By Blair Van Pelt, From his study “Characterization of Medicinal Properties of Cannabis Sativa L. Root”
Cannabis root has been used medicinally for centuries from different parts of the world and to treat a wide range of maladies. The earliest report is from medieval times when the root was said to relieve the agonies of gout and other painful diseases (Nature’s Pharmacy 2007).
In 1696 Georg Eberhard Rumpf (Rumphius), a German physician at the service of the Dutch Crown reported on the use of cannabis root in Indonesia to treat gonorrhea (Rumpf and Beekman 1981, Russo 2002). By 1763 The New English Dictionary said cannabis root applied to skin eases inflammation (Marijuana as Medicine 2005). In the Chinese Materia Medica “juice of the root is thought to have a beneficial action in retained placenta and post partum hemorrhage,(Stuart 1928).
In Argentina cannabis is considered a real panacea and is used to treat tetanus, colic, gastralgia, swelling of the liver, gonorrhea, sterility, impotency, abortion, tuberculosis of the lungs and asthma even the root-bark has been collected in spring, and employed as a febrifuge, tonic, for treatment of dysentery and gastralgia, either pulverized or in form of decoctions. The root when ground and applied to burns is said to relieve pain. Oil from the seeds has been frequently used even in treatment of cancer (Kabelik, 1960).
Historically cannabis roots have been prepared in several ways. Usually the roots are dried and ground into a powder or boiled. The powder is then used to make a poultice or an oil salve to be used topically, and sometimes the boiled root juice is drunk. The decoction of the root is said help remedy hard tumors and knots in the joints (Duke 1983).
The roots can be ground to form a paste and applied to relieve the pain of surgery and broken bones (Frank 1978). Mixed with oil and butter, the root was used as a salve it is said to treat burns from the newly introduced gunpowder (Natures’ Pharmacy 2008).
Identified components of roots
The roots are the least studied part of the cannabis plant; still, several components and compounds were identified since the 1970’s. Although glandular hairs are where the majority of cannabinoids are produced they have also been detected in the roots by immunoassays (Tanaka and Shoyama 1999) and chemical analysis (Potter 2004).
Terpenes have been detected and isolated from essential oil from flowers, leaves and roots(Slatkin et al. 1971). The terpenes are responsible for the flavor of different varieties of cannabis and determine the preference of the cannabis users (Flores-Sanchez 2008). Alkaloids are another class of chemical constituents that have been found in cannabis.
Both piperidine and pyrrolidine were identified and isolated from the roots, leaves, stems, pollen, and seeds (Paris et al. 1975; El-Feraly and Turner 1975; Elsohly at al. 1978). The biosynthesis of choline and atropine by hairy root cultures have also been reported (Wahby et al. 2006) “Cannabis fruits and roots (Sakaibara at al. 1995) have yielded 11 compounds identified as phenolic amides and lignanamides.” A review done by Flores-Sanchez found phenolic amides to have cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic, cardiovascular and mild analgesic activity and the lignans to have insecticidal effects.