The word cannabinoid is often used as shorthand for a large class of similar compounds called phytocannabinoids. These compounds are produced as acidic versions which do not, without pretreatment, produce pharmacological or psychotropic effects. However, a growing body of research suggests that acidic compounds may have therapeutic value. Acidic cannabinoids are activated in a process known as decarboxylation.
When activated, acidic cannabinoids such as THCA, CBDA, CBNA are transformed into the biologically-active cannabinoids THC, CBD and CBN. Only in this form does the compound produce pharmacological or psychotropic effects in the body. However, while cannabinoids are very lipid-soluble, they are almost insoluble in water. As a result, the activated ingredients of Cannabis are typically inhaled as smoke or vapor, consumed in foods or absorbed through the skin in salves or tinctures.