Researchers in Italy have identified that aeroponic cultivation increases the yield of valuable bioactive compounds in cannabis roots.  Although cannabis roots have a long history of being used medicinally, much is still unknown about their potential medicinal applications. Knowing exactly what bioactive compounds cannabis roots produce and how to influence their production will help scientists find more ways to utilize them for different purposes.
The research in reference compared the yield of bioactive compounds between roots of cannabis plants that were grown in either aeroponics, aeroponic elicited conditions, or soil. The study started by using Cannabis sativa Kompolti seeds. Plants in all three subject groups were germinated and grown in precisely controlled environments.
Plants were subjected to an 18-hour constant photoperiod that kept them in a vegetative phase of growth for eight weeks, after which, five plants from each system were harvested three times. Once harvested, roots were crushed into powder before undergoing a solvent extraction. Gas chromatography was then used to identify the compounds extracted.
The research uncovered several findings. Aeroponics was found to promote stronger and faster growth in both the roots and the aerial parts of the plant. The diameter of the leaves increased, plant height almost doubled, and root mass was significantly heavier in the aeroponic plants. These increases in growth produced much more biomass than the cannabis grown in soil. Because there was more biomass, more bioactive compounds were able to be extracted from the aeroponic plants’ roots.
In all the plants, “[t]he main compounds identified were the phytosterols campesterol, stigmasterol and β-sitosterol and the triterpenes epi-friedelanol and friedelin”.  When analyzed per plant, β-sitosterol produced in the aeroponic plants was over 20 times higher than soil-grown plants. They also found increases in friedelin, campesterol, stigmasterol, and epi-friedelanol.
β-Sitosterol was found to be the most abundant phytosterol produced. This is important because β-sitosterol has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of human prostate cancer cells.  β-sitosterol and other phytosterols have already been used to treat medical conditions like benign prostatic hyperplasia  and androgenetic alopecia . This provides an opportunity for cannabis root extracts to be used in the formulation of medicines or other nutraceutical supplements.
Discovering that β-sitosterol and other phytosterols, as well as triterpenes, can be extracted from cannabis roots confirms several beneficial aspects of their value as medicine. Finding out how to increase their yield through the use of aeroponic cultivation suggests that aeroponics is the superior cultivation method when the intended outcome is to extract bioactive compounds from cannabis roots.
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