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BioMed Central Biomed Central Web Site search submit a manuscript register this article Nutrition & Metabolism Journal Front Page
Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010; 7: 32.
Published online 2010 Apr 21. doi:  10.1186/1743-7075-7-32
PMCID: PMC2868018

The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed

Abstract

Despite its use in our diet for hundreds of years, hempseed has surprisingly little research published on its physiological effects. This may have been in the past because the psychotropic properties wrongly attributed to hemp would complicate any conclusions obtained through its study. Hemp has a botanical relationship to drug/medicinal varieties of Cannabis. However, hempseed no longer contains psychotropic action and instead may provide significant health benefits. Hempseed has an excellent content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These compounds have beneficial effects on our cardiovascular health. Recent studies, mostly in animals, have examined the effects of these fatty acids and dietary hempseed itself on platelet aggregation, ischemic heart disease and other aspects of our cardiovascular health. The purpose of this article is to review the latest developments in this rapidly emerging research field with a focus on the cardiac and vascular effects of dietary hempseed.

Introduction

Cannabis sativa L. is an annual plant in the Cannabaceae family. It has been an important source of food, fiber, medicine and psychoactive/religious drug since prehistoric times [1]. Cannabis is mentioned as a medication in ancient Egyptian medical texts: Ramesseum III Papyrus (1700 B.C.), Eber’s Papyrus (1600 B.C.), the Berlin Papyrus (1300 B.C.), and the Chester Beatty VI Papyrus (1300 B.C.) [1,2].

Two main types of Cannabis Sativa L. must be distinguished, the drug and non-drug types. The first is also known as marijuana, hashish or Cannabis tincture and contains Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in concentrations between 1-20%, high enough to exhibit psychoactivity. The second type of Cannabis Sativa L. is industrial hemp with THC concentrations < 0.3% so it has no psychoactive properties [3,4].

Canada, Australia, Austria, China, Great Britain, France and Spain are among the most important agricultural producers of hempseed. In the United States, it is not legal to cultivate hempseed. This is primarily because many believe that by legalizing hemp they may lead to a legalization of marijuana [5]. Other governments have accepted the distinction between the two types of Cannabis and, while continuing to penalize the growing of marijuana, have legalized the growing of industrial hemp [5].

Hempseed possesses excellent nutritional value. It is very rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) and other polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). It has almost as much protein as soybean and is also rich in Vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc [6,7]. The nutrient profile of hempseed is shown in Table Table1.1. Hempseed oil contains all of the essential amino acids and also contains surprisingly high levels of the amino acid arginine, a metabolic precursor for the production of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule now recognized as a pivotal signaling messenger in the cardiovascular system that participates in the control of hemostasis, fibrinolysis, platelet and leukocyte interactions with the arterial wall, regulation of vascular tone, proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells, and homeostasis of blood pressure [8]. In a study that included 13 401 participants, 25 years and older from the Third National Health Nutrition and Examination Survey, an independent relationship was shown between the dietary intake of L-arginine and levels of C-Reactive protein [9], a marker strongly correlated with the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) [10]. The results of this populated-based study suggested that individuals may be able to decrease their risk for CVD by following a diet that is high in arginine-rich foods [9]. Dietary hempseed is also particularly rich in the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid (LA) and also contains elevated concentrations of the omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid (ALA). The LA:ALA ratio normally exists in hempseed at between 2:1 and 3:1 levels. This proportion has been proposed to be ideal for a healthy diet [11]. Other rich sources of LA [12,13] are listed in Table Table22.

Table 1

Nutrient profile of hempseed*.

Table 2

Rich sources of the essential fatty acid linoleic acid*.

The long chain PUFA that is found in the body ultimately originates from the diet and through elongation and desaturation of their dietary precursors, ALA and LA. Both families of fatty acids, n-3 and n-6, share and compete for the same enzymes (Δ6-desaturase, Δ5-desaturase, and elongases) in their biosynthetic pathways. The Δ6-desaturase enzyme is the rate-limiting step [9]. Following its metabolism, LA can be converted into arachidonic acid whereas ALA will be converted into the long chain fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (Figure (Figure1).1). A high LA intake interferes with the desaturation and elongation of ALA [14]. Therefore, theorically, a lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more advantageous in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies. The ratio of ω-6 to ω-3 fatty acids ranges from 20-30:1 in Western societies instead of the traditional (historic) range of 1-2:1 on which human beings evolved [15]. This is thought to be closely associated with chronic diseases like coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders and cancer.

Figure 1

Biochemical pathway for linolenic acid and α-linolenic acid transformation. ALA = α-linolenic acid; ARA = arachidonic acid; DGLA = dihomo γ-linolenic acid; DHA = docosahexaenoic acid; DPA = docosapentaenoic acid; EPA = eicosapentaenoic

Hempseed is also a rich and unusual source of the polyunsaturated fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) (18:3n6) to the body. Additionally, another important biological metabolite of ALA and LA, stearidonic acid (18:4n3; SDA) is also present in hempseed oil (Figure (Figure1).1). Both can inhibit inflammatory responses [16,17].

Recently, many studies have demonstrated that dietary interventions can play a central role in the primary and secondary prevention of several diseases. The PUFAs derived from fish, EPA and DHA, have been extensively studied. Based on the close relation between the pathways that metabolize ALA and LA, and the capacity of both to be converted into long chain fatty acids, plant sources of ALA (i.e. flaxseed, canola and others) have begun to attract more scientific attention for their potential to improve our health. However, because of legal regulations, lack of knowledge and some confusion about the differences between fiber hemp and marijuana, the growth of hempseed research has been slower than expected. In view of its long history of dietary usage, it is surprising that research on the effects of dietary hempseed in animal and humans has been limited. Furthermore, because of its expected nutritional value and the hypothetical benefits of LA and ALA against a variety of health disorders, a better understanding of the appropriate doses and presentation (oil, seed, etc) of hempseed should represent useful health-related information. It is important to point out that dietary hempseed as an energy containing food item introduces changes in the fatty acid composition of the diet and will inevitably replace other dietary components under an isocaloric condition. Previously some [18] but not all authors [19] have found differences in body weight after the administration of 30 ml/d of hempseed oil for four to eight weeks in humans. Finally, an identification of the target patient population (age, clinical condition, co-morbidities, etc) that may benefit the most from a supplementation of hempseed in the diet would also be important information.

