Speaking the Endocannabinoid System: A Glossary of Terms Used to Describe Marijuana, Cannabidiol, the Endocannabinoid System, and Cannabis
Curious about cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabis (aka marijuana)? Here’s the lowdown on the vocabulary you’ll need to ask questions and learn more.
Your body has an intricate system that’s designed to interact with the chemical compounds found in cannabis: your endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS affects many functions, including how you feel, move, and react. Since this system was discovered, products capable of interacting with it, such as cannabidiol (CBD), have been touted as treatments for a range of health issues, including seizures, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and arthritis. If you’re thinking of trying one of these products, it’s important to know the lingo surrounding the ECS. The glossary below will make it easier for you to parse the technical terminology as well as the not-so-scientific vernacular — aka, slang — you’ll need to know.
Aeroponics A cultivation technique in which plants are grown in an environment dependent on air rather than soil. In this system, seeds are embedded in foam stuffed into tiny pots that hold the stem and root mass in place. Plants are nurtured with light and a fine mist enriched with nutrients.
Alcohol extraction A method commonly used to extract cannabinoids from cannabis plants. In this process, cannabis is first soaked in an alcohol, such as ethanol, to remove the plant material. The alcohol is removed through evaporation.
Anandamide (AEA) An endocannabinoid that binds to cannabinoid receptors and mimics the activity of plant-derived cannabinoid drugs.
2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) An endocannabinoid that’s present at relatively high levels in the central nervous system.
Black market cannabis Cannabis that’s sold, traded, or obtained illegally.
Cannabichromene (CBC) One of 120 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBC is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it does not cause feelings of being high.
Cannabidiol (CBD) The second most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis, after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabidiol has been shown to calm the movements in people suffering from dystonia, a condition characterized by muscle spasms. Research also suggests that it may be helpful for the treatment of anxiety, movement disorders, and pain.
Cannabinoid Any of the various naturally occurring, biologically active chemical constituents of hemp or cannabis, including some that possess psychoactive properties, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The marijuana plant contains more than 100 different cannabinoids.
Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor CB1 receptors are found on the surface of certain cells, tissues, and organs, and help regulate biological function. CB1 receptors are present in several regions of the brain and spinal cord and, in lesser quantities, in other parts of the body, such as the endocrine glands and the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. CB1 receptors mediate the effects of cannabinoids on these organs.
Cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptor CB2 receptors regulate the biological function of certain cells, tissues, and organs. CB2 receptors are present on white blood cells and in the tonsils, the spleen, immune cells, and neurons. CB2 receptors help mediate the effect of cannabinoids on these organs and cells.
Cannabinoid profile The concentration of active cannabinoids in a product or medication.
Cannabinol A crystalline, mildly psychoactive cannabinoid found in small quantities in cannabis. Cannabinol is a breakdown product of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that may have a sedating effect.
Cannabis Cannabis refers to a group of three varieties of marijuana plants with psychoactive properties: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis contains more than 120 chemical and biologically active components, known as cannabinoids.
Cannabis indica A strain of cannabis known for higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Also called indica, it is known for its sedative effects. Because indica contains higher concentrations of THC, it is popular as a recreational and medicinal drug.
Cannabis sativa A strain of cannabis known for promoting a cerebral high. Also known as sativa, it has hallucinogenic, hypnotic, sedative, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) The theory that insufficient levels of endocannabinoids can lead to ailments, such as migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Closed-loop extraction An extraction method in which solvents aren’t exposed to the open air. Used in the past to produce perfume and beauty products, the process has been used more recently to create cannabis concentrates.
Concentrates (or extracts) Cannabis concentrates, or extracts, are significantly more potent than a standard cannabis bud or flower. They are processed to keep only the most desirable medicinal compounds while removing excess plant material. Concentrates are often developed for medical applications.
Cultivator An individual who grows marijuana plants, usually with a focus on soil quality and plant health.
Cure A process used to preserve the cannabis plant and retain its flavors and therapeutic properties. Curing involves removing moisture from the flowers under controlled environmental conditions.
Dabs and dabbing Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or CBD using a solvent like butane; the resulting sticky oils are sometimes referred to as wax. Dabbing is the flash vaporization and inhalation of these concentrates. CBD dabbing is noted for its quick therapeutic effects.
Decarboxylation The process of applying heat to activate and release the CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis.
Dispensary Medical cannabis dispensaries are designed to give people a secure location to gather information and purchase cannabis grown to treat ailments. Laws regarding access vary by state.
Dosing The quantity of medicine prescribed at one time. Dosing CBD depends on therapeutic goals, as well as how it is ingested or applied.
