By Priscilla Viramontes, AS
In the past few years, since hemp-based CBD became available to a national market, stories of the remarkable results that individuals and families have gotten from extracted hemp oil have been covered by major media outlets, including National Geographic, TIME Magazine, and CNN’s Weed documentary series.
However, the use of hemp is not a new concept for humanity. Man’s relationship with hemp may reach as far back as 10,000 years.
Hemp cultivation was widespread in post-Neolithic ancient China. The Chinese used hemp to make many textiles and materials, including paper. There is a record dating to the Sung Dynasty that tells the story of how the legendary, semi-mythical Emperor Shennong taught the Chinese people how to cultivate hemp. Shennong (the ‘Emperor of the Five Grains’) is also credited with granting knowledge of herbal medicine to the Chinese. Although many of these stories may be folklore, China does boast the longest continuous history of hemp production.
Moving west, hemp, and cannabis were mentioned in the ancient Indian text the “Atharvaveda” and referred to as the ‘Sacred Grass’– one of the five sacred plants of India. Bhang was a preparation of female cannabis plants that was consumed ritualistically as an offering to the god Shiva.
As time went on, the use of hemp and cannabis became more and more common around the world. The Scythians of ancient Iran were known to leave hemp as a tribute in the tombs of the dead, and hemp rope first makes an appearance in Greece around the year 200 BCE. The famous Greek historian Plutarch speaks of the Thracian use of hemp and cannabis, as does Pliny the Elder.
Imported hemp rope made an appearance in England in about 100 AD, brought there by the Romans. By the end of the 15th century, as Britain began to grow as a naval power, one of the greatest challenges they faced was securing enough hemp to fully outfit their sailing ships—a perennial problem for the British Empire. To solve this issue, Britain mandated that hemp be grown in the American colonies. The goal was to secure a steady supply of raw hemp to solidify their place as a global power.
As the colonies grew in prosperity, so did their reliance on hemp; a few of the colonies even had laws requiring farmers to grow hemp. At this point in history, Americans used hemp in many of the same ways the ancients did—and more. They produced ropes and cloths, extracted oils from the seeds to use in lamps, and bartered with it.
Eventually, hemp cultivation would come to be outlawed in the US due to hemp’s relationship to marijuana. Both plants are of the Cannabis genus, causing non-psychoactive hemp to be lumped in with its illicit cousin.
It is only in modern times that hemp and its major cannabinoid, cannabidiol, or CBD, are once again being fully utilized around the world.
Hemp, Cannabinoids, and CBD
CBD is just starting to make a name for itself. It’s been the subject of thousands of clinical studies and is even patented by the National Institutes of Health for its neuroprotective properties, but it has only recently become widely available to the American public.
Researchers discovered that it is possible to create a high concentration of CBD in unique cultivars of hemp and extract the oil. In addition to CBD, this oil contains many other healthy cannabinoids, terpenes, and nutritious omega fatty acids and vitamins. Hemp is part of the Cannabis sativa L. species, but hemp, and the CBD oil from it, has none of the psychoactive properties of other cannabis species, meaning that you get all the health benefits with no high or negative side effects.
Derived from the stalk and seed of cannabis (hemp) plants, cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a natural botanical concentrate that is high in the compound CBD. Cannabinoids are a class of active chemical compounds produced by the cannabis plant.
Endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG are naturally occurring cannabinoids made by the human body. Anandamide, named for the Sanskrit word for bliss, is similar in its construction and effects to THC. On the other hand, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG is analogous to CBD.
Phytocannabinoids come from plants. When users consume cannabis, the cannabinoids in the marijuana plant are absorbed by the body. However, cannabinoid-like chemical compounds that interact with the body are also found in Echinacea, black pepper, and even cacao.
It is also possible to create synthetic cannabinoids in a lab. These synthetic cannabinoids mimic the effects of natural cannabinoids and can be used alongside phytocannabinoids to develop novel new pharmaceutical treatments.
Of the more than 100 phytocannabinoids so far identified in the cannabis plant, CBD is the second most common after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychotropic and therefore doesn’t cause a euphoric high.
CBD hemp oil is extracted from the cannabis varieties that are naturally abundant in CBD, and low in THC. A specialized extraction process is used to yield highly concentrated CBD oil that also contains other nutritious material such as omega-3 fatty acids, terpenes, vitamins, chlorophyll, amino acids, and other phytocannabinoids like cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN) and cannabidivarian (CBCV).
