Q & A with Dr. Rick Green
President of Technology Development for KeyLeaf Life Sciences
(PART 1 OF 2)
QUESTION: In terms of consumer interest in hemp and hemp-derived products, CBD (cannabidiol) is really stealing the spotlight right now. From your vantage point as a food ingredient scientist, what are some of the next high value hemp-derived products and ingredients that we are likely to see emerging and making a splash in the marketplace?
GREEN: We know CBD is just one of many cannabinoids. There are other molecules in the plant very similar to CBD, and they probably contribute some of the effects that we currently are attributing to CBD. We believe these other cannabinoids are going to prove very beneficial as they bind to the same endocannabinoid receptors as does CBD. Additional clinical research will show specifically which cannabinoids and which ratios of which cannabinoids are best for addressing certain ailments.
QUESTION: How many cannabinoids can be found in industrial hemp?
GREEN: As a natural product chemist might class them, there are more than 100 cannabinoids in hemp. In addition to these known compounds, some people also count the plant’s terpenes as cannabinoids because the terpenes contribute to the “entourage effect” – the powerful therapeutic property derived from the activity of all compounds naturally occurring in the whole hemp plant. As the interest in cannabinoids grows, researchers are finding new molecular analogues, and thus, new cannabinoids are being discovered.
QUESTION: What are hemp terpenes, and how are they being marketed?
GREEN: The terpenes give the odor and in some cases flavor to hemp products. The terpenes are derived from essential oils, and there are many good things in essential oils that provide some beneficial effects: for example, the terpene caryophyllene (specifically β-caryophyllene), which has anti-inflammatory properties. Caryophyllene can be found in a number of herbs and spices. The essential oils are found not just in cannabis; they’re certainly present in a significant number of other plants, including black pepper, basil, and oregano. Caryophyllene and other terpenes have health benefits that we haven’t focused on yet. The cannabis industry knows they’re there, but the consumer and most cannabis companies have been heavily focused on CBD products, which are currently leading the way as the natural dietary supplement du jour. So, if we’re asking about what is “next”, it could certainly be caryophyllene, which has demonstrated powerful anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits. Researchers are testing caryophyllene as an intervention for inflammatory bowel disease and preliminary results in animal studies have been promising.
QUESTION: After CBD, do you have any prediction about which hemp-derived “CB molecule” will next come under the spotlight?
GREEN: Perhaps CBN, also known as cannabinol.
QUESTION: Is CBN demonstrating any nutritional or medical efficacy at this point?
GREEN: It is. It works as one element in the array of cannabinoids found in the hemp plant that effectively work together to produce a benefit – CBN is purported to contribute to beneficial effects that include sedative effects, analgesic, reducing inflammation and appetite suppressant. CBN is one of the major components responsible for hemp’s entourage effect. Researchers know that the concoction of cannabinoids found in the hemp plant works to produce good outcomes when all elements are present, but they’re only now determining how effective each specific cannabinoid in the entourage is for treating specific ailments.
QUESTION: What other hemp-based innovations and applications should we be watching for?
GREEN: We’ve made advances in hemp protein. It has some good benefits and is quite water soluble and has applications that other plant proteins don’t have. We’re going to start seeing these hemp seed proteins coming on the market and we are also looking at potential applications for hemp fiber. There is insoluble fiber in the stalk itself that can be used for industrial applications. It’s a very strong, tough yet light fiber. I’ve seen examples where it’s been used in car consoles. In addition to production of the cannabinoids, we have a strong R&D team focused on the development of high value co-products from hemp. These products, such as the protein, oil, fiber and various other natural product extracts from different parts of the plant, are poised to generate significant revenues for the hemp industry. KeyLeaf’s decades of experience producing plant-based extracts and ingredients enables them to fully monetize the complete hemp plant, including each of the plant’s many high-value bio-components.