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What Does Phytoceutical Mean?

June 24, 2019

Prevention is better than cure.

-Desiderius Erasmus 


Phytoceutical refers to the chemicals from plants that exert active effects on biological systems [1]. These chemicals empower plants to face environmental/internal threats and also confer growth and reproductive functions. Phytochemicals may be poisonous to predatory organisms, but many possess therapeutic or pharmaceutical potential in humans [2]. The cannabinoids and terpenes in hemp illustrate therapeutic phytochemicals.  


Phyto- is a prefix that comes from the Greek word for plant; it means “of a plant” or “relating to plants [3].” The word phytocannabinoid therefore means a cannabinoid from plants (e.g., CBD). The suffix -ceutical is a contemporary break from pharmaceutical and implies medicinal or therapeutic action.


Phytoceuticals may also be referred to as phytochemicals or phytonutrients. They are not essential for life (unlike the macronutrient protein, for example, or the micronutrient, vitamin A) [4]. Nonetheless, they may support human health and exert significant effects, such as lowering incidence of cardiovascular disease [5].  According to the American Heart Association, “plant sterols, flavonoids, and sulfur-containing compounds…may be important in reducing risk of atherosclerosis [6].”


The practice of using phytochemicals for healing is not novel; aspirin was extracted from willow tree leaves in ancient Greece to reduce fever [7]. A famous contemporary example comes from red wine: the phytochemical resveratrol is a potent antioxidant that has shown promise for anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective properties [8].


Phytochemicals in full spectrum hemp CBD generally include phenols (e.g., flavonoids), terpenes (e.g., limonene), and most notably cannabinoids (e.g., CBD). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) refers to hemp as a “unique source of phytochemicals, containing over 100 cannabinoids and terpenes, each with its own pharmacology [9].”


Cannabinoids exert significant effects on the human endocannabinoid system through receptors located in the brain, spine, and immune cells. Some of the many potential therapeutic applications include pain relief, inflammation reduction, mood and memory improvement, and hormonal and metabolic balance. Terpenes are also potent phytochemicals that synergize with cannabinoids to amplify therapeutic possibilities in what is known as the entourage effect  [10].


Phytoceuticals are chemicals from plants that can have a major impact on human health and wellness. Full spectrum hemp CBD is an example of a powerful phytoceutical product.



  1. Lee, S., et al. (2008). Phytoceuticals: Mighty but ignored weapons against Helicobacter pyloriinfection. Journal of Digestive Diseases,9(3), 129-139. doi:10.1111/j.1751-2980.2008.00334.x
  2. Molyneux, R. J., et al. (2007). Phytochemicals: The good, the bad and the ugly? Phytochemistry, 68(22-24), 2973-2985. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2007.09.004
  3. Phyto- | Definition of phyto- in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (2019). Retrieved from
  4. Gupta, C., & Prakash, D. (2014). Phytonutrients as therapeutic agents. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine,11(3). doi:10.1515/jcim-2013-0021
  5. Vasanthi, H., Shrishrimal, N., & Das, D. (2012). Phytochemicals from Plants to Combat Cardiovascular Disease. Current Medicinal Chemistry,19(14), 2242-2251. doi:10.2174/092986712800229078
  6. Howard, B. V., & Kritchevsky, D. (1997). Phytochemicals and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation,95(11), 2591-2593. doi:10.1161/01.cir.95.11.2591
  7. Desborough, M. J., & Keeling, D. M. (2017). The aspirin story - from willow to wonder drug. British Journal of Haematology,177(5), 674-683. doi:10.1111/bjh.14520
  8. Salehi, B., et al. (2018). Resveratrol: A Double-Edged Sword in Health Benefits. Biomedicines,6(3), 91. doi:10.3390/biomedicines6030091
  9. Workshop Proceedings: The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health. (2018). Evaluating the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids: How to conduct research within the current regulatory framework.
  10. Andre, C. M., Hausman, J., & Guerriero, G. (2016). Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules. Frontiers in Plant Science,7. doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00019



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