannabis. THC is an agonist, or activator of the CB1. THC must bind to the CB1 receptor for a person to feel the cannabinoid’s intoxicating effects.
  • CB2 - An important protein in the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system that is heavily involved in the body’s immune system, and plays an important role in fighting inflammation. CB2 receptors are mostly found on immune cells, which circulate throughout the body and brain via the bloodstream. They’re also found in the spleen, as well as in some bone and liver cells.

CannabisLatin, or scientific name for the entire plant hemp, legally named marijuana or marihuana in some jurisdictions. There are many other names for cannabis, including commonly used terms grass, weed, and ganja.[2] Three recognized species include:

Cannabis Extract - The process by which cannabinoids and terpenes found within cannabis are recovered from the plant material. There are a variety of machines, solvents, and techniques that can be utilized to extract cannabis compounds. Extracts generally fall under three terms: 

  • Full Spectrum - Is generally used to describe a cannabis or hemp extract that retains all of the cannabinoids and terpenes and other elements of the plant. This term is often used as a trendy buzzword as a full spectrum "extract" is an oxymoron.
  • Broad Spectrum - Generally used to describe a cannabis or hemp extract that has excluded THC.
  • Isolate - An isolated product has had all other plant material stripped away, leaving only the individual cannabinoid.

Certificate of Analysis (COA) - A document issued by an internal quality assurance team or third-party analytical testing lab that confirms that the product has passed inspection and meets regulatory standards. A certificate of analysis can include information on the following; cannabinoids, terpenes, heavy metals, pesticides, microbes, mycotoxins, moisture content, water activity, residual solvents, and the presence of foreign materials.

Cultivar (Strain or Variety) - A group of plants that carry common, distinguishable characteristics, which have been selected in a process of breeding. Cultivar is synonymous with variety. The term strain is often used to refer to a cultivar of cannabis, however, the term strain is not strictly correct in the field of botany, though it is used in other fields of biology. 

EndocannabinoidAn organic compound produced by the body that binds to cannabinoid receptors. Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the two most prevalent cannabinoids made by the body. Endocannabinoids share a likeness to plant-produced cannabinoids called phytocannabinoids. Within the human endocannabinoid system, endocannabinoids are responsible for regulating the brain, endocrine, and immune systems and play an essential role in maintaining the body’s homeostasis, or internal regulatory balance.

Phytocannabinoid - The most simple phytocannabinoid definition is any cannabinoid produced in the trichomes of a cannabis plant. When extracted from the plant and consumed, phytocannabinoids interact with our body’s receptors to produce numerous psychotropic and therapeutic effects. Both plants and animals produce their own cannabinoids. Those produced inside the mammalian body are called endocannabinoids.

Terpenes - Organic compounds that provide aroma and flavor in cannabis and a variety of other organisms, including plants. Terpenes are responsible for the aroma and flavors of cannabis, and influence its effects by interacting with cannabinoids. Terpenes are formed inside cannabis trichomes, and their relative presence is directly affected by both the spectrum and intensity of light exposure.

Therapeutic Window - The period during which measurable therapeutic effects are observed. During the therapeutic window, the dose range of a drug activates and maintains effects potent enough to be measurable, yet low enough to avoid negative side effects.