Cannabidiol, or CBD, has already sparked a health craze around the world, but researchers have now found the substance in a different plant.
The global CBD industry is estimated to be worth $5bn (£3.9bn) per year, according to Vantage Market Research.
Crucially, the plant doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical which gives cannabis users a ‘high’.
This could mean that it is easier and cheaper to make CBD, the researchers believe.
Rodrigo Moura Neto, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told AFP, “It’s a legal alternative to using cannabis.
“This is a plant that grows all over Brazil. It would be a simpler and cheaper source of cannabidiol.”
Neto said that scientists had previously found CBD in another plant in Thailand – and says that he now plans to work out how best to extract CBD from trema, and analyse how effective it is as a treatment.
In Brazil, Neto says that when cannabidiol is sold, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) imposes restrictions on the formula, which can only have 0.2% THC.
Neto says, “In the case of the Brazilian plant, this would not be a problem, because there is nothing of THC in it. There would also be no legal restriction on planting, because it can be planted at will. In fact, it is already spread all over Brazil. It would be an easier and cheaper source to get cannabidiol.”
Chemists, biologists, geneticists and botanists are now mapping out the most effective methods of analysing and extracting cannabidiol from the plant, Neto says.
According to the professor, in six months the in vitro processes will begin , when researchers will work out if the plant has the same activity as cannabidiol extracted from Cannabis sativa.