What to do With Cannabis Roots?

Matt Weeks October 15, 2018 34 comments

Cannabis roots are ancient medicine and may soon have a place in modern medicine.

Editor’s Note: Cannabis roots may contain compounds which interact with prescription medications. As a result, only dose cannabis roots with the instructions and supervision of a qualified doctor or naturopath. (This article was updated July 18, 2023)

Cannabis roots have a reputation for being able to help the symptoms of stiff joints, minor infections, and skin inflammation.

Several pre-clinical studies indicate that cannabis root have several pharmacological effects including, protection of the liver, reduction of inflammation, and anti-cancer benefits.

There are trace amounts of cannabinoids within the roots, but this is not what people are after when preparing cannabis roots for consumption. The cannabis roots themselves have their own medicinal potential.

Medicinal Compounds in Cannabis Roots

These important terpenes: friedelin, pentacyclic, triterpene ketones, and epifriedelanol have significant potential for health benefits. Friedlein is an antioxidant that protects the liver; Epifriedelanol has anti-tumor benefits; the other two have been shown to kill cancer cells, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.

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These have been used for millennia, having appeared in text from Classical Greece’s Pliny the Elder and in ancient Chinese medicinal manuscripts.

History of Cannabis Roots as Medicine

For centuries, Chinese medicine incorporated every part of the cannabis plant in traditional remedies. While the leaves, stalk and seeds all had their reported therapeutic purposes (from loosening up the bowels to curing postpartum depression), the ancient medicine men of the east used the roots of Cannabis sativa during labor and delivery and as a way to help painful blockage of the bladder.

For these practices, the Chinese had two ways of preparing the root. The first, and more straight-forward method, was to pummel fresh roots with a mortar and pestle to extract juices that could then be taken orally. The second way was to boil the root so that the essential elements could seep out into a tea-like broth through a process called decoction. It’s the same method that the Greeks would later popularize.

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Proper Cleaning of the Cannabis Roots

The best method for decoction in today’s world a bit of elbow grease. First, it’s best to use fresh roots that are still full of nutrients — this means roots from plants that have been grown in clean soil. Cannabis is a powerful soil cleaner, which is great for crops, but terrible for folks who want to ingest roots free of heavy metals.

To properly decoct your roots, gently pull them from the ground, taking care to break as few strands as possible in the process. Once the roots are free, separate them from the stalk and leaves with a sharp knife. Then the cleaning begins. Lukewarm water is all you need to clean the root. In fact, soap may cause damage.  Take your time on this part, cannabis roots are notorious difficult to clean. Some modern practitioners recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush to help separate the dirt from the roots. It’s an arduous process, but it’s worthwhile to get a clean and safe product.

Preparing the Root for Consumption

Once the roots are clean, dry them off and store them in a dark, cool place for 48 hours to fully dry them out. Once dry, you have two choices: You can choose to boil the roots in water or grind them into a powder. Both methods work, but mashing the roots into a powder allows you to use them in other ways (more on that later).

The standard unit for any decoction is 1 ounce of dried herb to two cups of boiling water. If you find your final product is too weak or strong, you can adjust the amounts on the next try. (If you can’t wait two days for the roots to dry out, double the amount used.) Once you’ve decided on the amount to use, add your roots to the appropriate amount water and put it on the stove over medium heat. Let the concoction simmer until about one-quarter of the water has evaporated.

Once the water evaporates, strain the mixture and serve. You can save your decoction for up to 72 hours in the fridge.

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Image credit: iSmoke

Creating Balms with Cannabis Root

Cannabis roots for balms also have a long history of use. To make your own, you’ll follow the steps above to extract, clean, and dry the roots of your cannabis plant. Once you have dry roots, you’ll grind them into a fine powder.

Once you have a powder, you can mix this with any kind of oil or fat. Then place it in a slow cooker for 12-18 hours. Use the powder from 1 to 2 root balls, 4cups of fat (like coconut oil), and 2 cups of water. you can also add beeswax to harden the balm until it is ready for use. This just makes it easier to transport and store.

Once that’s done, you’ll have a root salve that can treat skin disorders like acne and blisters. You can also rub it on your temples for headaches or your chest to soothe congestion. It even works on achey joints.

Cannabis Root Tea

Another modern recipe calls for placing powdered cannabis root into a slow cooker for 12 hours, with the option of adding other herbs like anise and cinnamon to the mix. The resulting concoction can be strained and used like regular, but with the medicinal benefits of cannabis roots.

Make Sure Your Root Tea is not Toxic

Alkaloid (pyrrolidine and piperidine) are compounds within the root that are toxic in high levels. These can irritate the lining of your stomach and even be damaging to your liver. For this reason, we do not recommend long term use of cannabis root medicine.

Every part of the cannabis plant can used for nutritional or medicinal benefit. When you take down your plant, consider using all of the parts, even the cannabis roots.

Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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  1. Koos

    How do you define a high level of alkaloids in the roots of cannabis plants for the layman

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi there – yes – alkaloids are a nitrogen containing molecule in the plant, concentrated in the roots. Current research is looking at alkaloids as an alternative to anti-depressants (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4753303/) and also as a painkiller (https://bit.ly/2Zm9rgX). Cocaine is a type of alkaloid. There are over 500 types. So, the cannabis root may be good medicine for depression and physical pain.

