Study Summary: Cannabis Roots for Inflammation & Pain

Updated: Jun 3

Welcome to Higher Learning LV's Study Summary series. This series reviews and summarizes peer-reviewed research studies and was developed specifically for cannabis industry professionals. These study summaries provide easily digested quick reads for a variety of important issues regarding the commerce and chemistry of legal cannabis.


A 2017 study entitled "Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain" that was published in the peer-reviewed journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research investigated the medicinal efficacy of cannabis roots for systemic inflammation and pain. Among the authors of the study was Dr. Ethan Russo, a pioneering endocannabinoid system researcher.

"The cannabis plant is known for its multiple uses: The leaves, flowers, seeds, stalks, and resin glands have all been exploited for food, fuel, fiber, medicine, and other uses," prefaced the study's authors. They noted that one of the first documented historical incidences of cannabis roots being used as medicine was by Roman historian Pliny the Elder, who wrote in his Natural Histories that "a decoction of the [cannabis] root in water relaxes contractions of the joints and cures gout and similar maladies."


The research noted that cannabis dispensaries in the U.S. "now stock preparations made from hemp and cannabis root, including body lotions, salves, lip balms, massage oil, and pet sprays."

The study reported that cannabis "is a member of the family Cannabaceae" and that "some botanists argue for cannabis as a single species, [while] others describe up to four, including C. sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis, and Cannabis afghanica (or kafiristanica)."


The research noted that cannabis dispensaries in the U.S. "now stock preparations made from hemp and cannabis root, including body lotions, salves, lip balms, massage oil, and pet sprays."


The Study

The study noted that "by the latter part of 17th century, various physicians and herbalists recommended cannabis root" for a wide range of disease states and conditions, including "fever, inflammation, gout, arthritis, joint pain, skin burns, and hard tumors."

"Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, there are many mentions of using cannabis root decoctions [extractions]," reported the research. It described various ways in which cannabis roots were prepared for consumption, including "mixed with fat (oil or butter)" and "mixing pulverized cannabis root with wine." Importantly, the study noted that, historically, the most common consumption avenue for cannabis roots was in the form of a topical (cream, lotion, salve, or balm), not smoked or eaten.


"Importantly, the study noted that, historically, the most common consumption avenue for cannabis roots was in the form of a topical (cream, lotion, salve, or balm), not smoked or eaten."

The researchers reported that cannabis root is also documented to have been used to treat "postpartum hemorrhage, difficult child labor, sexually transmitted disease, and gastrointestinal activity and infection." The study's authors also noted that, despite this lengthy history of use for medicinal purposes, "the roots of cannabis plants have been largely ignored in modern medical research and practice."


The Results

The study reported that cannabis roots feature "many different active compounds, including triterpenoids such as friedelin and epifriedelano."


Other chemical compounds found in cannabis roots include alkaloids like cannabisativine and anhydrocannabisativine and sterols such as sitosterol and campesterol. Unfortunately, despite their presence in cannabis roots and the historical use of the roots for various conditions, almost no research exists regarding the medicinal effects of these compounds.

The study also noted that cannabis roots do not contain cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. These special chemicals are manufactured in the nearly microscopic trichome glands that form on the female flowers during the latter stages of growth—at the other end of the plant from the roots.


The study's authors concluded that cannabis roots "are still largely ignored in scholarship and in medical practice where, historically, they were valued as medicinal agents for treating a variety of conditions."


Conclusions

The study concluded that cannabis roots "are not a significant source of cannabinoids or...terpenes," but that they are rich in other compounds, including the triterpenoids friedelin and epifriedelanol, the alkaloids cannabisativine and anhydrocannabisativine, and "other compounds that may have therapeutic applications."


The study concluded that cannabis roots "are not a significant source of cannabinoids or...terpenes," but that they are rich in other compounds, including triterpenoids and alkaloids.

While the roots of cannabis plants show promise for a range of diseases and conditions, the scientists concluded that "there is no pharmacological information available about the alkaloids found in cannabis roots." They recommended additional research "to study the active compounds in cannabis roots and explore their potential therapeutic applications."


"Future studies will also have to determine the best methods of preparing cannabis roots and best methods to administer cannabis roots for various conditions," suggested the scientists.


View the original study.


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