Where Are CBD and THC Found in the Cannabis Plant?

Finally, all your curiosities about cannabinoids answered…

Sure, we know what CBD and THC can do. Continued research is shedding light on their medicinal benefits. We know that CBD is an effective treatment for seizures. We even know that the two compounds act differently from one another.

However, one aspect that is hardly discussed is where exactly do CBD and THC come from in the cannabis plant? Maybe you think about this question often. Maybe you’ve never thought about it at all. Regardless, this article will answer your curiosities regarding these cannabinoids.

Keep reading to discover where exactly CBD and THC come from in the cannabis plant…

Where Is CBD Found – And What Is It?

CBD, known scientifically as cannabidiol, is one of around 100 different cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. While CBD does not induce the mind-altering high that THC does, it arguably has some psychoactive properties. Some argue that CBD can create a change in mood and that this is evidence of its psychoactive effects.

CBD, unlike its relative THC, will not get you high. It can act in beneficial ways on our physiology without causing the typical high associated with marijuana consumption. For this reason, it is especially suitable for those who have medical challenges but also those who want to function normally on a day to day basis.

CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body, albeit in an indirect manner; unlike THC, it is not a receptor agonist.

The principal cannabinoid receptors in humans are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These help to maintain homeostasis within the body, and may help regulate functions relating to sleep, mood, immune activity, inflammation, pain management, and a multitude of other conditions.

CBD (cannabidiol) appears to primarily influence the CB2 receptor. Research suggests that it has positive effects on symptoms of seizures/epilepsy, and in fact it is an FDA-approved medication for two rare forms of epilepsy. Research also suggests that CBD may have a positive impact on depression, chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, insomnia, MS, arthritis, and numerous other ailments and medical challenges.

What About THC?

THC, known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ‘counterpart’ to CBD. It is responsible for the high associated with cannabis. Unlike cannabidiol, THC is a cannabinoid receptor agonist. This means it directly binds to the receptors in a lock-and-key formation.

where does cbd come from

THC primarily affects CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system. It has numerous benefits, including assisting with aches, pain, arthritis, inflammation, insomnia, nausea, chronic fatigue, lack of appetite, depression, chronic stress, and other conditions.

While not for everyone, THC still has a massive following, particularly for those who enjoy the way it feels to be high and in an altered state of mind. For this reason, THC is often also consumed recreationally and not simply for medical purposes.

Misconceptions about Hemp, Marijuana, and Where THC and CBD are Found

Many people mistakenly believe that hemp is the male version of marijuana, and that CBD is only found in these male plants. This is inaccurate on multiple levels.

First, hemp is not the ‘male’ version of cannabis. Hemp is a distinct genetic cultivar of cannabis, but it can exist as a male or female just like any other strain of cannabis. In fact, all cannabis belongs to the same genus and species, Cannabis sativa L. There are some circles that believe ‘indica’ is a separate species of cannabis, but this is not taxonomically accurate.


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Furthermore, hemp is genetically different from marijuana on several key levels. First, it has a very low THC content – generally less than 0.3% by dry weight. Hemp is also phenotypically distinct in the sense that it has a tough fibrous stalk and grows taller than marijuana with fewer flowering buds.

As far as where THC and CBD are found in various forms of cannabis, they actually both exist throughout the aerial parts of the plant, but are usually most concentrated in the flowers. Let’s take a closer look.

Where Is CBD Found?

Almost all strains of cannabis contain CBD, even if only in trace amounts. This includes both cannabis sativa and cannabis indica varieties, as well as hemp. In hemp, CBD is located in the aerial parts of the plant but is not present in the roots or seeds. The aerial parts of the hemp plant are the parts of the plant above the soil line, i.e., the flowers, stems, and leaves.

There are several different extraction methods used to pull CBD from the raw cannabis plant material. The most commonly used extraction techniques are solvent-based methods. Here, solvents such as butane, propane, and ethanol (among others) are used to extract CBD from the plant material.

A more advanced solventless extraction method is the Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE) process, which uses carbon dioxide (CO2). During the SFE process, a specialized extraction machine freezes and compresses carbon dioxide until it reaches a supercritical cold liquid state. This liquid then passes through the plant material, which extracts the cannabinoids and terpenes from it.

There are generally three types of CBD oil for sale on the market today.

  1. Full-Spectrum CBD Oil: This contains the full chemical profile of the raw plant material. All cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, are retained, as well as terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and other plant material.
  2. Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil: This consists of a wide array of compounds from the source plant material. However, THC is usually removed from the oil entirely.
  3. CBD Isolate: This contains only the phytocannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) by itself. All other compounds are removed from the oil.

Where Is THC Found?

Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica plants produce greater amounts of resinous trichomes than hemp. Trichomes contain abundant amounts of THC. As already mentioned, hemp also contains THC, but only in very low concentrations (0.3% or less).

While THC is found throughout all of the aerial parts (i.e the sugar and fan leaves) of a marijuana plant, it is found most abundantly in the flowers of female marijuana plants. As we discussed above, these flowers are coated in small resin glands called trichomes.

What Are Trichomes?

Trichomes derive their name from the Greek word ‘Tríchōma’ (hair growth). They resemble tiny hairs when viewed through a magnifying glass. A cannabis plant begins to produce trichomes when it enters the flowering stage of its growth cycle. They serve a protective function for a cannabis plant and act as a deterrent to pests and herbivores.

Trichomes contain a higher concentration of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids than any other part of a cannabis plant.

Cannabinoid synthesis begins in the trichomes, and these cells become the precursor to the dozens of different cannabinoids that marijuana produces.

There are two different types of trichomes: glandular and non-glandular trichomes. Non-glandular trichomes are also known as cystoliths.

Furthermore, there are three different types of glandular trichomes found on a marijuana plant:

  1. Bulbous: these are the smallest of the three types. They range between 10-15 micrometers in size and are invisible to the naked eye. While bulbous trichomes do contain cannabinoids and other compounds, their minute size limits their capacity.
  2. Capitate-sessile: these are slightly larger than bulbous trichomes. They have a small stalk and head and contain a more abundant amount of cannabinoids than bulbous trichomes. These trichomes are typically found on the underside of fan and sugar leaves. They are usually only visible under a microscope.
  3. Capitate-stalked: are the largest of the three types of trichomes, and range between 50-100 micrometers wide. Capitate-stalked trichomes are visible to the naked eye and are found on the flowers of a marijuana plant. They have a prominent stalk and a large gland head, which contains cannabinoids and other compounds.

Final Thoughts: Where Are CBD and THC Found in Cannabis?

There’s no doubt that continued research is shedding light on the medical benefits of CBD and THC. Hopefully, this article has also shed some light on where these phytocannabinoids are found in the different species of cannabis plants.

CBD oil and CBD-based products have soared in popularity in recent years. The prevalence of these products has led many to seek out information about these cannabinoids, and to get a better understanding of them.

Apart from asking questions regarding the capability of these products to provide health benefits to consumers, some more basic questions are also asked. As we have discovered, THC is generally found more abundantly in cannabis sativa and indica species than it is in industrial hemp. Both THC and CBD are located in the aerial parts of cannabis; they are not present in the roots or seeds.

While hemp does contain THC, it is only found in very low concentrations of 0.3% or less. In marijuana species, THC is found abundantly in the resinous capitate-stalked trichomes on the flowers of female marijuana plants.

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