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plants similar to cannabis

Other plants containing cannabinoids

Last updated: January 21st, 2019

Published: December 12th, 2018

Cannabinoids are not unique to cannabis

The cannabinoids that exist in plants are called phytocannabinoids, while endocannabinoids are the type of cannabinoids produced internally by animals and humans. Artificial cannabinoids are referred to as synthetic cannabinoids. Think of the word “cannabinoids” as the overall term for a chemical compound that can be broken down into small categories based on where it originates from.

It is the phytocannabinoids that we are specifically interested in, as these are found in a broad range of plants, many of which are household names. The following list is just a brief overview of some of the plants that contain cannabinoids: coneflower, electric daisy, strawflower, liverwort, and tea shrub (not to be confused with tea tree).

The shared attributes of all these plants not only point to their potential in traditional medicine, but their range of applications in the modern era. It does beg the question, if cannabinoids are found in cannabis and other common plants, why do we treat cannabis so differently?

To better understand how each of the previously mentioned plants has been used for centuries as part of traditional medicine, we will explore their origins, uses, and potential side effects.

Coneflower (Echinacea)

You may be surprised to learn that coneflower is the first on our list of plants to contain phytocannabinoids. After all, it is incredibly likely that you have one growing in a pot in your house. They are grown both indoors and out for ornamental purposes because of their intense pink petals. Common in homes and beautiful to look at, coneflower can be split into two main species: Echinacea angustifolia (narrow-leaf coneflower) and Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower). Both are widely available, although the former is native to North America, and as such, probably more recognisable at a glance.

Coneflower does have uses beyond being visually appealing. Because of its phytocannabinoids, it has been used traditionally to reduce the inflammation of wounds, burns, and insect bites. The roots can also be chewed to help with toothache or throat infections. There have been noted side effects, though. Digestive issues, rashes, and bouts of asthma have all been documented as a result of using Echinacea.

Electric daisy (Acmella oleracea)

Brazilians refer to Acmella oleracea as Jambú, although throughout the rest of the world, toothache plant is the more common name. The main body of the flower is actually hundreds of smaller flowers bunched together. The toothache plant gained notoriety for the intriguing effect it has when you chew the flower. Daring individuals would be met with an extreme numbing sensation. Only lasting 10–15 mins, it wasn’t long before herbalists realised that Acmella oleracea would be perfect for treating toothache. After all, many of us would rather chew on a flower than take a needle to the gum.

Despite the embarrassing production of saliva caused by its numbing, Acmella oleracea appears to carry few side effects. We would of course not encourage anyone to participate in consuming the plant raw, despite the hilarity that would follow. The sensation can be both unpleasant and uncomfortable. The juice from the leaves, while also producing a similar analgesic effect, is used as an extract in several traditional Brazilian cooking recipes.

Strawflower (Helichrysum)

Not many individuals will know of the strawflower, mainly because Helichrysum is a genus that has over 600 species of plant linked to it. Belonging to the broader sunflower family, visually, all of the Helichrysum genera are similar in appearance, despite growing in different environments all over the world. The leaves grow oblong to lanceolate, while the flowers look similar to that of a carnation in bloom. Colours vary from deep purples and reds to vibrant pinks and yellows.

Although mainly used as an ornamental plant, strawflower is also harvested for its aroma. Burnt sugar and ham may not sound like an appealing perfume, but blended with other scents, the aromatic oil from strawflower is very popular.

Liverwort (Radula marginata)

Growing natively in New Zealand, liverwort holds a special place in the hearts of the Maori. Maori people have a belief that if an object, story, or memory is treasured, it becomes a “taonga”. Taonga is the Polynesian equivalent to a Western national treasure, like the Queen’s crown jewels. For the Maori, liverwort falls into the category of taonga, creating an interesting dilemma for the New Zealand government.

The reason being, liverwort shares some striking similarities to cannabis. The cannabinoids within liverwort, primarily a chemical compound called perrottetinene, produces an effect similar to the THC found in cannabis. Although the result is significantly milder, it has still drawn some concern from governmental bodies.

For now, owning and growing liverwort is legal. The Plant & Food research project, which is sponsored by New Zealand, has awarded several grants to further study into this intriguing plant. Although there are anecdotal accounts of the plant’s effects, results differ hugely, hence the reason for trying to understand the plant’s attributes on a scientific level.

