Pain, anxiety, and sleep are major drivers of medical cannabis use. But gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and upset stomach, aren’t far behind.1 Even small doses of cannabis can soothe the stomach and stimulate the appetite. In fact, of the four cannabis-derived drugs approved so far by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, three are prescribed for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
One gastrointestinal condition long associated with self-medication through cannabis is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A flurry of recent research bears this out. In a newly published survey of 162 IBD patients in Puerto Rico, where medical cannabis is legal but recreational use is punishable with prison time, about 25% anonymously reported using cannabis to treat their symptoms. Among these, nearly all said it offered relief.
Findings from another recent survey of New York and Minnesota medical cannabis dispensary patients were similar. And two new reviews aimed at physicians and researchers concur that while further study is needed, the evidence to date leaves little doubt that IBD patients are helped by cannabis.
ECS & the Gut
On a molecular level, this all makes sense. The endocannabinoid system is widely distributed throughout the gastrointestinal system, including not only CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors but also other cannabinoid targets like PPARs, GPR55, and TRPV1. The job of the endocannabinoid system here, as everywhere, is to maintain order and balance, and the endogenous compounds (ligands) that interact with these receptors can be supported in this task by cannabis-derived and synthetic cannabinoids.
(The concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the gut also helps to explain cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, in which an overabundance of exogenous cannabinoids, particularly THC, triggers debilitating nausea, vomiting, and pain that typically resolves when cannabis use stops.)
Even small doses of cannabis can soothe the stomach and stimulate the appetite.
Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for two chronic disorders of the gut: Crohn’s disease, characterized by inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract; and ulcerative colitis, which involves inflammation and sores along the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Symptoms of both include diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain, reduced appetite, and weight loss.
IBD in Puerto Rico
In 2016, the government of Puerto Rico legalized medicinal cannabis for a relatively short list of specific conditions, including Crohn’s disease. Only non-smokable preparations are permitted, and all unauthorized cannabis use and possession remains illegal. As of March 2022, approximately 120,000 patients were registered in the program.
The recent survey was conducted through a clinic at the University of Puerto Rico Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases with around 900 patients. Ultimately 162 adults (85 males) completed the 27-item questionnaire. Among these, 60 (37%) reported current or past cannabis use, of which 39 used it to treat abdominal pain, 25 to treat weight loss, and 10 to treat diarrhea, among other symptoms.
But the most telling findings involve these patients’ perceptions of cannabis use as a treatment for IBD. The vast majority of current and past users noted that cannabis was beneficial for their health (94%), that it offered an improvement in their quality of life (84%), and that they would recommend it to other patients (86%). The study was published in March 2023 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.2
Fewer ER Visits in New York & Minnesota
When researchers with Stony Brook University Hospital, Northwestern University, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine surveyed IBD patients in New York and Minnesota about their cannabis use, both states only allowed medical use. This study was conducted at medical cannabis dispensaries and relied on self-reported IBD diagnoses. Generally speaking, the 236 eligible respondents reported mild-to-moderate IBD disease activity. Most used cannabis at least once a week, primarily through high-THC vape pens and cartridges.
Euphoria was by far the most common side effect reported.
Again, the most notable findings reveal just how helpful these patients found cannabis in managing inflammatory bowel disease. Respondents reported fewer IBD-related emergency-room visits (a common concern across the patient population) in the year after they began using cannabis. They also saw a reduced impact of symptoms on their daily life. Euphoria was by far the most common side effect (75.4%), with drowsiness, memory lapses, dry mouth, anxiety, and paranoia all reported in low-single-digit percentages. The results appeared in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in October 2022.3
Scientific review papers are typically circumspect in tone, more inclined to highlight evidence gaps than to draw grand conclusions. But two recently published reviews are clear when it comes to the benefits of cannabis for inflammatory bowel disease patients.
“Cannabinoid usage in IBD treatment comes with promising results as reported in the majority of the selected studies,” reads a systemic review of the literature from 2012 to 2022 published in the journal Cureus. “The selected studies’ point of convergence is that they confirmed the promising role of cannabinoids in steering improvements in IBD treatment through some objective clinical rating scales such as weight gain, Harvey-Bradshaw Index, Mayo score, CDAI score, and general well-being.” The main caveats? Heterogeneous study designs and a dearth of high-quality evidence for ideal dosage and mode of administration.
The second new review, set to be published in July in Current Opinion in Gastroenterology,4 similarly concludes that “there is a considerable amount of patient-reported outcome data that is significant in supporting the use of cannabis to provide symptom relief and overall increase in quality of life in patients with IBD.”
