What are Phytocannabinoids
A mouthful to pronounce but we’re here to break it down. Starting with phyto, a prefix used in scientific terms to mean “plant”. And as for cannabinoids, these are naturally occurring compounds which largely make up the cannabis sativa plant, but can also be found in other well-known plants such as Echinacea. So why add the phyto? To make sense of it, we must learn about the Endocannabinoid System or (ECS). This complex cell-signaling network is one of the many systems that make up every living, breathing organism’s anatomy with the exception of insects. It is composed of endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes. In scientific terms, the prefix “endo-“means inner or within.
Endocannabinoids are molecules produced by the human body to modulate internal functions and keep them running smoothly. The ECS acts like a lock and key system, with receptors as the locks and cannabinoids the keys. Receptors are located throughout the body but mainly in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which include the brain, immune cells and digestive tracts. Each receptor is responsible for regulating a certain type of reaction such as mood, pain or inflammation response. Endocannabinoids bind to these receptors to signal what type of action is needed by the ECS. Enzymes break down endocannabinoids once they have completed their function.
Because it is so complicated, scientists and researchers have not fully determined exactly how the ECS works or all of its functions. It has also been one of the least studied systems for its connection to the cannabis plant and its controversial legality. We won’t go into that debate but if you’re interested in hearing more, check out this TedTalk with the Endocannabinologist Dr. Rachel Knox. Now that there is growing information on the ECS, it is thought by most scientists to be responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or balance, in the body with close associations to the following functions:
Inflammation and other immune system responses
Learning and memory
Skin and nerve function
When the body needs some extra help to combat ECS dysfunction enter: Phytocannabinoids. These can be used to supplement the already naturally occurring cannabinoids in the body, giving the ECS a boost to ensure proper and efficient functioning.
There are roughly 113 identified phytocannabinoids with unique properties and bodily interactions. The most notable being THC for its psychoactive effects and CBD for its positive effects on anxiety and pain. Other widely researched phytocannabinoids include:
CBC – “Cannabichromene”
After THC, this is the second most concentrated compound found in cannabis without the psychoactive effects. It has been observed to activate our pain management receptors resulting in relief from some chronic conditions such as neuropathy and fibromyalgia. Other notable benefits include anti-inflammation of the digestive tract relieving acid reflux, IBS and symptoms related to Crohn's disease. With powerful anti-inflammatory properties, CBC used in topical skin application has been shown to help treat and eliminate acne. Some studies show an encouragement of brain cell growth, or neurogenesis, promoting healthier cognitive functions which can affect levels of anxiety and depression. Researchers have also identified an entourage effect that CBC has when met with THC and CBD, synergistically enhancing each other’s characteristics.
CBN - “Cannabinol”
Created by applying intense heat to THC, it is essentially a byproduct and therefore retains some of the mild psychoactive effects. The most notable benefit is that it induces relaxation and promotes sleep. It is also shown to have positive effects on the immune system. Observed to reduce pain and inflammation, it has been specifically tied to a reduction of eye pressure associated with glaucoma. Studies have also shown that CBN acts as an anticonvulsant, beneficial for patients with seizure disorders. Topically this phytocannabinoid can alleviate skin conditions such as psoriasis, even invasive bacterial infections such as MRSR.
CBG – “Cannabigerol”
Fun fact: This phytocannabinoid has actually been shown to act as a buffer from the psychoactive effects of THC, reducing feelings of paranoia. One of the few cannabinoids that reacts with the same ECS receptors in the brain as THC does, it is predominantly found in CBD strains. It can also be attributed to decreased inflammation, pain relief and slowing the growth of some cancerous cells. With its antibacterial agents, CBG has also been shown to fight severe microbial skin infections normally resistant to pharmaceutical drugs. Further studies continue on the extent of these properties and their promising effect on other skin conditions.
Hemp Seed Oil vs Hemp Derived CBD “Cannabidiol”
Besides the difference in legality, think of it in terms of tortillas: corn vs. flour. Each has their distinct calorie counts and vitamins which appeal to a certain taste or preference. Hemp seed oil has great accolades in the skin care realm. Known for high omega fatty acids it can plump the skin, not to mention it is also loaded with vitamins. However, it does not feature the same anti-inflammatory properties as hemp derived, full spectrum CBD. The powerhouse components not only deliver positive effects on pain and anxiety, when used topically CBD can treat a variety of skin conditions from acne to psoriasis. How to spot the difference: look for a whole plant, or full spectrum which not only includes CBD but can contain its cannabinoid counterparts like CBC, CBN and CBG.
A Healthy Disclaimer
Lack of concrete scientific research on the positive interaction between cannabis and the ECS makes learning about the potential treatments a relatively new frontier. Currently, the studies show which receptors are activated by certain cannabinoids which allows researchers to compile observations, make hypotheses, prove and test theories to determine exactly how far the benefits actually reach. It is our hope that ongoing studies will give scientists the opportunity to determine the long-term effects of phytocannabinoids and how the ECS operates in general. We are excited and committed to continue sharing this knowledge journey with you on effective natural recovery methods.
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