Manica Balanta, Airy Gras, Mario Ruz, Joan Vallès, Daniel Vitales, Teresa Garnatje

Published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology

 October 2021


Ethnopharmacological relevance
Cannabis is one of the most versatile genera in terms of plant use and has been exploited by humans for millennia. Nowadays, Cannabis is the centre of many scientific studies, most of them focusing on chemical composition and medicinal values. While new and varied applications are continuously being developed, the knowledge surrounding less common uses of the plant is slowly disappearing.

Aim of the review
We have analysed diversity of global data of Cannabis traditional uses, to investigate if certain plant parts are significantly associated with particular Cannabis use. We wanted to uncover potential associations between the plant parts used for the treatment of different body systems and ailments.

Materials and methods
We have analysed the extensive database of Cannabis traditional uses (CANNUSE). This database contains 2330 data entries of Cannabis ethnobotanical uses from over 40 countries across the world. The dataset was divided into five general groups based on the type of use: medicinal, alimentary, psychoactive, fibre and other uses. Given the abundance of human medicinal uses, detailed analysis was done on the subset of 1167 data entries. We analysed the relationship between 16 body system categories and ailments treated with Cannabis plant parts. We used a Pearson’s chi-square and Fisher’s exact test, to determine which Cannabis parts are characteristic of treatment for specific ailments.

In this dataset, the majority of reports were represented by medicinal (75.41%), followed by psychoactive (8.35%) and alimentary (7.29%) use. The most commonly used plant parts were leaf (50.51%), seed (15.38%) and inflorescence (11.35%). We found that different Cannabis plant parts were significantly associated with different uses; the leaf was typically used for medicinal, seed for alimentary and inflorescence for psychoactive use. Regarding the human medicinal uses, most common were reports for treatments of the digestive system and nutritional disorders (17.66%), nervous system and mental disorders (16.24%), followed by pain and inflammations (12.21%). We found a significant relationship between the use of certain Cannabis parts and treatment of ailments and body systems categories; leaf was significantly associated with treatment of two categories: skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders and circulatory system and blood disorders; seed use was associated with musculoskeletal system disorders and traumas; while inflorescence use shows a statistical support for treatment of nervous system and mental disorders.

Several pharmaceutical companies are intensely working on developing new drugs with isolated chemical compounds or crude extracts, almost exclusively from Cannabis inflorescences. However, our review revealed that use of leaf or seed in traditional medicine is often more important than use of inflorescence for the treatment of certain ailments. A review of traditional medicine provides a body of knowledge and an initial pathway to identify landraces and plant parts that could have an important role in future medicinal research. We are confident that traditional medicine still has a large potential for modern medicine. As more information on Cannabis diversity (genetics, biochemistry, and clinical studies) becomes available, ethnobotanical data are poised to be of much greater significance.

Open Access


DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.114362


Balant, M., Gras, A., Ruz, M., Vallès, J., Vitales, D., & Garnatje, T. (2021). Traditional uses of Cannabis: An analysis of the CANNUSE database. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 114362.