Active Components of Cannabis: Understanding the Constituents That Drive its Effects

The therapeutic and mind-altering properties we often link with cannabis come from distinctive chemical compounds known as cannabinoids present in the plant itself. So far, 86 such cannabinoids have been discovered in nature, while others have been artificially created through chemical synthesis. This piece will delve into all the active components of medicinal cannabis.


Cannabinoids are distinct chemical entities found within the cannabis plant. They are widely acknowledged as the fundamental therapeutic elements of cannabis. The most renowned among these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The substance that triggers a euphoric state when large quantities are ingested. Owing to this mind-altering effect, THC is often identified as the dynamic ingredient of cannabis.

Nonetheless, upwards of 70 unique cannabinoids have been uncovered thus far. These substances bear a resemblance to THC in their chemical makeup, but their biological effects diverge significantly, and they exhibit negligible if any, psychotropic potential. It’s progressively apparent that these lesser-known cannabinoids could offer therapeutic benefits for certain health conditions.


THC, the primary component in marijuana that determines its strength, is most widely recognized for its prominent psychoactive effects when cannabis is smoked. It also possesses anti-inflammatory attributes and is utilized to combat depression, nausea, and pain associated with multiple sclerosis. The concentration of THC varies based on the part of the plant:

  • Male inactive hemp contains around 0.5% THC.
  • Female marijuana leaves have a THC concentration of 2-3%.
  • Premium marijuana flowers contain 4-20% THC.

Seedless buds, known as sinsemilla, exhibit a THC concentration that is 10-20% higher. These are typically found in hashish, tonics, and extracts. Oral doses of THC can range from 2.5 to 20 mg. For the sake of comparison, a standard joint of 0.5g will contain about 25 mg of THC. However, due to the combustion process, over half of the THC is lost in the smoke. Only about 15-50% enters the bloodstream, meaning the actual inhaled dose ranges from 3 mg to 12 mg of marijuana.


Unlike THC, even a potent THCA does not impact brain cells. This is because it is inactive and does not produce any mind-altering effects. Studies indicate that THCA is found in its natural, active state in cannabis.

When you smoke a joint, use cannabis in cooking, or heat your vaporizer, it transforms into THC acid. This transformation, known as decarboxylation, is triggered by the application of heat. Even though THCA doesn’t exhibit psychoactive traits, its intake can offer several benefits. The potential advantages of THCA include:

  • Alleviating pain
  • Boosting appetite
  • Providing relief from nausea


Terpenes are scent-filled chemicals discovered in plants with distinct fragrances, like citrus and pine trees. It’s speculated that there exist over 100 different terpenoids that contribute to the taste and scent of marijuana smoke. Besides shaping the aroma and flavor of cannabis, some scientists theorize that terpenes could possess healing attributes and beneficial effects, including the regulation of blood pressure.


The most fascinating components are those present in the secretions from resin glands, or trichomes, that are scattered over the Cannabis plant’s surface. While these trichomes are found on both male and female plants, they’re especially concentrated around the female flowers. The resin material they excrete is a blend of various chemicals, with cannabinoids and terpenes being the most crucial.

A wax layer forms the exterior of this excreted substance, safeguarding the other chemicals from oxidation and deterioration. Due to their glittery appearance under intense light, these resin glands are often dubbed ‘crystals.’


While cannabis may carry certain side effects, it also bestows many advantages, and you are now informed about the influence of its active compounds. Investigations continue to pinpoint all the constituents present in cannabis and their respective characteristics. Always ascertain that your marijuana is derived from superior seeds and use it responsibly.