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Everything You Need To Know About Phytocannabinoids

Posted by Kerry Hinkle on

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Researching Phytocannabinoids Can Be Confusing - Everything You Need To Know

Phytocannabinoid. You have probably seen that word pop up in an article or two. Or maybe you are more familiar with the similar, more popular word: cannabinoid.

It is no doubt used frequently around this site - and I would imagine other sites too. Cannabinoid is a keyword in the field of CBD, I doubt an article can be written without it.

When I was first researching CBD I was confused with the word Cannabinoid. The issue, although minor, was how the word was being used, and still used.

Cannabinoid has become a blanket term used to cover both phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids.

This can become an issue when researching CBD because they are both keywords on their own. 

If you are starting your research from scratch, like most of us,  then it is important to hammer down every single keyword you encounter.

Too often, I see ‘cannabinoid’ covering up some other very important terms. This entanglement can lead to some confusion for readers.

When words get thrown around with this much abundance, they can sometimes lose their meaning. 

In the beginning, when I came across ‘cannabinoid’, I was confused exactly what they meant and I got lost trying to figure out how the word was being used.

So, what does cannabinoid mean exactly? And what the hell are phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids?  


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 What Are Phytocannabinoids, Cannabinoids, and Endocannabinoids?

Let’s start from the basics: Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis plants.

There are two main categories of cannabinoids: phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. ‘Phyto’ means plants or plant-based; therefore, phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are found in cannabis plants.

‘Endo’ comes from the word endogenous, meaning it is produced within an organism; endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are found in mammals.




Again, the trouble comes from when these terms are used, and how. Cannabinoid is the blanket term that is used to cover everything.

All phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids; endocannabinoids are not phytocannabinoids, but can be classified as cannabinoids.

It’s that simple! Blog complete!

But, not really, that is not if you want to learn more!

We haven’t yet covered what they are exactly, beyond their nomenclature. 

Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids are alike on a molecular level; they have a similar structure.

The biggest difference is, phytocannabinoids have the ability to produce more medicinal effects or intoxication - which endocannabinoids alone cannot do.

While, endocannabinoids produce effects that we would consider “normal”- aka they help regulate sleep, hunger, and mood. 


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 What Makes Phytocannabinoids Different From The Rest?

Phytocannabinoids are produced by trichomes, which are the appendages or ‘outgrowths of plants.

For the cannabis plant, these trichomes are where phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are produced.

Flavonoids are the chemicals responsible for giving plants, fruits, and vegetables their color.

Terpenes are compounds that provide plants with their unique aromas, smell; cannabis produces a high concentration of terpenes, giving it a very...distinct scent.

Flavonoids and terpenes also bind to our cells and influence our experiences. All of these cannabis-derived molecules work synergistically with one another, potentially enhancing the most desirable effects”

Trichomes are classified as glandular structures, they are what produces the viscous, sticky resin -If you have handled cannabis before you have a good sense of what I am talking about.

Phytocannabinoids are important to the plant because they provide a surface-level coating for them, acting as a shield. 

Phytocannabinoids are essential for survival by acting as direct responses for external pressures such as insect predators or harsh weather conditions.

And, if you like getting high, they are responsible for that too! Let’s give a big shout out to phytocannabinoids!  


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The Many Different Types Of Cannabinoids

Researchers have identified around a hundred phytocannabinoids associated with cannabis, so far.

When these compounds are still inside of the plant, they are in what is known as their ‘acidic form’ and may be labeled as: acidic phytocannabinoids.

The major ones are listed below: 

THCa: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid


CBDa: Cannabidiolic acid


CBGa: Cannabigerolic acid


CBCa: Cannabichromenenic acid


The additional ‘a’ there stands for 2-carboxylic acid, and it means they have not yet been decarboxylated, nerds.

Decarboxylation refers to the chemical reaction that breaks down a carboxyl group, which is a carbon atom double bonded to an oxygen atom, and in turn releases carbon dioxide.

Simply put, decarboxylation is the process of these acidic phytocannabinoids losing their ‘A-cards', by the removal of that carboxyl group, when heat is applied.

It is after this process where we can begin to refer to them as ‘cannabinoids’

Example: the heat from your lighter will break down THCa into the wonder cannabinoid THC, which you will then inhale for a pleasurable high.



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What Do Phytocannabinoids Do For Me?

The importance of phytocannabinoids is... complicated.

Researchers don't yet have a full grasp on the benefits they can offer us.

What we know about them, is what we have learned so far from our endocannabinoids. 

Our bodies will naturally produce endocannabinoids to activate our endocannabinoid system (ECS) by binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Phytocannabinoids, when consumed, mimic the effects that endocannabinoids have on these same CB1 and CB2 receptors, and ultimately on our ECS too.

In other words, external phytocannabinoids activate the same receptors that our naturally endocannabinoids do.

This is why we feel the effects of CBD, CBG, THC, etc when we use these products. This is why there is an enormous medical potential for the use of phytocannabinoids.

Phytocannabinoids have tons and  tons of untapped potential.

As we mentioned earlier, tabout one hundred different phytocannabinoids have been indemnified, and they include: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and cannabichromene (CBC).

Phytocannabinoids are being studied for their potential power to help a number of mammalian ailments.

Researchers believe that each cannabinoid has their own specific purpose.

CBN: sedative, antibiotic, anticonvulsant, and reduces flair-ups. 

CBD: anticonvulsant, antioxidant, can relieve stress, relieves pain, reducing flair-ups, and relieves spasms. 

CBN: sedative, antibiotic, anticonvulsant, and reduces flair-ups. 

CBD: anticonvulsant, antioxidant, reduces anxiety, relieves pain, reduces flair-ups, and relieves spasms. 

THC: antioxidant, reduces flair-ups, induces a euphoric high, relieves pain. 

CBG: antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and relieves pain.

THC: antioxidant, reduces flair-ups, induces a euphoric high, relieves pain

What Does This All Mean?

So, what did I just read? This is the section for the people who jumped straight to the end.

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. It is a term used to loosely cover both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids are found inside all mammals and their primary function is to maintain the body's homeostasis by triggering our ECS into action.

Phytocannaninoids are found inside cannabis and they can provide the same benefits of endocannabinoids, once they have been broken down into cannabinoids by the process of decarboxylation.

CBN, CBG, CBD, CBC, and THC are the most widely used and the most studied of the 100 plus.

Each of these cannabinoids have their own unique attribute to them, a different experience your body will feel after consumption.

There really isn’t much else to know. In fact, I would say this was almost too much information if you were only here for one little question.

And so, let me state that answer again:

All phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids; endocannabinoids are not phytocannabinoids, but can be classified as cannabinoids!

The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. While research has shown that CBD has the potential to help provide beneficial outcomes for several complaints, it is advisable to seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider when you have questions regarding any medical condition and when starting, augmenting or discontinuing any existing health routine. 

FDA Disclaimer: Any statements made within this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. No products produced, manufactured, marketed, or distributed are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before beginning any supplements or botanical extracts. If pregnant or breast feeding, consult with your physician before use. For use by adults 18+. Keep out of reach of children.


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