Few plants are as versatile and prolific as cannabis. Cotton may make great clothing, but has very little, if any culinary or medicinal benefits. Flax is best known for its nutrient content (fat and protein). Flax’s fiber and clothing qualities have mostly been forgotten, and its medicinal properties are next to non-existent. Cannabis, on the other hand, has a wide variety of uses. You can use the entire plant, including the fiber and cellulose from its stems, nutrients from its seeds and leaves, and “therapeutic” cannabinoids and terpenes from the flowers and roots.
This technically makes cannabis a vegetable! A vegetable is defined as "a plant cultivated for its edible parts, such as the roots, the leaves, the flower buds, or the fruit or seeds of certain species, such as beans, corn, and squash" whereas a herb is defined as "a plant whose stem does not produce woody, persistent tissue and generally dies back at the end of each growing season" or "any of various, often aromatic plants used especially in medicine or as seasoning." Cannabis contains many of the same nutrients as other leafy greens such as fiber, iron and calcium, and is jam-packed with beneficial cannabinoids. It may just be the most nutrient dense and versatile plant known to man. This could explain why some claim cannabis to be a superfood.
According to David "Avocado" Wolfe, in his book Superfoods, a superfood is defined as "a food that has a dozen or more unique properties, not just one or two. For example, the goji berry is a source of complete protein, immune-stimulating polysaccharides, liver-cleansing betaine, anti-aging sesquiterpenes, antioxidants, over twenty trace minerals, and much much more." David himself includes hemp seeds in his list of top 10 superfoods on the planet.
Hemp seeds are small with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Technically speaking, they are actually nuts, not seeds. Hemp “hearts" refers to hemp "seeds" that have had their shells removed (see photo right) and thus have much less fiber. Roughly 25% of the calories in hemp seeds come from protein (most notably edestin) which, when compared to other foods, is relatively high. By weight, they provide similar amounts of protein as beef and lamb. Thirty grams of hemp seeds provide more than 10 grams of protein (1)!
They are considered to be a complete protein source - meaning they contain all essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins)! This is a rare feat in the plant kingdom, as lysine is not often found in plants. Your body cannot produce its own essential amino acids, and must therefore obtain them from your diet. The digestibility and bio-availability of hemp protein is also very good compared to most other plant sources (2). Check out this hemp & goji berry smoothie recipe for an easily assimilated post workout protein shake!
Hemp seeds also contain small amounts of the fat-soluble vitamin E. More than 30% of a hemp seed is fat. It is exceptionally rich in two particular essential fatty acids - linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). These EFAs also come in a ratio of 3:1, which is ideal for optimum nutrition (compare this to the standard American diet ratio of 20:1) (3). They also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which has been linked to several health benefits such as decreasing the risk for heart disease by reducing inflammation and blood pressure. Hemp seed oil is very healthy and has been used as both a food and medicine in China for at least 3,000 years. More than 32 cannabinoids have been discovered in organic hemp oil (4)!
Hemp seeds are extremely versatile. They can be eaten raw, cooked, or roasted. Hemp seeds can be made into oil, ground meal, or protein powder. With modern conventions like the Almond Cow, it is quite easy to make DIY hemp milk and butter from home. This ancient food is very nutrient-dense (5). Just three tablespoons of hemp seeds, weighing in at 30 grams, offers roughly the following nutritional composition:
* 170 calories
* 9 grams protein
* 15 grams fat
* 3 grams total carbohydrates
* 1 gram fiber
* 14 mg calcium
* 2 mg iron
* 215 mg magnesium
* 290 mg phosphorus
* 360 mg potassium
* 4 mg zinc
Home of ganja, bhang, and hashish - cannabis, in one form or fashion, has been consumed in India for centuries. The Vedic scriptures consider cannabis to be one of the five most sacred plants. A plant that bestows upon the user a rich source of "happiness, liberation, and compassion."
“To the five kingdoms of the plants which Soma rules as Lord we speak.
Darbha, hemp, barley, mighty power: may these deliver us from woe.”
