Weed pot seeds sprouted from dried herb plants and have been used in some cultures as a traditional medicine for millennia.
But now, they’re being used to make a more potent herbal vapor, which could be as much as 90 percent more potent than the herb’s fresh version.
A new study led by Israeli scientists from the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Ben-Gurion University in Israel found that the dried herb plant, commonly known as a pot, can have an effect on the brain in ways that mimic those of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The research was published online Aug. 26 in the journal Cell.
The study found that using dried herb as a substitute for cannabis in a way similar to that of the plant’s active ingredient could potentially reduce anxiety, depression, and memory loss.
“Our study shows that we have to be careful to avoid over-the-counter cannabis that is being sold in stores and used in everyday activities,” said Prof. Elad Eiland, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Sacklers Faculty of Medical Sciences.
“I don’t want to be talking about an over-counter drug but I do want to emphasize that we don’t know what this might mean for people.”
“This study shows a potential benefit of a new class of synthetic cannabinoids in the treatment of anxiety disorders,” he said.
“In addition, this new class may have potential benefits in preventing anxiety-related problems.”
The researchers used the dried plant to create two strains of cannabinoids, a chemical compound that is found in the dried flower and is known as cannabidiol.
THC, which is found naturally in marijuana, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects.
The scientists were able to produce the cannabinoids that they found in marijuana plants with levels of THC in them that are similar to those found in plants used in medical marijuana.
“These cannabinoids could potentially be used in the same way that THC is used in cannabis,” Prof. Eiland said.
“The most interesting aspect of this study is that it demonstrates the use of dried plants for the preparation of cannabinoids,” Prof Eiland continued.
“It shows that dried cannabis can be used for a variety of medicinal applications, such as the preparation and therapeutic use of cannabinoids.”
Prof. Eland said the potential for the marijuana plant to offer a wide variety of health benefits in a variety, if not all, of therapeutic applications is something that has yet to be seen in the medical cannabis field.
“This is really a breakthrough,” he explained.
“We have a lot of work to do to understand what the possible therapeutic applications are.”
He said the study shows the potential of using dried marijuana to treat a wide range of health conditions and to be used as a natural anti-convulsant in some cases.
“There is a lot more to this research,” he added.
“The real work is not just to understand the physiological effects of the cannabis but also the potential applications of the new cannabinoid, which I believe is a huge opportunity.”
The study also looked at how the cannabinoids produced from dried plants differed from those that came from the cannabis plant.
Prof. Fadi M. Al-Taweel, a professor in the Sackles Faculty of medical sciences, said there are potential medicinal uses for both the dried and the cannabis plants.
“What we found is that the medicinal properties of cannabis are actually more powerful than the medicinal benefits of the dried cannabis,” he told Al Jazeera.
“It seems that the cannabinoids in marijuana can have a more active effect than the cannabis, so we may be able to use them for more of a therapeutic purpose.”
Al-Tawael said it’s possible that using a synthetic cannabinoid from the dried marijuana could be beneficial in a number of areas.
“You can make cannabinoids from it,” he stated.
“And if you use the cannabinoids you get some of the other compounds, such of the anti-inflammatories, such that we can potentially improve the quality of life.”
“But we have no indication that this is a medical use of these cannabinoids,” he continued.
“To be able be able [to] make cannabinoids with the medicinal effects, you have to know a lot about cannabinoids and cannabinoids.
So, we need to be more sophisticated in terms of the study, so that we are able to identify the most promising compounds.”