A Beginner's Guide: The Cannabis Lexicon

A Beginner's Guide: The Cannabis Lexicon


The main class of secondary compounds found in cannabis that drive the overall experience.  They are creating the experience, both psychoactive and medicinal, so they are primarily responsible for the intoxicating, kind of cerebral high that we all know, and love, from cannabis.

But that’s not all. They are also are responsible for what are said to be cannabis’ many medicinal properties—anti-spasmodic, anti-convulsant, anti-proliferative, cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and more.While THC and CBD are the two primary cannabinoids, there are more than 100 found in cannabis.


Cannabis is the overarching plant; hemp and marijuana are two words we’ve assigned to distinguish a particular cannabis plant’s cannabinoid profile from another. Hemp is a legal subspecies of cannabis that has a measurable concentration of CBD (and less than 0.3 percent THC), but also has been primarily bred for fibers and proteins rather than its secondary compounds.

The drug cultivar cannabis, or as people say, marijuana, refers to weed that is THC-dominant, that has a high level of THC.

Hemp is accessible nationwide but it is important to make sure your hemp-derived products are being tested for pesticides and potency.   If you can’t get in touch with company directly, research the company, its practices and products through other sites, and read customer reviews.


Stands for cannabidiol, the second-most prominent compound found in cannabis besides THC. It is a cannabinoid that binds to our endocannabinoid receptors, and induces a multitude of signaling pathways. CBD also hits on many other receptors in our body, so it has the ability to engage with or alter the conformation of our opioid receptors, our serotonin receptors, our TRPV1 receptors—which are responsible for allowing us to feel and sense pain—and other kinds of senses in the natural world.

This is why CBD is thought to have so many medicinal properties and has been linked to physiological properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-depression, pain-relieving, anti-spasmodic, immune-modulation and immune support, anti-convulsant, and anti-proliferative.


This is the actual chemical compound found inside any organism, or in this case, inside cannabis. Those chemical compounds are the ones that will ultimately influence and direct the overall experience felt from consumption.  

While much of the industry has relied on terms like indica and sativa to define experiences, chemotype and the secondary compounds most typically found in cannabis’ chemotype, cannabinoids and terpenes, are showing up in more and more dispensaries.

While most dispensaries still label their cannabis flower as indica/sativa/hybrid, many dispensaries also display the THC/CBD concentrations by percentage. These concentrations are examples of the product’s chemotype, and will give you a clue as to the type of experience it will produce. In addition, some dispensaries include the total percentage of terpenes on their product labeling, and if so, you can ask staff members to further explain the influence those terpenes may have on the overall experience.


Indica and sativa are both scientific terms that define different species of the cannabis plant.  Indica as a plant that grows short, bushy to the ground, with a really dense flower structure and broadleaf variety leaves. Alternatively, sativa is a plant that grows tall, skinny, with loose flower structure and narrow leaves.

While indica and sativa are probably the two most common words used to explain the type of high a consumer will feel.


Unsurprisingly, ingestion is a primary method of consuming cannabis that includes anything you swallow that is digested and metabolized by your body, such as edibles, tinctures or teas.


Inhalation is another primary method of consuming cannabis by way of smoking or vaporizing.  Smoking involves igniting cannabis, and whenever you do that, there’s a combustion that happens, and only about 12 percent of what you’re inhaling is actually beneficial because you are destroying a lot of the cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds that are in the plant at that point.

On the other hand, vaporizing involves heating cannabis to release its beneficial compounds without creating that harmful combustion.


THC is intoxicating, meaning it gives a cerebral high. CBD is non-intoxicating. While product labels don’t typically specify intoxicating or non-intoxicating, if you know the THC/CBS concentration percentages, you will have a good idea of how intoxicating the experience may be.

For example, a product with 70 percent CBD and 30 percent THC may not be as intoxicating as a product with 70 percent THC and 30 percent CBD.


The term ‘mucosal’ covers any product that is absorbed through a mucous membrane. Under-the-tongue tinctures, bath soaks and suppositories are all common mucosal delivery methods. Because it’s being absorbed through the mucous membrane, it’s able to enter the bloodstream more quickly than if it were being digested and processed by your digestive system and metabolized.


The dictionary definition of psychoactive is something that affects the mind. Though CBD is often said to be “non-psychoactive,” both it and THC are psychoactive because they bind to receptors in the brain and affect the mind. Typically when people refer to CBD as non-psychoactive, they actually mean non-intoxicating because it doesn’t cause the type of cerebral intoxicating “high” that THC does.


Another way to talk about under-the-tongue delivery.


These are the aromatic compounds found in all plants. Terpenes give plants their smells and flavors, and when it comes to cannabis, dictate what type of high you’re going to have.  Bottom line, it’s the terpenes that will determine whether you feel relaxed or calm, alert or energized, or somewhere in between.


This is the primary cannabinoid found in cannabis. It is the most abundantly found cannabinoid because people have specifically been breeding for high THC over the last century, thanks to its cerebral psychoactive experience.

However, it also has been linked to many physiological properties,  including pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. For some consumers, it is great for reducing anxiety, or used as an antidepressant.


This term covers anything you put on the surface of the skin. Think lotions, balms and sprays.  


Anything designed to pass through the skin and into the blood system.  Unlike other basic topicals, transdermal topicals offer more accurate dosing along with longer periods of pain relief.

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