Animal Data

The biochemical metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids like LA produces eicosanoids in the body. Eicosanoids are biologically active and contribute to the formation of thrombi and atheromas and shifts the physiological state to one that is prothrombotic and proaggregatory, with increases in blood viscosity, vasospasm, and vasocontriction and decreases in bleeding time [15]. Hempseed is rich in LA content. Therefore, hempseed has received research attention for its effects on platelet aggregation.

Richard et al [20] reported that diets supplemented with 5% and 10% hempseed (wt/wt) for 12 weeks resulted in a significant increase in total plasma PUFAs in rats. ALA and LA levels increased significantly in a concentration-dependent manner [20]. Dietary hempseed supplementation also resulted in a significant inhibition of platelet aggregation and a lower rate of aggregation. This is an important result with physiological and pathological implications. As we have become increasingly aware of the importance of blood clots to the initiation of myocardial infarctions and strokes, the capacity of a dietary intervention like hempseed to inhibit clot formation has obvious appeal. However, if excessive bleeding is an expected event (as would be the case during surgery), it becomes essential for the physician/surgeon to know of a prior history of dietary hempseed usage.

These data on the effects of dietary hempseed on platelet aggregation have been extended into hypercholesterolemic conditions by Prociuk and colleagues [21]. They have shown that rabbits fed a high cholesterol diet for eight weeks exhibit an enhanced platelet aggregation [21]. However, when 10% hempseed was supplemented to the diet together with the high cholesterol diet, these hypercholesterolemic animals displayed normal platelet aggregation values. This normalization was not related to any correction of the elevated plasma cholesterol levels but was related in part to the increased levels of plasma gamma-linolenic acid [21]. Because most patients at high risk for coronary heart disease are hypercholesterolemic, these findings have important potential for treating or preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Two other studies have been focused on the capacity of hempseed for altering cardiac function before and after an ischemic event [22,23]. Both studies have shown no effects of a hempseed-supplemented diet on basal cardiac contractile function or electrical activity before ischemia [22,23]. However, the data on the effects of dietary hempseed on cardiac performance post-ischemia is less consistent. Al-Khalifa and colleagues [23] reported that hearts from rats fed a 5% or 10% hempseed supplemented diet for 12 weeks exhibited significantly better post-ischemic recovery of maximal contractile function and enhanced rates of tension development and relaxation during reperfusion than hearts from the control group. The authors found that these hearts were not protected from the occurrence of premature contractions, nor were the increases in resting tension altered during ischemia or reperfusion [23]. This beneficial effect of hempseed on post-ischemic cardiac performance may be species specific. The same lab found that supplementation of the diet with 10% hempseed in rabbits did not show any beneficial effects on left ventricular end-diastolic pressure (LVEDP), left ventricular developed pressure (LVDP), arrhythmia incidence and arrhythmia duration during ischemia and reperfusion [22]. Some limitations of the study related to the duration of the dietary intervention (8 weeks as opposed to 12 weeks) and sample size may have influenced the capacity for the dietary hempseed to protect the heart during ischemic insult [22].

Clinical Data

The actions of dietary hempseed in humans have only been studied to a limited extent. Fatty acid bioavailability from hempseed oil was recently studied in comparison to two other dietary oils (fish and flaxseed) [24]. Hempseed and hempseed oil is enriched in LA and GLA. Eighty-six healthy subjects completed a 12 week dietary supplementation with 2 g/day of these oils. The hempseed intervention did not significantly increase the concentration of LA, GLA or any other fatty acid in the plasma of the subjects, nor did it change the level of plasma total cholesterol (TC), high density cholesterol (HDL-C), low density cholesterol (LDL-C) or triglycerides (TG) [24]. Both flaxseed and fish oils did induce significant changes in circulating fatty acid species associated with their respective oils (ALA for flaxseed; EPA and DHA for fish oil) [24]. Supplementation with hempseed oil also did not induce any change in collagen- or thrombin-stimulated platelet aggregation or in the levels of circulating inflammatory markers [24]. It was suggested that the lack of effects may be related to the dose used [24]. This hypothesis has been supported by data obtained in another dietary intervention that used higher doses of hempseed (30 ml/day) [18]. In this randomized, double-blinded, crossover design trial, hempseed and flaxseed oils were compared at the same doses. After 4 weeks of supplementation, the hempseed intervention increased the concentrations of both LA and GLA in serum cholesteryl esters (CE) and TG. The flaxseed intervention resulted in higher serum CE and TG concentrations of ALA. However, a statistically significant decrease in GLA concentrations was observed during this period of intervention. Importantly, the proportion of arachidonic acid in CE was lower after the flaxseed diet than after the hempseed supplementation but this was not statistically significant. However, the hempseed supplements resulted in a lower total cholesterol:HDL cholesterol ratio. A higher total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio has been found in association with coronary heart disease [25]. However, no significant differences were found between the effects of flaxseed and hempseed oils in terms the fasting serum total or lipoprotein lipid levels, plasma glucose levels, or insulin or hemostatic factors [18]. Callaway and colleagues [19], using 30 ml/day of hempseed oil, conducted a 20-week randomized, single-blind crossover study in 20 patients with atopic dermatitis, and found that the levels of both essential fatty acids, LA and ALA, and GLA increased in all lipid fractions after using hempseed oil, with no significant increases of arachidonic acid in any lipid fractions. Moreover, atopic dermatitis symptoms were improved after the intervention with hempseed oil [19].

