Hemp Cannabinoids: Everything to Know Before You Buy

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Hemp Cannabinoids are plant-based cannabinoids that develop within the resinous trichomes atop female cannabis flowers. Importantly, hemp cannabinoids only refer to those that form on cannabis plants with extremely low THC levels, which is the intoxicating compound that develops in marijuana-type cannabis. To be clear, the USDA defines hemp as any cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC. If it meets this criterion, then the plant – and all of its derivatives – are legal as per the 2018 Farm Bill. That means that all hemp cannabinoids, even those produced in a lab, are federally legal and eligible for commercial sale.

Bear in mind that each jurisdiction has the final say regarding hemp legality in their area, and some places restrict certain cannabinoids based on their own protocol rather than that of the FDA. Those who wish to sell unique and alternative hemp cannabinoids should always refer to their local legislation before public distribution.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptors within the body. These elements are part of a larger Endocannabinoid System, which includes cannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes that regulate cannabinoid production and metabolism.

Importantly, there are three types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids. All cannabinoids interact with CB receptors, though the specific effects and degrees may differ.


Endocannabinoids refer to cannabinoids that the body produces on-demand naturally in response to stress. For example, when someone exercises, sustains an injury, feels stressed, or sees food, their endocannabinoid levels will rise to help counter these negative effects.

The most abundant (and best studied) endocannabinoids are N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), though scientists believe there are many more, as well. Notably, the precise function and action of endocannabinoids is unclear. However, some experts believe that a poor endocannabinoid tone could contribute to certain chronic conditions like migraines, fibromyalgia and IBS or irritable bowel syndrome.


Phyto- or plant-based cannabinoids primarily develop on female cannabis flowers, though they can occur in chocolate, black truffles, liverwort, and more as well. Importantly, phytocannabinoids also interact with cannabinoid receptors and may exert many of the same effects as endocannabinoids. However, much of this depends on each element’s unique chemical composition, the element’s concentration within the body, and the method by which the element absorbs into cannabinoid receptors.

Examples of phytocannabinoids include CBD, THC, CBN, and CBG.

How Cannabinoids Are Extracted from Hemp

There are many ways to extract and process hemp cannabinoids, including solvent-based and solvent-less methods. Essentially, processors extract cannabinoids from hemp flowers by capturing the resinous mushroom-shaped trichomes that coat the flowers. They may do so by freezing the plants and then agitating the flowers so that the trichomes fall off, or they might strip the flowers using solvents like butane or CO2.

After the solvents are purged or the ice water drained, processors collect the waxy trichomes and then process them further to remove other unwanted elements and purify the product. For example, they may winterize hemp extracts to remove waxes and distill the product to remove THC and separate the other elements. In doing, processors can create full-spectrum hemp extract, broad-spectrum extract, or cannabinoid isolates. Notably, a full spectrum of hemp-derived cannabinoids includes all major and minor hemp cannabinoids plus very low levels of THC. Broad-spectrum hemp extract contains the same elements minus THC, whereas cannabinoid isolates contain a single hemp cannabinoid, usually CBD.

Synthetic and Alternative Cannabinoids

Scientists develop synthetic cannabinoids in a laboratory and then spray or infuse them into other products. These man-made cannabinoids also interact with CB receptors to mimic the effects of endocannabinoids in varying ways.

Importantly, synthetic cannabinoids developed in well-controlled environments may exert therapeutic benefits. For example, Nabilone and Dronabinol are synthetic forms of THC, which doctors prescribe for chemo-related nausea and vomiting. On the other hand, synthetic cannabinoids from unregulated, poorly controlled environments could pose unforeseen health concerns. As such, retailers must always source synthetic cannabinoids from reputable manufacturers that offer detailed analyses of the products they provide.

