And it seems the plant that just keeps on giving is now showing promise for future cancer prevention and treatment. While the cannabis plant has been a hot topic for medical research as of late, scientists are now looking to hemp as another, non-psychoactive plant medicine.
Graduate students from Sullivan University in Kentucky recently presented their research on hemp at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, which was held this past spring in San Diego, CA.
Students Sara Biela and Chase Turner worked together to study the medicinal properties of an extract made from Kentucky-growing hemp plants, dubbed "KY-hemp."
Speaking about what inspired the research, Biela commented, "Hemp, like marijuana, contains therapeutically valuable components such as cannabidiol, cannabinol, and tetrahydrocannabinol. However, unlike marijuana, hemp's therapeutic ability has not been studied in detail."
While hemp is often considered to be "inferior" to cannabis in terms of therapeutic value, the growing routine for KY-hemp was designed to boost cannabinoid content, increasing the plant's medicinal value.
To get the scoop on hemp's ability to fight cancer, the pair of researchers conducted two different experiments. In one study, the duo looked at what potential effects KY-hemp could have on ovarian cancer cells. What they found was astonishing: The hemp extract caused a substantial drop in cancer cell migration, which means it could help slow down or stop cancer metastasis (when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body).
In a second study, Biela and Turner looked deeper into the biology behind the extract's effects -- wherein, they discovered that KY-hemp decreased the secretion of interleukin IL-beta. Interleukins are pro-inflammatory chemicals linked to the progression of cancer. It's posited that the suppression of interleukin secretion could be what gives KY-hemp such profound anti-cancer effects.
The researchers say that KY-hemp is as effective against cancer as a common chemotherapy drug, cisplatin -- but without the toxic side effects.
"Our findings from this research as well as prior research show that KY hemp slows ovarian cancer comparable to or even better than the current ovarian cancer drug Cisplatin," Turner stated.
"Since Cisplatin exhibits high toxicity, we anticipate that hemp would carry [fewer] side effects. However, that need[s] to be tested in the future," they added.
While the aforementioned studies looked at an extract, there are countless benefits to be had from the whole hemp plant, as well. Hemp seeds are a nutritional powerhouse: They contain all the essential amino acids, which makes them one of the few "complete" plant proteins. They also contain high amounts of essential fatty acids, including the coveted omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds are also a great source of antioxidants and other phytonutrients -- along with essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, magnesium, iron and zinc. The hemp seed is also a great source of dietary fiber.
Hemp has big benefits for the environment, too. It cleanses soil, helps prevent soil erosion and requires less water than other conventional crops -- which makes it an attractive option for crop rotations for farmers. Because virtually the entire plant can be used for something, it is a pretty sustainable choice as well. Hemp is used to make animal bedding, clothing, paper, insulation for homes and can even be used to make a special type of concrete.
Read more stories about natural medicines at Health.news.
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