The authors do make an important distinction between symptoms and underlying conditions, however, by noting that existing evidence addresses the former, not the latter: “There are no data that cannabis has any benefit in decreasing the inflammation/fibrosis that continues to affect patients with IBD.”
This doesn’t mean that cannabinoids have been proven ineffective in addressing the root cause of IBD, just that there’s no evidence yet establishing that they do. “The most important point is that gastroenterologists need to ask their patients about their [cannabinoid] use, including discussion of the benefits and risks of using them,” the authors conclude.
Leung, Janni et al. “Prevalence and self-reported reasons of cannabis use for medical purposes in USA and Canada.” Psychopharmacology vol. 239,5 (2022): 1509-1519. doi:10.1007/s00213-021-06047-8
Velez-Santiago, Alondra et al. “A Survey of Cannabis Use among Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 20,6 5129. 15 Mar. 2023, doi:10.3390/ijerph20065129
Greywoode, Ruby et al. “Medical Cannabis Use Patterns and Adverse Effects in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Journal of clinical gastroenterology, 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001782. 14 Oct. 2022, doi:10.1097/MCG.0000000000001782
Saidman, Jakob et al. “Inflammatory bowel disease and cannabis: key counseling strategies.” Current opinion in gastroenterology vol. 39,4 (2023): 301-307. doi:10.1097/MOG.0000000000000946
Ben Amirault, CannMed: I wanted to discuss one of the so-called minor compounds that you’ll be covering during your talk at CannMed this month. You have said that cannabigerol, or CBG, is one of your favorite cannabinoids. Why?
Dr. Goldstein: It appears that CBG does a lot of things that THC does and a lot of things that CBD does — but maybe even a little bit better. It’s kind of a bridge between THC and CBD. CBG is not intoxicating or impairing. It seems to be effective at lower doses compared to CBD. And it does appear to address some of the main issues that people turn to cannabis for — inflammation, pain, anxiety, sleep problems, depression, and cancer. So, like it checks all the boxes, especially for people who don’t want to get high and who don’t have the ability to pay for very high doses of CBD.
CannMed: It’s interesting that you say CBG is a bridge between THC and CBD. Is that because CBG is a precursor for the other plant cannabinoids?
Dr. Goldstein: CBG’s parent compound, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), is kind of known as the mother of all the cannabinoids in that it’s the compound that’s found in immature cannabis flower. And then, based on the genetics of the plant and the enzymes that it’s exposed to, CBGA changes into CBDA and/or THCA, which turn into CBD and THCA when heated. CBGA hasn’t really been studied very much. I would say it is highly understudied. But I suspect that we will eventually find out that CBGA has some very interesting anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. We don’t know really know yet. But at least CBG is being studied. I constantly look at the scientific literature, and just this year there’s a study published from Israel on how CBG may be helpful for multiple sclerosis. And there’s another study that looked at CBG’s mechanism of action in terms of how it works for pain and inflammation. So, there’s a lot of interest in CBG, which is really exciting.
CannMed: For what conditions do you think CBG has the most promise? What are you most interested in?
Dr. Goldstein: I think CBG holds a lot of promise for people who struggle with inflammation, pain, and mood disorders, like anxiety or depression. Ethan Russo, along with other researchers, recently did a survey of CBG users. About 70 percent of people said CBG was superior to their conventional medication. It was highly rated for anxiety, pain, depression, and sleep problems. I don’t know that it’s a direct sleep agent, but when you are having less anxiety and less pain you likely will fall asleep a little bit easier and maybe sleep better. It’s noteworthy that much of this anecdotal data is supported by findings from preclinical research.
CBG holds a lot of promise for people who struggle with inflammation, pain, and mood disorders, like anxiety or depression.
CannMed: In the survey you mentioned, was that CBG being taken by itself or in combination with other cannabinoids?
Dr. Goldstein: In the survey, I think they tried to sort that out, and it was people taking plant CBG that they buy in the hemp market because most CBG products that are on the market do not contain a significant amount of THC. They are coming from hemp plants, so they are readily available on the hemp market. I’ve seen it as flower, I’ve seen it as topical, which has anti-bacterial and anti-psoriatic effects. Psoriasis is a well-known condition where people get not only joint pain but they also get these thick red patches and scales on their skin. It can be a very difficult condition. And CBG has been found to have anti-psoriatic properties. It acts on the skin cells themselves and inhibits the build-up of those scaly patches. I think this just goes to show that the applications of cannabinoids are truly wide-ranging. People often ask: How is it possible that these compounds can do so many things? Well, they have multiple targets in the brain and body and that’s what makes them so amazing. Remember, the pharmaceutical model is “this medicine addresses this specific target.” Whereas cannabinoids are what we call promiscuous – they go to a lot of targets.
