Secondary Metabolites Profiled in Cannabis Inflorescences, Leaves, Stem Barks, and Roots for Medicinal Purposes

Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 24;10(1):3309. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-60172-6.


Cannabis research has historically focused on the most prevalent cannabinoids. However, extracts with a broad spectrum of secondary metabolites may have increased efficacy and decreased adverse effects compared to cannabinoids in isolation. Cannabis's complexity contributes to the length and breadth of its historical usage, including the individual application of the leaves, stem barks, and roots, for which modern research has not fully developed its therapeutic potential. This study is the first attempt to profile secondary metabolites groups in individual plant parts comprehensively. We profiled 14 cannabinoids, 47 terpenoids (29 monoterpenoids, 15 sesquiterpenoids, and 3 triterpenoids), 3 sterols, and 7 flavonoids in cannabis flowers, leaves, stem barks, and roots in three chemovars available. Cannabis inflorescence was characterized by cannabinoids (15.77-20.37%), terpenoids (1.28-2.14%), and flavonoids (0.07-0.14%); the leaf by cannabinoids (1.10-2.10%), terpenoids (0.13-0.28%), and flavonoids (0.34-0.44%); stem barks by sterols (0.07-0.08%) and triterpenoids (0.05-0.15%); roots by sterols (0.06-0.09%) and triterpenoids (0.13-0.24%). This comprehensive profile of bioactive compounds can form a baseline of reference values useful for research and clinical studies to understand the "entourage effect" of cannabis as a whole, and also to rediscover therapeutic potential for each part of cannabis from their traditional use by applying modern scientific methodologies.

MeSH terms

  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cannabis / metabolism*
  • Flavonoids / metabolism
  • Inflorescence / metabolism*
  • Plant Bark / metabolism*
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / metabolism*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Secondary Metabolism*
  • Sesquiterpenes / metabolism
  • Sterols / metabolism


  • Cannabinoids
  • Flavonoids
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Sterols