Plants are known to provide many health benefits through vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in the form of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, One of these beneficial plants is cannabis. As the stigma around cannabis continues to dissipate with legalization, consumers and scientists are learning more about what this plant has to offer. We know all the nutritional facts and positive health benefits of consuming kale both cooked and raw, but if a person decided to smoke kale, wouldn't it be safe to assume there would be negative health risks? In the cannabis consuming world, if we removed the negative risks received from smoking this plant, does this mean a person could just receive positive health benefits?
Photo credit: Kimberly Jower
Watermelon Rancher grown by Madrone Farms (Mendocino)
We are no strangers to how hemp seeds are a nutritious addition to our diet. Hemp seeds, like marijuana, provide all essential amino acids, iron, calcium, protein, magnesium, potassium, and more vitamins and minerals (Nutrition Facts Exposed***). Aside from its seeds, hemp is more industrially known, being used in cosmetics and building materials (Shipman***)), but more popularly for its use in health food and its cannabidiol (CBD) extract which is commonly used for relief from anxiety, pain and more as complementary and alternative medicine. What are the major differences between hemp and marijuana? They're two names of the same species with a differentiating factor: cannabis that contains 0.3% or less of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is classified as hemp while marijuana contains more; meaning only marijuana has the chemical capacity to cause a high (MIIS***)). Contrary to general belief that only CBD is non-psychoactive in marijuana, there are other cannabinoids, chemical compounds, that provide health benefits with and without psychoactive components.
Photo credit: Level (A tablet containing nonpsychoactive cannabinoids CBD, THCA, and CBG)
Photo credit: Bob's Red Mill (Hemp Seeds nutrition facts)
***)A research "Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids," explains how cannabis is broken down into its different cannabinoids which are responsible for individual therapeutic effects. Isolating these compounds can include decarboxylation and how heat is used in this process to convert cannabinoids from their acidic form. By isolating the cannabinoids, they are in a consumer friendly form such as in edibles or tablets where a person can choose the benefits they receive with or without the psychoactivity, or high, that is commonly associated with cannabis consumption. Aside from the more well known cannabinoids THC and CBD, the study and chief scientist Chris Emerson (PhD) of cannabis company Level explains other cannabinoids. As shown in the table below, cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabinol (CBN) are nonpsychoactive and provide effects to assist with anxiety, pain, and sleep. Some beneficial psychoactive cannabinoids in the THC family include delta-8 THC and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). Delta-8 THC can provide relief with nausea and dizziness, but also protects the brain cells with research showing its aid in increased production of acetylcholine, while promoting hunger. THCV has effects that aids in focus, but can also help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce resistance to insulin in micro-doses under 3mg. Because hemp provides 0.3% or less of THC, marijuana has benefits that it's industrial sibling lacks. Emerson states that while hemp contains some of these cannabinoids, it's the synergistic effect that marijuana has with its cannabinoids in larger ratios that help to amplify its effects when sourced from marijuana versus hemp. Hemp lacks significant ratios of certain cannabinoids, like delta-8 THC and CBN, and uses more of an industrial grade to allow its varied use. There's great nutritional value in hemp when consumed, while targeted effects would be optimally received from marijuana if the consumer wants benefits for specific symptoms.
Cannabinoid Description/Effects (Psychoactive=causes noticeable changes to the psyche; recognized by consumers as a "high")
Delta-9 THC (Most abundant cannabinoid/chemical compound in cannabis) Psychoactive
Most well know in common sativa, hybrid, and indica strains
Delta-8 THC Helps ease nausea and dizziness. Mildly psychoactive. Appetite stimulant.
THCA Acid form of THC; not psychoactive. Helps to reduce inflammation, nerve pain, and overall pain (works well with CBD)
CBD Known to have a "non-existent high." Helps ease pain and assists in easing anxiety
CBG Non-psychoactive. The "stem cell" of cannabis. Mood leveler: helps to relieve anxiety, depression, and stress. Has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties
CBN Non-psychoactive. Helps promote sleep through sedating effects.
THCV Highly psychoactive (recognized in small quantities). Helps promote focus. Known to suppress appetite.
Science has provided the possibility of consumption of these rare cannabinoids when isolated into a concentrated extract which can be consumed to receive its benefits through ingestion. Consumers who smoke cannabis may receive different effects since each person's endocannabinoid system receives cannabinoids and translates them in the body differently. This makes sense that from consuming the extracts (Draizin), when juicing or consuming the raw plant, just as you would with kale or spinach, you can receive all the minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that would not typically be received if consumed by smoking. Also, the full range of cannabinoids are in its non-psychoactive form when ingesting raw cannabis since no smoking is taking place, and cannabinoids such as THCA have not been decarboxylated, or converted to THC, hence there being an absence of a high. It's like how matcha provides antioxidants since green tea leaves are grounded and consumed, more so than when tea is steeped and its leaves not consumed.
Overall, cannabis can provide many benefits by ingesting products that provide isolated cannabinoids, eating hemp seeds, and consuming the whole raw plant. Because who smokes kale after all?
Draizin, J. (2018, September 6). Member Blog: The Health Benefits of Raw Cannabis |. Retrieved November 6, 2019, from thecannabisindustry.org/member-blog-health-benefits-raw-cannabis/.
Emerson, C. (PhD), Cofounder and chief scientist of Level. Personal communication.
Level. Images retreived November 12, 2019. from www.Levelblends.com
Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey. (n.d.). Think Hempy Thoughts. Retrieved November 5, 2019, from sites.miis.edu/thinkhempythoughts/hemp-vs-marijuana/.
Nutrition Facts Exposed, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. (n.d.). Seeds, hulled, hemp seed. Retrieved November 6, 2019, from nutritionvalue.org/Seeds,_hulled,_hemp_seed_nutritional_value.html.
Shipman, M. (2019, February 15). Is hemp the same thing as marijuana? Retrieved November 5, 2019, from phys.org/news/2019-02-hemp-marijuana.html.
Wang, M., Wang, Y.-H., Avula, B., Radwan, M. M., Wanas, A. S., van Antwerp, J., … Khan, I. A. (2016, December 1). Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry. Retrieved November 6, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549281/.
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