These results emphasize the importance of using higher doses of hempseed oil if significant increases in fatty acid species are to be achieved. Clearly, the ingestion of two large capsules of hempseed daily (as most people in the general public may ingest), is insufficient to achieve a desired increase in LA or GLA levels in the plasma [24]. Much larger doses are required to induce beneficial physiological effects. However, this may not be possible to achieve currently in the general population. If 10-15 times the amount used by Kaul and co-workers [24] is required to achieve a significant increase in plasma fatty acid levels, it would be unpractical to expect the general public to ingest 20-30 capsules of hempseed per day. This is a significant problem that the food and supplement industry must address in the future if hempseed is to be considered a realistic dietary approach to healthy living. Supplementing the diet with tablespoons of hemp oil in addition to hemp capsules as well as ingesting foods that contain these omega-3 fatty acids may be the optimal way to obtain them.

Linoleic acid and heart disease: New research fields for hempseed

Hempseed is a rich source of LA and others nutrients. The specific pathologies or conditions in which it can be used effectively are in need of more research but the data presently available suggest that LA may have beneficial effects in certain cardiovascular circumstances.

Effects on cholesterol levels

Iacono et al [26] reported that a high LA based diet (10.8%) decreased total cholesterol by 15% and LDL-C by 22%, without producing significant changes in plasma HDL-C after 6 weeks of dietary intervention in 11 healthy middle aged, male subjects. Apolipoprotein B decreased by 37% whereas apolipoprotein A-I increased by 24% in the group of individuals supplemented with this diet [26]. In a multiple crossover design that included 56 normolipemic, healthy subjects, Zock and colleagues [27] found that those who received the LA supplemented dietary intervention for three weeks (2.0% of total energy intake as LA) obtained lower levels of serum LDL-C, and higher HDL-C levels when compared with subjects who received its hydrogenation products elaidic (trans-Cl8:ln9) and stearic acid (C18:O). Recently, Mensink et al [28] employed a meta-analysis that included 60 controlled trials to show that polyunsaturated fat (mainly LA) reduces LDL-C, triglycerides and increases HDL-C. However, others have shown that healthy individuals supplemented for 4 weeks with hempseed exhibited a lower total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio [24]. A higher total:HDL cholesterol ratio is associated with coronary heart disease and has a worse prognosis after a myocardial infarction [29,30]. Clearly, the issue is not resolved yet. The population studied (healthy vs clinically compromised), the dosages of hempseed used, the presentation administered (whole hempseed vs milled hempseed vs hemp oil vs purified LA), the duration of the dietary intervention, the composition of the diet, are all factors that may be critical in producing the effects (of lack of effects) in these studies. More research is needed in order to understand if these specific conditions influence cardiovascular efficacy and to understand which metabolic factors are most sensitive (hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolemia, low HDL-C, or other hyperlipoproteinemias) to this kind of dietary intervention.

Effects on high blood pressure

Results reported by The International Study of Macro-Micronutrients and Blood Pressure, a cross-sectional epidemiological study that included 4680 individuals, suggested that dietary LA intake may contribute to prevention and control of high blood pressure [31]. Other small studies have found that supplementation with LA (4 g-23 g/day) decreased blood pressure after 4 weeks of dietary intervention [32,33]. However, these promising results are in conflict with another study that reported no association between LA intake and lower blood pressure levels [34]. Studies using hempseed as a source of LA for hypertensive patients have not been conducted. It is also important to note that the consequences of these kinds of diets on arterial stiffness and vascular perfusion characteristics are unknown. The additional effects of these diets on ventricular hypertrophy that develops secondary to high blood pressure is not known nor are the effects when hempseed is supplemented with an antihypertensive medication. The potential for hempseed to alter drug kinetics in the body has not been studied.

Effects on atherosclerosis

Almost three decades ago, Cornwell and Panganamala postulated that an intracellular deficiency in essential fatty acids plays a central role in the atherogenic process [35]. Recently, Das [36] showed how a defect in the activity of Δ6 and Δ5 desaturases may be a factor in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. He also provided evidence that low-grade systemic inflammatory conditions are also essential fatty acids deficient states [36]. With our current understanding of the close relationship that infectious disease and inflammation has with atherogenesis [37,38], it is not difficult to predict that foods with an optimal LA-ALA ratio will reduce inflammation under ideal dietary conditions and it may thereby attenuate atherosclerotic heart disease. Unfortunately, the effects of LA on atherosclerosis are not completely clear. Arachidonic acid can be derived from LA. This can be converted to prothrombotic and proinflammatory prostaglandins. However, changes in dietary LA within the usual dietary range do not appreciably alter arachidonic acid levels [39,40]. Consistent with this, some have suggested that LA could have anti-inflammatory effects mediated by biochemical pathways that do not involve the cyclooxygenase pathway [41]. Presently, the randomized, controlled trials that address this topic have not been able to distinguish between the effects of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids [42]. Both have had beneficial effects by decreasing plasma levels of soluble TNF receptor 1 and 2, indicators of TNF activity [42].

Surprisingly, studies of the effects on atherosclerotic heart disease of dietary hempseed supplementation in animals or humans have not been completed. This type of study has been successfully completed using flaxseed as a dietary intervention [43,44]. It would also be important to determine if the LA content of hempseed (and not its ALA content) is responsible for decreasing inflammatory markers and the systemic atherosclerotic process in general.

Coronary heart disease

A meta-analysis of data from 25 case-control studies strongly suggested that a lower tissue content of LA is associated with increased coronary heart disease risk [45]. More importantly, this study did not show an association between AA tissue content and the risk for coronary artery disease. The results from randomized controlled trials have not been consistent either. Some [46,47] but not all [48,49] have found reductions in coronary risk with the use of an LA diet intervention. In a recent review, Harris [45] states that reducing LA intakes to less than 5% energy would be likely to increase the risk for coronary heart disease whereas higher intakes should be beneficial even in conditions without clinical evidence of adverse effects.

