Introduction: The roots of the cannabis plant have a long history of medical use stretching back millennia. However, the therapeutic potential of cannabis roots has been largely ignored in modern times. Discussion: In the first century, Pliny the Elder described in Natural Histories that a decoction of the root in water could be used to relieve stiffness in the joints, gout, and related conditions. By the 17th century, various herbalists were recommending cannabis root to treat inflammation, joint pain, gout, and other conditions. There has been a subsequent paucity of research in this area, with only a few studies examining the composition of cannabis root and its medical potential. Active compounds identified and measured in cannabis roots include triterpenoids, friedelin (12.8 mg/kg) and epifriedelanol (21.3 mg/kg); alkaloids, cannabisativine (2.5 mg/kg) and anhydrocannabisativine (0.3 mg/kg); carvone and dihydrocarvone; N-(p-hydroxy-β-phenylethyl)-p-hydroxy-trans-cinnamamide (1.6 mg/kg); various sterols such as sitosterol (1.5%), campesterol (0.78%), and stigmasterol (0.56%); and other minor compounds, including choline. Of note, cannabis roots are not a significant source of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol, or other known phytocannabinoids. Conclusion: The current available data on the pharmacology of cannabis root components provide significant support to the historical and ethnobotanical claims of clinical efficacy. Certainly, this suggests the need for reexamination of whole root preparations on inflammatory and malignant conditions employing modern scientific techniques.
Keywords: cannabis; friedelin; gout; hemp; inflammation; root.