Cannabis sativa

Hemp Family [Cannabaceae]

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Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
Earlier in the year.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
The leaves are fan-shaped, leaflets long-lanceolate. Leaflets between 3 and 9 each leaf. This and the following specimen each have 7 leaflets.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
Leaflet veins all parallel, straight and directed at 45° outwards. The teeth have a blunt acuminate tip at the end. All in all, the leaves are highly distinctive.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
A forest of Hemp. These specimens are of the low tetrahydrocannabinol (the loopy chemical) type; containing much more of the therapeutic cannabidiol used clinically for a variety of otherwise mostly incurable symptoms.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
They grow to 2.5m high and are usually un-branched or with but few branches.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
It was formerly grown commercially to produce rope from the strong hemp fibres. But due to the development of other varieties with high psychoactive properties, the growing of it in the UK had been banned for years. Nowadays only specially licensed growers can grow even the more innocuous varieties; they are not allowed to produce that capable of yielding street hemp. Besides farmer George Young at Fobbing Farms in Essex, another place way down south has also been growing Hemp for medicinal use (in glasshouses, rather than in the open air) since at least 2002.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
The flowers (male only or female only on each plant) occupy the summit of the main stem and maybe about up to a foot down from there.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
You can just about make out some flowers very close to the main stem here - the green cylinders.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
There are several clusters of flowers here very close to the main stem.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
The main stem is round and ribbed - the ribs being extensions of the leaf stalks down the main stem - but your Author doesn't know how far they go down until the leaf stalks are fully merged with the main stem. There are several clusters of paler-green flowers; the most prominent of which is that 2/3rds of the way up.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
This plant is probably male; comparing the flowers to male and female flowers on the web, they do seem to be larger and therefore male (but your Author could be wrong).

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
Probably male flowers. Although Hemp is usually dioecious, with either male or female flowers, it is sometimes bisexual aka heterosexual with both male and female flowers on the same plant - but not this one. The flowers have 5 sepals. Male flowers have 5 stamens, female flowers one ovule and 2 styles. The stems have stubby hairs.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
Whereas this specimen looks like the flowers may be turning to large fruits (in the topmost, and bottom-most clusters), so if so then it must be a female plant. It is the flowers which bear the cannabinoids.

Aug-Sept 2019, Fobbing Farms, Fobbing, Essex. Photo: © George Young
A bee tucking in to the nectar. Any honey produced might smell funny... But it might also give you more than you bargained for if it also feeds on other varieties with a much greater concentration of obnoxious substances.

Not to be semantically confused with : Hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Hemp Broomrape (Orobanche ramosa) [which hemi-parasitizes it], Red Hemp-Nettle (Galeopsis angustifolia), Bifid Hemp-Nettle (Galeopsis bifida), Broad-leaved Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis ladanum), Downy Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis segetum), Large Hemp-Nettle (Galeopsis speciosa), Common Hemp-Nettle (Galeopsis tetrahit) or Queensland-hemp (Sida rhombifolia) [plants with similar names belonging to differing families]

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : The aroma of the flowers is characteristic

It is the flowers which are harvested to produce medicinal cannabidiol. The narrow fan shaped leaves indicate that this is the species Cannabis sativa, an Archaeophyte in the UK, the tallest of the 3 species. If they had fewer but much broader leaflets, like a Sycamore leaf, then it would be Cannabis indica which is intermediate in height, and if they had only 3 leaflets which are intermediate in width between these two extremes then they would be the shortest Cannabis ruderalis. None are native to the UK.

CANNABINOIDS found in (none-recreational) HEMP

TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) is only a minor component of the Hemp grown for fibres and Rope, accounting for up to 0.3% of the total (as opposed to between 2% and 20% in other varieties of Cannabis bred for recreational highs - not to mention the deaths). Its pharmacological properties are Euphoriant, Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-Oxidant and Anti-emetic. TetraHydroCannabinol has the opposite effect of Cannabidiol but the Wikipaedia article on the modus operandi of THC within the human brain is completely unfathomable:  Tetrahydrocannabinol but this may change with the frequent edits Wikipaedia pages often undergo (sometimes for the worse...).