What we do not know about the effects of dietary hempseed

As discussed earlier in this paper, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the usefulness of hempseed or LA in different aspects related to cardiovascular diseases. It is important to identify not only what we presently know about dietary hempseed but also what is not known. The animal data lacks systematic information about the action of hempseed on myocardial infarctions, hypertension, atherosclerosis, markers of inflammation and arrhythmias. Similarly, we need to know more about the effects of this plant on the circulating lipid profile. Primary and secondary cardiovascular prevention trials using hempseed as a source of LA have not been performed. In general, we need to understand better the bioavailability of fatty acids like LA and GLA from dietary hempseed as a function of the age or sex of the subject, or as a function of the dosage of hempseed employed. Other dietary interventions (i.e. flaxseed) are sensitive to these variables [50,51] so it is not unrealistic to hypothesize that the delivery of hempseed will be influenced by these variables as well. It will also be important to identify if the hypotensive effects attributed to LA can be reproduced by dietary hempseed. As discussed previously, the capacity of LA and/or hempseed to affect ventricular hypertrophy secondary to high blood pressure, human atherosclerosis, inflammation, as well as the co-morbidities associated with cardiovascular diseases (like metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, obesity, heart failure or arrhythmias) still need to be determined in carefully controlled clinical trials.

Conclusions

The data discussed above supports the hypothesis that hempseed has the potential to beneficially influence heart disease. A mix of legal issues and misunderstandings has slowed research progress in this area but enough data presently exists to argue strongly for the continued investigation into the therapeutic efficacy of dietary hempseed. There remain many questions regarding the cardiovascular effects of hempseed that demand scientific answers in order to definitively establish this food as a preventive or therapeutic dietary intervention. Cardiovascular patients may not be the only subjects who benefit from this research. Furthermore, only time will tell if other diseases that have an immunological, dermatological, neurodegenerative basis may also benefit from this new nutritional intervention.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

Both authors contributed to the creation, literature review and writing of this manuscript.

Acknowledgements

The work was supported through a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The indirect costs of this research were supported by the St Boniface Hospital and Research Foundation. Dr Rodriguez Leyva was a Visiting Scientist of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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  • Hussein N, Ah-Sing E, Wilkinson P, Leach C, Griffin BA, Millward DJ. Long-chain conversion of [13C]linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid in response tomarkedchanges in their dietary intake in men. J Lipid Res. 2005;46:269–280. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M400225-JLR200. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
  • Sacks FM, Campos H. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, andcardiovascular disease: time to widen our view of the mechanisms. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006;91:398–400. doi: 10.1210/jc.2005-2459. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
  • Willett WC. The role of dietary n-6 fatty acids in the prevention ofcardiovascular disease. J Cardiovasc Med (Hagerstown) 2007;8(Suppl 1):S42–5. [PubMed]
  • Dupasquier CMC, Weber AM, Ander BP, Rampersad PP, Steigerwald S, Wigle JT, Mitchell RW, Kroeger EA, Gilchrist JSC, Moghadasian MM, Lukas A, Pierce GN. The effects of dietary flaxseed on vascular contractile function andatherosclerosis in rabbits during prolonged hypercholesterolemia. Am J Physiol. 2006;291:H2987–H2996. [PubMed]
  • Dupasquier CMC, Dibrov E, Kneesh AL, Cheung PKM, Lee KGY, Alexander HK, Yeganeh B, Moghadasian MH, Pierce GN. Dietary flaxseed inhibitsatherosclerosis in the LDL receptor deficient mouse in part through anti-proliferative andanti-inflammatory actions. Am J Physiol. 2007;293:H2394–2402. [PubMed]
  • Harris WS, Poston WC, Haddock CK. Tissue n-3 and n-6 fatty acids andrisk for coronary heart disease events. Atherosclerosis. 2007;193:1–10. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2007.03.018. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
  • Leren P. The Oslo diet-heart study. Eleven-year report. Circulation. 1970;42:935–942. [PubMed]
  • Turpeinen O, Karvonen MJ, Pekkarinen M. Dietary prevention ofcoronaryheart disease: the Finnish mental hospital study. Int J Epidemiol. 1979;8:99–118. doi: 10.1093/ije/8.2.99. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
  • Medical Research Council. Controlled trial of soya-bean oil inmyocardialinfarction. Lancet. 1968;2:693–699. [PubMed]
  • Frantz ID, Dawson EA, Ashman PL, Gatewood LC, Bartsch GE, Kuba K, Brewer ER. Test of effect of lipid lowering by diet on cardiovascular risk. TheMinnesotacoronary survey. Arteriosclerosis. 1989;9:129–135. [PubMed]
  • Patenaude A, Rodriguez-Leyva D, Edel AL, Dibrov E, Dupasquier CM, Austria JA, Richard MN, Chahine MN, Malcolmson LJ, Pierce GN. Bioavailability of alpha-linolenic acid from flaxseed diets as a function of the age of the subject. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63:1123–9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.41. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
  • Austria JA, Richard MN, Chahine MN, Edel AL, Malcolmson LJ, Dupasquier CM, Pierce GN. Bioavailability of alpha-linolenic acid in subjects afteringestion of three different forms of flaxseed. J Am Coll Nutr. 2008;27:214–21. [PubMed]

Articles from Nutrition & Metabolism are provided here courtesy of BioMed Central

gov can pic

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Industrial Hemp

Profile

Canada’s Industrial Hemp Industry

As the world’s premier renewable resource, hemp has been the source of food and fibre for the past 10,000 years. Hemp fibre has been used to make clothing, ropes, and paper; the grain has been stewed, roasted, and milled for food; and the oil derived from the grain has been used for cosmetics, lighting, paints, varnishes, and medicinal preparations.

Like the marijuana plant, industrial hemp belongs to the species Cannabis sativa L. However, unlike marijuana, it only contains small quantities of the psychoactive drug delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Nevertheless, the cultivation of both marijuana and industrial hemp were banned in Canada in 1938.

Since 1994, a small number of Canadian companies, as well as Canadian universities and provincial governments have researched industrial hemp production and processing. Due largely to their initiative, the 60-year ban was lifted and the commercial cultivation of hemp was authorized in Canada in 1998. The Industrial Hemp Regulations came into effect on March 12, 1998, and cover the cultivation, processing, transportation, sale, provision, import, and export of industrial hemp.

