What are Phytocannabinoids?

Phytocannabinoids (phyto -plant) are a group of chemical compounds found in the plant Cannabis Sativa L. and also in a number of other different plants.

The plant produces these compounds mainly for protection against herbivorous and they are stored in special structures, which look like drops of resin on a stalk,  called glandular trichomes. Most of the trichomes are found in female flowers, which is why these parts of the plant are used for collecting these compounds.

The most studied cannabinoids are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC, THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) but 125 cannabinoid compounds have been found that do not occur in any other plant. In the plant itself cannabinoids are found in the form of 2-carboxylic acids (2-COOH) and are transformed by heat, UV light or alkaline conditions into their non acidic forms.

All cannabinoids derive from Cannabigerolic acid  (CBG-A), which can be thought of as the stem cell of cannabinoids.  Different enzymes transform this compound into the three major “families”;  tertrahydrocannabinol acid (THC-A), cannabidiol acid (CBD-A) or cannabichromene acid (CBC-A).  From these three groups all the other know cannabinoids are synthesized. To get the neutral versions of these compounds (THC,CBD, CBC) their acid versions must be transformed trough a process called decarboxylation. This is mainly achieved by heating the material to a certain degree for a certain period of time.

As mentioned before, the most known compounds are not found in the plant itself (or are found in very small quantities) and must be obtained by decarboxylation (smoking, cooking) to obtain the most know forms (THC, CBD, CBC). This reaction makes some of them capable of binding to the CB1 and/or CB2 receptors found in our bodies as do our endocannabinoids (AEA, 2-AG).

In recent years, studies have shown that phytocannabinoids bind also to other receptors, such as TPRV1, GPR55 and GPR18, besides modulating other important process in the cells. The acidic versions of these compounds also interact with our endocannabionid system by releases or inhibition of COX-1,  inhibition of TNF-Alpha and the release of interleukin-10.