Dronabinol (Marinol and Syndros) Dronabinol is a man-made form of a natural substance in marijuana, and it is often used to treat loss of appetite and weight loss in people with cancer or HIV infection. Marinol and Syndros are common brand names of dronabinol.
Edible Food or candy products infused with marijuana. Edibles must be digested in order to take effect, and as a result, it may take more time to feel their effects.
Eicosanoids Signaling molecules made from arachidonic acid or other polyunsaturated fatty acids that are similar to arachidonic acid. Endocannabinoids are all eicosanoids.
Electronic smoking device An electronic smoking device generally consists of a mouthpiece, a battery, a cartridge containing an e-liquid (a mixture of water, flavoring, and an active chemical component), and a heating component powered by a battery. These devices are often referred to as vaporizers, vapes, or e-cigarettes.
Endocannabinoids (endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters) Natural chemicals produced by your body that interact with your endocannabinoid system and regulate important body functions. Their purpose is to maintain homeostasis. So far, two have been identified: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).
Endocannabinoid enhancer A drug that enhances the activity of the endocannabinoid system.
Endocannabinoid enzymes Proteins that your body makes to break down endocannabinoids that have fulfilled their purpose. The two main endocannabinoid enzymes are: fatty acid amidohydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
Endocannabinoid receptors Special receptors that endocannabinoids bind to as a way of signaling that the endocannabinoid system needs to act. They’re found throughout your body and can interact with the chemical compounds in cannabis. There are two types of receptors: B1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
Endocannabinoid reuptake inhibitor A drug that limits the reabsorption of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters by the releasing neuron.
Endocannabinoid system (ECS) A complex system within the human body that affects many important functions, including how a person moves, feels, and reacts. It includes endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors, and endocannabinoid enzymes.
Extraction Extraction techniques are used to separate the chemical components of cannabis from the plant matrix.
Flower The smokable portion of the female cannabis plant.
Hemp An industrial plant cultivated for its fiber and edible seeds. While hemp is in the same family as the cannabis plant, it does not have psychoactive effects. Commercial items made from hemp fiber include paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastic, and food.
Homeostasis A term that describes the dynamic stability of your internal environment.
Homogeneity This refers to testing to ensure the genetic consistency across strains of cannabis, or to the even distribution of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or CBD in a product, such as an edible.
Hybrid A strain that mixes two varieties of cannabis, indica and sativa.
Hydroponics The method of growing a plant without soil. Sand, gravel, water, and other materials may take the place of dirt.
Marijuana The dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Slang names for marijuana include weed, herb, and pot.
Cesamet (nabilone) A synthetic cannabinoid prescribed for severe nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics The way drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted in and from the body.
Phytocannabinoids Cannabinoids that occur naturally in a cannabis plant.
Retailer A person (or business) who sells goods to the public. Major retailers including CVS Health, Walgreens, and Rite Aid all sell CBD products.
Route of administration The path by which a drug or substance is taken into the body. An example might be a medication that is taken in pill form (oral administration) or applied to the skin (topical application).
Schedule 1 drug Schedule 1 drugs are those that have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Strain A strain refers to the different varieties of cannabis. Some examples include indica, sativa, and hybrid.
Synthetic cannabis Synthetic cannabis, such as Spice and K2, refers to products using man-made chemicals. Some people may use synthetic cannabis as an alternative to marijuana. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the effects of synthetic cannabis on the body can be unpredictable, harmful, and very different from those of marijuana.
Terpene The aromatic and flavorful component of the essential oils contained in plants. More than 100 terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) The main active psychoactive constituent of cannabis. It is responsible for the high sensation.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) A cannabinoid that does not have psychoactive effects. It is the precursor to THC. As the plant dries, THCA slowly converts to THC. The potential medicinal properties of THCA are still under study.
Tincture A liquid that contains a concentrated herbal extract.
Topical An oil, salve, lotion, or ointment infused with CBD that can be applied directly to the skin.
Vaporizer A device intended to vaporize substances for inhalation. Vaporizers can be used to heat dried cannabis, cannabis oil, or cannabis wax; they convert the active ingredients into a cannabis-infused aerosol that can be inhaled.
Vaping Inhaling a vaporized substance generated by an electronic vaporizer.
A bong is a marijuana water pipe, available in many sizes and shapes, usually made of glass.
Bud is the actual flower of the cannabis plant and is a general slang term for marijuana.
BHO (Butane Hash Oil)
BHO is a very potent marijuana concentrate made by dissolving the plant in a solvent, usually in a dangerous process using butane. BHO is very high in THC and creates thick oil also known as honey oil. Using BHO, also known as wax or shatter, is also referred to dabs or dabbing.
