With more and more dog owners turning to holistic options for their pet’s health and happiness, the conversation surrounding the cannabis plant is rapidly growing. 

Unfortunately, as we all know, with more talk often comes more misunderstandings. 

That’s why, in this article, we hope to clear up some uncertainties surrounding both the marijuana plant and the hemp plant (two varieties in the cannabis family), with particular focus on important compounds called phytocannabinoids. 

What are Phytocannabinoids?

The hemp plant and its phytocannabinoids under a looking glass.

In order to fully understand the potential health benefits of the cannabis plant, it is important to have basic knowledge of all the cannabis plant’s constituents. 

So what are phytocannabinoids? 

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

We want to mention that the term 'phyto' is defined as ‘pertaining to’ or ‘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. Throughout this article, we will use both terms so that our readers can become accustomed to seeing it both ways. 

Whether the cannabinoid is an endocannabinoid or phytocannabinoid is dictated by where it originates, either in the human body or in the cannabis plant. Again, an endocannabinoid originates from inside the body and is therefore an 'endogenous cannabinoid' whereas an exogenous cannabinoids like a phytocannabinoid (such as those that come from the marijuana plant or hemp plant) originate from outside of the human body. Additionally, as we previously mentioned, cannabinoids can be artificially manufactured as well.

Phytocannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by binding to a cannabinoid receptor (or CB receptor) that’s found in that system. 

The endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating our mood, physiology, pain, inflammatory response, and other functions throughout the day. You can think of the endocannabinoid system as you would any other regulatory system in the human body like the immune system or the central nervous system. 

As researchers have continued to study the system, they have made discoveries in the relationship between cannabinoid receptors in the human body and the cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. 

Essentially, when CBD and other cannabinoids are introduced into the endocannabinoid system, there can be a wide range of positive effects on the body. 

Some cannabinoids interact with a CB1 receptor while others interact with CB2 receptors. Certain cannabinoids can also indirectly affect a specific receptor. 

CBD in particular helps to maintain a normal inflammatory response and supports normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function--just to name a few of its effects

CB receptors are located all over the body and are responsible for different functions.

A picture of the endocannabinoid system and CBD effects, highlighting where the CB1 and CB2 receptors are located.

Classes of Cannabinoids

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 getting “high.” 

The second most well-known cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which is quickly rising in popularity in terms of its potential health benefits for the body--in both humans and animals alike! 

Of course, this is not to say that THC doesn't have potential health benefits as well. However, there is still a negative stigma surrounding this particular cannabinoid.

While most people are familiar with THC and CBD, they are only 2 of the 113 cannabinoids that scientists have presently identified. Other cannabinoids include:

  • Cannabigerols (CBG)

  • Cannabichromenes (CBC)

  • 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 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)? 

Scientists report that there are over one hundred cannabinoids in existence. 

However, THC is certainly the most widely known. 

Unfortunately, THC has a pretty negative reputation. Many people only think of THC and its psychoactive effects. 

Yet, it should be noted that tetrahydrocannabinol has incredible properties that many people don't know about. Interestingly enough, the use of THC dates back to the 16th century B.C. by the Egyptians!

THC affects the endocannabinoid system in a totally different way than CBD. While CBD affects the ECS indirectly, THC actually binds with cannabinoid receptors. Its ability to do this is what causes the flood of dopamine in the brain that results in the “high” recreational users chase. 

What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most known and studied cannabinoid. 

Its rise in popularity and notability really only happened sometime during the last decade. However, experts have been researching the effect of CBD and CBD oil on both people and animals for well over three decades.

Unlike THC, CBD does not give its user a 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 using CBD (more so than THC) for its potential health benefits. 

Luckily, countless studies continue to prove the effectiveness and safety of using CBD in humans and animals alike. 

One thing that’s important to note when it comes to our furry friends, however, is that it’s imperative that all products with CBD content are derived from the hemp plant and not the marijuana plant. Continue reading to understand why.  


A hemp plant, which contains phytocannabinoids, in a vase.

Understanding the Differences Between Cannabis Plant Varieties: Hemp Plant vs Marijuana Plant

It is important to understand as much as possible about the cannabis plant and its phytocannabinoids. Again, the more we know about the cannabis plant and cannabis constituents the more we can benefit from it.

The easiest way to explain the cannabis plant, the scientific name of which is Cannabis Sativa L., is by thinking of it as an "umbrella" term for two of its main varieties. 

Those two varieties are:

This is where so many misconceptions originate. When talking about either variety, people who want to say something about cannabis use the term 'cannabis' or ‘medical cannabis’ or ‘medical marijuana’ freely to describe both cannabis varieties. 

Yet, freely using this terminology can confuse some people to the point where they believe that all cannabis is marijuana, and that simply isn't the case.

CBD can be derived from either the hemp plant or the marijuana plant. 

When CBD is derived from the hemp plant, it typically will contain less than 0.3% THC (the cannabinoid responsible for psychoactive effects). 

When CBD is derived from the marijuana plant, however, it can contain up to 25% THC and sometimes more. 

That said, hemp-derived CBD is the only kind of CBD that’s legal in all 50 states. It’s also the only kind of CBD that is safe for animal consumption

Interestingly enough, hemp products may very well already be a part of your day-to-day life. From makeup to clothing, to hemp milk and hemp oil, it’s everywhere these days! 

A black shepherd laying on the grass in an open field with his tongue sticking out.

CBD for Dogs & Cats

Before we end, 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 you only select CBD that’s been derived from the hemp plant. While it is possible for CBD to be derived from the marijuana plant, it will contain levels of THC that are too high, which can be very harmful to dogs and cats. 

For many people, this concern won't be an issue, as marijuana and products derived from the marijuana plant are still not legal for purchase in the majority of states. Products derived from the hemp plant, however, such as hemp-derived CBD oil, are legal in all 50 states. 

Even if you do live in a state where the sale of medicinal marijuana is legal, though, always make sure that the products you purchase for your pet are hemp-derived.

Phytocannabinoids: A Final Thought 

It’s incredibly exciting that countless studies are proving the effectiveness of holistic options like hemp-derived CBD, making it easy to understand why so many pet parents are turning to CBD for their four-legged friends.  

When it comes to supporting your dog or cat’s health and happiness, hemp-derived CBD products are truly becoming a game changer. 

Phytocannabinoids like CBD help to maintain a normal inflammatory response and support normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function--and those are just some of its potential health benefits!

The world of holistic wellness for pets is truly becoming a brighter place thanks to the wonders of phytocannabinoids!


What are phytocannabinoids? What are cannabinoids? What do cannabinoids do to the body? How many cannabinoids are there?


https://www.news-medical.net/health/Phytocannabinoids.aspx https://www.honestpaws.com/blog/the-endocannabinoid-system-and-cbd/ https://www.honestpaws.com/blog/cbd-vs-thc/ https://www.news-medical.net/health/Phytocannabinoids.aspx