Cannabis roots have been used for centuries for their medicinal and healing properties.
We find few references to cannabis in the ancient world, even though some documents and written evidence about the properties of this plant have been compiled from different cultures in the history of humanity. In Roman times, hemp was used mainly to obtain fibers to make ropes and fabrics, according to some brief annotations by Lucian, Pliny, Columela and Celsus (2nd century AD). Also, there are documents from the year 77 AD, where the healing qualities of cannabis roots were described by the naturalist Pliny the Elder. Herbal and root medicine has been in use since time immemorial.
While most of the interest has been focused on the flowers and leaves, all the plant parts can be used, from roots to top, since extremely beneficial therapeutic properties have been found in all its forms. Cannabis roots were used to treat several conditions, and modern scientists are starting to look with more interest to find a place in modern medical practice for these types of natural remedies, using historical resources to learn how ancient healers used it in traditional medicine. After carrying out different chemical analyses, it can be scientifically proven what healers had known and applied to their patients from long ago.
As we look back, we can see that these roots have been used steeped in water to treat conditions like stiff joints, gout and other diseases. In the 16th century, the potential of cannabis roots was studied by botanists and herbalists, including a German physician and botanist named Leonhart Fuchs, who also claimed that root extractions could be a good remedy for gout. As time passed, traditional healers recommended cannabis root extractions to treat inflammation, as well as gout and joint pain. At those times, these were not the only roots used in traditional medicine.
Some of the conditions treated with cannabis roots include fever, inflammation, infections, gouty arthritis, joint pain, and even postpartum bleeding. History also tells us that it was used for sexually transmitted diseases, tumors, and skin burns. In the same way that the cannabis plant has many different uses and benefits, cannabis roots offers a wide range of possibilities. Traditionally, they were boiled to make ointments and poultices for topical use to relieve muscle cramps, gout attacks or skin burns. As already said, it was commonly used to treat arthritis, a common disease of the elderly.
Current studies have shown that the components of cannabis root provide significant support to the historical and ethnobotanical claims of clinical efficacy. Understanding how it should be prepared and applied as well as learning what the effects are under certain conditions still need thorough investigation. Nevertheless, the evidence speaks for itself and demonstrates that, for centuries, traditional healers have shown the multiple medicinal benefits and health benefits that cannabis roots offer.
The main beneficial properties of cannabis roots come in the form of alkaloids, such as Cannabisativine and Anhydrocannabisativine.
Friedelin is found in many plants but is the most prominent in the cannabis plant. This study has shown that this compound has potent anti-inflammatory effects, although the friedelin was not isolated from the cannabis plant itself, but from another plant. Some of the active compounds known to be present in cannabis roots are:
- Friedelin (Triterpenoid) - Anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic.
- Epifriedelanol (Triterpenoid)
- Carvone (Monoterpene)
- Dihydrocarvone (Monoterpene)
- Cannabisativine (Alkaloid)
- Anhydrocannabisativine (Alkaloid)
- Sitosterol (Sterol)
- Campesterol (Sterol)
- Stigmasterol (Sterol)
- N- (P-hydroxy-β-phenylethyl) -p-hydroxy-trans-cinnamide (Sterol) - Analgesic
- Choline (Sterol) – It can help nerve function and brain development.
Additionally, these chemical compounds need further study, as most of the research is based on extractions made from other plants that contain the same compounds, not necessarily from cannabis. However, cannabis roots have definitely shown to have a great therapeutic potential despite the fact that the amounts of cannabinoids in this part of the plant are very small. Actually roots contain 0% THC, so users would not get any high effect when consuming them. However, hexanoyl-CoA, a fatty chain of enzymes that precedes the formation of THC is also present. Additionally, CBD acids, or CBDA, have been found in the roots in very small amounts. CBD is being studied in depth and used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, increase appetite and treat seizures derived from epilepsy among others.
It is important that the roots come from a healthy plant that has been grown in clean, mineral-free soil, or also in a hydroponic system to be good for consumption. Dealing with roots that have been grown in the ground can be a very time-consuming process since they are more likely to have unwanted salts built up around them. Hydroponic systems provide us easier access to keep the roots in optimal health as we can easily check the roots color, white and shiny when healthy or with an unhealthy-looking slimy brown. After harvesting the plant, the roots should be washed in order to clean them completely. Extracting them from the ground is best achieved when the growing medium is wet, thus preventing them from breaking when removed. A tool such as a hand trowel or shovel can be used. They should be hung to dry in the dark prior to being processed.
As time and research go on, it's always great when history and modern times merge, especially when modern science finally recognizes and values the use of drugs commonly used since ancient times, such as cannabis roots, so current scientists and scholars put this plant at the center of their discussions and investigations again. Modern science can only accept and confirm current knowledge, so we avoid leaving valuable ancestral knowledge anchored in the past and the oblivion.
Medicines of plant origin have always been an integral part of human survival; today these types of remedies are highly valued and have become an essential asset to improve both human and animal wellbeing. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of the world's population relies on traditional medicines mainly obtained from plants. The use of the cannabis plant in medicine, religious ceremonies and for recreational purposes dates back 5,000 years, so we are going back to ancient wisdom. Although there is still controversy around this plant, researchers continue to work on obtaining more technical knowledge and a solid foundation with scientific evidence on the biochemical properties and medicinal properties of the plant.