Tea shrub (Camellia sinensis)

There is a good chance that while reading this article, you’re drinking a cup of tea or coffee. Hot, caffeinated drinks are considered by many to be the cornerstone of modern civilisation. Ironically though, drinking tea is not unique to the Western world. Asian countries have cultivated Camellia sinensis for centuries. Several varieties of the tea shrub are used to produce black, green, yellow, and white tea.

Each one was believed to carry health benefits and was favoured among the Chinese for these reasons. Modern medicine has yet to identify conclusive results from studies made into the tea shrub, but it comes backed by over 3,000 years of anecdotal accounts.

Cannabis

Last, but by no means least. While several of the plants above have specific phytocannabinoids within their genetic structure, cannabis has the most abundant collection of cannabinoids of any plant. Despite several of the side effects inflicted by these common household plants, the one with the least impact on your health is actually the one most stigmatised.

Globally, cannabis has faced a complicated and lengthy legal battle—one that it is slowly winning. Several countries have legalised the plant for medicinal purposes, recognising the beneficial impact certain cannabinoids can have on various health conditions. Just like the example set by New Zealand, where liverwort is being researched rather than penalised for its attributes, the hope is the same happens to cannabis. With more extensive study, we can further prove its medicinal benefits, and look past the reputation it has wrongly acquired.

If anything, the extensive history of using plants that contain cannabinoids as traditional remedies proves that there has to be some grounding in their capabilities.

Read on to discover which plants, aside from cannabis, also contain cannabinoids. Moreover, they have all been used for centuries as herbal remedies.

11 Plants That Look Like Weed But Are Entirely Legal (With Pictures)

Experienced gardeners know about the plants they are growing. They understand how the plant looks like when growing or fully grown.

But sometimes beginner gardeners often get confused with the plants that look like weed but isn’t a weed.

This happens so often that you may imagine that law enforcement may not get confused about plants’ similarity with other weed-like plants.

Let’s look at 11 plants that often get mistaken to be weeds.

1. Japanese Maple

Japanese maples are plants that look like a weed. You can grow it in a container or outside in the garden. It comes in several different varieties with different styles of leaf shape and color.

When the plant is still at a growing stage and has green leaves, it looks like Cannabis. This cannabis look-alike plant grows in Japan, Korea, and central China.

2. Coral Plant

The Coral plant is also known as Jathroha Multifida and has leaves that look very similar to weeds. Many people get confused with the texture and style of its leaves, which has sharp cuts and more extended sizes.

This is a tropical plant and grown primarily for its leaves and red flower bunch. This plant looks so similar to wild weed that some dealers try to sell it as a real weed to unknown marijuana users.

It’s mainly found in Mexico and Central America as the weather is more tropical at those places.

3. Okra

Okra is another plant that looks like a weed, especially its buds look very similar to weed buds. In fact, this has such a similarity with the illegal pot that cops in Cartersville mistook it to be weed and arrested a man who had grown Okra in his garden.

In reality, the Okra is an edible plant that is usually grown in warm and tropical climates such as in South Africa and Asia. Many southeast Indian cuisines use Okra in several of their dishes.

If you mistook Okra to be Cannabis and eat it, then don’t worry, as it has lots of nutrients which is right for your body.

4. Cranberry Hibiscus

Cranberry Hibiscus has a Latin name of Hibiscus Acetosella and is also known as African Rosemallow. It has large colorful leaves that look like cannabis leaves.

Once fully grown, the leaves turn out to be broader and look like a Maple leaf, but it can be easily mistaken for cannabis leaves when the plant is still growing.

Due to its high similarity with the marijuana plants, people like to plant it in either container or indoors when it’s small. After it has started blooming, the flower and leaves look quite different than weeds plants.

You can use the flowers and leaves of the Cranberry Hibiscus with salads or other dishes or use them as a natural food color.

The plant looks like a weed, but it has no THC, you won’t get high after consuming it.

5. Cassava

Cassava is mainly known for its medicinal properties of the roots. The roots are quite poisonous if you eat raw. To eat it, you have to cook it properly, which removes the harmful hydrocyanic acid from the root.

The leaves of Cassava look like marijuana as it has light greenish color leaves like Cannabis. The leaves are directly attached to the stem and are grown in the bunch.

However, its similarity to the weed ends there. It’s grown for the starch and used for human and industrial consumption.

6. Sweetfern

Sweetfern is a primarily invasive weed, which grows in the yards and garden. It’s part of the bayberry family and native to eastern Canada and the U.S.

Its fern-like leaves give the appearance of marijuana leaves, but it’s quite aromatic when rubbed. These smells feel similar to smokable pots that make people get confused as they think that it’s some different variety of Cannabis.

