Are Cannabinoids What Make Superfoods Super?

For over a decade now, I have said that Cannabis is a superfood and it is beautiful to see this truth catch on. A superfood is a food that is extremely nutrient dense and usually, all parts are of value. From the seeds, leaves, and buds, to the terpenes and roots, Cannabis is that Lady that can simply do everything. She is effective from the inside out and the outside in, bringing with her an abundant list of desirable side effects. But what makes Cannabis such a great cure-all superfood? It’s a synergy of many compounds such as terpenes, antioxidants, and cannabinoids along with other active components all working together as a whole.

Alkaloids are plant compounds that alter the human environment when they are consumed. Many of the alkaloids or compounds that give our bodies positive benefits are in fact cannabinoids or cannabimimmetic (cannabinoid mimicking) compounds that imitate the “lock and key” effect, just like Cannabis. Although cannabimimetics are not the same as cannabinoids they interact with the same receptors and can, therefore, cause the similar lock and key effects in the body.

It turns out that lots of herbs, spices, and a few foods contain Cannabinoids and cannabimimmetic compounds but Cannabis contains the most, hence the name. Many of these cannabis containing foods and herbs are considered superfoods already. Cultures that consume large amounts of these herbs, spices, and cannabimmmetric foods reflect longevity, less illness, and overall improved quality of life. Coincidence?

Photo by Annie Spratt

Phytocannabinoids are found in plants while endocannabinoids are created in the body which is why we have receptors for them all over. Interactions with CB1 &

CB2 receptors create different effects in the body because of the “lock and key” synergy or when the cannabinoids reach and make contact with receptors. Since the ECS (endocannabinoid receptor system) is responsible for most of our vital human functions this can have some serious impacts on a person’s wellbeing. The ECS governs appetite, mood, memory, cognitive function, immune system, reproduction, sleep, digestion, etc… The ECS governs our survival and wherever there is a receptor, Cannabis can help. There are also lots of ways to stimulate the ECS without consuming cannabis. Eating essential fatty acids found in chocolate, herbs, other fatty foods and spices are one way. Exercise, socialization, playtime, meditation, yoga, massage, acupuncture, breathing exercises, and other enjoyable activities also stimulate ECS.

Many people walk this world tragically deficient of cannabinoids. People with deprived or depleted endocannabinoid receptor systems usually have large bags under their eyes, low energy levels, suffer from depression, decreased health and vitality, and lack in overall wellbeing.

It is through unprocessed, living foods that we find vitality longevity and energy. Organic foods that contain naturally bright vibrant colors that crisp and crunch when we bite into them, foods that that come straight from the earth. A natural Rainbow on every plate

Photo Credit Nadine Primeau

means we are giving our body the proper nutrients it needs. All of these different living foods bring us energy and health through beneficial alkaloids like vitamins, minerals, flavanoids, terpenes, cannabinoids, and cannabimimmicing compounds. Better to count chemicals, not calories and live a balanced and active life. Food comes from the earth and chemicals come from laboratories.

We are learning more and more about cannabinoids and the ECS as Cannabis comes into the light and more research is permitted. The list of plants, spices, and foods that contain cannabinoids are some of the doctors, healers, chefs, and herbalists favorite allies. Some of them have evoked worldwide trade, economies, and even wars.

Herbs, spices, & foods that contain cannabinoids:

Electric Daisy: Electric Daisy is a healing herb with analgesic properties. It contains cannabinoid mimicking compounds, particularly one called N-isobutylamides which also interacts with the CB2 receptors and can help with pain, inflammation, and helps support blood, liver, and kidney health.

Helichrysum: Helichrysum is known as the Immortal Flower, a truly miraculous plant ally. It is a family of the Daisy and it is indigenous to South Africa. This flower contains a similar compound to CBG or cannabigerol. CBG is anti-inflammatory and also known to kill cancer. The Immortal Flowers is wonderful for the skin and may also be ingested. It has been known to relieve respiratory conditions, psoriasis, arthritis, and skin problems like eczema dermatitis, scars, and burns, just like cannabis.

Liverwort: This herb contains cannabinoids as well as perrottetinenic acid which mimics THC and interacts with the CB1 receptor. It’s commonly used to treat bladder infections and bronchial infections and is Native to New Zealand.

Black Pepper: Black Pepper is another strong anti-inflammatory spice that contains cannabinoids and may be effective in killing cancer. It is good for digestion, extremely rich in antioxidants and minerals, and also a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Chinese Rhododendrum: This is a powerful herb that is used in traditional Chinese Medicine. Its extract can kill anything from staph infections to cancer cells. A study in 2011 by Nihon University of Japan found that the folic acid‘s in the Chinese Rhododendrum acted very much like cannabinoids.

Kava: This drink is made from leaves native to the Pacific Islanders. This medicine is mildly sedative and is helpful for anxiety and chronic pain. One of the compounds binds to the CB1 receptor and is full of compounds called kavalactones. Kavalactones bind in the brain in similar locations as cannabinoids. They bind with the specific cannabinoids in areas of the brain associated with addiction and craving.