CannMed: How does CBG differ in its targets from other plant cannabinoids? Does it work on the same receptors with similar mechanisms of action?
Dr. Goldstein: There’s overlap with some of the actions of THC and CBD, for example. But then there are also some opposite reactions. CBD and CBG have opposite reactions at a specific serotonin receptor — 5HT1A — where CBD binds to it and CBG blocks it. They both act at that receptor, but in different ways. CBG also overlaps with CBD by binding to what we call PPAR receptors [on the surface of the cell’s nucleus]. And both of these plant cannabinoids interact with TRP [ion] channels to help with inflammation and pain.
CBG is the only cannabinoid that has been found to work at the alpha-adrenergic receptor, which mediates pain perception and inflammation. There are pharmaceuticals for ADHD or behavioral issues, for example, which target this receptor. CBG is always a compound I consider when treating children who have either behavior or other types of difficulties. I have used it in some of my patients with autism. Some families report their child is calmer, has better focus, even speech is improving in some of the children with autism who are non-verbal. But other parents report that CBG makes their child way too hyper. That may be a dosing issue. Why not try it? We know that it’s safe. And it’s under medical supervision. We start with very low doses so that we can control what’s going on and of course there’s a lot of oversight. The parents are watching, I’m watching. We’re just trying to make sure that we do no harm. Thus far, I’d say about 60 percent of kids that try CBG seem to get some benefit from it.
CannMed: I’m glad you brought up ADHD. Full disclosure: my son has been diagnosed with ADHD. I was surprised to learn that CBG might be helpful for that.
Dr. Goldstein: We don’t have clinical trials to say, yes this is definitively beneficial or detrimental for children. But we may be on the cusp of having those trials, which would be very exciting. In my practice, which is in California, I am allowed to work with parents to try different cannabinoids to see what might help. We do it very methodically. As I discuss in my book, we have a saying, ‘Rule it in or rule it out’. We start low dose, and we titrate up. We focus on one compound to see if there are benefits. And remember, too, that sometimes when we’re seeing a benefit it may be because the child is also on CBD — and maybe that combination is working well. If you add a compound and see enhanced benefits, you don’t know if it’s working because of that particular compound or the combination of the two if they’re already on something else. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, and it takes time to sort it out. I always tell families when I first meet them that we’re going to be working together for quite some time. It’s not like we just pick something and it immediately works great. We might get lucky. That happens, but that’s not the usual case.
CannMed: Another thing that stood out to me was this idea of CBG enhancing the body’s function. I was wondering if you could speak a bit to that.
Dr. Goldstein: A number of endocannabinoids, including CBD and CBG, delay the breakdown of our endocannabinoids. Remember, our endocannabinoids are our inner cannabis-like compounds, which our body releases on demand in response to a trigger, usually something that is stressing us, whether it be an illness or a traumatic insult or an infection of some sort. Your body cranks out these endocannabinoids to help maintain balance among all the various messages that our cells are constantly sending and receiving. The endocannabinoid system is a physiological regulator, and it’s helping you stay in balance. We can enhance our own natural endocannabinoid system with plant cannabinoids, which delay the breakdown of endogenous cannabinoids so that they last longer. It’s kind of like the way some anti-depressants work by increasing how long serotonin is hanging around.
We can enhance our own natural endocannabinoid system with plant cannabinoids.
CannMed: Now correct me if I’m wrong, but physical exercise is another way to spur your body into creating endocannabinoids?
Dr. Goldstein: Yes.
CannMed: Would supplementing with CBD or CBG be an effective way to keep anandamide in the system and get more benefits from our natural cannabinoids?
Dr. Goldstein: Theoretically you could look at it that way. I don’t know that there’s a direct correlation, as in take a dose and now you have extra anandamide. But I do think the literature supports this whole idea of cannabinoids being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotective — and one dose is not going to do the trick. It’s helpful to think in terms of a wellness regimen that includes cannabinoids, of course, in addition to other healthy things that you should be doing to enhance your endocannabinoid system – healthy diet, exercise, good sleep, really trying to control your stress.
