Phytocannabinoids 101

Though relatively new to the commercial market, hemp extracts have quickly become a popular plant-based wellness option. Much of the potential benefits of hemp extracts are due to the high concentration of phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol.  This guide will help you understand what phytocannabinoids are, how they interact with the body through the endocannabinoid system and the therapeutic benefits they may offer.


What are Phytocannabinoids?

Phytocannabinoids are compounds naturally present in specific species of plants including hemp. In hemp plants, phytocannabinoids are most concentrated in structures called trichromes, naturally occurring resin glands found on the surface of plants. When cannabinoids are derived from plants, they are named phytocannabinoids, as the prefix ‘phyto’ is used when something is related to plants. Importantly, cannabinoids are also produced by mammals, in which case they’re called endocannabinoids – endo is from endogenous, meaning from within. All cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.  To learn more about cannabinoids, visit our FAQs.


What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a signaling system of receptors and molecules distributed throughout the body. Endocannabinoids, the receptors that they bind to, and processing molecules are collectively known as the ECS, which has been widely implicated in physiological regulation. The role of the ECS in health and disease is an area of ongoing and exciting biomedical research, with current findings demonstrating ECS involvement in numerous physiological and cognitive processes including maintaining homeostatic balance. As the complexity of the ECS has emerged, a plethora of biological processes have been linked to ECS functioning, involving mechanisms and activities related to pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress and sleep, metabolism, immune functioning and reproduction1,2,.


How do Phytocannabinoids interact with the Body?

Like endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids act in the body by binding to cannabinoid receptors. Receptors are the mechanism through which cells in the body receive and process information, which is then translated into a biological response. After binding to cannabinoid receptors, phytocannabinoids can act in different ways to produce different effects, some of which may be therapeutic 1,2.


The most well-known cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2, are located on different types of cells in different areas of the body. Importantly phytocannabinoids have been shown to have potentially beneficial actions at other receptor types.


What is the Entourage Effect?

Though cannabidiol may be the most well-known phytocannabinoid found in hemp, it’s by no means the only one, nor are phytocannabinoids the only class of plant-derived molecules with the potential to exert biological effects. The entourage effect refers to the concept of botanical synergy and an enhanced effect that may result from various phyto-molecules working together synergistically. For this reason, it has been suggested that the potential therapeutic benefits of full spectrum or even broad spectrum extracts, which include a variety of constituents that may work together, could exceed the benefits of isolated phytocannabinoids. 3


What therapeutic benefit might Phytocannabinoids offer?

In parallel with expanding understanding of the ECS, the potential physiological impacts and possible therapeutic actions of phytocannabinoids continue to emerge. A growing body of scientific research suggests that phytocannabinoids can reduce anxiety and improve the quality of sleep, and that they may have anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, and analgesic properties. Research investigating potential pain-relieving properties of phytocannabinoids and related phytomolecules is ongoing 4, as are studies on the efficacy and safety of cannabis for a wide range of conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s disease and a variety of mood disorders 5.     


Forest Remedies is dedicated to plant-based wellness and specializes in the extraction, purification, and formulation of cannabis products.  We strive to create a more sustainable future through regenerative farming while making the highest quality, plant-based products accessible to consumers everywhere.  


1 Ligresti, De Petrocelis & Di Marzo (2016). From Phytocannabinoids to Cannabinoid Receptors and Endocannabinoids: Pleiotropic Physiological and Pathological Roles Through Complex Pharmacology. Physiol Rev. 96: 1593-1659.


2 Di Marzo (2018). New Approaches and Challenges to Targeting the Endocannabinoid System. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 17(9):623–639.


3 Russo (2019). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Front. Plant Sci. 9: 1969.


Research Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH):


5 Ongoing clinical trials: [search term “cannabis”, accessed February 01 2020]

Tags: Hemp