Cannabis is also known as marijuana and is referred to by many slang terms from the past and present. A few nicknames for marijuana and cannabis are: pot, ganja, bud, weed, and Mary Jane. Cannabis can be smoked, eaten, vaporized, dabbed or applied to the skin.
CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, one of the main elements of cannabinoids. It has very low potency and is considered effective for medical use without the psychoactive or “high” effects.
Cannabis concentrates are very strong substances made from dissolving marijuana plant material in a solvent. It has very high THC and produces products like thick oils (BHO), budder, wax, or shatter.
Dabs or dabbing are slang words for using cannabis concentrates. See Potency >
Edible and medible cannabis refers to cookies, brownies, cakes, drinks, etc., that are prepared with marijuana for eating or drinking. They are a very popular alternative to smoking marijuana. Learn more >
420 is a number that has come to be associated with marijuana use and sometimes signifies the date April 20 which is linked to cannabis. Similarly, 710 and July 10 can be associated with OIL (710 upside-down).
Hash is short for hashish, a cannabis resin from the top of the plant, used for recreational and medical consumption. It is usually very strong and can be smoked, chewed or swallowed.
Hash oil, or honey oil, is a concentrated form of cannabis, usually produced with a chemical solvent. Butane Hash Oil, or BHO, is dangerous to make and highly potent.
Hemp is a variety of marijuana grown for its fiber. It is non-psychoactive and not used for getting high.
A joint is a rolled marijuana cigarette, also known as a spliff, reefer, blunt, etc. A single inhale of cannabis is called a hit.
Marijuana is also known as cannabis and is referred to by many slang terms from the past and present. A few nicknames for marijuana and cannabis are: pot, ganja, bud, weed, and Mary Jane. Marijuana can be smoked, eaten, vaporized, dabbed or applied to the skin.
Medible and edible cannabis refers to cookies, brownies, cakes, drinks, etc., that are prepared with marijuana for eating or drinking. They are a very popular alternative to smoking marijuana. Learn more >
An oil rig or rig is a large pipe with a heated nail used to vaporize and inhale cannabis concentrates such as butane hash oil. The use of an oil rig also requires heat from a torch.
Drug “paraphernalia” refers to any accessories made for using or concealing drugs, typically for recreational purposes. Examples are bongs, pipes, scales and oil rigs.
A marijuana pipe is similar to and used much like a tobacco pipe, although glass pipes are the most popular.
Pot is slang term for marijuana and cannabis.
Potency refers to the strength of marijuana and is usually measured by the amount of THC. Potency is much higher than in the past and the highest potency is around 25% or more. Learn more >
Purity describes the ratio of THC in a product and also refers to the absence of additives and chemicals in cannabis.
A rig or oil rig is a large pipe with a heated nail used to vaporize and inhale cannabis concentrates. The use of a rig also requires heat from a torch.
710 is a number that has come to be associated with hash oil (OIL upside-down looks like 710) and sometimes signifies the date July 10 which is linked to hash oil. Similarly, 420 and April 20 can be associated with cannabis use.
Shatter is a transparent form of cannabis concentrate that, when cold, resembles amber-colored glass. It has a very high THC and is commonly used in dabbing.
Skunk refers to an odor of cannabis that is similar to the smell of a skunk.
Spice (Synthetic Cannabis)
Spice and K2 are slang names for what is falsely known as synthetic cannabis. Unfortunately, it is made from dangerous chemicals unrelated to cannabis and its use can cause serious or even fatal side effects.
An abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that is responsible for the “high” effects.
Tincture is a liquid cannabis extract that is usually dosed with a dropper. They are often flavored and can be placed on the tongue or mixed in a drink. Tinctures are usually very low in potency and used medicinally.
Topical is a kind of cannabis product such as a lotion or cream that is applied to and absorbed through the skin.
A vape pen is a pen-shaped portable vaporizer that can be used with cannabis oil, wax, shatter or leaves. Also known as e-cigs, cigalikes or sneak-a-tokes, they are quick to use and often disposable. The inhaled vapor has little odor so vape pens’ use can be hidden.
Vaporizing or vaping uses electricity to heat and evaporate cannabis without the combustion of flames. It requires a battery-operated handheld or plug-in device, like an e-cig, vape pen, or vaporizer, which is used for dabbing marijuana concentrates. Learn more >
Wax is a form of marijuana concentrate. (see BHO, above)
Weed is a slang term of marijuana and cannabis.
