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Applications of Cannabis Sativa L. in Food and Its Therapeutic Potential: From a Prohibited Drug to a Nutritional Supplement

1 National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan; [email protected] (A.I.); [email protected] (U.Z.); [email protected] (W.A.); [email protected] (M.A.S.)

Umaima Zafar

1 National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan; [email protected] (A.I.); [email protected] (U.Z.); [email protected] (W.A.); [email protected] (M.A.S.)

Waqar Ahmed

1 National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan; [email protected] (A.I.); [email protected] (U.Z.); [email protected] (W.A.); [email protected] (M.A.S.)

Muhammad Asim Shabbir

1 National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan; [email protected] (A.I.); [email protected] (U.Z.); [email protected] (W.A.); [email protected] (M.A.S.)

Aysha Sameen

1 National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan; [email protected] (A.I.); [email protected] (U.Z.); [email protected] (W.A.); [email protected] (M.A.S.)

Amna Sahar

1 National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan; [email protected] (A.I.); [email protected] (U.Z.); [email protected] (W.A.); [email protected] (M.A.S.)

2 Department of Food Engineering, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan

Zuhaib F. Bhat

3 Division of Livestock Products Technology, Jammu 180009, India; [email protected]

Przemysław Łukasz Kowalczewski

4 Department of Food Technology of Plant Origin, Poznań University of Life Sciences, 60-624 Poznań, Poland; [email protected]

Maciej Jarzębski

5 Department of Physics and Biophysics, Poznań University of Life Sciences, 60-637 Poznań, Poland; [email protected]

Rana Muhammad Aadil

1 National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan; [email protected] (A.I.); [email protected] (U.Z.); [email protected] (W.A.); [email protected] (M.A.S.)


Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is a herbaceous anemophilous plant that belongs to the Cannabinaceae family. The cannabis seed (hemp) has long been utilized as a food source and is commercially important as an edible oil source. In this review, the positive and negative health effects of cannabis, the relationship between cannabis and various diseases, and the use of cannabis in various food products have been discussed. In addition, the scientific literature on the potential use of cannabis and its derivatives as a dietary supplement for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory and chronic degenerative diseases in animals and humans has been reviewed. Cannabis is being developed as a key ingredient in a variety of food items, including bakery, confectionery, beverages, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and meat. Hemp seeds are high in readily digestible proteins, lipids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), insoluble fiber, carbs, and favorable omega-6 PUFA acid to omega-3 PUFA ratio and have high nutritional value. The antioxidants of cannabis, such as polyphenols, help with anxiety, oxidative stress, and the risk of chronic illnesses, including cancer, neurological disorders, digestive problems, and skin diseases. Cannabis has been shown to have negative health impacts on the respiratory system, driving, and psychomotor functions, and the reproductive system. Overall, the purpose of this research is to stimulate more in-depth research on cannabis’s adaptation in various foods and for the treatment of chronic illnesses.

1. Introduction

Cannabis sativa L., commonly called hemp (cannabis seed) or cannabis, is the herbaceous anemophilous plant in the Cannabaceae family. Cannabis is a general word that refers to all plants that belong to the Cannabis genus. Most researchers are of the opinion that this plant originated in Asia and was transported to Europe as a domesticated and cultivated crop during the Bronze Age (22nd to the 16th century BC), as observed from molecular analysis, polygenetic studies, and DNA extraction from modern and archaeobotanical samples. Regardless of where it originated, C. sativa is widely grown and cultivated not only in Asian countries but also in Africa, Canada, Europe, and the United States [1].

Cannabis contains over 100 active chemical compounds known as ‘cannabinoids’ [2]. The plant contains a huge number of cannabinoids, the most psychoactive of which is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC also has appetite stimulant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-emetic qualities, making it a very promising medication for medicinal applications [3]. Cannabis is used for textile and food uses since it is high in cannabidiol (CBD) or similar chemicals and is practically devoid of delta-9-THC [4]. In drug-type plants, the most abundant cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and THC, whereas fiber-type plants are known to contain primarily cannabinoic acids, such as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), followed by their decarboxylated forms, namely cannabigerol (CBG) ancannabidiol (CBD) [5].

There are three major species of cannabis that have been identified (sativa, indica, and ruderalis). The strength of the two main active chemicals in cannabis, THC and CBD, varies between strains, with sativa carrying the most THC and the least CBD [6]. The euphoric and psychotropic effects of cannabis are due to THC. Synthetic versions of THC, such as dronabinol and nabilone, are used to relieve nausea and improve appetite, in addition to their recreational effects. CBD, a non-psychoactive component, may be able to offset these effects. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved an oral CBD solution for the treatment of two uncommon, severe kinds of epilepsy as an “orphan drug.” It is frequently recommended for use in chronic pain and inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory properties [7].

