Phytocannabinoids: A Simple Explanation

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / December 28, 2018

With more and more dog owners turning to holistic medicinal alternatives rather than chemically-based, conventional medications, the conversation surrounding the cannabis plant is rapidly growing. As we all know, with more talk comes more misunderstandings. In this article, we hope to clear up some uncertainties surrounding both the marijuana plant as well as the hemp plant by discussing all things related to phytocannabinoids!

What are Phytocannabinoids

In order to fully understand the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant, it is important to have basic knowledge of what exactly it is made up of. We’re talking about phytocannabinoids.

Phytocannabinoids are the naturally occurring cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. Phytocannabinoids vary from other chemical compounds in that they occur naturally whereas synthetic cannabinoids are artificially manufactured. They also vary from endocannabinoids which are, in fact, cannabinoid receptors that exist within the body.

We want to mention that the term ‘phyto‘ is defined as pertaining to derived from plants. However, most people refer to phytocannabinoids simply as cannabinoids. While there are minimal differences between the two terms, experts typically use them interchangeably.

What is a Cannabinoid

Just to reiterate, the vast majority of people abbreviate the term phytocannabinoid simply to cannabinoid. In this article, we will use both terms so that our readers become accustomed to seeing it both ways. Therefore, a cannabinoid is a naturally occurring compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Whether the cannabinoid is an endocannabinoid or phytocannabinoid dictates where it occurs, either in the human body or in the cannabis plant. Additionally, as we previously mentioned, cannabinoids can be manufactured artificially.

The most well-known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC). It is widely known for its psychoactive properties, giving its users the euphoric effects that are typically associated with the ‘stoner’ stereotype. (More on THC in a moment). The second most well-known cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD) which is quickly rising in terms of its medicinal properties. This is not to say that THC doesn’t have medicinal benefits. It certainly does. However, there is still a negative stigma surrounding the cannabinoid.

Classes of Cannabinoids

While most people are familiar with THC and CBD, they are only 2 of 113 cannabinoids that scientists have identified. These cannabinoids are split into subcategories including the following:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
  • Cannabigerols (CBG)
  • Cannabichromenes (CBC)
  • Cannabidiols (CBD)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabinodiol (CBDL)
  • Cannabicyclol (CBL)
  • Cannabielsoin (CBE)
  • Cannabitriol (CBT)
  • Cannabivarin (CBV)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  • Cannabichromevarin (CBCV)
  • Cannabigerovarin (CBGV)
  • Cannabigerol Monoethyl Ether (CBGM)

What is a Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Scientists report that there are over one hundred cannabinoids in existence. However, THC is certainly the most widely known. Unfortunately, oftentimes THC has a pretty negative reputation. Many people only think of THC for its psychoactive effects. Think That 70’s Show. You smoke THC, get high, turn into a couch potato, ruin your life… you get it. Yet, it should be noted that tetrahydrocannabinol has incredible medicinal properties that so many people don’t know about. Interestingly enough, medicinal uses of THC date back to 16th century B.C. by the Egyptians.


What is a Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most known and studied cannabinoid. Its rise in popularity and notability has really only occurred in the last decade. However, experts have researched the effects of CBD on both people and animals for well over three decades.

Unlike THC, CBD does not give its user any euphoric feeling. In other words, it won’t make you or your pet feel the “high” sensation typically associated with THC. For this reason, more people are able to get on board with the idea of CBD more so than THC. Even though THC has several incredibly important benefits, its stereotypical recreational use leaves a bad taste in some peoples’ mouths.

Benefits of Hemp & CBD for People & Animals

Luckily, countless studies continue to prove the effectiveness and safety of using CBD in humans and animals alike. When it comes to our furry friends, it is imperative that all CBD products are derived from the hemp plant, not the marijuana plant.

Understanding the Differences Between Cannabis Plants

We feel that it is important for our readers to understand a few additional facts regarding the cannabis plant, and therefore, phytocannabinoids. Again, the more that we all have a better understanding of the plant and its properties, the more we can all benefit from it.

The easiest way to explain the cannabis plant is by thinking of it as an “umbrella” term for two of its main species. The two species of the Cannabis Sativa L plant (the two species under the cannabis umbrella, if you will) are the hemp plant and the marijuana plant. This is where so many misconceptions originate. People often use the term ‘cannabis’ freely to describe both the marijuana plant and the hemp plant. Yet, freely using this terminology can confuse some people. They believe that all cannabis is marijuana and that simply isn’t the case.

In fact, hemp products may very well be already apart of your day-to-day life. From make-up products to clothing, hemp is everywhere. Yet so many people continue to have very incorrect thoughts about the plant. We hope that this article helps to reverse some of these negative opinions.

CBD for Dogs & Cats: Hemp Plant vs Marijuana Plant

Before we close we want to reiterate a few very important details regarding phytocannabinoids and your four-legged friends. When choosing phytocannabinoids for animals, it is imperative that they are CBD from the hemp plant. It is possible for CBD to be derived from the marijuana plant, but it will contain trace amounts of THC which can be harmful to dogs and cats. For many people, this concern won’t be an issue as marijuana is still not legal for purchase. However, if you live in a state where the sale of medicinal marijuana is legal, always make sure that the products you purchase for your pets are hemp derived.

You can see why so many pet owners are turning to an all natural remedy like CBD rather than harsh conventional medications.

Phytocannabinoids: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, we are over the moon that countless studies are proving the effectiveness of all natural medicinal alternatives. When it comes to treating your furry companion, hemp derived CBD products are truly becoming a game changer.  In terms of its use for people, we hope that this article shed some light on the positive aspects of THC and the marijuana plant. The more pet owners understand the benefits of the cannabis plant, the more we can all benefit.

Phytocannabinoids are truly facinating. Here at Honest Paws, we can’t wait for even more information to emerge regarding its powerful effects for our furry companions.



About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for