Hops: Hops and Cannabis are cousins; the aroma is similar to hoppy beers, very skunky, like a Saint Pauly girl or a Heineken. It smells like dank and that is not a coincidence! Hops have been known to be helpful for a variety of things from anxiety and nervousness to inflammation and hair strength. They are very high in antioxidants which means they cancel free radicals and are also beneficial for the skin.

Photo by Calum Lewis

Rosemary: Rosemary (and black pepper) both share a compound called BCP or beta-caryophyllene which acts as a cannabinoid and is peppery in flavor. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can even aid in memory and cognitive function.

Maca: Maca contains compounds that emulate CBD giving a boost to your overall system, including mood. Maca has been shown to boost fertility and sex drive in both men and women, help with erectile dysfunction, enhance mood and memory, cancel free radicals, reduce inflammation, boost energy, and lower blood pressure.

 

Some other herbs that contain cannabinoids are cloves, oregano, cinnamon, and lemon balm.

Flax seeds: Flax seeds are already a very popular superfood. They have similar compounds to CBD that enter receptors. Rich in omega fatty acids, protein, fiber, and antioxidants they have been known to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, suppress the appetite, moderate blood sugar levels, and kill cancer.

Cacao: The word itself means ‘gift from the Gods’. Cacao is chocolate in raw form. Before cacao is processed, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Rich in many minerals, it is also the food with the most magnesium and antioxidants in the world. Cacaos phytocannabinoids interact with our receptors to help enhance our mood, give us energy, and make us feel good. Cacao also contains cannabinoid mimicking compounds like Theobromine, tryptophan, phenylethylamine, and anandamide that create a ‘lock and key’ effect just like Cannabis. Cacao also contains a chemical called FAAH which interacts with the ECS. FAAH breaks down Anandamide, which is known as the bliss molecule, named after the pleasure God Ananda. Chocolate and Cannabis are a match made in heaven. It seems to be the perfect vehicle for cannabinoids as it evokes many of our ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters with consumption. Many people experience mood upliftment, heart opening, mild euphoria, and positive energy increases when they eat cacao.

Only the elite Mayan rulers were allowed to drink the bitter and spicy Cacao drink and it comprised a huge amount of their diet. Virgins were offered the sacred drink only upon being sacrificed to the Gods. Chocolate has driven worldwide trade for centuries. There are even entire schools devoted to the art of chocolate. Truly a food people go crazy for! It will be exciting to see what future findings reveal about the cannabinoid and cacao connection.

Photo by Katherine Hanlon

Black truffles: Black truffles or Tuber Melanosporum is one of the most sought after and coveted culinary items known. It is truly the height of luxury tasting these divine flavor bombs. Pigs and dogs are trained to find truffles, which grow just below the soil. They are so fragrant and flavorful (terps) that they almost accompany a palpable sensation in the throat and on the tongue. Robust is an understatement. Scientists in Italy and France have studied how truffles use their fragrance to attract animals to their fruiting bodies so that their spores may be spread out and reproduced, as they must be broken open to release spores. Pigs, meerkats, grizzly bears, chacma baboons, and potoroos all eat truffles.

There are black and white truffles. A black truffle, known as the Péregord truffle, is the second most commercially valuable species after Italy’s white truffle. Research has shown that truffles can invoke forgetfulness, relaxation, and laziness in animals. Some scientists attribute this to Anandamide or the bliss molecule found in truffles. More mature truffles contain more Anandamide. Anandamide affects mood, appetite, memory, pain, depression, and fertility.

The same neurotransmitters that regulate mood and pain perception have evolved over more than 50 million years. Could the Truffle be so intelligent as to adapt in ways that make it one of the most coveted fungi in the world? Our interpretation of the facts is, yes. Nic Flemming puts it perfectly in his BBC article:

“A highly prized fungi with a compound that triggers the release of mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain and does so using the same biological mechanism as THC the chemical responsible for mind-bending effects of marijuana.”

Truffles rely on being unearthed by animals so that their spores are spread in their dung. By evolving into one of the most terpene rich foods in the world, it has not just survived but thrived in transport and trade. It is a powerful flavor and if you enjoy it, chances are you will REALLY enjoy it.

Are cannabinoids what makes these medicinal herbs medicinal and superfoods super? Our bodies crave these nourishing compounds which are rich in nutrients and good for us. By looking at the history of medicine, we recognize that these medicinal herbs have been in doctors toolkits for centuries. All of these superfoods have a few things in common, aside from containing compounds that mimic endocannabinoids and interact with the ECS. The foods that contain cannabinoids are terpene rich foods making them abundant in flavor and smell. They create a lock and key effect similar to Cannabis and evoke similar effects as Cannabis. They are also all associated with longevity and health. Let us start to view Cannabis as a superfood or better yet let us view cannabinoids as superfoods. Cannabinoids may hopefully be viewed and consumed as preventative medicine or supplements, things we strive to get in and on our body every day.

Photo by Pratiksha Mohanty

I. (2011). New cannabinoid-like chromane and chromene derivatives from Rhododendron anthopogonoides. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22041081.

Fleming, N. (2014, December 18). Earth – Truffles contain ‘bliss’ molecule. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141221-truffles-contain-bliss-molecule

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.royalqueenseeds.com/blog-plants-other-than-cannabis-that-produce-cannabinoids-n714

 

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