CannMed: Could you speak to how CBG might enhance the effects of other cannabinoids or situations where you think the combination is useful?
Dr. Goldstein: There’s a 2019 animal study that showed the combination of CBD and CBG decreased neuroinflammation. They were looking specifically at neurodegenerative disorders with dementia, what we call Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS. And it showed in this preclinical study that CBD and CBG worked together and gave better results for protecting against neuroinflammation. This ties into the concept of the entourage effect, whereby combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes appear to enhance the benefits, the positive results. Another recent study showed that CBG in addition to THC and/or CBD has anti-cancer effects in test tube experiment looking at certain brain tumor cells. When some of my cancer patients come to me with advanced cancer, very poor prognosis — and I’ve been doing this now for a number of years — I add CBG into the mix. To me there is no harm in doing so. It doesn’t cause the impairment that anti-cancer doses of THC can sometimes cause.
CannMed: What other scenarios or situations do you encounter where you think CBG is either the right tool or might be a good companion if you have already started a cannabis regimen and you’re not getting the right results?
Dr. Goldstein: I think that if you’re trying to treat anxiety, pain, inflammation, and you are not getting great results with either THC and/or CBD, which, of course, are the two most common cannabinoids being used right now, then certainly the addition of CBG is worth a try. Remember too, that when you combine cannabinoids sometimes you can get away with a lower dose of either or both, while getting an enhanced effect from that entourage. Because there are studies that show sub-therapeutic doses of cannabinoids — meaning doses not expected to do anything clinically — when combined will work better. For a lot of people high, high doses are just not financially feasible. And sometimes that combination of small amounts of two compounds actually is more effective. As for what I would recommend CBG for — anxiety, pain, psoriasis, I use it in my patients with autism, I use it in my patients with cancer. Because it’s safe, and if somebody’s struggling and conventional medicine is not helping them or it is only helping to a point, I don’t see any reason, especially under medical supervision, not to try CBG and other cannabinoids when there’s compelling preclinical research that begs for clinical trials.
CBG is always a compound I consider when treating children who have behavior or other types of difficulties.
CannMed: It seems like CBG is very well tolerated by patients, but are there adverse reactions that you’ve run into?
Dr. Goldstein: I haven’t really seen a lot of adverse reactions, except for a few specific ones related to the population of children that I take care of. In some kids with autism, it’s just too overstimulating. It makes behavior go off the charts. So, I warn the families about this before we get started. It may be a dosage thing. Dosing is very, very important. Lower doses may be overstimulating. If that’s the case, we might try higher doses. But that’s specifically related to a certain population. I have not observed or heard of too many side effects from adults taking CBG. Some patients say that CBG is somewhat alerting, meaning it feels a little up. So, you would not want to take CBG right before bedtime. You figure out how you respond to it, and then don’t use it at night if that’s the effect you get. On the other hand, some people say it helps with sleep. Maybe it’s helping with sleep because it’s calming and decreases anxiety. When a doctor hands you an antidepressant or an opioid, nobody knows how you’re going to respond if you’ve not taken that before. It’s the same thing with CBG. There is always a chance when you take a new medication that you may be the person who doesn’t respond very well. Or you might be the person who gets a great result.
CannMed: CBG is still one of the lesser-known cannabinoids. How easy is it to access CBG products?
Dr. Goldstein: In the video that I put up on YouTube, there’s a slide that shows some of the CBG products. You can get it as flower if you want to vaporize it. You can get it as a topical, as I’ve mentioned. Mostly I’ve seen it in tincture form, which means an extract in a bottle where you have a little eyedropper or syringe and you measure out your dose and squirt it under the tongue. I don’t endorse any company, but certainly a quick Google search will lead you to where you can find CBG. And of course, always, always before you purchase anything, you want to make sure you get a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) so you see what is supposed to be in that bottle before you buy it. And if a CoA isn’t available or not readily transparent, move on to the next product.
CannMed: We actually did a podcast with a laboratory professional who was talking about how some manufacturers will even falsify their CoA’s. She had some good tips for being able to spot the real ones and the less scrupulous ones. So, Bonni, before I let you go, I want to thank you so much for talking about CBG with us. I look forward to hearing your talk on some of the other cannabinoids at CannMed 2023, where you’re also going to be leading our Medical Practicum, along with Dustin Sulak, Kevin Spelman, and Eloise Thiessen. Could you give us a sneak quick preview of what people can expect at the Practicum and why you believe it’s important to have events like this to educate clinicians and laypersons about cannabis medicine.
