Hemp: a useful plant with a questionable reputation. Hemp has, however, been cultivated for its fibres, edible seeds, and nutritious, medicinal oil for millennia. Hemp oil is the mixture of oils and fatty acids produced by the plant Cannabis sativa. Hemp oil is traditionally extracted as a tincture. This is a very old way of extracting and diluting essential oils from herbs and other plants. The most oil-rich part of the plant is steeped in a container of either oil or alcohol.
The oil/alcohol then draws out any soluble substances present in the plant by osmosis, and one ends up with a dilute solution of a range of oils from the plant concerned. The oil in the hemp plant is concentrated in the trichomes of the plant. These are on the surface of the plant and are small, resin-filled hair-like structures. The evolutionary purpose of these trichomes is thought to be to clog the mouthparts of insects preying on the plant.
Hemp oil has proven to contain a number of potentially useful compounds to medicine, nutrition and pharmacology since it was first separated into its constituent parts in 1940, and further refined in 1963. There are many types of molecules present in the hemp oil including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and cannabinoids. The most noteworthy of these is CBD or cannabidiol.
A Useful Painkiller?
Hemp oil has been used as a painkiller, if indirectly, in the Netherlands as far back as 4,500 years ago. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is one of the most important medicines or the 50 essential herbs. The Ancient Greeks used it widely as a painkiller for both humans and horses, as a tincture, a boiled preparation, and raw plants. A number of Ancient Egyptian dynastic periods have records of the parent plant to hemp oil being used for a wide range of issues including pain.
During the Islamic Golden Age of science and medicine, extractions of Cannabis were used as, among other things, an anti-inflammatory. Throughout the early modern period, hemp oil was prescribed by many European and American doctors for pain symptoms. In the last few decades, research has confirmed that CBD exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. This is one of the most important mechanisms for pain relief. MS patients in Canada are being treated for neuropathic pain using CBD.
The potential uses of hemp oil for pain treatment have great historical precedent, and as more research is added, the results look promising.