Analysis of Cannabis Roots Grown Using Aeroponics

Written by Sabine Downer

In a 2021 study, cannabis plants were cultivated using aeroponics and aeroponic-elicited cultures to evaluate the potential use of cannabis root compounds in nutraceutical products. [1] The research team identified useful bioactive compounds such as β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol, friedelin, and epi-friedelanol. Here’s a peek at how cannabis root nutraceuticals could be utilized in the future.

Aeroponic Cannabis Root Cultivation

For growing and harvesting cannabis roots, aeroponics is a preferred cultivation method over soil because it allows the roots to be grown free of contaminants in a standardized manner. Researchers observed that aeroponic cannabis roots also had significantly more β-sitosterol than soil-grown plants. For this study, C. sativa Kompolti (hemp/food variety) seeds were germinated on moist filter paper for four days. They were then transferred to plastic pots with peat and vermiculite wetted with half-strength Hoagland’s nutrient solution. Plants were kept in 18 hours of light and were retained in vegetative growth stage until roots were harvested. When true leaves reached three centimeters, plants were transferred to sponges and placed in aeroponic cultivation chambers. Complete Hoagland nutrient solution was used to feed plants once in the aeroponic chamber. After eight weeks, plants were harvested three times.

Nutraceutical Benefits of Cannabis Roots

β-Sitosterol is found in almost all plants and has similar composition to cholesterol. It can be found in high levels in peanuts/peanut byproducts, rice bran, wheat germ, corn oil, soybeans, avocado, pumpkin seed, cashew fruit, and more. β-Sitosterol has anti-hypercholesterolemic effects that help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein), VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), and triglycerides (cholesterol) and increase HDL (high-density lipoprotein) in humans. [2] It is also thought to inhibit proliferation of human prostate cancer cells and some types of tumors. [3] The most potent known source of β-sitosterol is Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto). However, this study observed that cannabis roots contained a hundred times higher levels, making it a possible better source for extracting the compound in large quantities.

Friedelin is a plant compound with anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic and antitumor effects. [4] It is also thought to have gastroprotective properties and hypoglycemic effects. [5] Interestingly, friedelin is a natural antituberculosis agent. [6] Historically, cannabis roots were used for this application in South Africa.

Epi-friedelanol is another bioactive compound that the research team found in cannabis roots. It shared some molecular structure with friedelin but is slightly different. Naturally, epi-friedelanol is found in root barks of Ulmus Davidiana (David elm), Cayratia trifolia (bush grape), Vitis trifolia, Celtis sinensis (Chinese hackberry), Mallotus apelta, and Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm). Its effects are thought to be anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-senescence activity in cells. [7,8] The anti-senescence activity of epi-friedelanol may help protect fibroblast cells from the effects of aging.


[1] Ferrini F, Fraternale D, Donati Zeppa S, et al. Yield, characterization, and possible exploitation of Cannabis sativa L. roots grown under aeroponics cultivation. Molecules. 2021;26(16):4889. [journal impact factor = 4.411; times cited = 0]


[2] Cicero AF, Minardi M, Mirembe S, Pedro E, Gaddi A. Effects of a new low dose soy protein/beta-sitosterol association on plasma lipid levels and oxidation. Eur J Nutr. 2004;43(5):319-322. [journal impact factor = 5.286; times cited = 26]


[3] von Holtz RL, Fink CS, Awad AB. beta-Sitosterol activates the sphingomyelin cycle and induces apoptosis in LNCaP human prostate cancer cells. Nutr Cancer. 1998;32(1):8-12. [journal impact factor = 2.363; times cited = 166]


[4] Antonisamy P, Duraipandiyan V, Ignacimuthu S. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic effects of friedelin isolated from Azima tetracantha Lam. in mouse and rat models. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2011;63(8):1070-1077. [journal impact factor = 3.765; times cited = 103]


[5] Antonisamy P, Duraipandiyan V, Aravinthan A, et al. Protective effects of friedelin isolated from Azima tetracantha Lam. against ethanol-induced gastric ulcer in rats and possible underlying mechanisms. Eur J Pharmacol. 2015;750:167-175. [journal impact factor = 4.432; times cited = 57]


[6] Semenya S, Potgieter M, Tshisikhawe M, Shava S, Maroyi A. Medicinal utilization of exotic plants by Bapedi traditional healers to treat human ailments in Limpopo province, South Africa. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;144(3):646-655. [journal impact factor = 4.36; times cited = 65]


[7] Yang HH, Son JK, Jung B, Zheng M, Kim JR. Epifriedelanol from the root bark of Ulmus davidiana inhibits cellular senescence in human primary cells. Planta Med. 2011;77(5):441-449. [journal impact factor = 3.352; times cited = 21]


[8] Perumal PC, Sowmya S, Velmurugan D, Sivaraman T, & Gopalakrishnan VK. Assessment of dual inhibitory activity of epifriedelanol isolated from Cayratia trifolia against ovarian cancer. Bangladesh Journal of Pharmacology. 2016;11:545-551. [journal impact factor = 0.93; times cited = 9]


Image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/roots-of-plant-with-thin-twigs-6044629/ by Skylar Kang

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Sabine Downer

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