TetraHydroCannabinolic Acid (THCA), is the acidic form of THC (with an Carboxylic Acid group attached). It is the precursor of THC and is the substance actually found within fresh Hemp (THC is not found in fresh Hemp, only in dry hemp - it is the decay product of THCA). It is THC itself which is the psychoactive form of THCA. THCA itself is synthesised within Hemp from Cannabigerolic Acid, which is just a single benzene ring with two -OH moieties attached plus two hydrocarbon chains, plus an acetic acid moiety - so 5 out of the 6 positions of the benzene ring have side groups attached.

The three most studied compounds found in Cannabis are this one (THC) plus Cannabidiol (CBD) and Cannabinol (CBN)

This compound, iso-TetraHydroCannabinol, seems to have two slightly differing chemical structural formulae to be found on the internet; one as shown with the exo-cyclic double bond top left; the other configuration with the exo-cyclic double bond on the 'stalk' of the same Y-shaped moiety at top left. Who knows which one is correct, but wikipaedia adopts the configuration shown above. As isomers go, this one has many structural differences to TetraHydroCannabinol itself, strained bonds being just the major difference (the fused 6-membered ring on the left).

Cannabis grown for hemp (fibres) to make ropes and such out of also have relatively low amounts of other cannabinoids, such as Cannabinol. However, the Hemp being grown (legally) on this farm is not for recreational use, but to extract the recently discovered medicinal drug Cannabinol to treat some otherwise very difficult-to-treat medical conditions often suffered by children. Its pharmacological properties are: Anxiolytic, Antipsychotic, Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant and AntiSpasmodic.

This compound Cannabidiol (CBD) has the opposite effect on the brain as does the compound responsible for most of the recreational high, TetraHydroCannabinol, THC. The pharmacological properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) are Sedative, Antibiotic, Anti-convulsant and Anti-inflammatory. Cannabidiol is closely related to Cannabinol shown directly below this schematic.

October 2019: Billy Caldwell, an eleven year old boy living in Northern Ireland, who used to suffer up to 100 severe epileptic seizures a day (any one of which could kill him) has not had a seizure for 300 days after being prescribed CBD oil. Not being hallucinogenic, CBD oil is legal to take in the UK, but it has taken decades to get this approval due to its association with cannabis, which is illegal. But, he also takes TetraHydroCannabinolic Acid (THCA) which is illegal in the UK because it is psychoactive. This lack of seizures over 300 days in this young boy is very promising news indeed, but epilepsy is not just one disease; there are many forms of epilepsy and this treatment may not reduce or stop seizures in all epileptics.

As far as your Author is aware, no other person has been prescribed this treatment in the UK, even though there must be many more who may benefit from it. But hopefully, this trial will lead the way to more trial treatments (cautiously at first) for those who have the same epileptic condition.

Epileptic fits are very damaging to the brain circuits and it would presumably be deemed fit to prescribe this kind of treatment as early as possible to those who have just been diagnosed with the same condition. But all medical treatments have unwanted side effects, and it is pre-emptive to minimise these as much as possible. But trade-offs may be the better of two evils because epileptic fits are potentially so damaging, and any side effects from CBD oil treatment might be relatively inconsequential.

CBD oil is not legal as a pharmaceutical in most countries, Australia included, as one father who was sentenced to jail for giving his 2 year old daughter, who was (and still is) being treated in hospital for a large cancer on her spinal cord, despite the remarkable restorative effect it seemed to have on her. The reporter did not say whether this treatment actually cured her; one suspects not, but it certainly seemed to help.

Cannabinol (CBN) is only a mildly active psychoactive cannabinoidal substance and is found only in tiny amounts in Hemp, mostly in old hemp which has been exposed to ultraviolet from the Sun, for it is a breakdown product of another cannabinoid, TetraHydroCannabinolic Acid (THCA) (no structural formula shown). THCA exhibits psychoactive properties and is not permitted to be used medicinally (but see above re The Case of Billy Caldwell). The UV radiation breaks down THCA into Cannabinolic Acid (CBNA) (no structural formula shown) which then undergoes a decarboxylation reaction to form Cannibinol (CBN).

