What Are Phytocannabinoids?

Phytocannabinoids are naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and there are at least 144 different types of cannabinoids from cannabis with varying effects.

Let's find out more about the main phytocannabinoids and some effects they bring to the cannabis consumer.

The Main Phytocannabinoids

There are many phytocannabinoids; however, some are more widely known and studied than others. These include cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN). While they all sound relatively similar, phytocannabinoids can vary in their individual properties and effects.

CBD is arguably the most popular and widely-used phytocannabinoid in the current open market. THC is very popular and widely-used illegally, and strictly regulated for medical or recreational use. Cannabis plant's extracts is commonly used to address various health concerns ranging from anxiety to arthritis (1). THC is the compound responsible for the "high" sensation often associated with recreational use. It can also be used to treat health ailments and can also provide psychotropic effects.

Both CBG and CBN are lesser-known and have only recently started increasing in popularity. CBG is the acidic form of cannabigerol acid, which is the precursor to synthesising other cannabis compounds. CBN is created by oxydation of THCA, and because it is a metabolite of THC, it is mildly psychotropic (2). However, more research is still needed to determine the exact properties of both.

Where Are Phytocannabinoids Found?

The source of phytocannabinoids is still being investigated. While phytocannabinoids were thought only to be exclusive to the cannabis plant, researchers have discovered recently that they can be found in some fungi, legumes, and traces in other plant species (3).

Cannabinoids exist in two categories, phytocannabinoids, which are produced by plants, and endocannabinoids, produced by animals and humans (4). Phytocannabinoids in plants exist to regulate and balance various biological systems but can be harnessed in cannabinoid products to create a range of therapeutic effects.

What Effects Do They Have?

The type and intensity of the phytocannabinoid effect depend on its individual properties. Both THC and CBN are psychotropic, meaning alongside the therapeutic effects it provides for your body, it could get you "high".

All phytocannabinoids can be isolated and infused into cannabinoid-based products, which are popular as natural options for health-conscious individuals exploring traditional medication alternatives. Phytocannabinoids can interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a cell-signaling system within our body that helps carry out numerous biological processes (5).

While research regarding phytocannabinoids and their effect on the human body is still in its infancy, results are promising. Phytocannabinoids have been used to ease and assist the symptoms of many health conditions that affect our physical and mental state, including epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia (6).

Risks and Side Effects

Generally, phytocannabinoids are well-tolerated. However, minimal side effects can occur, especially when the product's dosage or quality is not adequately regulated. When side effects develop, talking to a health professional is highly recommended.

In particular, THC can potentially create side effects when unregulated due to its psychotropic nature. Because of this psychotropic effect, cannabis products containing THC are mostly illegal to use without a prescription, with strict regulations in place.

Generally speaking, phytocannabinoids' side effects will depend on individual body chemistry, including weight, BMI, and specific health concerns (7). Side effects often include but are not limited to:

  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Changes in mood (THC can develop anxiety)
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Dry mouth

  • The Bottom Line

    Phytocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds most commonly found in cannabis. Both their properties and therapeutic effects vary depending on the combination and the user’s body chemistry.

    While the risks associated with phytocannabinoids are minimal, cannabis users should still question and be careful with the cannabis-based products they use. It’s better to be suspicious and contact the shop or company selling the product, it’s always good to double-check.

    [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740396/
    [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2689518/
    [3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27722705/
    [4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19630737/
    [5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303140/
    [6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/
    [7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/