Cannabis has a high nutritional content, which is why all parts of the plant, including the stem, seeds, roots, and flowers, have been used for food, feed, and therapeutic purposes for a long time. Hemp seed has been utilized as a food source since ancient times, particularly in Asian civilizations, and is commercially significant as a source of edible oil [1]. It consists of 30% oil and 25% protein, both of which are rich in nutritional value, as well as 10–15% insoluble fiber. Seeds can be used in cosmetics, different food products, and animal feed [8]. Seeds are subjected to cold press to extract good-quality oil. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) abound in the oil, with an optimal ratio of -linolenic acid (ω-6) to linoleic acid (ω-3) for nutritional science (2.5–3:1). The oil is high in linoleic acid, oleic acid, stearidonic acid, and α-linolenic acid, with saturated fatty acids accounting for just approximately 10% of the total [9]. Hemp seed contains powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols, that can help to treat many diseases, such as anxiety, oxidant stress, and the risk of chronic illnesses, including cancer, neurological disorders, digestive problems, and skin diseases. In comparison to other flowering species, the root system of hemp is well developed, which makes it ideal for the phytoremediation of heavy metal-contaminated soil [10]. Fiber residue is collected from the stem of cannabis. Hemp fiber is a highly valuable raw resource for the production of long-lasting textiles and specialized papers [1]. Hemp is composed of chemical compounds, such as linoleic acid, alpha-Linolenic acid, tocopherol, cannabidiol, cannabisin A, and caffeoyltyramine ( Figure 1 ) [11,12,13,14]. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is an n-3 (-3) fatty acid found mostly in plant foods like flaxseed, walnuts, and vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oils. Clinical experiments have demonstrated that substituting saturated fat with linoleic acid lowers total and LDL cholesterol, indicating that ALA has a cardioprotective effect [12]. Cannabidol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid molecule, is a promising therapy option for both illnesses. Cannabinoids are involved in the pathophysiology of both psychotic and substance-abusing diseases (SUDs) [13]. Caffeoyltyramine and its phenolic amides, including cis-N-caffeoyltyramine and trans-N-caffeoyltyramine, are known to have anti-fungal and antioxidant effects [14].

Structural components of Cannabis, including THC, CBD, cannabisin, caffeoyltyramine, alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, and tocopherols.

Can Medical Marijuana Help Your Celiac Disease?

Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.

Priyanka Chugh, MD, is a board-certified gastroenterologist in practice with Trinity Health of New England in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Celiac disease symptoms frequently include abdominal pain, which can be severe, and occasionally include nausea. There’s also some evidence that medical marijuana can combat both pain and nausea in other conditions.   So, can consuming marijuana—either by smoking it or in edible form—help with symptoms of celiac disease that are not controlled by the gluten-free diet?

Although there's some anecdotal evidence that marijuana might help with celiac disease symptoms—a few people with celiac say consuming cannabis curbs abdominal pain, helps them gain weight, and even may alleviate diarrhea—there's no real medical evidence for any of these possible effects. Although some people report a benefit, there haven't been any medical studies to show whether marijuana is beneficial or harmful for people with celiac disease. Marijuana use also carries real risks.

Therefore, if you have ongoing symptoms of celiac disease, you shouldn't assume marijuana will help you, despite the fact that some people say it might based on their own experiences. Read on for what the medical literature shows about medical marijuana, symptoms, and autoimmune conditions, and for what you should know before you decide to talk with your healthcare provider about getting a prescription for it.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

Marijuana refers to both the whole, unprocessed cannabis plant (including the flowers and the leaves) and extracts derived from the plant. People who consume marijuana by smoking it, vaporizing (vaping) it, or eating it describe a "high" that generally leaves them relaxed and more content.

Marijuana use makes many people drowsy, but it also can improve perceived alertness and increase sensory awareness. Different varieties of cannabis can have different effects.

Medical marijuana is cannabis used for medical purposes. It’s legal in more than half of U.S. states for healthcare providers to prescribe marijuana to treat specific conditions and symptoms.

Medical Marijuana's Effects on Chronic Pain, Nausea, and Weight Gain

There's no suggestion that medical marijuana can cure celiac disease or even treat it—the gluten-free diet is the only treatment currently available for celiac. But it's possible that marijuana might have an effect on some celiac symptoms.

For example, it's common for people with celiac disease to say they have abdominal pain. This pain may result from bloating and excess gas, and it occurs both in people who have undiagnosed celiac and those who are diagnosed and following the gluten-free diet.

