What are the Potential Benefits of Cannabis Root Medicine?

Francis Cassidy January 29, 2021 7 comments

From anti-cancer to anti-aging to pain relief, cannabis root could be powerful medicine.

Editor’s Note: Cannabis roots contain compounds which may interact with prescription medications. As a result, only dose cannabis roots with the instructions and supervision of a qualified doctor or naturopath.

Article Update July 25, 2023

When it comes to cannabis consumption, many prefer to avoid the effects of THC. But even with little cannabinoid content, cannabis root may be the answer to many chasing medicine but not intoxication.

The Benefits of Cannabis Root

For the cannabis plant, there may well be as much medicinal benefit in what lies beneath the ground as what flowers above it. Where most focus their attention on the trichomes held within the cannabis flower, the truth is that almost every part of the cannabis plant may provide some form of medicinal benefit. Cannabis roots may be the last thing that consumers think of grinding into a powder before consumption, but they do contain some unique therapeutic properties.

But, first, a word of warning. While scientific studies do demonstrate that cannabis root exhibits some potent medicinal benefit, they may contain compounds that interact with prescription medications. Those who wish to harness the therapeutic benefits of cannabis root should do so under the instruction and supervision of a qualified doctor or naturopath.

cannabis root medicine represented by diagram of growing plant

The Traditional Use of Cannabis Root as Medicine

According to a study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2017), the use of cannabis roots as medicine stretches back millennia [1]Ryz, N. R., Remillard, D. J., & Russo, E. B. (2017). Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), … Continue reading.

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But, just how it acts as medicine was what puzzled many scientists. The abundance of cannabinoids so commonly associated with the medicinal properties of flowering cannabis aren’t present in roots. Researchers in the study attribute the medicinal properties of the roots to a variety of little-known compounds. From the triterpenoids, friedelin and epifriedelanol, to the alkaloids, cannabisativine and anhydrocannabisativine, and various sterols such as sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol, cannabis roots contain a potent mix of compounds that provide medicinal effect.

Ancient Use of Cannabis Root as Medicine

Even without an in-depth knowledge of modern chemistry and biology, the ancients uncovered a myriad of medicinal uses for cannabis roots. From joint stiffness to gout, and from inflammation to fever and digestive cleansing, the medicinal use of cannabis root was common in places as far apart as Europe and India to the tip of South America.

The Science behind Cannabis Roots – Triterpenes

When it comes to the medicine of cannabis root, perhaps of most interest may be a class of chemical compounds known as triterpenes. Composed of three terpene units, there are two specific triterpenes called friedelin and epifriedelanol that appear in significant quantities in cannabis roots.

A study published in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters (2010)[2]Ding, Y., Liang, C., Kim, J., Lee, Y., Hyun, J., Kang, H., Kim, J., Min, B., & Kim, Y. (2010). Triterpene compounds isolated from Acer mandshuricum and their anti-inflammatory activity. … Continue reading Investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of triterpenes. Researchers evaluated a range of triterpenes for the inhibitory activity of TNF-alpha secretion in the lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated murine RAW264.7 macrophage cell line. All compounds demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity, with researchers noting that friedelin “exhibited moderate activity.”

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A further study published in Nature Research (2016), investigated the many potential medical uses of friedelin. In addition to its anti-histaminic, antipyretic properties, gastroprotective, antioxidant, and liver-protective benefits, researchers also noted its ability to “inhibit some cancer cell lines”.

Does Cannabis Root Have Cancer Killing Properties?

When it comes to fighting cancer, the triterpene epifriedelanol shines above others in studies so far. A study published in The African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2017) [3]Yang, J., Fa, J., & Li, B. (2017). APOPTOSIS INDUCTION OF EPIFRIEDELINOL ON HUMAN CERVICAL CANCER CELL LINE. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM, … Continue reading, involved an analysis of the antitumor properties of epifriedelinol in the management of cervical cancer by inducing apoptosis.

Researchers treated cervical cancer in patients with epifriedelinol at a concentration of 50-1000 µg/ml. Results were positive, with epifriedelinol not only significantly decreasing the viability count of cancerous cells, but also enhancing the formation of oligonucleosome in the cell lines. Researchers concluded they had proven the anticancer activity of epifriedelinol in cervical cancer by inducing apoptosis.

Pain Relief from Cannabis Root?

In the aforementioned study related to the historical medicinal use of cannabis root, researchers also delved into the analgesic properties so widely touted by the ancients.

The pain-relieving properties of cannabis root, attributed by researchers to the unpronounceable compound N-(p-hydroneuroxy-β-phenylmethyl)-p-hydroxy-trans-cinnamamide, are impressive. Quantified in rat studies, researchers demonstrated its ability to help combat both neurogenic pain and inflammatory pain.

A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology [4]Lima et al., (2021) CANNABIS ROOTS: PHARMACOLOGICAL AND TOXICOLOGICAL STUDIES IN MICE. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Vol 271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2021.113868 reports that cannabis root has anti-inflammatory benefits without toxic side effects.

cannabis root medicine represented by man holding growing plant to show roots

Preparing Cannabis Roots as Medicine

The ancients knew only too well that the leaves and buds aren’t the only healers within the cannabis plant. Modern science now demonstrates that cannabis roots also offer immense healing potential.

So, how can the average home grower benefit more from their crop? Luckily, cannabis roots require little preparation, and many potent medicinal recipes exist. We’ve published a full guide on preparing roots for medicinal consumption, but here’s the gist of it:

Roots must be cleaned and dried before being ground into a fine powder. At this point, keen home growers have a myriad of options as to how they wish to prepare the medicine. Some make balms to soothe inflammation by mixing the powder with an oil or fat source. Others simply make a tea by boiling the powder for twelve hours. They add additional herbs such as anise and cinnamon.

Some yet prefer cannabis root tinctures. You make these by slowly simmering cannabis root for an extended period. The roots, when combined with a tincture base such as alcohol, provide medicinal benefit via this ever more popular form.

A word of warning though. For those who consume cannabis root orally, one thing worth bearing in mind is that the presence of the alkaloids pyrrolidine and piperidine are toxic at high levels. They may irritate the stomach lining and even cause problems in the liver. For those that respond negatively to oral ingestion, don’t forget that topical application is also effective.


Author avatar

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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  1. Catherine Moore

    What is the best way to use the cannabis root? Would it need to be de-carbed? Dried? Ground? Steeped into a tea? Etc?

    • Jennifer Grant

      You do not need to decarb, but all of the other suggestions have been done. Steeping in a tea, drying and grinding to put into capsules that can be taken daily, eating raw or cooked.


    Are there any instructions on how to harvest the roots? Dry? Use in Tea? Anyone know? thank you.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Most people dry them and grind into a near powder than can be put into capsules. You can also eat them directly – in a salad or stir fry.

    • Bill Byrd

      I suspect you can grow your sprouts / germinate just like you would with alfalfa sprouts you’d find in the grocery.

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