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Phytocannabinoids for Humans and Animals: A Guide

With CBD becoming increasingly talked about, used, and accepted across the US, more and more individuals are turning to all-natural, holistic options for their health, happiness, and well-being. 

As you can assume, with every cannabis conversation often comes at least one misunderstanding (or two) as well. So how did we get here? Get to talking about cannabis, cannabinoids, CBD, phytocannabinoids? What do all these terms mean and how can I better distinguish one from the other?  

No need to panic my friend, you’re about to get the lowdown on CBD and phytocannabinoids. In today’s article, our goal is to touch on these misconceptions around cannabis, including the marijuana and hemp plants, and bring focus to phytocannabinoids and CBD as well as their importance to your overall well-being and health. 

Let’s skip to it!

What is a Phytocannabinoid?

Before we dive into the world of cannabis and its beautiful benefits, let’s start with the basics: phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are the naturally occurring components found in the cannabis plant. These compounds occur naturally in the plant as compared to other compounds that may be artificially created or manufactured.

Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids aren’t necessarily the same thing. ‘Endo-’ meaning internal or within and ‘phyto’ meaning of a plant, relating to plants. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoid receptors that live in each and every one of our bodies. Phytocannabinoids are compounds we can receive from a plant that can connect to our endocannabinoid receptors  and give us the cannabis benefits.

Cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids are the same, right? Well, sort of. There is a small difference between the two words, but most researchers and scientists use them interchangeably. 

What is A Cannabinoid?

Again, most use cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids synonymously. So here, you may be seeing us use both terms equally. Just an FYI!

Whether we’re talking about phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, or just cannabinoids, the term differs based on where they come from (in the human body or the cannabis plant). Just to reiterate, endocannabinoids come from within our bodies, which can also be described as endogenous cannabinoids. On the other hand, cannabinoids, including phytocannabinoids, are exogenous cannabinoids, coming from outside our human bodies. 

Phytocannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), by connecting and communicating with cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) are two of the most well-known receptors within the ECS.

As scientists and researchers have begun to dive deep into the world of cannabis and the cannabinoid receptors in the human body, the relationship between the two continues to unfold. Not to mention, the world of CBD and pets is quickly unraveling too! 

When cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids connect with our ECS, there can be a wide array of positive effects on the body. CBD, for instance, helps to maintain a healthy inflammatory response and support immune function. Some cannabinoids, including CBD, connect with cannabinoid receptors, CB1, for example, while others connect with CB2 receptors. CB1 and CB2 receptors are located all over the body and are a vital part of our ECS. 

The Different Types of Cannabinoids Explained

Most likely you’ve heard about THC, the medical abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s widely known for getting users “high” and providing “mind-altering effects”. This is commonly what you’ll hear some refer to as “weed”. 

Another cannabinoid that is rapidly rising into popularity is cannabidiol, or CBD for short. CBD has some major potential health benefits, in us humans and animals!

While most are getting familiar with THC and CBD, these are only two of 100+ cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant that researchers have discovered. 

Other cannabinoids (just to name a few) present in the cannabis plant are:

  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabinodiol (CBDL)
  • Cannabicyclol (CBL)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)

Though some cannabinoids may not be as plentiful in numbers like CBD and THC, they are still important pieces that can be added to the cannabis plant puzzle. 

What is THC?

Weed, Mary J, marijuana, kush, whichever way you’ve heard about it, THC has become widely known across the globe, for its positives and negatives, I might add. 

Many individuals think THC is “bad” and only produces negative psychoactive effects. However, one should note that THC does have amazing benefits as well that many may not know about! The use of marijuana dates back to BC years, by the Chinese, Romans, and Egyptians.

THC affects the ECS completely differently than CBD. For instance, THC binds directly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, causing the dopamine flood, giving users a “high”. 

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol is one of the most well-known and newly studied cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. 

With its quick rise in popularity, experts have been researching the effects of CBD oil on animals and humans for quite awhile now. Dating back to the early 1960s, researchers have explored the effects of different cannabinoids and how they interact with the ECS. 

CBD, unlike THC, does not provide mind-altering effects. Hence, CBD will not get you or your doggo “high” or “stoned”. 

For this reason alone, more individuals and pet owners are more likely to try CBD compared to the psychoactive effects that THC may bring. 

Fortunately enough, studies have continued to show that CBD is a safe, effective, and non-toxic cannabinoid for both humans and animals, assisting and aiding in a wide variety of concerns. 

One very important side note: for products to be safe for you doggo, the CBD should be hemp derived, NOT marijuana derived. Here’s why. 

The Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana Explained

Again, the more we know about the cannabis plant, the more we can understand how each of the different cannabinoids work and affect each other. 

The easiest way to explain the cannabis plant is by thinking of an umbrella: cannabis being the umbrella itself and the hemp and marijuana plants being under the umbrella. 

This is where people get confused. Sometimes, marijuana and cannabis are used interchangeably, as well as cannabis and medical cannabis. Because of these constant and synonymous usages, this is where cannabis typically gets its bad rep. 

CBD can be hemp derived and marijuana derived. If the CBD is hemp derived it will most likely contain 0.3% THC or less. When CBD is taken from the marijuana plant, on the other hand, there may be up to 25% THC present, possibly more. 

So I’m sure you’re wondering, ‘what if marijuana isn’t legal in my state?’. No worries - CBD that is hemp derived is legal in almost all 50 states. It’s also the only kind of CBD that is safe for your pets to enjoy without the potential harm of them consuming THC.

Which CBD is Best for My Dogs and Cats?

Before we start to wrap things up here, I want to reiterate some major points about cannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and CBD for your four-legged best friends. 

When deciding on which cannabinoid product is best for your puppers, make sure it is CBD derived from the hemp plant. It is possible for CBD to be taken from the marijuana plant, like we discussed above, but CBD with marijuana can be extremely harmful for your pets. 

For many individuals and pet owners, this worry won’t be too much of an issue, as marijuana derived products are still not legal in most states. 

Products derived from the hemp plant through, are legal in almost all states. Score!

Even if you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, always always make sure that your CBD product is from the hemp plant, your pets will thank you later. 

Cannabinoids: What You Needed to Know: Final Thoughts

As time goes on and more researchers are publishing studies on the benefits of CBD and CBD oils, pet owners and pets alike are getting more and more into holistic and all-natural options for health and well-being.

When it comes to giving your pet friend their best life, hemp-derived CBD products are a major plus in their journey to happiness and well-being (and not to forget, yours too)!

Cannabinoids, including CBD, may help to maintain a healthy inflammatory system, support bone and joint health, and may even help as a neuroprotective option. 

The world of all-natural medicine is truly beaming with opportunity, for both us humans and our pets. You can thank the cannabis plant in advance!

Human Physiologist | Content Writer | Lifestyle Medicine Advocate
Kirsten Thornhill was born and raised in a small town in Northern California. She graduated with her Bachelors from CSU Stanislaus in Turlock, CA in Kinesiology Exercise Physiology and her Masters from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA in Kinesiology Exercise Physiology. Kirsten is very passionate about human physiology and the metabolic and nutritional adaptations that occur in athletes. She has specialized in teaching clinical and practical exercise and rehabilitation applications. She enjoys educating and informing people on the importance of lifetime movement, holistic and lifestyle medicine, and health research and development. Her passion for alternative medicine enables her to strive when promoting health and education.

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