Cannabis is a cannabinoid drug. The number of different cannabinoids in the cannabis sativa plant is still being researched, but it primarily contains the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and the non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD). 1 It’s most commonly known as marijuana.
Other names Marijuana, yarndi, pot, weed, hash, dope, gunja, joint, stick, chronic, cone, choof, mull, 420, dabs, dabbing, BHO.
Other types of cannabinoids
- Butane hash oil
- Medicinal cannabis
- Synthetic cannabinoids
How is it used?
Cannabis can be smoked, eaten or vaporised and comes in different forms. Users report that the subjective effects of cannabis vary significantly depending on the form consumed. 2
- Marijuana − the dried leaves and flowers (buds) of the cannabis plant that are smoked in a joint or a bong. This is the most common form.
- Hashish – the dried plant resin that is usually mixed with tobacco and smoked or added to foods and baked goods; such as cookies and brownies.
- Hash oil – liquid that is used sparingly (due to high potency) and added to the tip of a joint or cigarette and smoked. 3
- Concentrates – extracts (dabs, wax or shatter) typically using butane hash oil as a solvent, often vaporised in small quantities due to high THC content. 3
Cannabis can be put into various foods generally called ‘edibles’. It usually takes between one to three hours to feel its effects. 4 Impatient or naïve users might think they have not taken enough to feel the effects, and if they consume more they may experience unpleasantly strong psychoactive effects. When edible products have inconsistent levels of THC, even experienced users may find it difficult to control the amount consumed. 5
When smoked or vaporised, the effects are usually felt straight away. 6 There are health concerns about the impact of smoking cannabis, especially in the long term. This is particularly the case if mixed with tobacco.
Cannabis can also come in synthetic form, which may be more harmful than real cannabis.
Effects of cannabis
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Cannabis affects every individual differently. Even the same person may have a different experience on separate occasions or over their lifetime.
Some people report feelings of relaxation and euphoria while others report anxiety and paranoia.7 Some factors that might influence these differences could be:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug
- expectations of consuming cannabis
- the environment of the individual
- the individual’s personality. 6, 7
The effects of cannabis might include:
- feelings of relaxation and euphoria
- spontaneous laughter and excitement
- increased sociability
- increased appetite
- dry mouth. 6, 7
If a large amount, strong batch, or concentrated form is consumed, you may be more likely to also experience:
- memory impairment
- slower reflexes
- bloodshot eyes
- increased heart rate
- mild anxiety and paranoia. 6, 7
Long-term effects depend on how much, how often and how the cannabis is consumed (e.g. vaporising a concentrate versus smoking the flower).8 Its heavy, regular use could potentially lead to:
- tolerance to the effects of cannabis
- dependence on cannabis
- reduced cognitive functioning. 8, 9
Smoking cannabis may also increase the likelihood of experiencing:
- sore throat
- if smoked with tobacco, cancer. 10
Individuals with a family history of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder – or who currently experience symptoms of these conditions – should avoid using cannabis. 11, 12
Cannabis use may worsen the course of bipolar disorder, and those who are predisposed to experiencing psychosis (a common symptom of schizophrenia), may be at an increased risk of cannabis-induced psychosis. 11, 12 Psychosis symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted.
Using cannabis with other drugs
The effects of taking cannabis with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable, and could cause:
Cannabis + alcohol: nausea, vomiting. 13
Cannabis is sometimes used to help with the ‘come down’ effects of stimulant drugs, such as ice, speed and ecstasy.
More on Polydrug use
‘Polydrug use’ is a term for the use of more than one drug or type of drug at the same time or one after another. Polydrug use can involve both illicit drugs and legal substances, such as alcohol and medications
Giving up cannabis after regular, heavy use over a long time is challenging, because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Please seek advice from a health professional.
Withdrawal symptoms may last for only a week, but sleep may be affected for longer. Symptoms include:
- loss of appetite and upset stomach
- sweating, chills and tremors
- restless sleep and nightmares. 14
Not sure what you are looking for? Try our intuitive Path2Help tool and be matched with support information and services tailored to you.
Medicinal cannabis is cannabis prescribed to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition, such as epilepsy. It’s quality-controlled product with labelled levels of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. Legislation has been passed in Australia to facilitate access to medicinal cannabis for certain medical conditions.
Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making or selling cannabis, or driving under the influence.
There are also laws that prevent the sale and possession of bongs and other smoking equipment in some states and territories.
Certain states in Australia have passed laws to allow access to medicinal cannabis for very specific conditions.
See also, drugs and the law.
35% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life. 15
10.4% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis in the previous 12 months. 15
Most young people do not use cannabis – 68.7% of 12-17 year olds have never tried it. 14, 16