I was surprised toread this about the food qualities and real yield of hemp seed and chagrinedthat I was not aware of its virtues a lot sooner. Obviously an investment is needed to bringhemp horticulture into the modern era and the products need to bemarketed. The benefits for so doing arewell spelled out here.
This is an obviouslyexcellent crop with a range of salable products that includes the well knownplant fiber. The difficulty with thedrug source aspect is easily bred out of and may be a good application for GMtype work. That would at least prevent any unapproved growers.
Just as obviouslyproduction for seed will create a fiber surplus that would be overwhelming.
The liberation ofhemp as a agricultural staple is obviously overdue.
Hemp: Nature's Forgotten Superfood
(As Seenin Natural Pharmacy Magazine)
By Darrell L. Tanelian, M.D., Ph.D.
The fact that the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa)is used as food initially surprises and confuses most people. The publicinformation system has largely restricted knowledge of hemp to its use forobtaining marijuana (Cannabis sativa), with its leaf content of thepsychoactive substance delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), rope and cloth fromthe fiber of the plant, and paper from the plant stalk. Yet both the oldestChinese agricultural treatise, the Xia Xiao Zheng, written in the 16th centuryBC, and other Chinese records discuss hemp as one of the major grain cropsgrown in ancient China.1, 2
Besides its propagation in
, thecultivation and use of hemp has, since the beginnings of recorded history, alsobeen documented by many other great civilizations, including: China
· TheAztec and Mayan civilizations of
· Nativecultures in North America and
Indeed, it might be said that over thesethousands of years, hemp has always followed humankind throughout the world, orvice versa.
Nutritionally, the key point about hemp isthat its edible portion--the meat of the shelled seed--resembles the seeds ofother cultivated grains including wheat and rye, and does not contain THC.
Moreover, the strains of hemp plant used forfood have been naturally selected so as to produce little THC, generally(0.0001%). These nutritional varieties of hemp plant grow in temperate climatesto heights of 14 feet, and as with many agricultural grains, their seeds can beharvested in a conventional manner with a combine.
Nutrients in Hemp Seed
The most basic hemp seed product is the shelled seed. The other major hemp foodproducts are hemp seed butter, which resembles peanut and other nut butters,and cold-pressed hemp seed oil, hemp seed flour and hemp protein powder. Thesebasic products can be consumed alone or used along with or instead of othergrains, seeds, nuts, and oils in any appropriate recipe.
The most important feature of hemp seed isthat it provides both of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) needed in the humandiet--linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid--as well as a complete and balancedcomplement of all essential amino acids.
As compared with most nuts and seeds, the fat content of shelled hemp seed isrelatively low, and hemp food products have a low cholesterol content and highcontent of the natural phytosterols that reduce cholesterol levels. Hemp seedoil has on average the highest mono and polyunsaturated fat content of alloils, taken collectively, of 89%. The polyunsaturated linoleic acid, an omega-6fatty acid, is present in hemp seed oil in a content of 55.6 g/100 g, andalpha-linolenic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, is present at 17.2g/100 g. The ratio of the two EFAs is 3.38, closely approximating the 4.0average ratio recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO),
Conveniently, hemp seed oil is also one of theonly food oils to contain the direct metabolites of linoleic andalpha-linolenic acid--gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA),respectively. Because of this, it can circumvent the impaired EFA metabolismand physical compromise that can result from genetic factors, intake of other fats,aging, and lifestyle patterns.
By contrast with unsaturated fat, only 6.6% ofthe total calories in shelled hemp seed come from saturated fat--a percentagethat contrasts sharply with the 13 to 14% of saturated fat calories in themodern American diet.6This gives hemp seed oil apolyunsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio of 9.7, in comparison to the currentratio of 0.44 in the American diet,6and indicates that consumingeven a small portion of hemp seed oil daily can contribute strongly to bringingthis dietary imbalance back toward the U.S. Senate Select Committee recommendedgoal of 1.0.
Besides providing the human EFAs and having a favorableunsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio, hemp seed is an excellent dietary source ofeasily digestible, gluten-free protein. Its overall protein content of 34.6g/100 g is comparable to that of soy beans and better than that found in nuts,other seeds, dairy products, meat, fish, or poultry.
