Many growers would give little thought to the roots of their cannabis plants beyond ensuring that they are healthy, supplied with water, nutrients, oxygen and drainage, before discarding them at harvest time. But the roots have been used in folk medicine for millennia and contain compounds of medicinal value.
Between the 11th and 12th centuries there is documentation that the juice of the cannabis leaves was used to cure abscesses and an 'oily wax' made from hemp seed oil was applied to tumours. The oil was used as a painkiller for earaches, for soothing neurological pain and the boiled leaves were used to wash the body to kill lice, nits and other parasites. There is a historical record of cannabis’s topical uses in Tibetan medicine. In Thailand, Cannabis sativa is combined with various other herbs and spices including Mugwort, Black pepper, Ginger and the Ceylon Cinnamon Tree to make a tincture used to treat haemorrhoids, laryngeal polyps and ulcers in the intestinal and genital areas. In Malaysia, Hydnocarpus anthelmintica and Cannabis sativa were used topically for the treatment of leprosy (Chaulmoogra oil). In Cambodia, Cannabis sativa and various other herbs and spices were macerated and used to treat stiffness following childbirth.
In Western herbal tradition, rheumatism oil (1856) was made from Cannabis sativa, poppy and henbane to relieve pain. In Arabic medicine, Cannabis sativa has a long and vast history of topical use. The English physician, William Salmon wrote in the early 18th century that cannabis root could be mixed with barley flower and applied as a poultice to treat sciatica and pelvic joint pain. From the late 18th century up to the turn of the 20th century, American physicians would recommend decoctions of cannabis root to treat inflammation, incontinence and venereal disease. There was also mention of cannabis oil being used for treating vitiligo and leprosy. The leaves of cannabis were also used as a hair rinse to stimulate hair growth.
Many modern-day growers, as well as dispensaries and patients in the US, utilise preparations made from cannabis root to provide subjective relief from a range of ailments. Some home-brew cannabis root ‘tea’, usually by slowly simmering the dried, powdered root (often with cinnamon bark, anise, or other aromatics) in a slow cooker (crock pot) for twelve hours or more before straining and drinking. It can also be reduced down to an extract for tinctures or liniments. Others will simmer the root in oil and water before separating out the residual oil and using as the basis for topical medications. Some even use the root in its dry, powdered form to make dry poultices that can help soothe and heal burns, cuts and skin complaints such as dermatitis. There is even a report of dried, powdered root being used to ‘draw out’ the venom from a scorpion sting; this may have some validity, as fresh cannabis juice was apparently used for this purpose in ancient China. When used topically cannabis does not have the psychoactive effects that are felt when smoked or ingested.
- Dermatitis (including atopic) and psoriasis
- Balm for lips, fever blisters, herpes
- Superficial wounds, cuts, acne pimples, boils, corns, certain nail fungus
- Rheumatism and arthritic pains
- Torticollis (Wry Neck), back pains, muscular pains and cramps, sprains and other contusions
- Phlebitis, venous ulcerations
- Menstruation pains
- Cold and sore throat, bronchitis
- Asthmatic problems
- Chronic inflammation of larynx (compress)
- Migraine, head pains, tension headaches
- Pharmaceutical Cannabis or Cannabinoids
A Canadian study found that cannabis flowers contained CBDA (the acidic precursor to CBD) at approximately 2.4% concentration, while the leaves, stems and roots contained 0.5%, 0.04% and 0.004% respectively. The various parts also contained the precursor to CBDA, a substance known as hexanoyl-CoA, in concentrations of 15.5%, 4.0%, 2.2% and 1.5% respectively.
If cultivating with a view to utilising the roots, hydroponic and aeroponic techniques are preferable as they allow for a finer degree of precision when administering nutrients, enable the grower to regularly inspect for progress and signs of ill-health, and ensure that the roots will be clean and free from soil. Plant breeders have developed specialised systems to maximise root health and growth; the best-known technique involves integrated air-pruning of roots to encourage dense growth within a specified volume.
Knowledge of all of the properties of cannabis root is still in its infancy, and as the industry continues to develop, it is likely that even more applications will be developed.
adapted from Getting Down To The Roots Of Cannabis