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Study Proves LED Lights Enhance Medicinal Value of Plants

A study, conducted by scientists at the Wageningen University & Research Center, found that some strains have higher levels of medically active substances when grown beneath LED lighting. The study also found that medical plants grow well under high lighting levels. The study specifically measured the amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD, produced.

In the Netherlands, patients use CBD to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis. They use THC to treat and reduce the symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome, nausea, weight loss, vomiting, and even therapy-resistant glaucoma. Worldwide, the demand for medical plants are growing rapidly, as well as methods for safer, more efficient, and more reliable production.

For the study, researchers focused on creating ideal conditions for medical plants to thrive. They paid particular focus on lighting, but they did not ignore other factors, such as humidity, temperature, pests, incidents of disease, and plant nutrients. They used two light sources for their research, water-cooled LED units and SON-T.

Plants grown under LEDs had exposure to two light intensities: One equal to SON-T lighting and one significantly higher. Because researchers conducted the study in spring and early summer, between April and June, they simulated autumn by blacking out all possible light sources and allowing only 100-µmol s-1 cm-2 of light into the greenhouse.

For four weeks, all plants received long light days. The team gradually shortened daylight hours until plants were ready for harvest. Growth was profuse and foliage incredibly dense, but researchers discovered pests and the high humidity caused fungus. During harvest, the team measured photosynthesis, THC levels, CBD content, and dried length and weight. They found the following:

  • Medical plants grow well in greenhouses using LEDs.
  • All strains used in the study did well under high lighting intensity.
  • Those grown under a higher intensity of light, 400 µmol s-1 cm-2, had much heavier buds than those grown under a lower light intensity of 250 µmol s-1 cm-2. In one cultivar, THC content was higher, yet in another, it was lower. When optimizing lighting, it is advisable to consider a cultivar effect.

“In all varieties, LED lighting produced a higher content of active substances than SON-T with the same light intensity,” the research team said. “Plants grown under SON-T produced heavier clusters of buds than those grown under 250 µmol s-1 cm-2 LED. In one cultivar, this led to a higher weight in terms of substances. In plants grown under 400 µmols-1 cm-2 LED, both the percentage and the nominal weight of the substances were higher than that measured in plants grown under 250 µmols-1 cm-2 SON-T.”

Optimizing LED Lighting

Now that scientific evidence is available to show that LED lighting stimulates the production of crucial cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, it is important that we use it correctly. When setting up indoor grows, LEDs are technologically more advanced and more efficient than other lighting choices. LEDs require less energy, live longer, are smaller and more robust, and have quicker switching. 

When setting up your LED lights, remembering these five tips will ensure you get it right:

1.     LEDs are Cooler

LEDs do not generate as much heat as HID and other lighting. You do not need cooling tubes or other complicated equipment. LEDs make grow room temperature more controllable, which is particularly helpful when overheating risk increases, such as during summer. In cold regions, you may need to invest in a heater. Despite this, LEDs offset heating costs by their energy efficiency. 

2.     Set LEDs Closer

Because LEDs generate less heat, you are able to set them much closer to your canopy. Doing so increases light intensity, which allows you to optimize all the advantages of LED lighting. However, you need to remember that the height of your grow lights should balance coverage area and light intensity. Use the manufacturer’s recommendations as a starting point. You can always adjust height from there.

3.     Water Less

When using LED grow lights, your plants do not need as much water as they would with HIDs and other lighting solutions. Because LEDs run cooler, your grow room temperature will not be as hot. Water will not evaporate under LED lighting as much as it would under HIDs, and plants require less water in cooler conditions than they do in the heat. Do not overwater, especially if you are used to using other lighting.

4.     Restrict Nutrients

When providing your plants with less water, it is important to reduce the amount of nutrients you give them, as well. This is because, with less water and less heat, medical plants consume their food more slowly. You will need to cut the amount of nutrients you feed your plants by roughly 30 percent under LED lighting. You do not want nutrients to build up in your soil or risk the danger of over fertilization. 

5.     Choose the Correct Spectrum

Unlike HIDs and other lighting, LEDs are able to provide more of a specific light spectrum. For medical plants, this is ideal, as they require different light spectrums at different stages of their lifecycle. Using advanced LED technology, you can use white and blue spectrums during vegetative growth, and then change to the red spectrum for flowering.

The best LED lights include all the spectrums, and you can switch them at any stage of growth to match the lifecycle of your plants. Most of the latest LED products even include UV and infrared to penetrate the canopy of your plants and provide as much lighting as possible. Using these spectrums and advanced technologies, your plants will produce as many active medicinal cannabinoids as they possibly can.

LEDs are the Future of Cultivation

It is easy to get started with LED lighting, and their increased efficiency saves an abundance of money in the long-term. Serious cultivators already use LED lighting, and in the future, every grower likely will. Having the ability to manipulate a plant’s growth allows you to experiment with THC levels, CBD content, terpene production and more, and the advanced technology of LEDs increases yield too.


Author Bio- John Levy is the author of this post. He is a health and wellness blogger for Pot Valet, a leading company providing online delivery in Beverly Hills. John loves to write about benefits and latest medical news with the community. Follow his company on TwitterFacebook and Google Plus.

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