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2021 Study: Chemical Composition of Cannabis Roots

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

This article is brought to you by the new Higher Learning LV Core Cannabis course.


A July 2021 study entitled "Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Potential of Cannabis sativa L. Roots" that was published in the journal Industrial Crops and Products explored the potential medicinal benefits of the roots of cannabis plants.

The study reported that cannabis is known for its use as an "antiemetic, analgesic, and appetite stimulant," as well as to treat common disease states such as epilepsy, glaucoma, and Tourette's syndrome. "In total, a broad spectrum of more than 500 phytochemicals has been identified from the leaves, flowers, bark, seeds, and roots" of the cannabis plant, reported the research.

The research noted that these phytochemicals include cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes—all of which are of industrial interest. "The phytochemical spectrum, however, varies significantly with chemovar and plant part, [as well as] with agronomic and environmental factors," noted the scientists.

Stems, Flowers, & Seeds Most Used

The study explained that, traditionally, it is the stems, flowers, and seeds of the plant that have been "most used." In medicine specifically, it noted that the "major focus" has been on cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as "bioactive compounds" found mainly in the flowers and sometimes leaves of the plant. "Thus, the roots have been investigated less with respect to the reported pharmaceutical potential," explained the research.

"Historically, marijuana roots have been used to treat fever, inflammation, infections, and arthritis, reported the study."

Historically, marijuana roots have been used to treat fever, inflammation, infections, and arthritis, reported the study. While it was long believed that the roots contain zero cannabinoids, recent research has for the first time demonstrated "the presence of phytocannabinoids" in hairy roots. However, they are present in only trace amounts that are "almost negligible" compared to the volumes in which they are produced by other parts of the plant, particularly the flowers.

Hemp Roots & Triterpenoids

The study reported that hemp roots have been shown to produce "considerable amounts of triterpenoids" and that these chemicals may be of therapeutic value and deliver "anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiulcerogenic, or antiviral activities."

Of all triterpenoids identified to date, friedelin appears to be the most abundant and has been shown to exhibit "anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and pain killing effects in rodent test subjects."

Hemp roots produce considerable amounts of triterpenoids, chemicals that may deliver "anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiulcerogenic, or antiviral activities."

The study involved an analysis of the roots of three hemp chemovars (two from France and one from Netherlands) that were organically cultivated in Apetlon, Austria in 2019. The study's authors provided detailed information regarding their preparation techniques. "For analysis, the complete hemp roots were washed with water and chopped to smaller sized parts." They explained that the root pieces were then "shock frozen with liquid nitrogen and milled by a German Retsch ZM 100 at 14,000 rpm." The resulting material was stored in a dark place.

While other cannabis root studies have claimed to detect very small volumes of phytocannabinoids such as delta-9 THC, this research reported that no cannabinoids or flavonoids were detected. Regarding the abundant triterpenoids present, they were found to be most present in the stem bark of the plant, which the study's authors reported indicates that triterpenoids "accumulate in the outer tissue layer of the roots and stem" of cannabis and hemp plants.


The study's authors noted that hemp roots are "an interesting target for phytochemical exploitation" and that their commercialization may add value for cultivators, particularly those who need to enhance profit margins to maintain sustainable business operations. They reported finding a total of 20 chemicals in the form of secondary metabolites.

The research also observed that both conventional and supercritical CO2 extraction techniques yield similar volumes of the major triterpenoids epifriedelinol and friedelin. It also determined that air drying best preserves triterpenoids in hemp roots specifically. While it found evidence of antioxidant activity within the roots, it noted that this characteristic is dependent upon specific chemover and factors such as harvest time.

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