Since its legalization, hemp has sparked much interest among Canadian farmers. The Government of Canada has been very supportive of Canada’s re-emerging hemp industry through changes in legislation and regulations, and through market development funding. Today, hemp is enjoying a renaissance, with the global hemp market becoming a thriving, commercial success. More than 100 Canadian farmers are currently taking advantage of the vast market potential for hemp and are growing this crop in most provinces, primarily in central and western Canada.

Stringent Regulations

The regulatory system for the commercialization of industrial hemp is strict; however, it is crucial to protect the health and well-being of Canadians, to abide by Canada’s international commitments against illegal drugs, and to contribute to the production and export of safe food products. Administered by the Office of Controlled Substances of Health Canada, the system operates by issuing licenses for all activities involving hemp. It ensures that all industrial hemp grown, processed, and sold in Canada contains no more than small amounts of THC, at levels far below those found in marijuana. For example, the upper limit in Canada for THC in the industrial hemp plant is 0.3% of the weight of leaves and flowering parts, while marijuana plants often have a THC level of 5% or more. In addition, Canada has set a maximum level of 10 parts per million (ppm) for THC residues in products derived from hemp grain, such as flour and oil.

Uses

Like flax, wheat, corn, canola, and other major cultivated species, hemp is a crop that can be grown for food and non-food purposes. Whole hemp seed is composed of approximately 45 percent oil, 35 percent protein and 10 percent carbohydrates and fibre. As a result of the numerous nutritional benefits, many new food products containing hemp seed and its oil are finding their way onto the Canadian market, including pasta, tortilla chips, salad dressings, snack products, and frozen desserts.

Recent scientific research indicates that essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be manufactured by the human body and deficiencies can cause undesirable chronic conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and eczema. Therefore, hemp seed and its by-products can be used to supplement diets poor in EFAs in order to maintain health. One by-product, hemp seed oil, contains 30% of its weight in EFA-rich oil, delivering an ideal combination of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids for long term use. Hemp seed oil may have potential health benefits for diabetes, cancer, lupus, asthma rheumatoid arthritis, depression and hypertension. Hemp is one of only two plants that contain both EFAs as well as gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA has been found to have many properties ranging from anti-inflammatory to anti-depression. It can lower cholesterol and help to correct dyslexia, dyspraxia, and hyperactivity (ADHD). Approximately one-third of the population lacks the enzyme to metabolize GLA from omega 6 and must take GLA from an outside source to maintain good health, and hemp is an excellent way for them to do so.

Hemp oil has traditionally been used for industrial functions such as lamp oil, paint, and varnish, but today is finding major new markets in the cosmetic and functional food industries. One of the fastest growing sectors for hemp seed oil is the body care products market. The EFA content of hemp oil makes it an ideal topical ingredient in both leave-on and rinse-off body care products. The EFAs in lotions and creams help to soothe and restore skin, while their content in lip balms, conditioners, shampoos, soaps, and shaving products are emollient and provide a smooth after-feel. With cosmetics companies taking advantage of the moisture-retention qualities of hemp oils, the functionality and marketability of industrial hemp oil is expected to continue to increase steadily. Increased consumer awareness and product availability are also expected to help expand the markets.

Hemp fibre contains no measurable amounts of THC, and is renowned for its resistance to rotting and wear and tear, as well as for its high tensile properties that make it durable and strong. These qualities have been recognized through real life applications over thousand of years. The stalk of the plant offers two distinct types of fibre:

  • The outer portion of the hemp stem contains the bast fibres, the strong, long, and slender fibres that provide the strength and quality attributed to hemp. Bast hemp fibre excels in durability and absorbency, has anti-mildew and anti-microbial properties, and is in demand for certain applications, such as car panels in the automobile industries in the U.S. and Europe. The panels have the advantage of being stronger, lighter, and relatively less expensive than traditional car panels.
  • The core fibre, sometimes referred to as the hurds, is derived from the sturdy, wood-like stalk of the hemp plant. Similar to the bast fibre, the core fibre possesses anti-mildew and anti-microbial properties. It is currently being used for animal bedding and simulated cedar shakes, as it is twice as absorbent as wood. It is also used for manufacturing hemp paper, although only small quantities are currently being produced in North America.

Additional hemp uses are listed in the following table:

Table 1: Examples of hemp uses

Hemp Seed Product Uses

  • Confectionary
  • Beer
  • Flour
  • Feed
  • Dietary Fibre
  • Snacks
  • Non-dairy Milk and Cheese
  • Baking

Hemp Oil Product Uses

  • Cooking
  • Salad Dressing
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Body Care Products
  • Fuel
  • Detergents
  • Spreads
  • Paint

Hemp Fibre Product Uses

  • Fabric
  • Insulation
  • Carpeting
  • Paneling
  • Pulp and Paper
  • Recycling Additive
  • Automobile Parts
  • Animal Bedding and Mulch

Production

An annual fibre plant adapted to temperate regions, hemp has been genetically selected into dozens of varieties. As a result of their proven low THC content, Health Canada has approved 27 cultivars or varieties of industrial hemp for the 2006 growing season. Cultivated plants usually consist of a single main stalk and a growth of leaves, with the potential to grow up to 7 metres (21 ft) in height. However, hemp plants usually reach heights between 2 and 4.5 metres (6-15 ft), with a period of seeding to harvest ranging from 70 to 140 days, depending on the purpose, variety, and climatic conditions. One hectare of hemp can yield an average of 800 kg of grain which in turn can be pressed into 200 litres of oil and 600 kg of meal. The same hectare will also produce an average of 6 tonnes of straw which can be transformed into approximately 1.5 tonnes of fibre.

For more information on hemp cultivation, please consult your provincial ministry of agriculture. Hemp has been the subject of much interest in rural communities, mainly because farmers are under pressure to find alternatives to traditional commodities, and also because the possibilities of industrial hemp have sparked so much interest.

