What Plants are Related to Cannabis (and Do They Have Benefits)?
You can’t choose your family. The same can be said for hemp. As a family-owned business, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Unfortunately for hemp, there are other plants related to cannabis that have made things a bit tricky for CBD users. Marijuana has gotten most of the mainstream attention, but there are more plants in the same family as cannabis than just this psychoactive one. Let’s take a closer look at other plants related to cannabis and explore if they have any benefits.
How Are Cannabis Plants Classified?
Before getting into the distant relatives of cannabis, let’s start with the nuclear family. When it comes to classifying plants, botanists divide them into subcategories under the Taxonomic Information System (TIS). This in-depth naming system classifies plants and animals from their kingdom all the way down to specific species.
Hemp is a member of the family known as Cannabaceae. There are eight known genera that are part of this Cannabaceae family:
Let’s get to know these genera a little better and look at the possible benefits of other plants related to hemp.
Plants Related to Cannabis
Cannabaceae is a small angiosperm family. These flowering plants are members of the Rosales order. The Rosaceae family is classified under that same order, meaning cannabis is a distant family member to almonds, plums and apples! For now, let’s take a more in-depth look at the more immediate Cannabacae clan.
While this word may look a lot like “hummus,” you’re actually looking at a different common edible plant. Humulus is also known in craft beer circles as “hops.”
Hops give beer its bright, citrusy and earth-like bite. This flavor infusion is made possible by the plant’s terpenes. Terpenes are also present in broad spectrum hemp products and essential oils. These molecules are responsible for the scent and flavors of plant products, and they also give plants like Humulus their potential benefits.
One of those potential benefits is that hops may support a good night’s rest. After all, who hasn’t gone off into a deep sleep after a couple of beers? That might be the influence of Humulus. Unfortunately for those who have had a few too many brewskis, the deep sleep doesn’t last all night. Once the alcohol wears off, we tend to wake up out of nowhere. Many find it more challenging to get back to sleep after they have had a few.
Humulus is also a sustainable source of zinc salts. This trait makes hops a welcome addition to many all-natural deodorants.
Other plants related to cannabis include the Celtis genera. This genus has up to 70 species under its classification. Many Celtis plants are grown as ornamental trees, but there’s more to the plant, also known as hackberry, than just looks.
While many use hackberry interchangeably with Celtis, the hackberry itself is derived from Celtis occidentalis. Historically, our ancestors cultivated the tree for a variety of uses.
The bark of the hackberry is very flexible and sturdy. This desirable characteristic made the wood ideal for crafting bows. The fruits from the tree can be used to dye wool. Our ancestors cultivated Celtis for homeopathic reasons, as well. For instance, the Iriquois created tonics with the fruit to alleviate cramping and bleeding associated with menses.
Trema, also known as the evergreen tree, is also part of the Cannabacae family. There are 15 known species under this umbrella and they can be found all over the globe. They have extensive root systems that make these sturdy shrubs fairly drought-resistant. Trema roots also improve the soil quality in the areas they inhabit.
One of the most commonly-grown Trema species in Ayurvedic circles is Trema orientalis. Traditionally, the wood of Trema orientalis made great kindling for fires. Today, many manufacturers use it for charcoal, gunpowder and firecrackers.
The leaves and bark can be steeped to make a tonic that our early ancestors used to help support dry throats. They also found these tonics improved the scent of their breath.
This genus is a group of six different tropical deciduous trees. There isn’t much information out there about the potential benefits of these plants. At the very least, their colorful fruits are edible.
The wood from Gironniera trees is very popular in Asian construction. This preference is due to how easily Gironniera grows in the region and the durability of its fibers.
Like Gioronniera, this Cannabaceae family member has six known species. These evergreen trees are typically found in places like Mexico, Australia and Madagascar.
The most commonly known species of Aphananthe is Aphananthe aspera. This ornamental plant is popular in Asia because of its rough bark. Many use it for sandpaper, to polish wood products or to create twine and rope.
Another wild species of this family is the Aphanathe cuspidata. This plant was added to tonics by our ancestors to help support skin health.
Not much has been documented on these cannabis-related plants. By looking at their leaves, you might be able to tell they’re a part of the same family as hemp.
Most research surrounding Parasponia has looked at how it improves the biodiversity in its surrounding soil. The plant’s roots have a symbiotic relationship with the commensal plant bacterium, rhizobia.
Rhizobia is essential for neutralizing the nitrogen levels in the soil. Nitrogen is one of the three primary elements you need for healthy compost, along with potassium and phosphorus. Parasponia may boost the microbes in your soil, enriching it to produce a higher yield of fresh fruits, vegetables or cannabis plants!
The last member of the Cannabaceae family that isn’t cannabis is Pteroceltis. Pteroceltis is one of the most well-known plants related to cannabis because of its popularity in holistic circles. Many know Pteroceltis better as blue sandalwood.
Sandalwood oil is used in aromatherapy to support mental clarity. Its earthy scent combines perfectly with fruit-based essential oils like lemon, orange and grapefruit. In some Ayurvedic practices, this oil is used as an aphrodisiac. So, get a diffuser going and set the mood with this cousin to cannabis!
The last member of the Cannabaceae family is certainly not the least. It’s cannabis. Until recently, the family ties between cannabis plants have made things difficult for some of the members of this family. There are only three species in this genus, and it’s pretty easy to spot the notorious, intoxicating type. Let’s start with the least-known of the three.
These are short, stocky cannabis plants that can survive rougher terrains and climates. That’s why you can find an abundance of Cannabis ruderalis in Russia and Siberia. Since they can’t rely on sun to promote photosynthesis as much as many other plants, Cannabis ruderalis plants are auto-flowering. Growing Cannabis ruderalis differs from cultivating hemp or marijuana.
Like hemp, Cannabis ruderalis has relatively low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive compound abundantly found in marijuana.
This plant has higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD). Since its CBD to THC ratio is more similar to hemp than marijuana, many international breeders will create hybrids with hemp and Cannabis ruderalis. These practices maintain the integrity of the cannabinoids found in cannabis while making it easier for these plants to grow in harsh climates.
Cannabis indica is predominantly grown for marijuana, due to its elevated levels of THC. Smoking dried flowers from Cannabis indica plants is likely to cause a psychoactive experience for the user.
Cannabis indica plants can also have a litany of other cannabinoids. When there is more than one cannabinoid in a product, it creates an act of synergy known as the entourage effect.
Unfortunately, the intoxicating versions of cannabis made it difficult for hemp to see its day in the spotlight. When marijuana was outlawed in the early 20th century, all forms of cannabis were added to the Controlled Substances list. It wasn’t until recently that the differences between hemp and marijuana were recognized.
Hemp, which we use to produce our CBD products, is a variety of Cannabis sativa. However, not all Cannabis sativa plants are hemp — depending on how they’re grown, they can have higher levels of THC, which most would consider marijuana. Hemp plants used for CBD are grown to have high levels of CBD and low traces of THC.
Seeds from hemp plants are also popular in health and wellness circles. These plant-based proteins contain all of the essential amino acids.
So, there you have it! We hope you learned something new about the cannabis family today. What other questions do you have? Leave them in the comments!
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Joy Smith is Joy Organics Co-founder and visionary. After her own life-changing experience with CBD, Joy started Joy Organics to create a line of sustainable and premium CBD products consumers could trust. Before founding Joy Organics, Joy worked as an itinerant speaker, traveling to over four continents to empower women across the globe.