Hemp protein provides a well-balanced array ofthe 10 essential amino acids for humans. An important aspect of hemp seedprotein is a high content of arginine (123 mg/g protein) and histidine (27 mg/gprotein), both of which are important for growth during childhood, and of thesulfur-containing amino acids methionine (23 mg/g protein) and cysteine (16mg/g protein), which are needed for proper enzyme formation. Hemp protein alsocontains relatively high levels of the branched-chain amino acids that areimportant for the metabolism of exercising muscle.
Other Hemp Nutrients
The carbohydrate content of shelled hemp seed is 11.5% and its sugar content is2%. Of the shelled hemp seed carbohydrate, 6% is in the form of fiber. Thefiber content of hemp seed flour is 40%, which is the highest of all commercialflour grains. In addition to containing the basic human nutrient groups, hempfoods have a high content of antioxidants (92.1 mg/100g) in the form of alpha-,beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol. Additionally, hempseed contains a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals.
Hemp in Health and Disease Prevention
The high content of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, and the relatively highphytosterol content of hemp foods, make them beneficial to cardiovascularhealth.7Numerous human and animal studies have shown thatsubstitution of polyunsaturated for saturated fats can reduce the risk ofsudden cardiac arrest 8 and fatal cardiac arrhythmia,9as well asreducing blood cholesterol levels and decreasing the cellular proliferationassociated with atherosclerosis.10A highpolyunsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio, especially when it includes linoleicacid, has also been positively associated with reduced arterial thrombosis.11Additionally,phytosterols, of which hemp seed contains 438 mg/100g, have been shown toreduce total serum cholesterol by an average of 10% and low-density lipoprotein(LDL) cholesterol by an average of 13%.12
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, and especiallyGLA, have also been found beneficial in treating various human cancers,13-17andstudies have shown that phytosterols may offer protection against colon,breast, and prostate cancers.18
Besides the importance of a proper dietaryratio of linoleic to alpha-linoleic acid in maintaining the polyunsaturatedfatty acid composition of neuronal and glial membranes,19membraneloss of polyunsaturated fatty acids has been found in such neurodegenerativedisorders as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and it has been suggestedthat a diet with a proper balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids may help delayor reduce the neurologic effects of these diseases.20 A fatty acid preparationwith a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids of 4, which is practicallyidentical to that in hemp oil, has been shown to improve the quality of life ofAlzheimer's disease patients.21
Additionally, GLA has been found effective fortreating rheumatoid arthritis and active synovitis,22-24and the GLAand vitamin D content of hemp foods may make them beneficial in preventing andtreating osteoporosis.25 Moreover, supplementation withproducts containing EFAs has been found capable of reversing scaly skindisorder, inflammation, excessive epidermal water loss, itch, and poor woundhealing caused by EFA deficiency,26and GLA has been shown to bebeneficial for atopic eczema and psoriasis.27
Hemp in Cosmetics and Processed Food Products
The critical importance of EFAs, and especially GLA, for healthy skin makeshemp seed oil a highly effective skin care and cosmetic product. Its lipidconstituents allow it to permeate through intact skin and to thereby nourishskin cells directly while also carrying therapeutic substances with it into theskin. These properties have led to a multitude of soaps, shampoos, skinlotions, lip balms, conditioners, and other skin-care products containing hempseed oil.
Among food products made from hemp seed, oil,and flour are beer, pasta, cheese, cookies, waffles, granola, candy, ice cream,and others, with new products now being regularly developed.
In short, hemp can constitute an importantelement in nutrition, health, and cosmetics, with the prospect of playing amajor role in preventing disease and reducing health care expenditures.
1. Yu Y.Agricultural history over seven thousand years in
, In: Feeding a Billion:Frontiers of Chinese Agriculture, ed. S Witter, 1987. China
2. Li H. "TheOrigin and Use of Cannabis in Eastern Asia: Their Linguistic CulturalImplications," in Cannabis and Culture, ed. V Rubin,
: Mouton, 1975. The Hague
3. Leson G, PlessP, Grotenherman F, Kalant H, ElSohly MA. Food products from hemp seeds: Couldtheir consumption interfere with workplace drug testing J Anal Toxicol,Accepted, 2000
4. Bosy TZ, ColeKA. Consumption and quantitation of D9 tetrahydrocannabinol in commerciallyavailable hemp seed oil products. Anal Toxicol, 7:562-6, 2000.
