In the areas of health and medicine the use of Cannabis could lead to dramatic improvements in society.
Cannabis sativa L. or Hemp seed is one of the richest sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant based form of the essential fatty acid omega 3. ALA has an eighteen carbon backbone, which is elongated in the body to a twenty-two carbon chain to form DHA and EPA. In this form omega 3 is incorporated into the brain, forming a critical part of the neuronal membrane. Omega 3 from marine sources occurs as DHA and EPA and taking omega 3 in this form bypasses the need for the conversion.
However, ALA has beneficial effects itself and using marine derived omega 3 places a severe strain on the aquatic environment. Further, omega 3 is a very reactive molecule and the harsh industrial conditions used in the extraction and deodorisation of the oil leave it with less than optimal activity, with detectable levels of contaminants including mercury and PCB found in many commercial samples. Fortunately, most individuals can readily convert ALA to DHA and EPA in sufficient quantity for optimal brain development.
Luckily, two groups with particular need for DHA and EPA, pregnant women and young children, are particularly efficient at this conversion. The enzymes responsible for the conversion can be impeded by an excess of saturated fats, so for optimal results these must be reduced in the diet. There are two essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6. They are referred to as essential because they cannot be synthesised by the body, but must be obtained in food. The ideal ratio for optimal health between the intake of omega 3 and omega 6 is one part omega 3 for each three parts of omega 6. The industrialisation of the western diet has had the critical effect of seriously reducing the intake of omega 3 whilst at the same time dramatically increasing the omega 6 intake, due to the mass marketing of canola and other inferior oils.
The body maintains homeostasis by a dynamic balance between opposing forces. For example, the musculo-skeletal system balances opposing flexion and extension muscles to maintain posture. Biochemically, the body maintains its interior homeostasis by delicately balancing pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects. The body must be able to mount an effective inflammatory response to repel microbial invaders and as an adjunct in wound healing, but it must then be able to down-regulate this inflammation to prevent unwanted collateral damage to adjacent tissue. In general terms the omega 6 fatty acids and their derivatives are pro-inflammatory, whilst the omega 3 series produce mediators which down regulate the inflammatory response. With a predominance of omega 6 and a deficiency of omega 3 the body is in a permanent state of excess inflammation. The release of inflammatory cytokines initiates the process of tissue damage which, if the process continues long enough, manifests as illnesses, including vascular disease, loss of vision and dementia. When the synovial joints are affected osteoarthritis results, causing much pain and suffering for a large proportion of the population.
Like knights in shining armour the pharmaceutical corporations offered their response, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDS. These chemicals are based on aspirin but have been modified to exhibit a more rapid effect, better analgesic properties or some other characteristic to give their product a marketable edge over the competition. NSAIDS have generated an industry with multi-billion dollar sales annually, despite the fact that they are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people globally. As a spin off advantage for the corporations, the most frequent side effect of the NSAIDs is gastric irritation, often leading to ulceration. To the NSAID billions were added the billions of dollars from the sales of antacids like zantac and more recently the proton pump inhibitors. All this expensive medicine and the progression of the disease is barely slowed with the hapless patient then requiring complex surgery to managed the damaged joint. Is any of this really necessary? People who strive to maintain a reasonable omega 3/6 balance and also keep their bodies free of oxidative stress by regular intake of natural plant based anti-oxidants are generally not troubled by osteoarthritis or other degenerative diseases.
Also, they are rarely troubled with blood pressure problems and they have no need for anti-depressants, two major money spinning drug groups for the global pharmaceutical companies. The behaviour of the pharmaceutical companies often challenge ethical boundaries and the relationship between “big pharma” and the public could be likened to a fox minding the pigeons. Of course, over the years certain pharmaceutical products such as the anti-malarial drugs have greatly reduced human suffering, but the modern pharmaceutical industry appears bent on a course of medicalising the population, for conditions which are often caused in the first place, by their subsidiary companies in the food industry.
The ethically challenging behaviour of big pharma and the unholy alliance that exists between global pharmaceutical corporations and media was clearly seen during the recent swine flu drama. Using techniques of molecular biology researchers have provided convincing evidence that what the public was told was a wild type pig virus actually contained genetic elements from human, avian and porcine sources. The probability of this happening by chance is vanishingly small and the likelihood is that the offending virus was actually a recombinant creation intended as a immunisation agent for large commercial piggeries. It is noteworthy that unlike the earlier avian influenza outbreak, where millions of birds were slaughtered, the current swine flu caused no deaths in their nominal host, the pig.
It cannot be known if transition to humans was by an accidental or an intentional release, but the behaviour of the media was instructive. Swine flu horror stories filled the nightly news and each death that was in the slightest way flu related was reported. As the grim statistics seemed to mount it was inconvenient to note that the deaths were generally in people with advanced stages of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and emphysema. In fact, the death rate was lower than seasonal influenza, but big pharma made a fortune as citizens and governments rushed to stock up on anti-viral medications.
Huge stockpiles of tamiflu manufactured for the fizzled bird flu scare now found a ready market. Despite the lack of evidence of public health risk millions of dollars of public money were spent on questionable vaccines. People blessed with a functioning memory will recall this was not the first swine flu scare campaign. In 1974 Richard Nixon tried to mandate universal immunisation for swine flu, but the program was abruptly ceased after thousands of people were paralysed by the vaccine.