Cannabigerol (CBG) is non-acidic form of Cannabigerolic Acid is the pre-cursor molecule from which other Cannabinoids are synthesized within Hemp, mostly into TetraHydroCannabinol and Cannabidiol, leaving but approx 1% Cannabigerol within the plant itself. Cannabigerol displays very different properties within the human body than does the psychoactive TetraHydroCannabinol: it is an antagonist to the CB1 receptors within the brain, binding itself to both the CB1 receptors and the CB2 receptors. Because of this, Cannabigerol is not a psychoactive substance, and is not illegal to possess.

Cannabielsoin (CBE) was discovered in 1983 in Hemp and is converted by metabolic processes within Hemp into Cannabidiol, shown a few compounds above.

Cannabicyclol (CBL) on the other hand, is a degradation product produced by the action of light on Cannabichromene (CBC) (see below for structural formula) within cannabis plants - and since the plants need light to grow, this degradation product is inevitably present, much more so in old harvested Hemp left to rot. Cannabicyclol can also be formed from Cannabichromene under acidic conditions. Cannabicyclol does not exhibit psychoactive effects such as euphoria or hallucinations.

Cannabicitran (CBT) (aka the synthetic Citrilidene) was discovered in Hemp (actually in Lebanese Hemp) in 1974. It was found that this compound can relieve intraocular pressure within the eye (which can lead to glaucoma) but it so far has only been tested on laboratory animals.

Cannabichromene (CBC) was first identified in Cannabis plants in 1964 by Thin Layer Chromatography. It is produced in the trichomes of the plant, the stubby hairs on the stem etc. Cannabichromene will degrade to Cannabicyclol when subjected to ultraviolet light. Cannabichromene can interact with TRPV1 and TRPV2 receptors which are present in humans. It is thought to possesses important medicinal properties such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-depressant effect far greater than that of Cannabidiol
  • Reduces pain caused by nerve damage
  • In synergy with THC reduces pain
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Inhibits the bodys' absorption of Anandamide, an endoCannabinoid produced by our own bodies and which has been linked to some types of cancer such as breast and colon; it reduces acne and the deleterious effects of Arachidonic Acid.
  • Inhibits the absorption of Ananamide
  • With CBC reduces migraines.
But time and further investigation will tell if any of the above is true, or not.

Altogether there are about 70 to 80 differing Cannabinoids in Hemp, plus about 380 other secondary metabolites. It is the variation between the ratio of Cannabinol(CBD) to TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) which governs the therapeutic versus psychoactive effects, the more Cannabinol the greater the attenuation of the psychotropic effects. Medicinal Cannabis is being made from the Hemp plants shown in the photographs, for which the farmer had to obtain a licence from the government department responsible in order to grow it. It is otherwise illegal to grow Hemp in the UK. But very little research has been done on the use of medicinal cannabis; it was formerly illegal. There are preliminary indications that medicinal cannabis may help chronic muscle cramps, and to a lesser extent controlling nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy. However, the side effects of medicinal cannabis are numerous, such as drowsiness, mood alteration, dizziness, and an increase in appetite. Less common side effects include eyesight problems, muscle twitches, vagueness, itchy-skin, low blood-pressure, vagueness in verbal communication, dry mouth, light-headedness, and hallucinations!

These side effects may be enough to limit most medicinal cannabis for more serious conditions. However, it is still not proven that medicinal cannabis can help with neurological conditions such as Multiple Schlerosis (MS) [which is not just one condition, but there are several rather different MS conditions]. It is hoped that it can help with Spasticity and the more severe forms of Epilelpsy too, but again it has not yet been proven although preliminary findings look reasonably promising in the very few people it has been tried on. In the USA it has been approved for the treatment of two forms of Epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Also, the long-term effects of its use on any of the above conditions that it might help have yet to be determined.

