Seed Co.

Cannabis Biochemistry in Simple Terms

Thu 27, 2023

Table of Contents

Every second of the life of every living thing is accompanied by an enormous amount of different biochemical processes, which are, in general, called metabolism or life maintenance. Animals and fungi depend heavily on readily available food sources filled with bioavailable energy and extensive diversity of macro and micronutrients. Plants have a unique ability to produce energy-rich organic compounds (or metabolites) from inorganic components during their metabolism.

Knowing that we can further divide those metabolites into two main groups:


Primary metabolism

Primary metabolism is responsible for producing structural compounds that are essential for growth, reproduction, and overall survival. The life of any organism relies on primary metabolism, as it is crucial for sustaining its existence.

Primary metabolites include:

  • Carbohydrates: These are the building blocks of the plant’s cellular structure (cellulose) and act as the primary energy currency (sucrose and glucose). Carbohydrates are synthesized as the direct product of photosynthesis, enabling the synthesis of other primary metabolites.
  • Proteins: Proteins are the fundamental functional units in every living organism’s cell. They are responsible for constructing the plant’s body from carbohydrates and driving every other metabolic process, ranging from capturing CO2 from the atmosphere to cell division and THC synthesis.
  • Fats: Like carbohydrates, fats also serve as building blocks (such as waxes and all biological membranes). However, their energy storage role is focused primarily on long-term accumulation. Many plant seeds contain a significant amount of oil, including cannabis, where fats account for about 30% of their dry weight, precisely for long-term energy storage.
  • Nucleic Acid (DNA): DNA comprises a sequence of genes that contain all the information required to build and operate an organism. The human genome comprises approximately 20,500 genes, while cannabis has around 30,000. We share about 40% of our genetic information with cannabis, and our cells share many internal mechanisms and metabolic processes.

Both animals and fungi survive exclusively on plants’ primary metabolites as a sole nutrient source.


Secondary metabolism

Secondary metabolism generates compounds that play a significant role in adapting to the environment. These compounds serve various purposes, such as defending against environmental factors, deterring predators, attracting pollinators, and maintaining immunity. A plant’s success, reproduction, and overall health heavily depend on secondary metabolism.

Plants produce various groups of secondary metabolites, including:

  • Alkaloids: This group includes compounds that billions rely on daily, such as caffeine, nicotine, and morphine.
  • Terpenoids: Terpenoids encompass both cannabinoids and terpenes, organic compounds in cannabis that are valued the most.
  • Phenolics: This group consists of compounds like flavonoids, including anthocyanins, that help plants to defend themselves from the environment and contribute to the purple coloration in specific cannabis strains.

Humans and many animal species harness unique features of some plants’ secondary metabolites and depend heavily on them.


Energy Intake

All plants require continuous energy intake to synthesize primary and secondary metabolites. Photosynthesis is the sole source of bioavailable energy on Earth. It utilizes solar energy (radiation) to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, which are then used to synthesize proteins and fats. Photosynthesis also produces oxygen, which we breathe in to obtain energy from consumed carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.


Chemical Composition

In terms of the cannabis plant’s composition, approximately 90% of its dry weight is comprised of CARBON, HYDROGEN, AND OXYGEN obtained from CO2 and water during photosynthesis. The remaining 10% includes 13 other elements derived from organic compounds or synthetic fertilizers. These elements are NITROGEN, POTASSIUM, CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, PHOSPHORUS, SULFUR, IRON, BORON, MANGANESE, ZINC, COPPER, MOLYBDENUM and CLORINE.



Our primary goal in this formula is to provide enough energy (light) for the plant, create an ideal environment, and give plants just enough water and nutrients to use that energy correctly. This will ensure that the plant’s needs for primary metabolism are being fulfilled and allow it to grow and yield healthy buds filled with high amounts of secondary metabolites (cannabinoids and terpenes) we value so much.

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