Cannabis boasts hundreds if not thousands of uses. The industrial fiber strain known as hemp offers us hundreds more. From the flowers to the leaves and fibrous stems, every part of the plant offers incredible faculties, but one part often gets overlooked.
That seems easy to do, as it resides under the soil. The hemp roots haven’t heard much applause in recent years with all the attention the buds earn, but they should.
The lost benefits of hemp roots
Hemp root uses date back to the Shen Nung Pên-ts’ao Ching, an ancient Chinese pharmacopeia of the third millennium BCE. Prepared as a diuretic, medicine makers ground the root for its juices.
Pastes of the compound also saw useful applications for faster healing of broken bones. We know today that cannabinoids in the plant have been scientifically proven to speed the process. The roots paste was also used to coat and protect the sites of surgeries or stitched wounds.
In all these instances, the root acted not only to relieve pain and inflammation but sped healing by keeping wounds free of infection.
Various Chinese texts value hemp roots as a key component of effective gunpowder preparations. Dried, roasted, and ground into a powder, alchemists then mixed it with bamboo root, pine pitch, and other substances. The explosive power from these mixtures propelled explosive ammunition for catapults, smoke powders, and hand-grenades.
The secret of using hemp root meant powders had better airflow and stayed drier longer, among other benefits.
The Roman historian Pliny wrote that boiled hemp root could alleviate gout, joint stiffness, and other related conditions. In addition, he stated that the raw root worked as an effective treatment for burn wounds, likely due to its antiseptic properties.
Centuries later, Marcus Empiricus cataloged hemp root as a treatment for worms in his opus De Medicamentis. Even today, tribal societies regularly ingest cannabis preparations for this purpose.
Manuscripts in the 9th and 10th century from Azerbaijan, a country situated along the culturally diverse trade route of the ancient Silk Road, denote the widespread use of hemp root for various uses, especially boiled to fight fever and infection from abscesses, ulcers, and toothaches.
Italian herbalists in the 1500’s described poultices from soaked roots as treatments for gout and arthritis in addition to ulcers. Both Andreas Matthioli and Tabernaemontanus espoused similarly effective results in the Old German Neuw Krëuterbuch (ca.1550).
Coming to America
Earl European settlers brought their herbal and medicinal lore with them. Hemp was a vital part of their health, and the root was used for all of the purposes above, as well as muscular atrophy, incontinence, and venereal disease.
Many other physicians and herbalists have noted the healing properties of cannabis and hemp root. Here are just a few:
- 1653, Europe: Culpeper’s Complete Herbal states the root proves effective against dry cough, jaundice, colic, heavy bleeding, wasting of the tendons, and burns
- 1696, Indonesia: German physician Georg Eberhard Rumpf reports the root as effective against gonorrhea
- 1764, Europe: The New English Dispensatory recommends boiled hemp root for skin inflammation, tumor reduction, and gout
Modern day research unlocks the secrets
A study in 1971 found that the cannabis root contains many of the terpenes found in the rest of the plant. Even more fascinating, many minor terpenes show up in much higher concentrations than in the rest of the plant. One of them includes Friedelin, which possesses anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic properties.
In addition, research shows that the roots also contain significant amounts of alkaloids, including piperidine and pyrrolidine. The pharmaceutical industry uses these valuable alkaloids in the synthesis of medicines even today. Choline, a dietary amine that promotes cell membrane integrity, can also be found.
Even more noteworthy, the powerful alkaloid atropine, used to dilate pupils for eye doctors, also resides in the roots. Ingested as a supplement, atropine reduces bronchial secretions and relaxes muscles and glands in the parasympathetic nervous system.
Spermidine also resides in hemp roots, which benefits those with Type II diabetes, and has anti-aging cellular properties. A 2008 Study at Leiden University in the Netherlands showed the presence of glycoside, an organic molecule that binds with toxins and renders them inert, cleansing the body.
Source: Written by Christopher Teague for HERB