Just about every cannabis enthusiast is familiar with the two main cannabis famalies. Sativa, known for it’s heady and energetic effects, while Indica is ussualy taken for its sedative effects.
But relatively few members of the cannabis culture is aware of a third marijuana species: Cannabis ruderalis.
Biology and Natural History
Cannabis ruderalis was first discovered in 1942, by Russian scientist Janischewski. The plant is a pioneer species, which means that it is one of the first species to colonize formerly barren lands. This is reflected in its growth habit, as it never reaches the size of its sister species, generally remaining less than 2 feet tall.
Unlike Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, which flower in response to increasing light levels, Cannabis ruderalis blooms based on an internal clock, and not in response to changing light levels. It is known to hybridize naturally with both of its relatives, and wild-growing hybrids have been found several times.
Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in marijuana, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. As you’d expect, the cannabinoid content of the different species varies quite a bit. Part of the reason most cannabis consumers have never heard of Cannabis ruderalis is that it has relatively little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – at least when compared to most sativa or indica strains.
However, Cannabis ruderalis has a very high amount of cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol doesn’t get you high, but it has been shown to help treat a variety of health problems. Perhaps the most important condition it often treats a rare form of epilepsy, called Dravet syndrome. For children with this condition, CBD is often their only hope for a symptom-free life.
Cannabidiol is also helpful in the treatment of anxiety, and researchers are investigating its efficacy in the treatment of psychosis-related diseases. With luck, this cannabinoid will be able to improve the lives of even more people in the future.
Legality and Availability
Unfortunately, Cannabis ruderalis is prohibited just about as widely as Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. This, combined with its relatively low THC content have kept it from becoming cultivated widely. It isn’t commercially produced on any large scale, although it may be seen from time to time at swap meets and industry events. However, given that it is rich in CBD, this may change at some point in the future, as more and more people are discovering the health benefits of CBD.
Some growers have used Cannabis ruderalis for outcrossing various strains, and to take advantage of some of its agriculturally advantageous traits. For example, Cannabis ruderalis is generally resistant to most pests and pathogens that afflict the other Cannabis species. Most such strains are targeted for the medicinal marijuana community.
Although Cannabis ruderalis was first discovered in Siberia and is found throughout much of northern Russia, it also grows in a few other wild places around the world. For example, wild populations have been documented in the American Midwest and Central Europe.