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Exploring Cannabis Beyond the Bud: A Comprehensive Review of Medicinal Compounds in Its Inflorescences, Leaves, Stems, and Roots

Cannabis research has often focused on the main active ingredients known as cannabinoids. But recently, scientists have found that using a mix of different compounds from the cannabis plant might work better and have fewer side effects than using just one compound alone. 

The cannabis plant is complex and has been used in many ways throughout history, including using its leaves, stem bark, and roots for health purposes. However, we're still learning about all the benefits these different parts might have.

In the 2020 study, "Secondary Metabolites Profiled in Cannabis Inflorescences, Leaves, Stem Barks, and Roots for Medicinal Purposes," 

researchers looked at various substances in different parts of the cannabis plant. They examined three types of cannabis and looked at 14 types of cannabinoids, 47 kinds of terpenoids (which include 29 monoterpenoids, 15 sesquiterpenoids, and three triterpenoids), three sterols, and seven flavonoids in the plant's flowers, leaves, stem bark, and roots.

They found that the flowers of the cannabis plant consisted of cannabinoids (about 16-20%), terpenoids (1-2%), and flavonoids (a small amount, around 0.1%). The leaves have cannabinoids (1-2%), terpenoids (a bit less, about 0.1-0.3%), and more flavonoids (0.3-0.4%). The stem bark has mostly sterols (about 0.07-0.08%) and triterpenoids (0.05-0.15%), and the roots have similar amounts of sterols (0.06-0.09%) and more triterpenoids (0.13-0.24%).

This detailed information is essential because it gives us a starting point for more research and clinical studies. It helps us understand how the different parts of the cannabis plant work together - which is known as the "entourage effect." It also opens up possibilities to rediscover and make use of each part of the cannabis plant for health purposes, using modern science to explore traditional uses.

Let's dig a bit deeper

This study examines how many different parts of the cannabis plant have the potential for use in healthcare. We already know about THC and CBD, two primary substances in cannabis that have health effects. However, this study shows that other substances in the plant might also help with health problems. These include minor cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and CBC, which could have various health benefits.

Terpenoids, another type of substance in cannabis, might affect how our bodies react to cannabinoids or have their health effects. Flavonoids found in cannabis might help with inflammation and cancer and protect the brain. One specific substance found in the roots of the cannabis plant, called friedelin, might help with inflammation, cancer, and liver health. Plant sterols from cannabis might help lower cholesterol levels.

The study found some interesting things about the best ways to get substances out of cannabis for research

Grinding Method: When they ground up the cannabis by hand with a herb grinder, they got about 17.5% of the total cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis). This was more than when they used an electric blender, which only got about 12%. The electric blender also didn't work because some of the substances stuck to the blender parts.

Solvent for Extraction: They tried two liquids (solvents) to extract the cannabinoids: methanol and a mix of methanol and chloroform. Both worked about the same, but they used methanol because it's less toxic.

Sonication Duration: Sonication is a method where you use sound waves to break down the plant material. They tried doing this for 10, 20, and 30 minutes but didn't find much difference in the amount of cannabinoids they got out. However, just soaking (maceration) the cannabis for one day worked slightly better than sonication.

Extraction Methods for Terpenoids: Terpenoids are another type of substance in cannabis. They tried different ways to get these out, including sonication at different times and soaking for one day. They found no significant difference in the amount they could extract.

Temperature for Sonication: When they used sonication at room temperature (20°C), they got more cannabinoids than at higher temperatures (30°C and 50°C).

Number of Extractions: Whether they did the extraction process once, twice, or three times didn't change the amount of cannabinoids they got out.

Sterols and Triterpenoids Extraction: The method they used to get sterols (another type of substance) out of the stem bark made a big difference. But for the roots, it didn't matter much. Their method didn't make much difference for triterpenoids, another substance in the stem bark and roots.

Flavonoids Extraction: Flavonoids are also in cannabis and have health benefits. They found that the cannabinoids didn't affect how much flavonoids they could get out of the leaves. However, in the flower part, having too many cannabinoids did reduce the amount of flavonoids they could extract.

In short, the study was about finding the best ways to extract different substances from cannabis for research. They found that different methods work better for different parts of the plant and different substances.

Research References:

The paper reviewed by the Researcher OG: Jin, D., Dai, K., Xie, Z., et al. Secondary Metabolites Profiled in Cannabis Inflorescences, Leaves, Stem Barks, and Roots for Medicinal Purposes. Sci Rep 10, 3309 (2020).

Additional data from 1980: Turner CE, Elsohly MA, Boeren EG. Constituents of Cannabis sativa L. XVII. A review of the natural constituents. J Nat Prod. 1980 Mar-Apr;43(2):169-234. doi: 10.1021/np50008a001. PMID: 6991645.


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