Phytocannabinoids – What Are They?

What are phytocannabinoids

Posted on November 24th, 2020

Cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids. Wondering what any of those are? Then, you’ve come to the right article. There is a minor distinction between phytocannabinoids and cannabinoids. See, cannabinoids are a broad class of chemical compounds produced by various biological species. The cannabinoid compounds actually come in two major categories: phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. While plants produce phytocannabinoids, mammals produce endocannabinoids. These chemical compounds regulate a wide variety of biological functions in mammals and plants.

The mammal body naturally produces endocannabinoids. They help the mammalian body achieve a specific balance called homeostasis to function at optimal levels. Likewise, the cannabis plant produces cannabinoids known as phytocannabinoids for its survival. The compound acts as a defense against environmental hazards such as harsh weather and insect predators. These phytocannabinoids interact with the ECS or endocannabinoid system of mammals to help maintain homeostasis. Keep on reading to find out the many varieties of phytocannabinoids the health benefits each one of them holds.

Phytocannabinoids – What Are They? - examining hemp plants

Why Does The Cannabis Plant Produce Phytocannabonids?

The mammal body produces cannabinoids to achieve a state of balance, better known as homeostasis, and survive. The cannabis plant also produces cannabinoids to survive the external threats they face. Marijuana grows in a variety of climates and faces many external threats during its growth process.

Cannabis grows in tropical mountains and cold weather. Phytocannabinoids cover the surface of the plant to protect it from external threats of its environment, such as harsh weather and predators. Trichomes are tiny glands that coat the surface of cannabis, and they produce cannabinoid compounds to protect the plant from:

  • Loss of moisture in dry and windy conditions.
  • Frost in colder weather.
  • Insects and other predators.
  • Overheating in arid conditions.
  • Additionally, they also help attract pollinators for reproduction.

How Do Phytocannabonids Interact With The Human Body?

Chemical compounds found in the hemp and marijuana plants interact with the human body by binding to or interacting with cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The brain and central nervous system contain CB1 receptors, while the immune system has CB2 receptors. Cells in our body receive and process information via these receptors. The ECS regulates several functions in the body. These include sleep, appetite, hunger, mood, inflammation, chronic pain, memory, and reproduction.

Phytocannabinoids can stimulate the functions of the ECS, just like naturally produced endocannabinoids. When the body doesn’t have enough endocannabinoids, it enters into a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. If that is the case, supplementing with phytocannabinoids will help the body maintain balance and achieve homeostasis.

Different Phytocannabinoids In The Cannabis Plant

There are over 500 chemical compounds inside the cannabis plant. Both CBD and THC make up for the majority of the chemical compounds present in it. We know a lot about these two compounds but not that much yet about the others. The role of these unknown compounds could be more significant than we think. Here are some different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.

CBD – Cannabidiol

CBD became popular due to its alleged healing benefits that do not get you “high.” This is the second most common chemical compound in the cannabis plant after THC. It is also the most prevalent in the hemp plant. In fact, CBD derived from hemp is legal in over 47 states in the US.

Dr. Roger Adams from the University of Illinois discovered the molecule in 1940. But only in the 1960s, they began to understand the structure of the compound. Even though THC would directly activate the CB1 receptors in the brain and cause the “high,” CBD doesn’t act the same way.

Instead, CBD increases the levels of anandamide and 2-AG in the brain. The research shows CBD interacts with the opioid receptors and dopamine receptors of the brain to regulate pain and mood.

CBD inhibits the adverse actions of THC. Molecular Neurobiology published a study in 2019 that revealed CBD’s impact on THC’s high effect. The scientists found CBD would block THC’s adverse effects on CB1 receptors by activating the adenosine type-IIa receptors. This receptor helps counteract the actions of CB1 receptors and reduce the high effect associated with THC.

THC – TetrahydrocannabinolPhytocannabinoids – What Are They? - hemp flower under the sunset

This is the cannabinoid that gives you the “high.” It’s the most common and the most researched chemical compound in the cannabis plant. Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni isolated the molecule in 1964.

Dr. Allyn Howlett discovered in 1988 that the molecule binds to CB1 receptors in the brain. When this happens, the brain releases dopamine as a result and causes the “high” THC is famous for.

THC can affect the concentration of an individual. However, it also seems to have a pain-relieving effect, that’s reportedly almost 20 times the strength of an aspirin.

CBDV – Cannabidivarin

CBDV has a similar structure to CBD. Researchers discovered this non-intoxicating compound in 1969, and it became popular because of its anticonvulsant effects. It activates an ion channel in the central and peripheral nervous system and acts as a receptor to modulate pain.