DS,Yu-Poth S et. al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the food chain in the Taylor .Am J Clin Nutr, 71:179S-88S 2000. United States
6. Eaton SB, EatonIII SB, Konner MJ. Paleolithic nutrition revisited: A twelve-year retrospectiveon its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr 51:207-216, 1997.
7. Brousseau ME,Schaefer EJ. Diet and Coronary Heart Disease: Clinical Trials. Curr AtherosclerRep 2:487-493, 2000.
8. Siscovic DS,Raghunathan TE, King I et. al. Dietary intake of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturatedfatty acids and the risk of primary cardiac arrest. Amer J Clin Nutr,71:208S-212S, 2000.
9. Kang JX, LeafA. Prevention of fatal cardiac arrhymias by polyunsaturated fatty acids. Amer JClin Nutr, 71:202S-207S, 2000
10. Fan YY,
,Chapkin RS. Modulation of atherosclerosis by dietary gamma-linoleic acid. AdvExp Med Biol 469:485-91, 1999. Ramos KS
11. Hornstra G,Kester AD. Effect of the dietary fat type on arterial thrombosis tendency:systemic studies with a rat model. Atherosclerosis 131:25-33, 1997
12. Moghadasian MH,Frohlich JJ. Effects of dietary phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism andatherosclerosis: Clinical and experimental evidence. Amer J Med 107:588-94,1999.
13. Vartek S,Robbins ME, Spector AA. Polyunsaturated fatty acids increase the sensitivity of36B10 rat astrocytoma cells to radiation-induced cell kill. Br J Cancer77:1612-20, 1998.
14. Kenny FS,Pinder SE, Ellis IO, et. al. Gamma-linoleic acid with tamoxifen as primarytherapy in breast cancer. Int J Cancer 85:643-8, 2000
15. Robbins M, Ali K,McCaw R, et. al. Gamma-linoleic acid-mediated cytotoxicity in human prostatecancer cells. Adv Exp Med Biol 469:499-504, 1999.
, Regazzi E, Garau D, et. al. Induction ofapoptosis by arachodonic acid in chronic myeloid leukemia cells. Cancer Res59:5047-53, 1999. Rizzo MT
J, Pitt E, Trejdosiewicz LK. The effects ofdietary fatty acids on the proliferation of normal human urothelial cells invitro. Br J Cancer 74:728-34, 1996. Southgate
, Fink CS. Phytosterols as anticancer dietarycomponents: Evidence and mechanism of action. J Nutr 130:2127-30, 2000. Awad AB
19. Fenstrom JD.Effects of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids on neuronal function. Lipids34:161-9, 1999.
20. Youdim KA,Martin A, Joseph JA. Essential fatty acids and the brain: possible healthimplications. Int J Dev Neurosci 18:383-99, 2000.
21. Yehuda S,Rabinovitz S, Carrasso RL, Mostofsky DI. Essential fatty acids preparation(SR-3) improves Alzheimer’s patients quality of life. Int J Neurosci 87:141-9,1996.
22. Leventhal LJ,Boyce EG, Zurier, RB. Treatment of arthritis with gamma-linoleic acid. AnnIntern Med 119:876-873, 1993.
23. DeLuca P,Rothman D, Zurier RB. Marine and botanical lipids as immunomodulatory andtherapeutic agtents in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheum Dis Clin NAm 21:759-77
24. Zurier RB,Rossetti RG, Jacobson EW, et. al. Gamma- linoleic acid treatment of rheumatoidarthritis. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 39:1808-17,1996.
25. Kruger MC,Coetzer H, Winter R, et. al. Calcium, gamma-linoleic acid and eicosapentaneoicacid supplementation in senile osteoporosis. Aging 10:385-94, 1998.
26. Wright S.Essential fatty acids and the skin. Br J Derm 125:503-515, 1991.