The long-term use of recreational cannabis (which may have much greater amounts of the psychotropic cannabinoids) is now well known, due to widespread misuse throughout the world. The acute effects of it are anxiety, panic attacks, impaired attention, memory problems while intoxicated, and most problematic the psychotic effects, but they usually last only a few hours. Chronic use might include bronchitis, addiction to cannabis, a gradual decline in IQ over decades. Smoking cannabis is the worst thing you can do with it: for not only are you exposed to the intoxicating cannabinoids and psychotropic substance, but you are also inhaling a great many different combustion products and reactive radicals which include nitrosamines, aldehyde radicals, polycyclic hydrocarbons such as benzpyrene, of which and which is a very potent carcinogen (which is produced as a combustion product of many organic materials, tobacco smoke, coal, grilled meats included). 3-,4-Benzpyrene is one of the many toxic and carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

In addition to the cannabinoids, Cannabis contains many other compounds from monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids such as (in order of decreasing percentage): E-Myrcene, trans-Caryophyllene, D-Pinene, trans-Ocimene and D-Terpinolene plus D-Humulene. It will be noted that Humulenes and Caryophyllenes are also present in Hops, which is in the same Hemp family, Cannabaceae (but not in the same genus).

It is the Terpenes in Hemp which are responsible for the intense smell of Hemp, and not the Cannabinoids which contain many atoms and are not very volatile, if at all. It is the monoterpenes which dominate the aroma. The volatile terpenes in Hemp include d-Limonene, β-Myrcene, α-Pinene, β-Pinene, Terpinolene and Linalool. Well, your Author thinks it isn't the Pinenes (which smell of Pine Trees) of which Hemp smells most. Terpinolene smells of turps. Limonene of Lemons. β-Myrcene is present in Hops where it is usually the most abundant monoterpene, and Hops do not normally smell of Hemp (despite being in the same family as Hemp), so it cannot be that either.

Another source says that the aroma of Hemp comes mostly from Limonene and Pinene, which your Author cannot believe, for the reasons stated above. But the source also says that monoterpenes evaporate at a faster rate than some of the other components, which will probably leave room for some very odorous but low volatility sesquiterpenoid (or even a diterpenoid) to dominate the smell profile. The smell is not necessarily due to the most abundant volatile compound; your Author suspects it is due to an extremely smelly compound which has a very low concentration. This makes it much harder to identify as there are over 480 identified compounds found in Hemp, and no doubt many others which have never been identified because they are in such low concentrations.

Other terpenoids present in only trace amounts are the highly toxic Sabinene plus the mostly toxic compounds Eucalyptol, D-Terpinene, Pulegone, J-Terpinene (your Author has never heard of that one and neither has Google search!), Terpin-4-ol, Bornyl Acetate, D-Copaene, AlloAromadendrene, Viridiflorene, E-Bisabolene, E-Bisabolol, trans-E-Farnesene and transNerolidol.

Also present are 50 hydrocarbons ranging in weight from C9 to C39 with Nonacosane being the most abundant plus a few Methyl Alkanes.

There are also some nitrogen-containing compounds such as the quaternary bases Choline, Trigonelline, Muscarine, isoLeucine Betain and Neurine as well as some amides such as N-transFeruloylTyramine, N-para-CoumaroylTyramine, N-trans-CaffeoylTyramine plus some simple amines of the likes of MethylAmine, EthylAmine, Piperidine, Hordenine and Pyrrolidine plus the cytokine Zeatin.

Two bi-cyclic alkaloids based upon Spermidine, namely Cannabisativine and AnhydroCannabisativine are also present.

Numerous other classes of compounds are also present, some first found in Cannabis plants (judging by their names) - or perhaps only found in Cannabis plants(?), such as Cannaflavin A and Cannaflavin B. Others are the phenols Cannabispirol, Cannbispiran, CannbiStilbene-I, CannbiStilbene-II, Cannithrene-I and Cannitherene-II.

The smell from cannabis, in any of its any cultivated varieties and even from just a tiny wee quantity, is very strong and can be smelled from over 100 yards away. Many is the time your Author has walked along a canal towpath and detected a whiff in the air from 200 yards away. There is no one in sight, so it must have been emanating from a tiny discarded (or hidden) sample. Your Author also has no doubt that the people who smoke it cannot actually smell it themselves even when they are smoking it; this is obvious from police car chases on TV when they are caught. Passing cars harbouring it can also be detected by smell alone from a distance, the cars leave a long trail of aroma behind as they speed passed - of which they are probably totally unaware.

Your Author has never smoked nor had any; he thinks it most unwise for him to even try. The effects are unpredictable! Some few folk are really badly affected by it.

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Cannabis sativa

Hemp Family [Cannabaceae]