Economics

Experts indicate that production costs can be lowered by exploiting hemp as a dual-purpose crop, using both the grain and fibre from the same plant. Of the 27 varieties legally authorized for cultivation in Canada in the year 2006, some are best-suited for the production of fibre; others are outstanding in the production of grain, while certain varieties are ideal for a dual harvest of grain and fibre. Moreover, there is great interest in developing varieties with the lowest THC content possible.

Growers tend to be clustered in loose alliances and co-operatives, or are geographically close to processing facilities in order to keep transportation costs low. The first challenge for hemp growers is to find a buyer who can guarantee, through contract, the purchasing of their harvest.

Hemp processors investigate and promote viable applications of hemp products in order to create new markets domestically and abroad. The re-introduction of hemp as a legal crop and the development of markets is a slow process and the hemp sector will need to expand carefully to ensure that supply and demand are harmonized. As the hemp sector continues to grow and as new technologies are applied to production and processing, more commercial possibilities will become feasible.

Conclusions

Hemp’s agronomic and environment attributes are remarkable: it can be grown without fungicides, herbicides and pesticides, it absorbs carbon dioxide five times more efficiently than the same acreage of forest and it matures in three to four months. Hemp can be used to create building materials, textiles, clothing, inks, and paints and has potential use in other non-food products. These advantages are in tune with the environmental and health preferences of today’s North American public. The growing curiosity of consumers, the interest shown by farmers and processors, and Canada’s excellent growing conditions for industrial hemp allow optimistic views for its future.

Statistics

Industrial Hemp Statistics

For the latest market information and analysis available from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, please consult the following publications:

Associations

Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA)
P.O. Box 188
225 Pembina Trial
Ste. Agathe, MB
R0G 1Y0
Email: anndrea@hemptrade.ca
Tel: 1-800-289-4367
Fax: 204-882-2529

Ontario Hemp Alliance (OHA)
P.O. Box 776
Tavistock, Ontario
N0B 2R0
Email: info@ontariohempalliance.org
Tel: 519-352-9355
Fax: 519-633-5070
President: Gordon Scheifele

Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers Association (PIHG)
#3, 126 Main Street North
Dauphin, Manitoba
R7N 1C2
Email: pihg@mts.net
Tel: 204-629-HEMP (4367)
Fax: 204-629-4368
Manager: Sue Schlingerman

Saskatchewan Hemp Association (SHA
P.O. Box 24007
Regina, Saskatchewan
S4P 4J8
Email: info@saskhemp.com
Tel: 306-757-HEMP (4367)
Fax: 306-757-4365
Executive Director: Duanne Phillippi
General Manager/Editor: Arthur Hanks

List of Approved Cultivars for the 2013 Growing Season

Hemp Production in Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Industrial Hemp Production
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives

Industrial Hemp Enterprise
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

Hemp in Ontario
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

A Maritime Industrial Hemp Product Marketing Survey
Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture

Other Useful Links

North American Industrial Hemp Council

Vote Hemp

The Hemp Report

The Hemp Industries Association

Date modified:

2015 CHTA Convention – Save the Date

Calgary, Alberta will play host to the 2015 National Hemp Convention. Brush off your Stetsons and cowboy boots and joint us – November 17-19.

About the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance

The CHTA is a national organization that promotes Canadian hemp and hemp products globally. Established in 2003 the Alliance represents those involved in Canada’s hemp industry. Members include; farmers, processors, manufacturers, researchers, entrepreneurs and marketers.

The key functions of the Alliance are to disseminate information, promote the use of nutritional and industrial hemp and coordinate research.

The CHTA will not be responding to phone calls or emails related to Cannabinoids. Please see statement in News and Events and in Breaking News panel to the right.

Canadian Hemp: A Plant with Opportunity

Since 1998, Canada has grown industrial hemp for seed and for fibre. Canadian farmers and businesses are interested in the growing business of hemp as it realizes its potential to produce healthy food and environmentally friendly products, including paper, textiles, biocomposites and sustainable building materials.

Today Canada’s hemp sector is growing to provide secure supplies of hemp seed and fibre raw materials for domestic and international markets, as well as many processed and conditioned value–added products. Canada’s federal hemp regulations help to create quality, safety and accountability. A supportive scientific research community ensures that essential and necessary research continues ˜ critical for any crop.

As a fast–growing annual, hemp is a renewable, reusable and recyclable resource. Changing environmental in the world’s business community are helping to turn these green attributes into a valued quality.

Hemp: A Confusing, Historical, and Fascinating Plant

Ancient Origins
Production of hemp originated in Central Asia thousands of years ago. Hemp has a long history of being used as a food grain, and as a source of fibre, such as clothing, rope and netting.

Surprisingly to some, industrial hemp has deep roots in Canada. Hemp was one of the first crops that Champlain planted at Port Royal and later Québec.

Hemp in Canada
In 1606, French Botanist Louis Hebert planted the first hemp crop in North America in Port Royal, Acadia (present–day Nova Scotia). As early as 1801, the Lieutenant Governor of the province of Upper Canada, on behalf of the King of England, distributed hemp seed free to Canadian farmers.

Fibre hemp cultivation continued in many regions to the 20th century. Through many Old World cultures, hemp seed also has a long tradition of in Canada: immigrants from Eastern Europe brought hemp seeds with them when they settled the Prairies. These they planted and used for fresh oil, baking and traditional dishes. Similarly, Chinese Canadians have also long eaten hemp for medicinal and dietary reasons.

In Canada and in the US, hemp was outlawed 70–80 years ago, because it was confused with other kinds of Cannabis. Hemp is often called industrial hemp to distinguish it from other varieties of the plant. In Canada, all commercial hemp strains are grown under science–based regulations to maintain and ensure genetic identity.

After a half century’s absence from Canada’s fields and factories, hemp cultivation was again allowed in 1998, reawakening this country’s relationship to this interesting, fascinating, flexible plant.

Genetic Background
Botanically, hemp is classified as Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae). Cannabis is a diverse plant species including more than 500 different varieties. Marijuana is a distant cousin. Under regulations hemp is defined as having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Because of this low level, hemp is unsuitable for drug and therapeutic purposes. THC is by the plant’s epidermal glands and is not produced in the hemp seed. All Industrial Hemp grown in Canada is GMO free.