Dr. Goldstein: It’s important because for health care professionals there is no full board training program, no residency or internship that focuses on cannabis therapeutics. The feedback we’ve gotten is it’s very helpful to hear directly from clinicians who are actually practicing this type of specialty and who are exploring the nuances of cannabis medicine. The practicum is a full day of education. We start off with endocannabinoid system physiology, the physiology of the cannabinoids and other constituents of the plant. Dr Kevin Spelman, who’s a brilliant botanist and herbalist with many years of experience, is one of the teachers. His lectures are amazing. Especially coming from my world as an MD, an allopathic world, it was a big change for me to understand botanical medicine. Having him on board really helps bridge that gap for those of us who are coming from the allopathic field. During the practicum, we also go through clinical applications for cannabis, special considerations for geriatric patients, chronic pain treatment. I’ll be talking about pediatrics, my area of specialty. And then there will be practical panels where we’ll be giving case reports and advice on how to help your patients pick the right medicine. It’s really a full day with lots of information for anyone who wants to advance their knowledge. I really enjoy it. It’s great to be around like-minded people, and it’s great to hear about other people’s experiences. I always learn something from my colleagues at CannMed, from people in the audience, and from the other speakers.
For more information on Dr. Goldstein, visit her YouTube channel Bonni Goldstein MD. She occasionally posts on Instagram, and she is also on LinkedIn. To hear the full CannMed podcast with Dr. Bonni Goldstein, go here.
It has long been known that resinous cannabis flower tops are infused with robust therapeutic properties. But there are also pharmacologically active components in other parts of the plant that shouldn’t be ignored when assessing the health benefits of cannabis.
The earliest reference to the therapeutic use of cannabis dates back to 2700 BC in ancient China, “the land of hemp and mulberry.” Cannabis (“Ma”) was subsequently included in the Shennong Ben Cao Jing, humankind’s first pharmacopeia, which had been assembled by Emperor Shen Nung, the legendary father of traditional Chinese medicine, who is credited with introducing the custom of drinking tea. Ma was recommended for more than a hundred ailments, including gout, rheumatism, malaria, constipation, beri-beri, and absent-mindedness.
The Shennong Ben Cao Jing called Ma one of the “Supreme Elixirs of Immortality.” It was said to confer longevity and good health. If consumed over a long period of time, Ma could “enable one to communicate with the spirit light and make the body light. It mainly supplements the center and boosts the qi [chi]. Protracted taking may make one fat, strong, and never senile.”1
When consumed in excess, however, “it may make one behold ghosts and frenetically run about.”
Seeds of Health
In traditional Chinese medicine, protein-rich cannabis seeds figured prominently both as a food source and a remedy — apparently more so than resinous cannabis flower tops. The seeds don’t contain CBD, THC, or any other cannabinoids. But modern science confirms that cannabis seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are indispensable biochemical building blocks for a healthy endocannabinoid system.
A 2011 study published in Nature Neuroscience states: “Nutritional omega-3 deficiency abolishes endocannabinoid-mediated neuronal functions.”2 Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to neuropsychiatric diseases and impaired emotional behavior.
Our endocannabinoids — the “marijuana-like” compounds that bind to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, as well as other receptors in the brain and body — are actually derivatives or byproducts of omega 3 and omega 6 omega fatty acids. These are referred to as “essential” fatty acids because they can’t be produced by the body in adequate amounts and therefore must be ingested.
But the typical Western diet skews heavily toward corn, wheat, and other cereal grains, which are high in omega 6, whereas today we eat much less food — fish, nuts, leafy greens — that is rich in omega 3. This dietary imbalance is a major factor that contributes to many chronic diseases. It turns out that cannabis seeds (commercially available as hempseed oil, hemp hearts or hempseed protein powder) are gifted with an excellent balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
The Root of the Matter
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine also used an extract from raw cannabis roots to treat infections and to help women during childbirth. A decoction made by boiling the roots could be consumed orally as a tincture or juice or applied topically as a poultice.
Herbalists and healers have employed cannabis root preparations to treat a wide range of maladies not only in China but in other parts of the world. The first reference to the therapeutic properties of cannabis roots in Western medicine is found in the Natural Histories (77 AD) by Pliny the Elder. The Latin naturalist wrote that “the roots [of the cannabis plant] boiled in water ease cramped joints, gout too, and similar violent pain.”
