Fatty Acids. The quality of an oil or fat is most importantly determined by its fatty acid composition. Hemp is of high nutritional quality because it contains high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids, mostly oleic acid (C18:1, 10%–16%), linoleic acid (C18:2, 50%–60%), alpha-linolenic acid (C18:3, 20%–25%), and gamma-linolenic acid (C18:3, 2%–5%) (Fig. 37). Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are the only two fatty acids that must be ingested and are considered essential to human health (Callaway 1998). In contrast to shorter-chain and more saturated fatty acids, these essential fatty acids do not serve as energy sources, but as raw materials for cell structure and as precursors for biosynthesis for many of the body’s regulatory biochemicals. The essential fatty acids are available in other oils, particularly fish and flaxseed, but these tend to have unpleasant flavors compared to the mellow, slightly nutty flavor of hempseed oil. While the value of unsaturated fats is generally appreciated, it is much less well known that the North American diet is serious nutritionally unbalanced by an excess of linoleic over alpha-linonenic acid. In hempseed, linoleic and alpha-linolenic occur in a ratio of about 3:1, considered optimal in healthy human adipose tissue, and apparently unique among common plant oils (Deferne and Pate 1996). Gamma-linolenic acid or GLA is another significant component of hemp oil (1%–6%, depending on cultivar). GLA is a widely consumed supplement known to affect vital metabolic roles in humans, ranging from control of inflammation and vascular tone to initiation of contractions during childbirth. GLA has been found to alleviate psoriasis, atopic eczema, and mastalgia, and may also benefit cardiovascular, psychiatric, and immunological disorders. Ageing and pathology (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) may impair GLA metabolism, making supplementation desirable. As much as 15% of the human population may benefit from addition of GLA to their diet. At present, GLA is available in health food shops and pharmacies primarily as soft gelatin capsules of borage or evening primrose oil, but hemp is almost certainly a much more economic source. Although the content of GLA in the seeds is lower, hemp is far easier to cultivate and higher-yielding. It is important to note that hemp is the only current natural food source of GLA, i.e. not requiring the consumption of extracted dietary supplements. There are other fatty acids in small concentrations in hemp seed that have some dietary significance, including stearidonic acid (Callaway et al. 1996) and eicosenoic acid (Mölleken and Theimer 1997). Because of the extremely desirable fatty acid constitution of hemp oil, it is now being marketed as a dietary supplement in capsule form (Fig. 38).
The downsides of graphene are its dwindling sources and costly process to mine and import from rural areas in China and India. Hemp, however, can be grown in almost any terrain or country, and produces hemp bast, the key material used to replace graphene, as a waste byproduct of hemp processing. According to Mitlin’s research, hemp processing is 1,000 times cheaper than graphene processing.
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Professors William Emboden, Loran Anderson, and Harvard botanist Richard E. Schultes and coworkers also conducted taxonomic studies of Cannabis in the 1970s, and concluded that stable morphological differences exist that support recognition of at least three species, C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. For Schultes, this was a reversal of his previous interpretation that Cannabis is monotypic, with only a single species. According to Schultes' and Anderson's descriptions, C. sativa is tall and laxly branched with relatively narrow leaflets, C. indica is shorter, conical in shape, and has relatively wide leaflets, and C. ruderalis is short, branchless, and grows wild in Central Asia. This taxonomic interpretation was embraced by Cannabis aficionados who commonly distinguish narrow-leafed "sativa" strains from wide-leafed "indica" strains.
There is certainly a need to utilize available germplasm sources in order to breed suitable cultivars for North America. A list of the 24 approved cultivars for the 2001 season in Canada is at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb-dgps/therapeut/htmleng/hemp.html. Most of these are regulated by the European Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These cultivars are “approved” for use in Canada not on agricultural criteria, but merely on the basis that they meet the THC criterion. Indeed, most of these are unsuitable or only marginally suitable for Canada (Small and Marcus 2000), and only a very few Canadian cultivars to date have been created. In Canada, every acquisition of hemp grown at a particular place and time must be tested for THC content by an independent laboratory and, under the industrial hemp regulations, fields of hemp with more than 0.3% THC may require destruction (a slight degree of flexibility is generally exercised). Importation of experimental hemp lines (i.e. other than the approved cultivars) requires importation licenses (as well as phytosanitary clearance of the shipment by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency), and the importation licenses require an indication that the THC contents are low.
In recent decades, the neurobiology of cannabinoids has been analyzed.[12-15] The first cannabinoid receptor, CB1, was identified in the brain in 1988. A second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was identified in 1993. The highest expression of CB2 receptors is located on B lymphocytes and natural killer cells, suggesting a possible role in immunity. Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) have been identified and appear to have a role in pain modulation, control of movement, feeding behavior, mood, bone growth, inflammation, neuroprotection, and memory.