Hemp: A New Look at a Traditional Plant

April 19, 2017 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

By Buddy Ojeda, CN

 The U.S. dietary supplement industry is projected to grow to over 36 billion dollars in 2017. That’s a 100% increase from 2001 when actual sales for that year totaled $18 billion. The industry’s popularity and commercial success is due, in large part, to its ability to continually satisfy retailer and consumer appetites for new, effective, and sometimes exotic products. For the past five years, one of its rising stars has been cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant.

The History of Cannabis

Cannabis, one of the oldest domesticated crops dating back thousands of years, is the genus for the plant that grows as three species—sativa, indica, and ruderalis. The differences between them lie primarily in their appearance, traditional uses, and amounts of phytocompounds or cannabinoids contained within each plant. Since antiquity, cannabis has been selectively bred and revered for its versatility to be transformed into clothing, textiles, animal feed, pottery, paper, and biofuels. But, it is the area of human nutrition that has sparked the most interest recently. The earliest records referencing cannabis’ healing properties date back 10,000 years to Central Asia, where it was prized for its medicinal value. In ancient Greece, it was a treatment for inflammation and pain associated with earaches. In 600 BC India, it was utilized in their system of medicine called Ayurveda for lowering fevers and inducing sleep. In 1850, cannabis was added to the U.S. Pharmacopeia, which sets standards for all prescription and OTC medicines and was listed as a treatment for gout and excessive menstrual bleeding. By the 1930s, no less than two U.S. pharmaceutical companies sold standardized extracts of the plant as an analgesic and a sedative.

The Hemp Revival?

Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, and the plant commonly referred to as marijuana, are subspecies of Cannabis sativa, but differ in one important manner—their level of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is a cannabinoid prevalent in marijuana and is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties. The plant is classified as a schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. While there are 28 states that have passed legislation allowing for medical or recreational use, it remains a federal offense to grow, import, buy, or use marijuana.

By contrast, hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC—a level not significant enough to produce a mood-altering effect. U.S. federal regulations allow for the legal import of hemp and as long as it’s not adulterated by selectively isolating specific cannabinoids to the exclusion of others, the Food and Drug Administration recognizes it as a dietary supplement.

Cannabinoids for Balance

Hemp is a rich source of a distinctive family of lipid-based compounds, including over 100 phytocannabinoids. Emerging research shows they have the potential to support human nutrition in ways that we are only beginning to understand. They include Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabigerol (CBG), and Cannabinol (CBN), just to name a few.

In 1990, scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health in Rockville, MD discovered a unique family of receptors within the human body. They were located in the brain, nervous system, glands, gonads, connective tissue, and throughout the immune system. They found that phytocannabinoids and cannabinoid-like compounds (i.e. terpenes) produced a physiological response on this network of receptors, so they named it the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Subsequent investigations uncovered that the body makes its own versions of these phytochemicals and they were given the name Endocannabinoids.

More research is needed t o fully comprehend the ECS’s role in the body, but we do have good data that shows it promotes and maintains balance or homeostasis. This means the “master adaptogenic system” has a profound influence on energy balance, endocrine function, immune activity, inflammatory response, mood, perception of pain, sleep/wake cycles, stress responses, and other body processes. So in simple terms, phytocannabinoids help balance the system that balances the body.

Sources for Phytocannabinoids

Plant-based cannabinoids, along with cannabinoid mimics (compounds that exert a similar effect on the ECS) have been in our diet since we started to grow our own food. The richest source is cannabis (hemp), but you can also find them in foods, such as echinacea, Chinese rhododendron, flax seeds, cacao, black pepper, green tea, cruciferous vegetables, and polyphenol-rich foods like turmeric.

If you are looking to increase your intake of phytocannabinoids through supplementation, do your research! Be sure to purchase from a reputable company who uses strict testing standards in their manufacturing process. Also, the label should clearly identify and quantify all the active ingredients claimed to be delivered by the product. Most importantly, choose a formulation that delivers the “full spectrum” of phytocannabinoids and associated plant compounds. This will improve bioavailability and maximize utilization by the endocannabinoid system.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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