Cannabinoids are the primary chemical compounds that bond to the endocannabinoid system. While most primary cannabinoids are naturally occurring and are found in the cannabis plant, there are also several synthetic cannabinoids that have been created as well. In order for cannabinoids to work within this system, they famously require heat. In fact, heat is one of the primary components of activating several cannabinoids. However, not every cannabinoid is the same. For some, only a small amount of thermal energy is needed before the cannabinoid starts to break down or change to their non-acidic form. This is referred to as the burning or boiling point. By analyzing the burning point of the ten most common cannabinoids, we can better assess how much heat is needed, and how much is too much.
THC is the most famous cannabinoid, as it is what is primarily responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive experience. It is derived from THCA, and provides feelings of pain relief, increased appetite, and sedation. The burning point for THC is 157 degrees Celsius (314 degrees Fahrenheit).
Tetrahyrdocannabolic Acid (THCA)
THCA is THC before heat is applied. While it is significantly less potent than THC, it does still carry several side effects. With a burning point of 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit), THCA has been linked to anti-inflammatory, nausea prevention, and neuroprotective effects. Meaning that before decarboxylation cannabis buds may have surprising additional medical benefits.
THCV is only slightly different from THC on a molecular level, however the effects it produces in its users are dramatically different. With a burning point of 220 degrees Celsius (428 degrees Fahrenheit), THCV limits paranoia and can suppress appetites, indicating an opposite effect to some of THC’s less desirable qualities. This cannabinoid is not very common, though, and is only found in certain cannabis strains.
CBD is the second major cannabinoid in cannabis, but unlike THC it has no psychoactive properties. CBD has risen in popularity in recent years because of its massive medical potential. CBD has been linked to antianxiety, anti-inflammation, and seizure treatments. The burning point for CBD is 165 degrees Celsius (329 degrees Fahrenheit).
Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
CBDA, like THCA, is how CBD exists in the cannabis plant prior to being heated. Because of this, CBDA also has a lower burning point than CBD, which is at 130 degrees Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit). Additionally, CBDA is believed to carry several medicinal benefits, including anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-nausea capabilities.
CBDV is also the CBD equivalent of THCV, with only a slight molecular difference from the primary cannabinoid. Research into CBDV is limited, but there are some positive signs it may be used as an anti-epileptic compound. The burning point, on the other hand, is firmly established to be 165 degrees Celsius (329 degrees Fahrenheit).
CBN is a cannabinoid that comes from the gradual decay of THC over time. Cannabis does not keep its potency forever, and as more time passes, THC eventually becomes CBN. Because of this, CBN is believed to be milder, but still psychoactive. Its primary value is believed to be as a sedative, but research is still being conducted into all of CBN’s benefits. Its burning point is higher than THC though, at 185 degrees Celsius (365 degrees Fahrenheit)
CBC is another less-understood cannabinoid, but it has the highest burning point of naturally occurring cannabinoids at 220 degrees Celsius (428 degrees Fahrenheit). Initial research indicates that CBC may be beneficial in several mental and neurological disorders, including depression and neurogenesis. There is also some evidence that indicates it may help with bone development, and it could also have antibacterial properties.
CBG is the last major, naturally occurring cannabinoid on this list. It has a burning point of 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit), and it has some of the most intriguing properties of all the cannabinoids. It has been shown to be an effective antibacterial, but evidence also suggests that it may help to shrink tumor size. Additionally, it has been suggested that CBG may counteract several other psychoactive effects of cannabis, while not being psychoactive itself.
JWH are a series of synthetic cannabinoids developed in the early 1990s to bypass government restrictions of studying cannabis’ effect on humans. Because of this, it is a unique exception on this list, not only because it is the only synthetic cannabinoid included but because it is an outlier in terms of its burning point. There are hundreds of varieties of JWH, and all of their burning points are extremely high by comparison. It is predicted (though not actually conducted) that the burning point for JWH is as high as 525-585 degrees Celsius (977-1085 degrees Fahrenheit). To put that in perspective, that is more than halfway to the burning point of wood, which burns at 900 degrees Celsius (1650 degrees Fahrenheit). It is worth including synthetic cannabinoids on the list for comparison’s sake, but this synthetic cannabinoid is well outside the range of naturally occurring cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids – Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (n.d.). https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/
Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.
Rock, E. M., Kopstick, R. L., Limebeer, C. L., & Parker, L. A. (2013). Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid reduces nausea-induced conditioned gaping in rats and vomiting inSuncus murinus. British Journal of Pharmacology, 170(3), 641–648. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.
García, C., Palomo-Garo, C., García-Arencibia, M., Ramos, J., Pertwee, R., & Fernández-Ruiz, J. (2011). Symptom-relieving and neuroprotective effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ9-THCV in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1495–1506. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.
Crippa, José Alexandre S., et al. “Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report.” Journal of psychopharmacology 25.1 (2011): 121-130.
Vigli, D., Cosentino, L., Pellas, M., & De Filippis, B. (2021). Chronic Treatment with Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA) Reduces Thermal Pain Sensitivity in Male Mice and Rescues the Hyperalgesia in a Mouse Model of Rett Syndrome. Neuroscience, 453, 113–123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.
Iannotti, Fabio Arturo, et al. “Nonpsychotropic plant cannabinoids, cannabidivarin (CBDV) and cannabidiol (CBD), activate and desensitize transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channels in vitro: potential for the treatment of neuronal hyperexcitability.” ACS chemical neuroscience 5.11 (2014): 1131-1141.
Karniol, Isac G., et al. “Effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man.” Pharmacology 13.6 (1975): 502-512.
Pollastro, Federica, et al. “Cannabichromene.” Natural Product Communications 13.9 (2018): 1934578X1801300922.
Rock, Erin M., et al. “Interaction between non-psychotropic cannabinoids in marihuana: effect of cannabigerol (CBG) on the anti-nausea or anti-emetic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in rats and shrews.” Psychopharmacology 215.3 (2011): 505-512.
Ginsburg, Brett C., et al. “JWH-018 and JWH-073: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol-like discriminative stimulus effects in monkeys.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 340.1 (2012): 37-45.