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Breaking Down Hemp: The Roots

Hempco LogoHempco Admin
4 Mins. Read

To say that every part of this plant can be used for something is no joke.  Even the roots contain properties that are useful in products people can use every day.

The roots of the cannabis plant are long and deep, which makes it a highly adaptable crop. In some types of soil, the root might attain a length of 6 - 12 inches (15 - 30 cm). This allows it to pick up a lot of nutrients, even in leached soil.

Hemp roots can serve as an excellent mineral and fibre source. But what is often unknown about the roots is that much like the flower, they contain properties that have been used as medicine for centuries.

Cannabis roots contain several active cannabinoids (including triterpenoids, epifriedelanol and friedelin, cannabisativinnes, and hydrocannabisativinnes) which are all useful in treating certain symptoms.

The origin of hemp roots as medicine

For thousands of years, the flowers of this plant have been known to provide medicinal benefits, but that is only one part of the picture. Cannabis roots have also been used to treat a range of different ailments across many cultures over the centuries. 

The earliest mention in history of the medicinal properties of hemp roots dates back to 77 AD. It was described in the Natural Histories by Pliny the Elder, a Latin naturalist. Since that time, there has been recognised usage of cannabis roots in Europe, Asia and South America

The Pên-ts’ao Ching, an ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia, mentioned that the juice of cannabis root could help in the cessation of haemorrhage which occurs after childbirth. Other accounts reported that it can be used to treat spotting, difficult delivery, retention of placenta etc.

The 12th-century Persian philosopher - Ibn Sina wrote the Canon of Medicine which stated that “the compress with the boiled roots of cannabis decrease fever.” In South America, the root bark was used to alleviate fever due to malaria.

By the 17th century, many herbalists would prescribe cannabis root for the treatment of arthritis, gout and other inflammatory conditions. It was not until recently that scientific investigation into these healing properties has been undertaken.. 

Previously, the scientific community had mostly ignored this plant because of the stigma attached to studying it. However, modern research has found that there are several compounds in the root with possible anti-inflammatory effects.

 In 1971, researchers discovered the presence of terpenes in the cannabis plant. These substances are what gives cannabis its unique fragrance.

Some terpenes like isoprene have expectorant and humectant properties and that makes them possible treatments for obstructive pulmonary diseases like asthma.

What else can hemp roots be used for? 

Aside from its anti-inflammatory effects, hemp roots have other medicinal benefits.

  • Liver health

Though research on this benefit is limited, there are studies which show that hemp roots support liver health. Studies have discovered that by ethanol-based extraction, there exists a potent antioxidant known as friedelin. It has been found that this compound has liver-protecting capabilities.

  • Healthy cell membranes

The roots of cannabis contain a lipid known as choline, which is an important component of cell membranes. It is also a precursor to the most abundant neurotransmitter in our bodies - called acetylcholine. Water-soluble choline is an essential nutrient because the body is unable to synthesize its own endogenously. Hemp roots possess this chemical in small, but still useful quantities.

  • Cancer prevention

Hemp roots contain pentacyclic triterpene ketones that support apoptosis. Apoptosis is essentially the death of cells, and is required to get rid of damaged or old cells that could potentially become cancerous. Friedelin and epifriedelanol are also useful in warding off cancer. Though in-depth studies are lacking, there seems to be anecdotal evidence supporting such benefits.

  • Nutrition

With minimal amounts of the psychoactive compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), using raw hemp roots as a source of nourishment is also possible. There are trace amounts of cannabinoid acids in the roots, which can still contribute to the onset of a ‘sense of well-being’. It can be ingested in the form of teas and powders

Roots store a lot of the nutrients that are responsible for a plant's growth and health. This makes the root one of the most nutritious parts of the plant. However, this depends on the soil and the microbes within it. 

Despite being useful in these areas, the flowers and leaves are still much more nourishing for the body than the roots. 

Regardless, the roots are a part of plants that are rarely looked at as useful. When it comes to the cannabis plant, that’s not quite the story.

The dietary and cosmetic applications for roots are just the beginning of their usefulness.  Next, we’re going to tell you a little bit about how they help clean the soil that the plant grows in.