Pure hemp cannabidiol oil can be consumed directly as a nutritional supplement. Over the years, advances in CBD hemp oil product development have led to what are now dozens of different types of CBD hemp oil products, including capsules, drops, and even chewing gum. Concentrated CBD hemp oil can also be infused into skin and body care products and used topically.
Our understanding of CBD cannabis oil has expanded in a few short years, and we’re more aware today than ever of the cannabinoid’s potential. Studies on CBD’s natural health benefits are extensive, and groundbreaking research is being done regularly.
Benefits of CBD Oil
Decades of research indicate that cannabinoids like CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex system that contributes to a variety of biological processes like immune responses, sleep, mood, and appetite. The ECS is a network of cannabinoid receptors found in the brains and abdominal organs of mammals. By linking with the two main types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are found on cells throughout the body, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, helping it in the regulation of homeostasis—the body’s natural state of balance.
Mostly located in the brain and spinal cord, CB1 receptors combine with the brain’s nerve cells to help regulate the body’s biochemistry. Both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids bind to these receptor points to control the passage of proteins between cells.
CB2 receptors are mostly found on white blood cells, the tonsils, and the spleen. Cannabinoids that bind to these sites act to modulate immune system response. Research into the CB2 receptor has shown that cannabidiol may have some influence in balancing the body’s internal systems.
Because organic hemp oil is extracted from high-CBD, low-THC cannabis, it doesn’t produce psychoactive effects the way THC does, making it a safe and legal option for all age groups and demographics.
Extracted hemp oil contains an extensive list of naturally occurring vitamins, including vitamins A, C, and E. Also present are B complex vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin. Hemp further contains vitamins that are not sufficiently present in most modern diets, like beta carotene, helping users gain the nutrients they need to maintain health. Hemp oil is likewise a source of minerals like zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, and magnesium.
Protein in your diet is essential in the reception of amino acids, but it’s important that we obtain protein from the right sources. Eating even small amounts of red meat has been warned against by health officials. Instead, essential amino acids can be obtained through sources like hemp, which contains all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids our bodies can’t make on their own.
The one fat you can never get enough of is omega-3, but modern diets typically use other, less healthy fats. While both omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are essential to human health, they should ideally be consumed at a close ratio of around 3:1, but in the typical American diet, the ratio is about 25:1. This is due to a diet increasingly fried in vegetable oils high in omega-6 and could be an indicator for a number of diseases. Eating the right kind of omega-6 fatty acids, like gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a plant based omega-6 fatty acid found in hemp at the 3:1 ratio suggested, can reduce the negative effects of high fat diets.
When viewed as a complete dietary supplement, we begin to see the value of hemp oil beyond a source of CBD. The cannabinoids in hemp oil work together in the entourage effect to provide their balancing effects, while the many nutrients present supplement our deficient modern diets. Contemporary fast food diets high in unhealthy fats largely fail in supplying the vitamins and minerals our bodies need each day, making dietary supplements with these nutrients critical in maintaining a healthy balance.
CBD and Oriental Medicine
Some companies, like San Diego based Kannaway, have integrated CBD hemp oil with traditional East Asian medicine to enhance its effects.
Kannaway uses bi-bong formulas, herbal formulations that have been handed down for centuries by a family of doctors. Once only available to the royal families of East Asia, the power of bi-bong formulas herbal blends is not the individual herbs but the way they are used together to create a balanced formula that works optimally with the body.
Bi-bong formulas have been valued for centuries for their ability to rebalance the body’s qi, which is qi is the main source of energy for all life in Eastern medicine. When qi is disrupted, the body manifests it through pain and disease. Disruption of one’s qi can be caused by injury, stress, diet, toxins, and even overuse and aging. Bi-bong formulas rebalance the body’s qi, allowing your body to function optimally. When your qi is balanced, your mind and body are in their optimal state, promoting health, youthfulness, and longevity.
The ingredients used in Kannaway’s bi-bong formulas include Mu Xiang (Aucklandia root), Wu Wei Zi (Schisandra fruit), Huang Qi (Astragalus root), Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng root), Fang Fen (Ledebouriella root), Dong Quai (Angelica), Suan Zao Ren (jujube seed), Jue Ming Zi (cassia seed), Dang Shen (Codonopsis root), and Fu Ling (poria cocos), among others. In Kannaway’s products, these herbs are mixed synergistically with CBD hemp oil to enhance the benefits of the company’s CBD oil supplements. This blending of Eastern medicine and a modern understanding of the effects of cannabinoids like CBD on the body makes these products a unique new option for maintaining balance within the mind and body.
Priscilla Viramontes received her associate of science in massage therapy and Asian Bodywork in 2017.