Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids May Be New Foundation for Natural Pesticides, According to New Research

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Recent research from Cornell University is hinting that hemp-derived cannabinoids may be the latest development in natural pesticides.

The latest development on hemp coming from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) (1), is that cannabinoids derived from the plant may be the new foundation for natural pesticides. Research conducted by Larry Smart, a plant breeder and professor at the Cornell AgriTech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) (Ithaca, New York), showed that there was fewer damage caused from pests due to the higher cannabinoid concentrations found in hemp leaves (1). The study was published in the journal Horticulture Research in November 2023 (1).

Data from this study will inspire further research to be done on natural pesticides which would be utilized only on non-edible plants (1). According to HempToday’s article (1), “That restriction is due to the pharmacological properties of the compounds, which include CBDA, THCA and their precursor CBGA. These compounds are naturally produced by hemp plants and convert to more commonly known cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabigerol (CBG) when heated.”

Research over the years has investigated the cannabinoids found in the cannabis and hemp plants. The theory from researchers is that these cannabinoids may help and provide plants protection from herbivores, ultraviolet light, and pathogens (1).


“It has been speculated that they are defensive compounds, because they primarily accumulate in female flowers to protect seeds, which is a fairly common concept in plants,” said Lawrence Smart, the senior author of the study (1). “But no one has put together a comprehensive set of experimental results to show a direct relationship between the accumulation of these cannabinoids and their harmful effects on insects,” Smart added (1), “Cannabinoids Function in Defense Against Chewing Herbivores in Cannabis Sativa L.”

“The study gives us insight into how cannabinoids function in natural systems, and can help us develop new tetrahydrocannabinol-compliant (THC-compliant) hemp cultivars that maintain these natural built-in defenses against herbivores,” George Stack explained, a postdoctoral researcher who works in Smart’s lab (1).

CALS researchers of the study are looking to explore how sap-sucking insects, for example aphids, are affected by cannabinoids (1). HempToday’s article also reported that the researchers are also investigating the South African woolly umbrella plant to see if there’s any gain to be made from the plants properties (1).

“The potential use of cannabinoids as a pesticide is an exciting area for future research, but there will certainly be regulatory barriers due to pharmacological activity of the compounds, and more studies are needed to understand what pests cannabinoids will be effective against,” Stack commented (1).


  1. HempToday. Research Shows Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids Could Be Basis for Natural Pesticides (accessed Dec 4, 2023).
  2. Stack, G. M.; Snyder, S. I.; Toph, J. A.; Quade, M. A.; Crawford, J. L.; McKay, J. K.; Jackowetz, J. N.; Wang, P.; Philippe, G.; Hansen, J. L.; Moore, V. M.; Rose, J. K. C.; Smart, L. B. Cannabinoids Function in Defense Against Chewing Herbivores in Cannabis Sativa L. (accessed Dec 4, 2023).