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What are phytocannabinoids?

Understanding Phytocannabinoids

Phytocannabinoids, often simply referred to as cannabinoids, are a group of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. With hundreds of constituents in the cannabis plant—from cannabinoids and terpenes to flavonoids and lipids—phytocannabinoids stand out as some of the most unique. These compounds are not produced in the human body or a lab, but rather by plants, which is why they are called phytocannabinoids.

Introducing Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System

Humans have used cannabinoids for thousands of years for various purposes, including spiritual, therapeutic, and recreational uses. The endocannabinoid system in the human body plays a crucial role in how cannabinoids interact with our bodies. The system reveals how cannabinoids can mimic regulatory molecules produced within our own bodies, known as endocannabinoids. By understanding how these molecules work, researchers have identified over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant alone.

How are Cannabinoids Produced?

Plants produce cannabinoids as secondary metabolites, not directly involved in growth, development, or reproduction, but to help the plant survive. In cannabis plants, cannabinoids are produced in tiny mushroom-shaped glands called trichomes. These structures produce a range of metabolites, including aromatic terpenes. The process of cannabinoid biosynthesis begins with the convergence of coenzyme A and fatty acids, leading to the formation of cannabinoid precursors. Enzymatic reactions then convert these molecules into different cannabinoids.

Summary of Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are essential secondary metabolites found in the cannabis plant and a few other species. While we have only scratched the surface in understanding the full potential of these compounds, research has shown both their importance for plant health and their therapeutic potential for humans. Further research will continue to explore the value of cannabinoids produced by plants like cannabis.

Sources

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