    • Bob

      I use Cannabis root powder in my cannabudder preparations… you dehydrate it for 24-48hrs in a food dehydrator (Until it snaps cleanly) If I use the trim or bud from a plant I also use the roots from it as well so you get a whole extract vs just the bud or sugar trim. I found adding Gotu kola and dandelion root powder in the cannabudder makes it more profoundly pain relieving. I looked into the alkaloids (pyrrolidine and piperidine) I can’t find any medical research concerning this statement that somehow it harms the liver in the amount present in Cannabis roots. I think they just mention it’s possible but in extreme concentrations. The MSDS lists it as toxic in liquid form… an aqueous extract is hardly liquid Pyrrolidine. The difference between a medicine and a poison is the dose… even in several ounces of Cannabis root powder you don’t have remotely enough Pyrrolidine to cause any harm. (MSDS) https://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/96268.htm

      I can’t find one article, and I searched in various medical and research journals. Do you have any references to cannabis roots actually being toxic without being concentrated into a liquid?

      LD50 of Pipperine is 400mg/kg which is 54,400mg of pure pipperine (Oral dose)
      LD50 of Pyrrolidine is 450mg/kg which is 61,200mg of pyrrolidine (Oral dose)

    • Bob

      I forgot to mention the MG dosage I specified is the amount to kill a 300lb person.

  2. Cindy May

    For cannabis root tea, what is the root powder-to-water ratio? Does it need an added oil to absorb properly?

    • Jennifer Grant

      The standard unit for any decoction is 1 ounce of dried herb to 1 pint (two cups) of boiling water. It does not need a fat. Although, I find that a bit of butter or coconut oil cuts the bitterness.

    • Bob

      Some cannabinoids extract more easily with a fat source, but its not required.

  3. Arthur Mayer

    do you have to limit use of salve containing cannabis roots as opposed to taking internally?

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Arthur – you don’t have to limit salve use. Unless there are other ingredients in there that can be toxic in higher doses.

  4. Jenifer Lockwood

    When can you harvest for the roots?

  5. Dustin Rust

    Hi will a person fail a drug test if they only eat cannabis root? I love the great information!! Thanks

  6. marta b macbeth

    How many oz. in a root ball? I want to make a slave with root powder. Thank you! I am looking forward to making root powder.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Once you prepare it (dry and grind) you can weigh it. Each root ball is going to be a different. Hard to measure that way. 🙁

  7. Dave Christie

    Would this be the same for hemp roots?

  8. I have recently been diagnosed with low grade lymphoma and have had a radiation treatment to my lymph nodes in my neck and around my oesophagus. Which caused me to choke on my food .
    Now 2 yrs later I have the lymphoma pressing on my chest which is on the left side.This is causing a lot of pain.I am having a pet scan on Tuesday so the oncologist can decide where to do the biopsy .
    They are looking at chemotherapy for treatment. Would I get some relief from using cannabis?

    • leona

      you should use topical and infused cbd edibles

    • Geno Weakland

      You would benefit from any Cannabis, CBD will attack hormone driven cancer and THC will attack the others. You always use together though to get the “ Entourage Effect” This allows the other cannabinoids and terpenes to work together wil the THC.

  9. How much of the boiled cannabis root concoction is safe to consume? Can it be added to coffee?

  10. leona

    I have used olive oil in a slow cooker and added the cannabis root, simmered for four hours I added all spice for spell. Seems to work. what is your thought about it

  11. Andre Martel

    can you mix bud and root for nee pain

  12. Andrew the guy

    How much exactly is too much root? Should I be taking one teaspoon of powder at a time or what? Surely there should be some form of standardized measure if people have already been doing this. Is there anything that would make this concoction work better? Like say mixing or making it with golden paste (tumeric and black pepper) while making. Would these go well together or no? What, if any research has been done for the dosing of roots?

    Putting this information out there that could potentially be harmful isn’t the greatest way to do it. We shouldn’t be experimenting with this until we know exactly what dosage should be taken.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Andrew – there are currently zero dosing guidelines for ANY bit of cannabis medicine. Even physicians will tell you start low and go slow. I’m not sure about mixing it with other herbals. It’s an interesting question. I’ll see if any of the researchers on staff can come up with something on that.

  13. Robert Watson

    Would roots grown in commercial “salt” nutrients (i.e. GH Flora) be safe or are they known/believed to have any heavy metals or other toxins because of the salt nutrients?

    • Jennifer Grant

      Roots are known to be very efficient at soaking up toxins, which is one of the reasons hemp/cannabis is so good at cleaning up soil contamination. I can’t find any comprehensive info on how the plant processes these toxins. So, while I am no expert on plant dynamics, I would make the safe assumption that these are not safe to eat or process into medicine.

  14. dan B

    How do you make sure that the root is free from bacteria and viruses before consumption, since lukewarm water cannot kill off any bacteria which may be on/isnide the fresh root (if i am using a fresh root and grinding it into powder)

  15. Drew Knox

    What’s the best was to grind my root? I tried using a food processor, that did not work.