The leaves grow in multiple bunches from a single stem. As the plant grows further, the leaves spread out. It’s entirely legal to grow sweetfern wherever you want.

Although the plant looks like a weed, in reality, it’s just another herbal plant.

7. Cleome

Cleome may not look like a wild weed plant when its flowered with bright red and purple color flowers. But while growing up, it gives the appearance of weeds. The leaves are long and spikey similar to a pot.

The Cleome flower is also known as spider flower due to its long tentacles stretching from the flower stem. It typically blooms in summer and lasts till the frost starts.

You can plant Cleome as an edible plant. It also attracts beneficial insects in the garden.

8. Texas Star Hibiscus

Texas Star Hibiscus is a slender, multi-branched plant that has leaves grown like Cannabis. The bright green color leaves don’t have very sharp pointy edges, but its long thin textured leaves create the illusion of a cannabis plant.

For people familiar with the pot or have experience growing it, they won’t consider the Texas Star Hibiscus plant to look like weed. Still, for casual users, they may indeed get confused.

When fully grown, it blooms crimson red or white color floor, but at the growing stage, it resembles more to the pot plant.

As the name suggests, the natural growing area of this plant is in Texas with flower blooming time from June to October. This is a very versatile plant and can be grown in moist and well-drained soil. It needs full sunlight to flourish and are perennial in nature.

9. Kenaf

Kenaf is known as Hibiscus Cannabinus in the scientific community. It’s grown primarily for food and fiber. But these plants resemble so much like a weed that your home visitors may think that you are into some bad company.

Like other commonly mistaken plants that look like weed, Kenaf has considerable similarity to Cannabis plants. This similar characteristic comes from the texture and leaf size of the plant.

It has star-shaped leaves with serrated edges. A stem may have a collective bunch of 7 blades that look similar to marijuana plant leaves.

In fact, this plant looks so similar to Cannabis that its scientific name has Cannabis terminology in it.

Just be careful when growing Kenaf in your home as you don’t want your concerned neighbour to call the police and report you to have illegal grow up.

10. Tagetes Minuta

Tagetes Minuta is also commonly known as Muster-John-Henry. It grows up to 1.2 m in length and 0.6 m in width, similar to cannabis plants.

The leaves are long, elongated, and finely serrated resemble the pot leaves. When the leaves are rubbed, it smells like a licorices.

With fully-grown stems, the plant blooms white and yellowish flowers, which gives the telltale sign that it’s not a weed plant. But when it’s small and growing, the plant looks like very much a weed plant.

The Tagetes Minuta is a native to South America, but it’s also commonly grown in other parts of the world. The plant has several medicinal properties as it found to be invasive and effective in controlling fungi, bacteria, and roundworms.

11. Chaste Tree

The Chaste Tree, when fully grown, does not look like a wild weed. But when it’s still small and growing up, the plant looks very similar to a pot. The leaves are long and serrated like Cannabis, and each stem contains 5 to 6 leaves like hemp or other cannabis leaves.

When fully grown, it doesn’t look like shrub anymore and becomes easy to know that this is not a weed plant. But at the initial stage, the plant has a very high resemblance to the weed.

Overall, the plant grows 8 to 12 feet tall and wide. The leaves are quite aromatic, and the plant bears the violet color flowers. The flower grows like a lavender, which, when bloomed, attracts bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects in the garden.

You should regularly prune the chaste tree plants as if left unchecked it can grow up to 15 to 20 feet tall. The pruning shears helps with shaping and adequately sizing the plant.

About Plants That Look Like Weed: Final Thought

Although marijuana plants are becoming legal in most parts of the world, such as in Canada and some parts of the U.S, it’s still widely considered to be illegal in most of the places.

The cannabis plants have a distinct look, and the hallmark of their appearance is the leaf. The long serrated and pointed leaves give the telltale sign that it’s a marijuana plant.

Many companies also use pot leaves distinct looks like a representation of hemp. This creates confusion for people who are not actually familiar with the marijuana plant. They often mistakenly assume plants with similar leave to be a pot plant.

In some cases, it may cause inconvenience to the planter as the law enforcement gets involved in investigating if you are doing illegal grow up.

Knowing the plants that look like weed gives you some caution before planting or explaining it to your suspicious neighbour before they dial law enforcement to report about you wrongly.

Some plants look like a pot, but in reality, it's not. Check out the list of 11 plants that look like weed when growing, and how to tell the difference.