Hemp is Federally Regulated
Canadian Hemp production was officially discontinued in 1938. In 1994, Health Canada began issuing hemp research licenses again. In March 1998, Health Canada allowed commercial production of the crop under a licensing system. Information on Hemp Regulations can be found at this link on Health Canada’s web site.

Commercial Growth
As with many new crops, there has been considerable fluctuation of production acreage. In 2003, over 2700 hectares (6700 acres) were grown across Canada , mostly concentrated on the Prairies. In 2013 there were 66,671 acres licensed for cultivation.  Hemp has been grown with success from coast–to–coast.

An Agriculture and Agri–Food Canada backgrounder is at this link.

Credit to : http://www.hemptrade.ca/

North American Industrial Hemp Council

North American Industrial Hemp Council Industrial Hemp Facts Sheet

Posted on October 15, 1997

Industrial Hemp Facts

  • Hemp has been grown for at least 12,000 years for fiber (textiles and paper) and seed (food and fuel). It has been effectively prohibited in the United States since the 1950s.
  • George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.
  • Because of its importance for sails (the word “canvass” is rooted in “cannabis”) and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies.
  • Hemp was grown commercially (with increasing government interference) in the United States until the 1950s. It was doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which placed an extremely high tax and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. While congress expressly expected the continued production of industrial hemp, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, as its successor the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), does to this day.
  • Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified by taxonomists as Cannabis sativa L., a species with hundreds of varieties. Cannabis sativa L. is a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp varieties are bred to maximize fiber, and/or seed, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) through several budding sites for its flowers and leaves.
  • While industrial hemp and marijuana may look somewhat alike to the untrained eye, an easily trained eye can easily distinguish the difference.
  • No one would want to smoke industrial hemp. Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to “power-smoke” 10-12 hemp cigarettes over a very short period of time. The large volume, high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be difficult for a person to withstand, much less enjoy.
  • If one tried to ingest enough industrial hemp to get a buzz, it would be the equivalent of taking 2-3 doses of a high-fiber laxative.
  • No marijuana grower would hide marijuana plants in a hemp field. Marijuana is grown widely spaced to maximize flowers and leaves; hemp is grown tightly-spaced to maximize stalk and is usually harvested before it goes to seed. It is also the first place where law enforcement officials would look.
  • If hemp does pollinate any nearby marijuana, genetically, the results will always be lower-THC marijuana and will contain unwanted seeds. When hemp is grown, nearby marijuana growers will be upset due to the pollination by hemp fields; thus causing marijuana growers to flee the area or grow indoors under lab-like conditions (to keep pollen outside).
  • When U.S. sources of “Manila hemp” (not true hemp; rather sisal and jute) was cut off by the Japanese in World War II, the U.S. Army and U.S. Department of Agriculture promoted the “Hemp for Victory” campaign to grow hemp in the U.S.
  • While the original “gruel” was made of hemp seed meal, hemp oil and seed can be made into tasty and nutritional products. [Recipe for Hemp Seed Porridge]
  • At a volume level of 81%, hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the “good” fats). It is quite high in some essential amino acids, including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient also found in mother’s milk.
  • Hemp can be made into quality papers. the long fibers in hemp allow such paper to be recycled several more times than wood-based papers.
  • Because of its low lignin content, hemp can be pulped using less energy and chemicals than wood requires, resulting in less pollution and energy consumption. Its natural whiteness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach, which means no extremely toxic dioxin being dumped into streams. Rather, when required, hemp can be whitened with hydrogen peroxide. Therefore, hemp paper is acid-free, which can last 1,500 years. Wood-based papers have a shelf life of 25-100 years.
  • Kimberly-Clark (a Fortune 500 company) has a mill in France which produces hemp paper preferred for bibles and cigarette paper because it lasts a long time and doesn’t yellow.
  • Construction products such as medium density fiberboard (MDF), oriented strand board, and even beams, studs and posts can be made out of hemp. Because of hemp’s long fibers (bundles of 7 feet long can be common), the products will be stronger and/or lighter than those made from wood (a Douglas fir tree’s fiber is at best ¾ inch long).
  • Hemp can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre. This is four times what an average forest can yield.
  • The products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000.
  • Hemp grows well in a variety of climates and soil types. It is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. It grows tightly spaced, out-competing any weeds, so herbicides are not necessary. It also leaves a weed-free field for the following crop.
  • A 1938 Popular Mechanics article described hemp as a “New Billion Dollar Crop.”
  • Hemp can be made into variety of fabrics, including linen quality.
  • Hemp can displace cotton which is grown with massive amounts of chemicals harmful to people and the environment. fifty percent of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton. “Cotton, the natural fiber;” think again.
  • Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent, and more mildew-resistant than cotton. The original Levi Strauss jeans made for the Sierra gold miners were made of hemp sailcloth.
  • Fabrics made of at least fifty percent hemp block the sun’s harmful UV rays more effectively than other fabrics.
  • Hemp can displace wood fiber and save forests for watershed, wildlife habitat, recreation and oxygen production, carbon sequestration (reduces global warming), and other values.
  • Many of the varieties of hemp that were grown in North America have been lost. Seed banks were not maintained. New genetic breeding will be necessary using both foreign and “ditch weed,” strains of hemp that went feral after cultivation ended. Various state national guard units often spend their weekends trying to eradicate this hemp, in the mistaken belief they are helping stop drug use.
  • Henry Ford experimented with hemp to build car bodies and interiors. He wanted to both build and fuel cars from farm products. [See Popular Mechanics “Pinch Hitters for Defense.”]
  • BMW is experimenting with hemp materials in automobiles as part of an effort to make cars more recyclable.
  • Seeking to put more environment-friendly materials in its cars, Daimler-Benz may replace fiberglass matte with industrial hemp. [See Popular Mechanics “Putting Cannabis Into Cars.”]
  • Rudolph Diesel designed his namesake engine to run on vegetable oils, including hempseed oil.
  • Hempseed oil once greased machines. Most paint, resins, shellacs, and varnishes used to be made out of linseed (from flax) and hempseed oils.
  • Much of the bird seed sold in the United States has hempseed (it’s sterilized before importation), the hulls of which contain about 25% protein of which is more easily digestible than soybean protein.
  • The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies all Cannabis sativa L. varieties as “marijuana.” While it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require that the field to be secured by fence, razor, wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive.
  • The U.S. State Department must certify each year that a foreign nation is cooperating in the war on drugs. The European Union subsidizes its farmers to grow industrial hemp. Those nations are not on this list, because the U.S. State Department distinguishes the difference between hemp and marijuana.
  • Over 30 industrialized democracies do distinguish hemp from marijuana. International treaties regarding marijuana make an exception for hemp, and trade alliances such as NAFTA allow for the importation of hemp.Credit To : http://www.globalhemp.com/1997/10/north-american-industrial-hemp-council-industrial-hemp-facts-sheet.html
NIDA

