Q & A with Dr. Rick Green
President of Technology Development for KeyLeaf Life Sciences
(PART 2 OF 2)
QUESTION: You mentioned that hemp protein has some unique properties that other plant proteins don’t have. What are some of those properties?
GREEN: A big benefit to working with hemp protein is that when effectively processed, it has a better flavor than some of the other plant-based proteins. It also has some functionality properties that are unique, and those properties depend on how you process the protein and the protein fractions. We’ve also found that hemp protein has some good emulsification properties, and there are many products that can be produced from natural emulsions.
QUESTION: Is there anything else about hemp protein that’s unique?
GREEN: I would say hemp protein is as nutritious as any other plant protein. Hemp seeds contain approximately 30% protein, with a reasonably complete amino acid spectrum. About two thirds of hempseed protein is edestin, a highly digestible protein. All eight amino acids essential in the human diet are present, as well as others. Hemp protein has some amino acid profiles that can be used to complement other plant proteins. By blending it with other plant proteins you can balance the amino acid ratios and increase the nutritional value of the protein blend.
QUESTION: What are the properties and uses of hemp oil?
GREEN: Hemp oil, which is found in the plant’s seeds, has a good omega 6 /omega 3 ratio of 3 to 1, about what is optimal for the human body. Hemp oil is of high nutritional quality because it contains good amounts of unsaturated fatty acids including oleic acid (10%–16%), linoleic acid (50%–60%), alpha-linolenic acid (20%–25%), and gamma-linolenic acid (2%–5%) Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are considered essential to human health. Hemp seed oil also provides several antioxidants, such as Vitamin E and a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, along with iron and zinc.
QUESTION: Are there uses for the oil aside from nutritional?
GREEN: Hemp oil is used in cosmetics and skin creams to promote skin health. It’s well known that hemp seed oil is a healthy oil and one of the oils that can provide some benefits for the complexion — soothing and moisturizing it. Hemp oil is used in some cosmetic products now, but there are more to be developed as formulators become familiar with the unique properties of hemp protein and hemp oil.
QUESTION: How much oil does the hemp seed contain?
GREEN: Up to 30 percent of the hemp seed is comprised of oil.
QUESTION: What other nutrients do we find in the hemp plant that can be extracted and monetized?
GREEN: After extracting the CBD, I believe the plant’s main asset will be the fiber from the hemp stalk. This is a very strong yet light fiber that holds significant potential for industrial applications. The industrial fiber is going to become more important as we move away from plastics to more natural solutions. There are companies right now that supplement their plastic with hemp fiber to give it strength and some biodegradability. Some automotive companies have also produced prototypes of interior panels with hemp fiber.
QUESTION: Does hemp have value as animal feed?
GREEN: At the moment hemp meal is undergoing testing for its suitability as feed for livestock as well as animals and pets that are not part of the food chain. Hemp certainly holds strong potential as a nutritious ingredient for animal feed.
QUESTION: Is KeyLeaf involved in the extraction of hemp oil for industrial uses?
GREEN: We are primarily focused on hemp oil for nutritional purposes. We have also pressed hemp for industrial purposes, like machine oil and other non-food grade oils. These industrial prototype oils have good flow properties and can be modified slightly for specific purposes; different viscosity for different uses.
QUESTION: What other parts of the hemp plant can be profitably harvested?
DR. GREEN: The cannabinoids represent a very small percentage of the plant, so finding and monetizing additional high-value products is very advantageous for any hemp processor. We currently have uses for virtually every part of the plant — the stalks for industrial fiber, the flowers for extraction of cannabinoids, and the seeds for protein, oil and edible fiber. With more than 25,000 hemp-based products reportedly in the marketplace, agribusiness will continue moving forward with hemp R & D programs to discover even more uses for the plant and its hundreds of high-value components.