Cultivated in at least 30 countries, monikers for the hemp plant often allude to its origin or use, such as Manila hemp (abacá, Musa textilis), sisal hemp (Agave sisalana), Indian hemp (Apocynumcannabinum) and New Zealand hemp (Phormiumtenax). Worldwide, hemp seed production alone has soared from around 33,000 metric tons in the late ’90s to more than 100,000 metric tons annually between 2005 and 2011.
The DEA isn’t the only government agency scrutinizing CBD vendors. To fend off the FDA, hemp oil companies contend their wares are not drugs but “dietary supplements.” Despite the suggestive “meds” in the company’s name, HempMedsPx is careful to note on its web site, “Although some of our founders are medical professionals, we cannot make medical claims about the benefits of our products.” Others are not quite so nuanced in their marketing. The internet is flooded with CBD products claiming to treat everything from seizures to arthritis to skin conditions and other maladies.
Cannabidiol is insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents such as pentane. At room temperature, it is a colorless crystalline solid. In strongly basic media and the presence of air, it is oxidized to a quinone. Under acidic conditions it cyclizes to THC. The synthesis of cannabidiol has been accomplished by several research groups.
One of the reasons hemp fiber has been valued is because of its length. The primary bast fibers in the bark are 5–40 mm long, and are amalgamated in fiber bundles which can be 1–5 m long (secondary bast fibers are about 2 mm long). The woody core fibers are short—about 0.55 mm—and like hardwood fibers are cemented together with considerable lignin. The core fibers are generally considered too short for high grade paper applications (a length of 3 mm is considered ideal), and too much lignin is present. While the long bast fibers have been used to make paper almost for 2 millennia, the woody core fibers have rarely been so used. Nevertheless it has been suggested that the core fibers could be used for paper making, providing appropriate technology was developed (de Groot et al. 1998). In any event, the core fibers, have found a variety of uses, as detailed below. The long, lignin-poor bast fibers also have considerable potential to be used in many non-paper, non-textile applications, as noted below.
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“Hemp is of high nutritional quality because it contains high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids… Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are the only two fatty acids that must be ingested and are considered essential to human health … 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…”