Industrial Hemp (The Cannabis sativa L.) plant is an annual herbaceous plant that has been grown agriculturally for centuries. An ancient crop native to central Asia, there’s evidence that it grew during preagricultural stages of human development. Cannabis sativa L. is a crop used for food, fibers, and oil for human consumption and industrial use. Hemp is the variety used in the food industry, while the narcotic/medical type of Cannabis, marijuana is the variety used as a drug recreationally and medicinally. Both hemp and marijuana are strains of Cannabis sativa L.
There are different varieties of Cannabis sativa L. based on their usage. One is industrial hemp, or hemp used for food or material, which is low in the psychoactive cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is found in higher levels in marijuana plants, another variety of Cannabis sativa L. The higher THC levels in marijuana contribute to the recreational or medicinal effects sought from its use. Comparatively, hemp is so low in THC, at 0.2%, the standard established by the European Union, that it can’t be used as an inebriant. The non inebriating hemp plant is now making a comeback as a sustainable crop that has many benefits in the food supply for health and industry.
The additional compound found in Cannabis sativa L. is cannabidiolic acid, which can enhance the intoxicant effects of THC. Cannabidiol is considered a psychoactive drug with anti-anxiety, antipsychotic, and antidepressant effects. Cannabinoids don’t possess psychoactive effects until they’re decarboxylated by adding heat. Ultraviolet radiation accelerates the ripening of cannabis plants; therefore, cannabidiol conversion to THC is enhanced in tropical latitudes. Industrial hemp is grown in northern latitudes in Canada and the United States, where conversion would be low. These unripe varieties also are low in THC and decrease the risk of psychoactive effects, especially when they’re consumed in the diet as hemp seeds or oil.
Nutrients and Dietary Uses of Hemp.
Hemp seed is used in the diet in many forms, from edible oil and milk to flour and protein powder, which all contain a vast array of macronutrients and phytochemicals. The nutritional benefit comes from the fibre content, the protein, and the oil, which contains healthful unsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols, and other micronutrients.
Hemp seed is composed of 20% to 25% protein, 20% to 30% carbohydrate, 25% to 35% oil, and 10% to 15% insoluble fibre. Hemp seed is rich in a variety of micronutrients including magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and manganese.
Hemp also contains antioxidant properties that combat oxidative stress—an imbalance between reactive oxygen species, also called free radicals, to help quench their potentially damaging effects. Researchers have found that hemp hydrolysate is an excellent reducing agent, tested by the amount of Iron Fe3+ reduced to Fe2+, which indicates its potential as an antioxidant that could benefit human health. It’s also been shown to reduce hydrogen peroxide H2O2 toxicity, again proving to have a strong antioxidant effect. Hemp products contain terpenes, antioxidants that have been cited in the research as anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic and cryoprotective.
It is estimated that the hemp market entails more than 25,000 products, ranging from textiles, clothing, home furnishings, industrial oils, cosmetics, to food and pharmaceuticals. Within the last decade, hemp seed products have expanded to include a range of food and beverages, nutritional supplements, alternative protein sources, and pharmaceuticals.
Health Benefits of Hemp.
Hemp seeds in the human diet have been studied for their possible health benefits including antihypertensive properties, plasma fatty acid improvements, cardiovascular support, protein content and relief of atopic dermatitis. Most of these health benefits do derived from the desirable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs, which can also reduce osteoporosis symptoms and exerts pharmacological properties that make it a potential therapeutic agent for central nervous system diseases, such as epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases.
Hemp seed oil contains tocopherols which are natural antioxidants that can reduce the risk of oxidative degeneration related disorders.
Omega -3 fatty acids
Hemp seeds contain a combination of healthful dietary fats including the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) ALA and stearidonic acid (SDA), and the omega-6 PUFA GLA. More than 80% of the fatty acids in hemp seed oil are PUFAs. A common source of dietary omega-3 fatty acids are cold water fish such as salmon and halibut, but for those looking to diversify their omega-3 intake and those who prefer plant sources of these dietary fats, seeds including hemp seeds offer a rich alternative.
Research studies on hemp seeds, hemp protein powder and hemp protein isolate have found that hemp seed protein is rich in proteins albumin and edestin, both amino acids. The amino acid profile of hemp seeds is comparable to both soybeans and egg whites. For these reasons, hemp protein powder is commonly used as a dietary supplement and is easily accessible in the protein powder market.
Dermatitis Hemp seed oil has been used to treat atopic dermatitis in humans because of its balanced omega-6 and omega-3 lipid profile; Symptoms such as skin dryness and itching improved.
Hemp seed and oil are balanced health products with bioactive components that have the capacity to aid health beyond that of basic nutrition.