Notably, there is an increasing interest in semi-synthetic cannabinoids, as well. To be clear, semi-synthetic (or alternative cannabinoids) are cannabinoids that develop naturally in hemp but in very low quantities. However, scientists can also produce these alt cannabinoids in a laboratory to create exact replicas of these natural phytocannabinoids. The best synthetic cannabinoids to sell in 2022 include Delta 8, Delta 10, HHC, and THC-O.

Hemp Versus Marijuana

As mentioned, plant-based cannabinoids primarily develop on female cannabis flowers. This makes cannabis an excellent cannabinoid source, but only if the plant and its production methods meet strict protocol. Let’s explain.

Hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis, but only hemp is legal at a federal level. Marijuana-type cannabis (which is just cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC dry weight) is still a controlled substance and therefore federally illegal.

However, as per the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD and other hemp-based cannabinoids are no longer controlled substances and are eligible for commercial sale. That means that any cannabinoid that develops in hemp (i.e. cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC) or from hemp is also commercially viable.

This last point is crucial for alternative cannabinoid retailers. Importantly, the Farm Bill explicitly states that hemp and all of its derivatives are federally legal. As such, cannabinoids that develop out of hemp-based CBD (as is the case with D8, D10, and HHC) are technically federally legal, as well. However, individual jurisdictions hold ultimate control over their local hemp laws. What’s more some locations restrict or are considering restricting synthetic and semi-synthetic cannabinoids. As such, retailers should always refer to their local hemp legislation before selling alternative cannabinoids to the public.

Hemp Cannabinoids You Should Know About  

Chart of Major, Minor, and Alternative Hemp Cannabinoids

Click here to download our printable cannabinoids chart

Scientists have discovered more than 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, though most occur in very low quantities and only in specific cannabis cultivars. For the sake of brevity, we’ve decided to outline the most common hemp cannabinoids plus a few semi-synthetic or alternative cannabinoids available for retail sale.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the dominant cannabinoid in mature hemp flowers. CBD is a non-intoxicating substance that acts as a CB receptor antagonist, meaning it partially blocks the receptors instead of binding with them. In doing, CBD may essentially regulate cannabinoid production and absorption to help support the EC system. This could help explain CBD’s proposed impact on things like pain and inflammation, sleep cycles, mood, bone density, and more.

Minor Hemp Cannabinoids

Minor hemp cannabinoids are those that develop on hemp at relatively low levels. Even so, they may still exert some therapeutic benefit, especially when consumed alongside other cannabinoids, terpenes, and hemp-based elements. The following are the most common minor hemp cannabinoids on the market today.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid, is the precursor to all other cannabinoids, making it most common on young hemp flowers. As the plant matures, this acidic cannabinoid transforms into other cannabinoids like THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. When heated or exposed to oxygen, the acidic carboxyl atom drops off to create cannabigerol, or CBG, through a process called decarboxylation. The process helps the element absorb into the body easier, which could help reduce inflammation, block bacterial infections, improve gut health, or act as a neuroprotectant.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

CBC or Cannabichromene, is another nonintoxicating cannabinoids that develops from CBG in maturing hemp flowers. Interestingly, CBC interacts with receptors both within and outside of the Endocannabinoid System, which may improve its therapeutic potential. Though CBC research is limited, some studies suggest that this minor cannabinoid could act as an anti-depressant, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic agent.

Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN is a mildly intoxicating hemp cannabinoid that’s basically just a degraded form of THC. Though it’s most common in aged marijuana-type cannabis, it also occurs in hemp in minuscule amounts.

Notably, we currently have very little CBN research on the books. However, preliminary research suggests that CBN may help stimulate appetite, protect the brain, reduce inflammation, and protect against bacterial infections.


THCV is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in low doses and slightly psychoactive in high doses, making it a fine balance between natural CBD and THC. In low doses, THCV could help suppress appetite and boost energy, which might help people lose weight and increase activity levels. Higher doses, on the other hand, can cause slight intoxication, though to a lesser degree than standard D9 THC. THCV could also help boost mood, regulate blood sugar levels, and suppress unwanted emotions.

