CBD's prevalence in the health foods market seems to be facing a momentous surge in popularity. With many claiming it has helped them both mentally and physically, the demand has risen sharply. Already backed by many health professionals, the calling for even more detailed research continues. It seems almost everyone wants in on the action.

Could the desire for CBD actually be the result of a wholesale removal of cannabinoids from our diet, starving ourselves of nutrients we used to receive? In turn, driving a rise in our susceptibility to diseases and illness? Increasingly, doctors and medical professionals believe that nutrient deficiency could be a direct cause of these conditions. If you then consider CBD for its nutritional value to our body, how should it be viewed, a pharmaceutical drug or natural health food?

THE HISTORY OF CANNABIS

We consider cannabis to be fairly new in terms of our understanding of its properties. However, recent discoveries point to the use of cannabis as a medicinal aid dating back thousands of years. In 2016, Chinese archaeologists uncovered a 2,500-year-old burial site. What they found was none other than, you guessed it, cannabis. From the remains found they were able to deduce, that the cannabis was locally harvested, with the flowering tops having been removed. Furthermore in another site close by powdered leaves and cannabis seeds were found. Clearly, the medicinal and psychoactive properties of this now stigmatized plant were being freely used.

If we fast forward a bit in time, it wasn't until after 1937, that hemp was removed from feed for our livestock. Prior to this, the phytocannabinoids found in hemp were in the majority of our food supply. Integration through livestock as a result of their feed, including pigs, chicken, and general cattle. The reason hemp was used was for its high protein and amino acids. From there it naturally became part of all of our diet. Consuming meat and milk from the animals passed these phytocannabinoids onto us, absorbing them through our digestion system and interacting with our endocannabinoid system.

Livestock Hemp Seeds

THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM

Given that at one point in time our endocannabinoid system was being supplemented by our diets, what is the endocannabinoid system responsible for? Present in all mammals, it is a collection of cannabinoid receptors located throughout the brain and central nervous system. Linked to a number of physiological effects like appetite, pain relief, mood and memory, the manipulation of said receptors has seen some very beneficial results in preliminary research. Whilst our body produces its own endocannabinoids, these receptors can be stimulated by the presence of the cannabinoids within cannabis and hemp.

NUTRIENT OR PHARMACEUTICAL DRUG?

The debate for this rages on, with opinions reaching an all-time high, largely driven by the increasing amount of research being conducted into CBD and cannabinoids other than THC. It is the THC, that gives cannabis its illegal nature classing it as a drug. THC is largely responsible for the psychoactive properties that users experience when smoking cannabis. However, heating the cannabis through smoking or cooking is required to create the THC. If you consume cannabis raw, these properties have yet to be activated. You instead receive an entirely different set of cannabinoids. Hemp is an easy way of receiving these cannabinoids.

Nutrients are a vital part of a functioning cell, without them, many bodily functions would simply not work. If by consuming hemp rich in otherwise missed compounds, does it not then become a health food? Despite the psychoactive aspects associated with cannabis, it is only one part of the plant's complex genetics. One thing is certain, regardless of your view, further research is required to fully understand how we can benefit from cannabis in all its forms.

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HOW CAN YOU INCORPORATE HEMP INTO YOUR DIET?

If the idea of incorporating hemp into your diet to benefit from the nutritional value appeals to you, what options do you have? Fortunately, you are in luck, hemp does not tend to carry an illicit nature. Hemp has been bred over generations to remove the THC, making it a legal source of other cannabinoids. Rich in healthy fats and fatty acids, hemp seeds are a great source of omega-6 (linolenic acid) and omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid).

Adding the benefits of hemp to your diet could not be simpler. Hemp seeds are one option — they have a rich, nutty flavour. Just add them to muesli, salads or eat a handful of them raw. Although easily obtainable, it is worth noting that hemp seeds do not contain cannabinoids (although they are very healthy). If you want to include a rich dose of cannabinoids in your diet, the best thing to do is hemp flowers to juice, or use a natural, full-spectrum CBD oil.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

There is no denying, that if it weren't for our own created perception of cannabis, then we would have likely continued to freely enjoy the health benefits the myriad of cannabinoids had to offer. Government intervention has undoubtedly put a blocker in the way, and as such licenses for research are difficult to obtain. This has a knock-on effect, limiting our understanding of how the body interacts via our own endocannabinoid system and how that could be stimulated for the better.

There is an increasing movement who believe that there is a direct correlation between the removal of phytocannabinoids from our ecosystem and an increasing rate of neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases. We could, as a result of the prohibition of cannabis be doing long-term damage to our own cells ability to function correctly. The preferable next step would be to double the research efforts, with governments relaxing the regulations around the use of cannabis in controlled experiments. It is the only way to truly understand the impact to our body and based on what we know so far, lead healthier and improved lives.

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