HEMP (CANNIBIS VULGARIS) AS A NUTRACEUTICAL FOR ANIMALS
Used by permission and courtesy of Nutraceutical Alliance Inc.
HEMP (CANNIBIS VULGARIS) AS A NUTRACEUTICAL FOR ANIMALS
Hempola Valley Farms
Summary Hemp is one of our oldest and most versatile plants and has been documented as far back as the 28th century BC. Cannabis sativa, which is the Latin term for "useful hemp" has made a comeback in the food, construction and textile industries and Canada is leading the way. The oil pressed from the hemp seeds contains the highest concentration of essential fatty acids (omega 6,omega 3 and GLA) of any all natural plant source. In addition, the hemp seed is also very high in digestible protein. There is increasing scientific evidence that omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids may play important roles in animals with conditions such as pruritic skin disease, atopic dermatitis, allergies, degenerative joint disease, neoplasia, thromboembolic disease and eosinophilic granuloma complex. Hemp seed oil, as a supplement or ingredient in dog and cat food is showing great possibilities. Furthermore, the nutritional composition found in hempseed meal is showing great promise as an addition to both small and large animal feed.
Keywords - hemp, animals, essential fatty acids, supplement
Introduction Hemp is one of our oldest and most versatile plants and has been documented as far back as the 28th century BC. Cannabis sativa, which is the Latin term for "useful hemp" has made a comeback in the food, construction and textile industries and Canada is leading the way.
Hemp is a sustainable, exceptionally hardy plant that grows well in our climate with minimal environmental impact. It is grown in Canada both conventionally and organically. It can be grown free of herbicides and pesticides because it is so naturally resistant to pests. For the same reason, the genetic engineering of hemp is not considered. Once harvested, the seeds are thoroughly cleaned and cold pressed in the absence of light and oxygen, thereby preserving the freshness of the oil. Canadian hemp seed oil is produced with only the freshest viable grain possible. Nothing is steam-sterilized, treated with radiation or solvent extracted. The golden rule is "less is more." Less light, less heat, less processing!
This pressing produces a high quality polyunsaturated oil and seed cake (the crushed seed hulls). The oil can be eaten on its own, blended into other food products, blended into body care products, used as a lubricant or natural wood finish in addition to may other uses. The seed cake can be ground into flour, used to brew beer or added to animal feed. Another process, called de-hulling, removes the seed coat leaving the "hemp nut" which is widely used in recipes. Finally, the stalks of the plants can be ground up and used in animal bedding, garden mulch or pulp and paper. From edible oil and flour, to roof shingles, houses and car parts, hemp can be used in 25,000 potential products!
Once of the most commonly asked questions is whether hemp seed oil has any psycho-activity ie. will it get you high? The answer is no! Canadian hempseed oil and derivative products do not contain THC and are extremely safe to consume for individuals of all ages.
The Good Fats Hemp seed oil is truly unique. Approximately 80 percent is polyunsaturated fat - the highest of any vegetable oil. Specifically, it contains the essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha linolenic acid (omega 3) in an ideal ratio for absorption by the body. These EFAs, considered good fats, cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained from our diets. Hemp seed oil also contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), from which omega 6 is naturally converted. Modern day diets and sluggish enzyme activity often impair this conversion and cause GLA deficiency. Hemp seed oil solves this problem. No other single source oil has this ideal combination of EFAs.
Omega 6 (linoleic acid) and omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid) work together within the body. They are converted via enzymes through a chain of events to produce prostaglandins (see Figure 1).
EFA's are well researched in the literature and are attributed to many health benefits. Some of these include: reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis and skin disease.
Nutrition experts generally recommend that for EFAs to do their job effectively and provide optimal cell function, daily requirements must range from 7 to 11 gm of linoleic acid and from 2 to 3.5 gm of alpha linolenic acid. This can be obtained from one tablespoon of hemp seed oil. However, individuals who consume a diet high in saturated or trans fats will require more, as will people who are overweight or under a great deal of stress.
The Power of Protein As we know, the hemp seed is 35 percent oil, the richest source of EFAs in the plant kingdom. However, it is also the king of protein! Of all plant based sources, its 25 percent protein content - comprised of all eight essential amino acids - is second only to that of the soy bean. The left over seed cake or crushed hulls can be ground into a flour that is 41% protein and gluten free. This protein in hemp seed is readily digestible, being primarily composed of edistin and albumin which are the components of human blood plasma. It is also very hypoallergenic in contrast to other proteins in nuts, peanuts or soy.
Potential Animal Applications There is increasing scientific evidence that omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids also play important roles in animals with conditions such as pruritic skin disease, atopic dermatitis, allergies, degenerative joint disease, neoplasia, thromboembolic disease and eosinophilic granuloma complex.
Studies to date have been done using flax, evening primrose oil and fish oil with mixed results. Study design has also been a problem with many lacking placebo control groups. In general, studies using a combination of evening primrose and fish oil (GLA and Omega 3) showed the most promising results. As we know, omega 3 and 6 work in combination with in the body and an excess of one can lead to a depletion of the other. This can occur with using fish or flax oil exclusively. Long term supplementation with omega 3 may lead to a deficiency of omega 6 and reduce the anti-inflammatory potential of linoleic acid and its metabolites. Further, high doses of omega 3 may also alter platelet function to the extent that hemostasis is impaired with significant increases in bleeding times. Likewise, excessive doses of omega 6 can lead to a depletion of omega 3 and its beneficial effects.
This area deserves a great deal of further research. Questions to be answered include: what is the normal ratio of essential fatty acids stored within the body of the animal and what is the ideal ratio of a supplement? What we do know is that omega 6 and omega 3 are required by every cell for proper functioning. We also know that hemp contains a well-balanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 and it also contains GLA.
The introduction of polyunsaturated fats into pet food has developed considerable interest in the last few years. The problem being that these fats are inherently unstable and the food becomes rancid quite quickly. This is especially true of flax. Some foods have used marine or fish products and here the problem lies in potential heavy metal toxicity. Hemp would be an excellent addition to pet food based on its high levels of antioxidants thereby providing a natural preservative and a balanced omega 6 : omega 3 ratio. Another area of interest is the protein in hemp and this area deserves more research. As noted previously the protein in hemp is easily digested and could possibly be an alternate or supplemental source of protein in the food.
Hemp seed cake can also be used as feed for farm animals. "Omega 3" eggs have become immensely popular in the supermarkets as individuals are striving for healthier diet s and hemp is a viable alternative to flax in this area.
A further application lies in blending the seed cake into the concentrate portion of large animal feed. Hempola hemp seed cake was analyzed by an independent lab in New York with the following results: 32.2 % crude protein
32.3 % adjusted crude protein
24 % soluble protein
31.8 % acid detergent fiber
These results are very amenable to blending into a concentrate. A further benefit is that hemp is grown without pesticides or herbicides and is not genetically modified (in comparison to canola). Anecdotally, we know that the animals love the hemp. Pig, chicken and goat farmers in our area all report back that the animals go "crazy" for the hemp meal.
A final note is that hemp is now being used as hypoallergenic bedding in farms. This has great potential in terms of double cropping.
Conclusion Hempseed oil and meal has great potential in the animal industry. Immediate applications include the addition of hemp meal and its protein into animal food/concentrates and the oil as a supplement. Future areas of research and application need to involve clinical trials and specific essential fatty acid research in the animal model.
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