Alternative Hemp Cannabinoids

Alternative cannabinoids are psychoactive cannabinoids that often occur in hemp plants in very low quantities. However, scientists can also synthesize these cannabinoids out of hemp elements (usually CBD) or use CBD to maintain a complaint cannabinoid ratio. Importantly, as hemp-based elements, alternative cannabinoids are technically federally legal, though their status largely teeters in a legal grey area.

Delta 8

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (a.k.a. D8) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid with slightly psychoactive properties. Though it develops naturally in minuscule amounts, scientists can produce it out of CBD isolate at scale. The resulting product is often sprayed or infused into various hemp products, giving consumers a legal way to consume intoxicating cannabis items.

Though we have little research regarding Delta 8 effects, anecdotal reports suggest that the substance may cause the user to feel relaxed and euphoric. This alt cannabinoid may also induce slumber, though it does so in a much gentler manner than traditional THC might.

Hemp D9

Hemp Delta 9 is simply D9 THC (the same stuff that makes marijuana intoxicating) with enough CBD in the mix to maintain its compliance. Importantly, this intoxicating element can produce feelings of euphoria on top of a general body buzz. Moreover, because of its high CBD levels, hemp D9 generally does not cause one to feel anxious or paranoid like a low CBD/high THC variety.  

Delta 10

Delta 10 is much like D8 and D9 except for the location of its double carbon bond. This slight variation makes the chemical a bit less potent than both D8 and D9, delivering feelings of calm euphoria without paranoia or cloudy thinking.


Hexahydrocannabinol, or HHC, is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid made by hydrogenating THC molecules. Though the element is only about 70 to 80 percent as potent as Delta 9 THC, its extra hydrogen atoms make it more stable and thus, more resistant to degradation.

Though HHC develops naturally in minute quantities, scientists can create it out of delta cannabinoids, as well. As such, compliant HHC products generally come from hemp-derived Delta 8. Though chemically very similar to other delta cannabinoids, HHC seems to exert more pronounced effects than Delta 8 or D10 but less extreme than D9 THC. Anecdotal reports suggest that HHC causes feelings of relaxed euphoria with an occasional side of dry mouth and heightened anxiety.


THC-O, or THC-O Acetate, is an extremely potent synthetic cannabinoid that actually develops as a precursor to Delta 8. Importantly, some suggest that THC-O is as much as 300 times stronger than regular THC. In fact, THC-O may be so potent that it exerts some psychedelic qualities, as well. For example, users report interesting visual perceptions following THC-O consumption, like seeing lines sharper and colors brighter than normal. Consumers also often feel sleepy, giggly, or more introspective following THC-O consumption.

Hemp Cannabinoids Market Trends

The hemp industry continues to grow as more and more people seek natural wellness products. Notably, CBD product searches are still trending upward. The greatest interest in CBD wellness products occurred during the crux of the COVID pandemic. Interestingly, web searches for Delta products are also on the rise, particularly Delta 8. This is no surprise, of course, as D8 is one of the longest-standing semi-synthetic hemp cannabinoids on the market. As manufacturing technologies advance, many other minor and alternative hemp cannabinoids will likely also catch the wave.

As such, competitive CBD brands should strongly consider adding unique hemp cannabinoids to their product lines.

Buy Hemp Cannabinoid Products from VCM

VCM proudly offers numerous hemp cannabinoids. Importantly, we carefully select and grow each cultivar based on their unique cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Then, we use state-of-the-art extraction methods to extract, produce, and protect valuable hemp cannabinoids.

Contact us to learn more about our hemp manufacturing processes or view our product catalog now. We specialize in popular and trending hemp cannabinoid products, including candies, topicals, and alternative hemp products. With over 50 hemp cannabinoid products available, you’re sure to find the perfect products for your hemp retail store.

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