Over the last century cane sugar has gone from being a rare luxury food to a massively over-consumed health risk. Added in large quantities to soft drinks and most processed foods, in the sedentary body it causes wild swings of blood sugar with mood disturbances and widespread oxidative stress as the excess glucose attaches to haemoglobin and other tissue or is transported to adipose stores where it adds to a swelling girth. The type II diabetes epidemic continues unabated, while key culprits like McDonald’s use PR gurus to re-invent themselves as a health food restaurant, while still peddling the same toxic mass of saturated fats and sugar they call food.
The derangement of the diet leads to disturbances in blood chemistry, especially the lipid profile, with increases in low density lipo-proteins and total cholesterol. Based on pathological studies showing cholesterol in artery narrowing atheroma, the medical and pharmaceutical establishment devised the cholesterol theory of heart disease, claiming that high levels of serum cholesterol impregnates itself into the arterial wall, thereby causing disease. With cholesterol as the number one bogey man the pharmaceutical industry then presented the frightened public with magic bullets, the statins, certain to cure all their problems. These drugs cause serious side effects but despite this the statins have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet there are many weaknesses in the cholesterol theory and the observed facts are better described by considering oxidative stress as the key initiating event in atheroma formation.
Oxidative stress results from the action of oxygen free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules with unbalanced electron clouds that can damage any tissue they come into contact with. These free radicals are an inevitable result of biochemical respiration. However, oxidative stress is dramatically increased by exposure to toxic chemicals, additives, volatile fumes and electro-magnetic radiation. Like sparks flying from a camp-fire free radicals can cause damage to the tissues they occur in, if they are not quenched. In its well state the body is equipped with an impressive endogenous anti-oxidant system, in addition to exogenous anti-oxidants found abundantly in tree and vine ripened fruit and berries and in vegetables. In the oxidative stress theory, disease results from an inflammatory reaction occurring around sites of oxidative injury.
When atheroma are subject to careful biochemical analysis it is found that the cholesterol in the plaques, ingested by immune cells known as foamy macrophages, is actually rancid. Rancidity is the state of an oil that has been subject to oxidative stress from excess light, heat or chemical exposure, in the absence of sufficient protective antioxidants. It is the rancidity of the oil that initiates the inflammatory reaction to cause the plaque, not the cholesterol itself. The proper treatment should be to address the oxidation, not to artificially manipulate the level of cholesterol. Additionally, oxidative stress on the membrane of the platelets render them overly “sticky”, setting the stage for a vascular event, whether a myocardial infarction, a cerebro-vascular accident or ischaemia of a limb. Whilst certain genetic characteristics of an individual or group may render them susceptible to oxidative stress in a particular site or tissue, the underlying pathology remains oxidative stress.
Without wholesale dietary and lifestyle changes the health of the population will continue to deteriorate, they falling victim to a range of chronic degenerative illness until the society is unable to afford the health care costs involved. The current unbalanced, devitalised, de-mineralised and generally deficient national diet has led to preventable conditions imposing a serious social and economic cost on the community. It is estimated that up to 90% of Australian school children are not getting optimal quantities of omega 3 and this can be expected to impact on brain development and intellectual functioning. An ideal intake of omega 3 is also required for the optimal functioning of the immune system. Deficiencies can manifest as allergies, autoimmune diseases and other expressions of immune dysfunction.
Hemp seed offers a unique combination of important nutrients, including a balanced ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 and an impressive array of vitamins and minerals. Hemp seed has a particularly high level of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant protecting the omega 3 from rancidity. Vitamin E, so often deficient in a processed diet, is critical for vascular health, by maintaining the pliability of the blood vessel wall. The protein in Hemp is balanced and easily absorbed. Australia is the only country on Earth which still has restrictions on advertising the food uses of Hemp seed. It is permissible to use the product topically but not as food. This is the same situation as exists with raw milk, where over zealous regulators have restricted a product based on poor science, economic self-interest and political bias.
But in our future world things are running more smoothly. The legislation requiring all products to be completely non-toxic has seen the end of the junk food industry. After only a few years of eating a wide range of Hemp seed based foods and other health promoting practices the benefits are being seen in the population. With the reversal of the diabetes epidemic there are huge saving in health care. The surplus is spent expanding the cycle networks around the cities and other public health amenities.
Maternal and perinatal health improves and there is a reduction in the currently alarming high level of asthma in children. Optimised nutrition brings many advantages. Like a fire that is brightly stoked instead of smouldering and smoky the metabolism becomes more efficient at converting food to energy. The mental and physical vigour of the population increases and we are ushered into a renaissance of learning and creativity. Released from the shackles of junk food toxicity the human mind is free to explore new ways of interacting and dealing with formerly intractable problems and we are ushered into a new era of peace and prosperity.
But how likely is it that we will ever see the passage of legislation aimed at ensuring the health and prosperity of the Earth and all the people on it? The economic and political system at the present time appear to be controlled by a cabal of crooks with the moral integrity of reptiles. In a world crying out for satisfaction of the basic needs of food, clean water and shelter over seventy percent of the world’s scientist are employed by military. The combustion of fossil fuel is recognised as a direct threat to the well being of the planet, yet an enormous proportion of the fossil fuels consumed is used by the military. How many low wattage light bulbs need to be installed to cancel a single flight of a B1 bomber?
Will it make a real difference if we strive to reduce our food miles if vast fleets of huge battleships and submarines are constantly prowling around the oceans? The movement of millions of troops around the world, along with heavy equipment and massive quantities of ammunition causes pollution on a grand scale. The atmosphere is continuously degraded by fleets of military planes, training, conducting exercises or engaged in offensive action. The economy of the United States is dependant on their war industries with a trillion dollar “defence” budget being spent even as more and more people find themselves dispossessed of assets and homeless, with no social security or health care.