 

Revised April 2015

What is medical marijuana?

Photo of a person's fingers holding up a marijuana leaf.

The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat a disease or symptom. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.

However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.

Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses or symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes. In fact, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Read more about marijuana-related state laws at www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/state-laws-related-to-marijuana.

Are Medical and Street Marijuana Different?

Most marijuana sold as medicine is the same quality and carries the same health risks as marijuana sold on the street.

However, there is interest in the marijuana chemical cannabidiol (CBD) to treat certain conditions such as childhood epilepsy, a disorder that causes a child to have violent seizures. Therefore, scientists have been specially breeding marijuana plants and making CBD in oil form for treatment purposes. These drugs may be less desirable to recreational users because they are not intoxicating.

Why isn’t the marijuana plant an FDA-approved medicine?

The FDA requires carefully conducted studies (clinical trials) in hundreds to thousands of human subjects to determine the benefits and risks of a possible medication. So far, researchers have not conducted enough large-scale clinical trials that show that the benefits of the marijuana plant (as opposed to its cannabinoid ingredients) outweigh its risks in patients it is meant to treat.

Read more about the various physical, mental, and behavioral effects of marijuana in DrugFacts: Marijuana at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemicals related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s main mind-altering ingredient. Other than THC, the marijuana plant contains more than 100 other cannabinoids. Scientists as well as illegal manufacturers have produced many cannabinoids in the lab. Some of these cannabinoids are extremely powerful and have led to serious health effects when abused.

The body also produces its own cannabinoid chemicals. They play a role in regulating pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, body movement, awareness of time, appetite, pain, and the senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight).

How might cannabinoids be useful as medicine?

Currently, the two main cannabinoids from the marijuana plant that are of medical interest are THC and CBD.

THC increases appetite and reduces nausea. The FDA-approved THC-based medications are used for these purposes. THC may also decrease pain, inflammation (swelling and redness), and muscle control problems.

CBD is a cannabinoid that does not affect the mind or behavior. It may be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions.

NIH-funded and other researchers are continuing to explore the possible uses of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids for medical treatment.

Photo of a young male and female scientist.

For instance, recent animal studies have shown that marijuana extracts may help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one cell culture study suggests that purified extracts from whole-plant marijuana can slow the growth of cancer cells from one of the most serious types of brain tumors. Research in mice showed that treatment with purified extracts of THC and CBD, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation (Scott, 2014).

Scientists are also conducting preclinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat numerous diseases and conditions, such as the following:

  • autoimmune diseases (diseases that weaken the immune system):
    • HIV/AIDS
    • multiple sclerosis (MS), which causes gradual loss of muscle control
    • Alzheimer’s disease, which causes loss of brain function, affecting memory, thinking, and behavior
  • inflammation
  • pain
  • seizures
  • substance use disorders
  • mental disorders

Read more about NIDA’s marijuana research at www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana/marijuana-research-nida and www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana/nida-research-therapeutic-benefits-cannabis-cannabinoids.

Are People with Health- and Age-Related Problems More Vulnerable to Marijuana’s Risks?

Regular medicinal use of marijuana is a fairly new practice. For that reason, its effects on people who are weakened because of age or illness are still relatively unknown. Older people and those suffering from diseases such as cancer or AIDS could be more vulnerable to the drug’s harmful effects. Scientists need to conduct more research to determine if this is the case.

What medications contain cannabinoids?

Two FDA-approved drugs, dronabinol and nabilone, contain THC. They treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and increase appetite in patients with extreme weight loss caused by AIDS.

The United Kingdom, Canada, and several European countries have approved nabiximols (Sativex®), a mouth spray containing THC and CBD. It treats muscle control problems caused by MS. The United States is conducting clinical trials for its safe use in treating cancer pain.

Although it has not yet undergone clinical trials, scientists have recently created Epidiolex, a CBD-based liquid drug to treat certain forms of childhood epilepsy.

Points to Remember

  • The term medical marijuana refers to treating a disease or symptom with the whole unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts.
  • The FDA has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.
  • However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids has led to two FDA-approved medications in pill form.
  • Cannabinoids are chemicals related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s main mind-altering ingredient.
  • The body also produces its own cannabinoid chemicals.
  • Currently, the two main cannabinoids from the marijuana plant that are of interest for medical treatment are THC and cannabidiol (CBD).
  • Scientists are conducting preclinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat numerous diseases and conditions.
  • Two FDA-approved marijuana drugs are dronabinol and nabilone, both used to treat nausea and boost appetite.

Learn More

For more information on marijuana and its health effects, visit:

For more information on marijuana and cannabinoid research conducted by NIDA and NIH, visit:

For more information on state laws related to marijuana, visit:

References

Scott KA, Dalgleish AG, Liu WM. The combination of cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol enhances the anticancer effects of radiation in an orthotopic murine glioma model. Mol Cancer Ther. 2014;13(12):2955-67.

 

Credit to : http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine