June 5, 2019

Adding Cannabis to Our Diets: The Potential Benefits


Cannabis, a plant which has been used by different cultures around the world for centuries.

Cannabis or weed is generally known for its psychoactive properties, but it is also a plant with nutritional and healthy properties. Different varieties like Hemp or Marijuana exist. Its seeds are an important source of fat as well as protein.

Presence of carbohydrates (including fibers), and different vitamins and minerals (mainly magnesium, phosphorous and potassium) have also been reported from these seeds. The latter are the substrate from which Hemp oil is produced, an oil which contains polyunsaturated fatty acids in proportion recommended for human health.

Leaves and flowers contain a high concentration of antioxidants, especially phenolic compounds and flavonoids described as helpful in preventing non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Substantial evidence that Cannabis is effective for the treatment of pain in adults; particularly chemotherapy-induced nausea, and vomiting and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis has recently been reported. This plant is also used as an appetite stimulant.

Locally also known as Dagga, Cannabis possession, use, and cultivation were decriminalised by South Africa’s Supreme Court in September 2018, causing business to grow exponentially. In recent years, the ways of consuming Cannabis have expanded, and one of them to benefit from its above-mentioned properties is to consume this plant by means of incorporation into our food.

Hulled hemp seeds are often eaten as it is, added to salads, blended into smoothies or shakes, or roasted for cookies or bakes preparation. They are often consumed in their extremely nutritive oil form (not suitable for cooking) as well. Similarly, leaves are consumed raw in a salad, or cooked, juiced, powdered and blended into smoothies. They are also highly appreciated in their tea form.

‘Cannabis-food’, is a new culinary trend worldwide, as well as in South Africa. However, it is important to remember that the health properties of a meal cannot be determined by a single nutrient, including the addition of Cannabis, but is rather determined by the meal as a whole.

It is also important to consider the legal aspect of using cannabis in food. Broader health effects associated with Cannabis use is starting to gain momentum, and it is, therefore, wise to still use with caution and in moderation. Furthermore, when preparing our ‘Cannabis-food’, in order to avoid its psychoactive effect, one should also limit heating once cannabis has been added to the meal.

In fact, this effect generally associated to cannabis is linked to its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, which varies from one species to another (100 times higher in Marijuana than in hemp, the latter of which has almost no intoxication properties). This compound becomes active when heated (chemically as a result of its decarboxylation) and remains inactive if not.

Dr Alex Kamgain, Dr Bianca van der Westhuizen & Dr Hema Kesa from the Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL).

For more details visit:

Website: www.ferl.co.za

Email: hemak@uj.ac.za

 

See how to make canna oil and cannabis-infused coconut cream soup