Medical marijuana often is used to treat chronic pain and has been explored as a possible treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. Medical researchers have found good evidence for low-dose marijuana in the treatment of nerve pain. However, they haven’t shown that it helps in other types of chronic pain, including chronic abdominal pain.

Nausea is a less common symptom of celiac disease, but some people with the condition report experiencing nausea, especially if they've been badly glutened. Medical marijuana commonly is used by cancer patients to alleviate nausea that often comes from treatment, and those who experience nausea from other conditions say cannabis sometimes can be helpful, as well. There are anecdotal reports from people with celiac disease who say consuming marijuana helps them combat nausea, but medical studies haven't yet explored this issue.

Finally, many people with celiac disease are underweight when first diagnosed. Since a well-known side effect of marijuana is "the munchies," it's possible that consuming cannabis could help some people regain the weight they've lost prior to diagnosis. However, gaining weight usually isn't a problem once someone is diagnosed and begins eating gluten-free; in fact, lots of people complain that they gain too much weight.

Negative Effects of Medical Marijuana

All drugs have side effects, and medical marijuana is no exception. Researchers have found that headaches, sleepiness, unease or agitation, confusion, and poor concentration all are associated with cannabis use.  

Medical marijuana use also is associated with poor memory and impaired attention and learning, especially at higher doses. Fatigue, throat irritation (for those smoking marijuana or using a vaporizer), and anxiety also were reported following use.   Since medical marijuana is relatively new, scientists aren't certain how long-term use will affect people.

The high obtained from marijuana will impair driving skills similarly to the way alcohol impairs driving skills and will increase your risk of an accident. And, you should remember that marijuana is illegal in many states, so using it places you at legal risk as well.  

Medical Marijuana for Autoimmune Conditions

Although researchers haven’t studied medical marijuana treatment in people with celiac disease, there are studies showing that cannabis might help with certain autoimmune diseases (celiac disease is an autoimmune condition), including multiple sclerosis.   Celiac disease shares some links with other autoimmune conditions, and those who have one autoimmune condition are more likely to develop another.  

In multiple sclerosis, multiple studies have found that medical marijuana can slow or halt the erroneous nerve signals that cause pain, muscle stiffness, and muscle spasms. However, there's also medical evidence that cannabis use can make cognitive problems in multiple sclerosis worse.  

Researchers are investigating the active compounds in cannabis to see if they possibly can serve as a way to calm the immune system.   This research ultimately might have implications for all autoimmune conditions, including celiac disease, but it's just in its beginning phases.

Is Marijuana Gluten-Free?

Yes, marijuana is gluten-free. The actual plant, found in the Cannabaceae family, is known scientifically as cannabis and is most closely related to hemp. Cannabis is not closely related at all to the gluten grains wheat, barley, and rye.

Hemp, a grain substitute that's found in gluten-free baked goods, can be subject to gluten cross-contamination because of the way it's grown.   Many farmers who cultivate hemp also cultivate gluten grains, and they use the same fields and the same equipment for both hemp and their gluten grains.

The same issues don't apply to marijuana. The farmers growing weed (both legally and illegally, depending on the state) generally aren't also growing grains like wheat and corn. So pure marijuana should be gluten-free.

However, you should be cautious with marijuana edibles if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Plenty of those, ranging from cannabis brownies to cookies and more elaborate pastries, do contain gluten in the form of wheat flour. Always check with the supplier—if marijuana is legal where you live, you may be able to find gluten-free edibles such as chocolate candies or gummies.

A Word From Verywell

Medical marijuana is not legal in every U.S. state, and celiac disease is not on any state's list of approved diagnoses that allow you to obtain medical marijuana. However, an increasing number of states are legalizing marijuana for all adult use, and in some states, you can obtain a medical marijuana card with a diagnosis of "chronic pain" or "nausea." So depending on where you live, a celiac diagnosis isn't strictly necessary, assuming your healthcare provider believes you might benefit from using the drug.

But would you benefit? There's no proof that you would, since there haven't been any studies that specifically looked at whether cannabis assists in relieving symptoms in people with celiac disease. In addition, there are some risks associated with marijuana use: heavy use can lead to problems with attention, memory, and learning, especially in younger people. Some studies also have found negative effects on the heart and lungs of marijuana users.

If you have ongoing celiac disease symptoms and you’re considering trying marijuana, you first should make sure you’re following a strict gluten-free diet—cleaning up your diet can help eliminate lingering problems. If after doing this you continue to have symptoms, you should talk to your healthcare provider about whether you have another condition in addition to celiac, since symptoms can overlap.

Once you've ruled out these potential causes for continuing symptoms, if you're still interested in trying medical marijuana, then you should discuss the pros and cons with your healthcare provider.