Cannabis roots are endowed with medicinal compounds that have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
As is the case with cannabis seeds, the roots don’t contain THC or CBD or any of the so-called minor cannabinoids. Nor are aromatic essential oils (which give cannabis flower its lively fragrance) present in the roots. Instead, the roots are endowed with other medicinal components that have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Various alkaloids and sterols unique to cannabis roots are noteworthy antioxidants. Friedelin, a triterpenoid compound found in algae and lichen, as well as in cannabis roots, is known to reduce fevers.
A 12th century Persian medical text cited the antipyretic (fever-reducing) action of cannabis roots. And in 1542 the German physician Leonard Fuchs noted that a compress made with hemp root extract can soothe inflamed skin: “The raw root, pounded and wrapped, is good for the burn.” A hundred years later, English botanist John Parkinson recommended a decoction of hemp root “to cool inflammation of the head or any other part.” And Nicholas Culpepper’s Compleat Herbal, published in 1653, also mentions hemp roots as a remedy for inflammation.3
But keep in mind that cannabis is a bioaccumulator, meaning that its roots can draw heavy medals and other toxins from the soil. While that’s a great asset for cleaning up a contaminated ecosystem, it’s not what you want when growing an herb for human consumption. Where and how cannabis is cultivated are crucial factors that must be considered to avoid exposure to harmful material and to maximize the health benefits of the plant.
Cultivating high-quality cannabis isn’t rocket science, but it involves significant attention to detail. A hearty, adaptable plant that almost anyone can grow, cannabis lends itself to high-tech horticulture and sophisticated breeding methods designed to coax desired traits into prominence and fine-tune the quality of the high. The complexity of gourmet ganja — an adaptogen and euphoriant with an extraordinary range of smells and flavors and psychoactive subtleties — has reached a level of artistry comparable to today’s wine industry.
Growing the kindest bud ultimately depends on an ancient gardening ritual known as “sexing the plants,” a practice that entails separating male and female plants in their early stages to avoid pollination. Known as sinsemilla (Spanish for “without seeds”), the unfertilized female flower tops, oozing THC and CBD and a kaleidoscope of essential oils, are what cannabis is most famous for. The sexually frustrated females produce bigger buds with more sticky, aromatic resin in an unrequited attempt to catch pollen that never arrives.
Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern botany, wrote about this in his 1753 treatise Dissertation on the Sexes of Plants. The eminent Swedish scientist describes growing Cannabis sativa on his windowsill, an experience he greatly enjoyed:
“In the month of April, I sowed the seeds of hemp (Cannabis) in two different pots. The young plants came up plentifully . . . I placed each by the window, but in different and remote compartments. In one of them I permitted the male and female plants to remain together, to flower and bear fruit, which ripened in July . . . From the other, however, I removed all the male plants, as soon as they were old enough for me to distinguish them from the females. The remaining females grew very well, and presented their long pistilla in great abundance, these flowers continuing a very long time, as if in expectation of their mates . . . It was certainly a beautiful and truly admirable spectacle, to see the unimpregnated females preserve their pistilla so long green and flourishing, not permitting them to fade, till they had been for a very considerable time exploded, in vain, to access the male pollen . . .”4
Cannabis has been likened to a “pharmacological treasure trove.” CBD and THC are the crown jewels of this treasure trove. They are the power couple of cannabis therapeutics. But there are also dozens of secondary cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in the shimmering female inflorescence, each with specific healing attributes, which interact synergistically so that the therapeutic impact of whole plant cannabis is greater than the sum of its parts. From tap root to bud, whether seeded or seedless, the plant is the alpha and omega of cannabis medicine.
Shou-zhong, Y. The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica: A Translation of the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press, 1997.
Lafourcade M, Larrieu T, Mato S, Duffaud A, Sepers M, Matias I, De Smedt-Peyrusse V, Labrousse VF, Bretillon L, Matute C, Rodríguez-Puertas R, Layé S, Manzoni OJ. Nutritional omega-3 deficiency abolishes endocannabinoid-mediated neuronal functions. Nat Neurosci. 2011 Mar;14(3):345-50. doi: 10.1038/nn.2736. Epub 2011 Jan 30. PMID: 21278728.
Ryz NR, Remillard DJ, Russo EB. Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017 Aug 1;2(1):210-216. doi: 10.1089/can.2017.0028. PMID: 29082318; PMCID: PMC5628559.
A Dissertation on the Sexes of Plants. Translated from the Latin of Linnaeus by James Edward Smith, F.R.S., into English and published 1786. Cited in Lee, Martin A. Smoke Signals. New York: Scribners: 2012, p. 22.