There has been a surge in marijuana and CBD research in recent years. This has led to increased recognition of the potential benefits of these natural, plant-based remedies.
While many people still oppose the use of cannabis as a medicine, proponents suggest that it could play an essential role in the treatment of many conditions. Furthermore, some state that it could act as preventative medicine, helping us to maintain good health and keep severe disease at bay.
Many of the benefits of cannabis are derived from its cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. These compounds have a wealth of positive actions on the human body, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
In this article, we focus on the antioxidant properties of marijuana and why they could have a significant impact on your health.
What Is an Antioxidant?
Before we look at how cannabis acts as an antioxidant, let’s explore what an antioxidant is. The word antioxidant is frequently used when discussing the effects of specific foods or healthcare products. However, few people truly understand what this means.
Antioxidants are compounds which protect us against something known as oxidative stress. The term oxidative stress describes a situation where molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) build up inside the body.
ROS, sometimes known as free radicals, are highly reactive, oxygen-containing molecules that are produced naturally by cells. They play a crucial role in many physiological functions, especially immunity. They do this by acting as a kind of chemical ‘signal’ when the body becomes infected and also help to break down diseased cells.
However, ROS also have the potential to harm healthy cells if they get out of control. They can damage proteins, lipids, and even DNA. Under normal circumstances, your body manages its levels of ROS by producing natural antioxidants. Some of the most well-known of these include:
- Superoxidase dismutase (SOD)
- Catalase (CAT)
- Glutathione peroxidase (GPx)
These molecules can interact with ROS, making them less reactive, and minimizing the harm they cause to cells. But if the body cannot produce enough antioxidants to keep these ROS under control, oxidative stress occurs.
Oxidative stress is a common problem, and this is the reason that healthcare experts recommend including additional antioxidants in our diets. Some well-known antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, and the flavonoids that are found in fruit, vegetables, and herbs.
How Antioxidants Prevent Disease
If your body is always under oxidative stress, you are at risk of developing severe and chronic disease. Some of the conditions associated with oxidative stress include:
- Metabolic disorder
- Atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries)
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Kidney disease
The risk of oxidative stress increases with age. In fact, it plays a significant role in the aging process itself. However, the whole process can be slowed down by reducing your exposure to factors which induce oxidative stress. These factors include:
- Environmental toxins (pollutants, solvents, heavy metals, etc.)
- Certain drugs
- Cigarette smoke
- Ultraviolet rays
- Smoked meats
- Used oil and fats
- Excessive exercise
- Emotional stress
Of course, some of these factors are easier to avoid than others. This is why it is crucial to give your body a helping hand by consuming enough antioxidants daily.
Like the antioxidants produced by the body, antioxidants from dietary sources can react with ROS. This makes the ROS more stable and less likely to damage your cells. In this way, nutritional antioxidants help to keep oxidative stress under control and reduce the risk of disease.
Is Marijuana an Antioxidant?
Most plants contain a wealth of antioxidant compounds, and cannabis is no different. The majority of its antioxidant effects come from its cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. Let’s look at each of these compounds in more detail.
To date, over 100 cannabinoids have been identified in weed. However, the two that have undergone the most rigorous testing are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is arguably the most well-known chemical in cannabis as it is responsible for its intoxicating effects. However, CBD has recently gained much attention for its potential health benefits. Among these benefits, CBD is believed to be anti-inflammatory, neuroprotectant, and a powerful antioxidant.
Research published in 2000 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences found that both THC and CBD possessed potent antioxidant effects. However, CBD was found to be the more beneficial of the two. The authors of the study stated that CBD appeared to be an even more effective antioxidant than either vitamin C or vitamin E.
Flavonoids are phenolic compounds, a class of chemical which is found in a variety of plants including fruit, vegetables, herbs, tea, and of course, weed. A whopping 8000 different phenolic compounds have been identified to date, and many of these are flavonoids.
Flavonoids act as both direct and indirect antioxidants. This means that as well as stabilizing ROS, they also reduce their production by the body.
Cannabis contains as many as 20 different flavonoids, including cannflavin A and cannflavin B, which are unique to this extraordinary plant. Among other things, these two compounds are believed to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Terpenes are another type of chemical found in many different plants. They are aromatic compounds and play an essential role in protecting the plant from pests. They also give plants their characteristic aromas and flavors.
Cannabis contains many different terpenes. Some of the most common are myrcene, limonene, pinene, and linalool. As well as making cannabis smell and taste great, terpenes have a variety of different health benefits. One of these is their antioxidant properties.
A study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018 found that many of the different terpenes in weed had antioxidant effects. However, none of the terpenes tested were as potent as CBD.
Using Marijuana as an Antioxidant
If you want to maximize marijuana’s antioxidant effects, there are several steps you can take. The first is choosing a strain which is rich in CBD. These days, most strains are bred to have a high THC content, but a select few have been bred specifically for CBD.
A few popular CBD-rich strains include:
In addition to choosing a strain with a healthy dose of CBD, you will also want to pay attention to how you consume your weed.
Smoking is known to cause oxidative stress, especially if you mix your weed with tobacco. Therefore, this is not the most optimal way to use cannabis for its antioxidant effects. Another problem with smoking is that many of marijuana’s beneficial compounds are destroyed by intense heat.
Fortunately, there are numerous other ways to consume marijuana. These include edibles, tinctures, concentrates, and vaping. If you choose to vape your weed, be sure that you set your vaporizer to the right temperature. This will help to preserve those beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes.
Finally, consider the part of the plant that you are using. Although cannabinoids and terpenes are most concentrated in the buds of female marijuana plants, flavonoids can be found throughout the whole plant. This includes the leaves and stems of both male and female marijuana specimens.
So, if you grow your own cannabis, maximize the benefits by using every part of the plant after harvesting. Leaves and stems may not get you high, but you can add them to smoothies, juices, salads, or tea for a healthy dose of antioxidants every day.
Is Marijuana an Antioxidant? Final Thoughts
Cannabis is a plant with a whole host of benefits for human health, including its antioxidant properties. It derives its benefits from a wide range of compounds including cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, all of which have a dramatic influence over the body.
However, to get the most benefit from cannabis therapy, you must pay attention to the strain that you choose and how you consume it. You can also maximize marijuana’s positive effects by using every part of the plant, including buds, leaves, and stems.
There is so much more to weed than just getting high, and the current research is only just beginning to scratch the surface. So, if you are searching for a way to incorporate more antioxidants into your lifestyle, marijuana could be an excellent place to start.