Cannabis strains with a high level of CBD contain high levels of CBDV, too. The most important potential health benefit of CBDV is its action in reducing epilepsy fits. The only problem with the compound is the low bioavailability rate.  There is less than 6% reaching your bloodstream when taken orally, and it isn’t water-soluble either.

THCV – Tetrahydrocannabivarin

THCV or Tetrahydrocannabivarin has a similar molecular structure to THC with a low potential for intoxicating a person. It has fewer carbon atoms compared to THC. This molecule binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS and works as an appetite suppressant.

CBC – Cannabichromene

CBC or Cannabichromene is the third-most common cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. The compound directly interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS. It also works with TRPA1 and TRPV1 receptors.

CBC shares a similar molecular structure to CBD and THC. But the atoms and chemical properties differ in these three compounds. The compound is non-intoxicating, similar to CBD. CBC also has potential anti-inflammatory properties and is ideal for skin care as it encourages new cell growth in the body.

CBG – Cannabigerol

Very few people have heard of this cannabinoid, but it is one of the most important chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Both THC and CBD begin with this compound. CBG is the source of THC and CBD. Without it, there is no way for CBD and THC to exist.

Most marijuana strains contain less than 1% of this chemical compound. In fact, CBG is the building block for many other cannabinoid compounds in the cannabis plant. Discovered in 1964, the compound has neuroprotective and antimicrobial properties.

It works by binding to both CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. CBG may be useful for people with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s Disease. The compound even has the potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the colon, although more research is necessary in this area. Even though CBG is mildly psychoactive, it won’t make you high like THC.

THCA – Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid

THCA isn’t psychoactive like THC. In fact, THCA is the acidic form of THC. It will convert to THC when exposed to heat through the process of decarboxylation. There is an abundance of THCA in cannabis strains high in THC.

THCA has anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-tumor, immunoregulatory, and anti-emetic properties. Thus, it might have a lot of potential as a therapeutic treatment, yet, research on it continues.

The compound also inhibits cyclooxygenase enzymes to provide anti-inflammatory effects. It also modulates immune activity through metabolic pathways.

CBN – Cannabinol

CBN or cannabinol comes to be when the plant’s THC degrades because of exposure to sunlight and age. This cannabidiol provides a sedative effect when ingested and is ideal for anyone suffering from insomnia.

Early research suggests that 5mg of CBN is more effective in relaxing the body than 10mg of valium. CBN is mildly intoxicating and helps reduce pain. The compound results from the breakdown of THCA and doesn’t naturally occur.

CBN is also a powerful neuroprotectant that might help people with ALS and other neurodegenerative conditions, once more research is available. Also, this cannabinoid may acts as an appetite stimulant as well.

CBDA – Cannabidiolic Acid

CBDA or cannabidiolic acid is the acidic form of CBD and isn’t psychoactive. This compound is prevalent in any marijuana or hemp strain high in CBD. The acidic form CBDA becomes CBD when decarboxylated. CBDA has an impact on the human body.

It doesn’t directly interact with the ECS receptors like CBD but activates the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors. Thus, it helps regulate serotonin – a neurotransmitter in the brain – to reduce anxiety, depression, stress, nausea, and enhance the mood of the individual.

CBDA is also a powerful anticonvulsive. The compound has great bioavailability; thus, the body can metabolize it in less time with less effort.

CBGA – Cannabigerolic Acid

CBGA or cannabigerolic acid is the single most important chemical compound in the cannabis plant. It’s actually the precursor to all cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. That’s why it’s often known as the “mother cannabinoid.”

Without CBGA, there would be no other cannabinoid compounds in the cannabis plant. CBGA is a non-intoxicating compound that attaches to the CB1 receptors.

Once you heat the cannabis plant materials, this compound converts into CBD. CBGA helps diabetes patients to combat some of the complications of the condition.

Phytocannabinoids – The Takeaway

Phytocannabinoids are but one of the two categories cannabinoids fall under depending on their origins. However, the fact that they come from an a source outside of the human body is precisely why they are useful.

By taking a supplement made up of phytocannabinoids, users might handle conditions their bodies have not enough endocannabinoids to deal with. Thus, helping them achieve homeostasis and, potentially, improve their quality of life.

While the vast majority of the lesser-known phytocannabinoids potential remains undiscovered, research so far suggests great potential for most of them. Therefore, it’s likely we will hear much about phytocannabinoids in the near future. They might even become part of conventional medical treatments and regular healthcare; only time will tell.


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