- Atharva Veda ch. 11-06-15
According to one legend, Shiva (one of the three major gods of the Hindu religion) had an argument with his family. He wandered off, finding respite in the shade of a canopy of cannabis plants. When he awoke, feeling hungry, he consumed some of the cannabis leaves. Immediately, Shiva felt refreshed and rejuvenated. Cannabis quickly became his preferred vegetable and, according to some Hindus, his preferred meditative herb as well. This is why hash and bhang are consumed by men, women, and children alike during the festival of Shiva Ratri, or "The Night of Shiva."
Full of iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, fiber and phosphorous (6), raw hemp leaves make for a great addition to any salad mix or green juice. They are loaded with polyphenols (7) (powerful antioxidants known for their anti-aging effects as well as their ability to protect against diseases). They also contain significant amounts of chlorophyll (the most abundant pigment in plants responsible for their green color). With a chemical structure almost identical to hemoglobin, this pigment is a proven blood-builder, that assists in detoxifying the body, preventing DNA damage, reducing inflammation, and more (8)! Only two cannabinoids are typically found in cannabis leaves: CBDa and THCa. The leaves, similar to the flowers are also full of terpenes. According to research by Robert Masson, consumers liked baby hemp greens, reporting minty and fruity flavors, with floral influences.
The high concentration of cannabinoid acids and terpenes in raw cannabis flowers can help improve cell function, reduce damage caused by free radicals, reduce inflammation, and facilitate two-way cellular communication. Many cannabinoids also have anti-tumor properties which are extremely bio-available in raw cannabis form (9).
Consuming raw cannabis enables users to stimulate their endocannabinoid system. When most fruits and vegetables are exposed to heat, they lose a majority of their beneficial enzymes and nutrients. Cannabis is no different. According to Dr. William Courtney: "you are walking away from 99% of the benefits cannabis provides when you cook or smoke cannabis." Juiced cannabis is a nutrient dense supplement that wont have any of the psychoactive components that are activated when heated. Compared with dried herb, raw cannabis still contains the majority of its terpenes (10) (compounds that determine the aroma and taste of the plant). We recommend using a masticating juicer (as opposed to the more traditional centrifugal juicer) that will extract the juice from the plant by gently crushing the plant material. Be sure to save your leftover pulp for some DIY hemp crackers!
One-way traffic of the nerves is a major contributing factor towards inflammation in the body. In this state, immune cells are constantly being triggered, with no communication to the nervous system to receive aid or be calmed. However, research shows that cannabinoids make a two-way communication possible, thus resulting in reduced inflammation (11).
Hemp is environmentally friendly too! It grows like a weed (hence its name?), in a variety of climates and soil types. It is resistant to drought and many pests. It’s happy to be planted densely, creating a cover-crop canopy of shade that out-competes weeds. Arguably an adaptogen, this hardy plant doesn’t require the use of herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers. It is a permaculturist's best friend. Scientists are even using it to clean up contaminated environments via phytoremediation!
As we've covered in past entries, cannabis has been used by humans since the dawn of the written word. Not just for spiritual and recreational practices, or just for its textile functionality, but also for its nutrient density and availability. Dairy cows ate feral hemp, and pigs, chickens, and other livestock were fed hemp. Cannabinoids were thus present in their milk, meat, and eggs. This practice ended after the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
Cannabinoid receptors are found in the human embryo only fourteen weeks after gestation. By week 20 of the pregnancy, cannabinoid receptors are found firing in the brain (12). By birth, humans are equipped with a fully functioning endocannabinoid system (ECS). Just as we have receptors for salicylate - the pain relieving compound in willow bark, so too do we have them for phytocannabinoids.
This suggests that the ECS plays an important role during pre and post natal growth. A mother's breast milk will also contain anandamide, as well as another endogenously produced cannabinoid known as 2-AG (13). Perhaps it's time we stopped viewing cannabis as a "supplement", and respected it as the "nutrient" that it is. A nutrient that most of us are deficient in.
The sources cited are primarily intended for the casual reader. Each source however, has been carefully chosen to include scientific sources linked within. Living with today's industry funded, pseudo-scientific journals, we encourage you to "research the research".