The weed root is the most underutilized and underestimated part of the weed plant. We already make use of almost every single part of the plant: leaves, seeds, flowers, resin, fiber. Given that, it’s still kind of hard to believe that we might have missed something along the way. During historical times though, this was very different.
Throughout history, cannabis roots have been part of all sorts of homemade preparations. Their use as a remedy for skin rash was documented in ancient Greek medicine, and a medical article tells how Indians boiled them together with other leaves to make poultices for the treatment of inflamed skin surfaces. This practice is referred to in many recent studies, which highlight the painkilling and sedative properties of the roots for conditions such as skin rash and haemorrhoids.
In addition to paste, the Chinese used the roots for juice and ammunition. The juice pressed from the roots was used as a diuretic and even to stop bleeding during childbirth. The method was reviewed in 2002 by neurologist Ethan Russo, concluding that “the juice of the root is thought to have a beneficial action in retained placenta and post-partum haemorrhage.”
But it doesn’t stop here. The ancient Chinese exploited the cannabis plant to the point that they even used the roots as a component of gunpowder. Once dried, ground and toasted, they were mixed with bamboo roots, pine resin and other substances into ammunition for rockets and a sort of hand grenade they used in the military sphere.
The Roots Of Weed Root Therapy
Hemp root was first recorded in Chinese medical literature some 5,000 years ago. The document states that the juice of hemp root is an effective diuretic. It was used by ancient Chinese to stop hemorrhage in women after they gave birth. Aside from medicinal uses, other Chinese literatures also document the use of hemp root in manufacturing gunpowder.
Around 77-79 CE, the Roman historian named Pliny published known uses of hemp root in his book Natural Histories. He said that when hemp root was boiled in water it was useful in treating joint stiffness as well as gout and similar disorders. Pliny also wrote that raw hemp root could be applied topically to soothe burn wounds.
Between the 9th and 18th CE, manuscripts in Azerbaijani also documented the popular uses of hemp roots as a decoction to treat wounds and cure fevers. It was particularly used by the local Azerbaijani to treat toothaches, ulcers, and abscesses.
Throughout history there have been other little known documented uses of cannabis root. While herbal uses from the ancient and medieval times have survived to present day, it seems that the numerous useful properties of cannabis root aren’t mentioned as often as other plants. But that doesn’t diminish the value of the humble hemp root.
Medicinal Value of Weed Roots
Cannabis roots contain too little THC and CBD to even be used for those purposes but analysis of its chemical compounds show why the root was considered such an important healing and anti-inflammatory herb in ancient times.
Cannabis roots are made up of lipids and sugars. It contains low levels of compounds that have its own important medicinal benefits. The ethanol extract of hemp root contains terpenes that have the following health benefits:
- Friedelin: antioxidant and protects the liver;
- Epifriedelanol: can prevent the growth of tumors;
- Pentacyclic triterpene ketones: can kill cancer cells, reduce inflammation, acts as a diuretic, and reduces bacteria
The alkaloids found in cannabis roots have the following benefits:
- Piperidine: used by pharmaceutical companies as a chemical building block to create medicine used in psychiatry
- Pyrrolidine: also used by pharmaceuticals as a building block in the manufacture of stimulant medications
Small quantities of choline as well as atropine are also present in cannabis roots. Choline is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in maintaining health cell membranes. Post-menopausal women are at high risk for a choline deficiency, so they can benefit from consuming cannabis root tea. Atropine on the other hand is used to relax the eye muscles, can be used to increase heart rate during resuscitation, and it also has bronchodilatory properties.
Modern Day Weed Roots Uses
Many of today’s growers and even dispensaries make preparations using cannabis root to provide relief from a multitude of disorders. You can easily make home-brewed cannabis root tea by placing dried, powdered hemp root in a slow cooker for 12 hours. Anise, cinnamon, and other aromatic herbs can also be added especially if you aren’t fond of the taste of pure hemp. Once it’s done, strain the tea and drink.
Cannabis root is also used in many tinctures and liniments which are applied directly to the skin. A dry, powdered form of the root can be used as a poultice to soothe skin disorders such as dermatitis, cuts, and burns. Cannabis root used in salves, oils, and balms can also be used to treat herpes, blisters, pimples, acne, arthritis, hemorrhoids, dysmenorrhea, asthma, sore throat, colds, headaches, tension pains, migraines, and chronic inflammation of the larynx.
If you’re already growing your own cannabis at home, don’t throw out the roots so that you can maximize the many wonderful medicinal benefits of this underutilized part! You can even choose a to combine the roots of different strains or use them alone to create balms and salves made out of cannabis roots. Just remember to always dry the roots prior to processing them. Once dried, break them into chunks and then use a mortar and pestle or blender to grind it finely into a powder. Add it to a slow cooker, put some oil or fat, and let it simmer for 12 hours.
How to Clean Cannabis Roots
Now, with plenty of healthy roots to work with, they should be cleaned before using them for anything. Carefully remove the roots from the soil, keeping as much of it intact as possible. This is best done when the soil is still moist, as dry soil will try to cling to the roots even more.
Gently knock the roots on the ground or the side of the pot to try to let most of the soil fall off. Then cut the roots from the plant stalk (leaving a little wiggle room to work with) and remove any leaves.
Using water, rinse the roots well until (hopefully) no soil at all remains (especially if there are plans to consume them in any way). This may take a while. Don’t use hot water. Room temperature water is best, but if needed, lukewarm water can be used too. A soft toothbrush may help.
Our knowledge of the properties of cannabis root is still in its infancy, and as the industry continues to develop, it is likely that even more uses for them will be discovered.
[Updated, originally published 20.2.2017]
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