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Scientists: Fungi, Liverworts, Rhododendrons, & Woolly Umbrella All Make Cannabinoids

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Brought to you by the Higher Learning LV Cannabis for Anxiety seminar.

 

Fungi, Liverworts, & Rhododendrons Make Cannabinoids Study

A 2017 study tersely titled "Amorfrutin-type Phytocannabinoids from Helichrysum umbraculigerum" that was published in the journal Fitoterapia involved Italian and South African researchers who reported that Cannabis sativa L. is not the only botanical species to produce cannabinoids.

Wolly umbrella
Woolly umbrella produces various phytocannabinoids

Despite the implication from their scientific name that cannabis is their sole source (and a slew of respectable research studies that said exactly that), a number of non-cannabis botanical species have been reported to produce a range of cannabinoids (just not the most commercially valuable ones).


BONUS READING >> A May 2023 study entitled "Parallel Evolution of Cannabinoid Biosynthesis" that was published in the journal Nature Plants expanded on these data.


Although the major and commercially most popular cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are not among the phytocannabinoids produced by other plant species, the mere fact that a plant other than cannabis produces nearly identical molecules is to be noted. Of arguably greater significance is the fact that this data offers cannabis companies and product formulators with an optional source for many of the minor cannabinoids outside of CBD and THC.


"Once the exclusive territory of science nerds, such research data has become of tremendous value to cannabis and hemp industry entrepreneurs and C-suite executives."

Once the exclusive territory of science nerds, such research data has become of tremendous value to cannabis and hemp industry entrepreneurs and C-suite executives—particularly those who are seeking a less expensive source than cannabis for the production of certain cannabinoids.

Rhododendrons
Rhododendrons make cannabinoids

Fungi, Liverworts, & Rhododendrons Make Cannabinoids

The pioneering study reported that phytocannabinoids feature "a broader, although point-like, distribution in Nature, encompassing not only higher plants, but also liverworts [also called hepatics] and fungi." The study's authors noted that both rhododendrons and cannabis produce "exclusively alkyl phytocannabinoids [such as delta-9 THC], while aralkyl phytocannabinoids are typical of some leguminous plants from the genera Amorpha, Glycyrrhiza and Macherium."


Although researchers have isolated only "non-narcotic compounds" from this attractive yellow flower, some species of Woolly Umbrella are used in ritual inebriating fumigations in South Africa.

The scientists took the controversial approach of suggesting that, categorically, molecules such as CBD, THC, and cannabigerol (CBG) should be called phytocannabinoids, not cannabinoids. They explained that the name cannabinoid limits the definition to cannabis, which is obviously not the case. They explained that the pharmacological meaning of "cannabinoid" is the molecules that bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).

A sample of liverworts.
Liverworts produces cannabinoids.

Woolly Umbrella Makes Phytocannabinoids

Fungi, Liverworts, & Rhododendrons Make Cannabinoids. The study reported that prior research identified both alkyl and aralkyl series phytocannabinoids in the South African plant Helichrysum umbraculigerum, more commonly known as Woolly Umbrella. Although researchers have isolated only "non-narcotic compounds" from this attractive yellow flower, some species of Woolly Umbrella are used in ritual inebriating fumigations in South Africa and sometimes traded for "recreational narcotic purposes."


The current study reported that Woolly Umbrella is cited by some researchers as the "most abundant natural source of cannabigerol (CBG), the precursor of all members of the alkyl cannabinoid family."

A scientist peers into a microscope.
Woolly Umbrella is a great source of CBG

Woolly Umbrella for Ritual Fumigations

The 2017 phytocannabinoid study concluded that Woolly Umbrella has been used in ritual fumigations for centuries and was reported by Theophrastus in his Historia Plantarum, the "oldest medicinal treatise of the Western civilization."


South African folk medicine describes use of Woolly Umbrella "as marijuana substitutes."

It noted that South African folk medicine describes use of Woolly Umbrella and that some species of the genus "have been used as marijuana substitutes." However, the study noted that the identity of the "mind-altering constituents" remains elusive, with no confirmation in controlled studies.


View the original study.

 

For more research regarding Woolly Umbrela's production of cannabinoids, see the Higher Learning LV study summary "May 2023 Study: Cannabis Is Not The Only Botanical Species that Makes Cannabinoids."

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