If you’ve been surfing around for information about CBD and other hemp products, one word you may have run across is “bioaccumulation.”
Some outlets may cast it as a positive quality of hemp, and some as a negative. But what exactly is it, and why does it matter?
We’re here to help define bioaccumulation and why it matters when talking about hemp.
What is bioaccumulation?
I hate to break this to you if you don’t know already, but every day your body takes in numerous toxins.
No matter how clean your lifestyle is, the constant swirling of particles everywhere means that your food, the air, and whatever else you come in contact with contains some small amount of poison, whether microbial, animal, vegetable or mineral.
But before you turn into a worrywart, don’t worry; our bodies were made for this.
The good news is that your body is designed to handle this.
Depending on what it is, a toxin may be sweated out, excreted out, converted by your liver, or digested by your white blood cells or friendly bacteria living in your body. Some toxins just have a short shelf life and break down on their own.
All living things have mechanisms like this to get rid of toxins.
However, if an organism is taking in more of a long-lasting foreign substance than it can get rid of, it “bioaccumulates.” Therefore, a higher concentration builds up within the body than in the air and water surrounding it.
While in theory, this can apply to any kind of substance, scientists mostly use the term these days when they’re talking about pollution.
If enough pollutants end up in the air, water, and soil, they can bioaccumulate in the plants and animals living in and consuming them.
Hemp as a Bioaccumulator
Bioaccumulation isn’t always a bad thing, though. In recent years, the bioaccumulating powers of plants have helped to fight the seemingly endless battle of pollution.
Plants – like us – have evolved to live in a world with toxins in it, and some can survive after absorbing quite a lot of contagions.
Plants are able to break down some of the consumed toxins, while other toxins remain present in their structures and don’t cause any adverse effects. Plants with these bioaccumulating superpowers include sunflowers, mustard, amaranth, and willow trees.
People sometimes sow these tough plants deliberately in polluted soil to draw out the heavy metals, pesticides, spilled oil, etc., then harvest them and take the pollutants away with the herbage.
Lately, scientists have even been identifying the genes in the plants responsible for their tolerance so that they can breed even stronger varieties.
Hemp is among the plants used for this process, technically called phytoremediation.
It was one of several bioaccumulating plants sown in the 1990s near the site of the Chernobyl disaster after the soil proved to be still heavily contaminated years after the 1986 explosion
More recently, Italian farmers have been using hemp to decontaminate fields rendered toxic by a nearby giant steel plant.
Such projects will likely ramp up as hemp's legal status improves and, along with it, knowledge of its properties.
A few years ago, researchers identified the genes in hemp behind its bioaccumulative properties, followed shortly by ventures in developing special breeds of hemp specifically for the purpose of removing harmful toxins from growing conditions.
Because hemp collects and stores the toxins, the variety of the plant that’s used for phytoremediation is not suitable for edible products like CBD. Instead, the fibers come in handy to make other products like hemp rope, plastics, and hempcrete.
Are hemp products safe?
Because the hemp industry is experiencing a newfound sense of legal freedom (thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill), it is important to know exactly where it came from. It can be hard to tell where some CBD products came from since sellers aren’t always as transparent as they should be.
However, there are several signs to look for when researching hemp origin:
1. US organically-grown hemp
The novelty of the legal hemp industry in America means that a lot of imported hemp is from countries with different safety standards than ours.
However, one sign to look for is if the hemp is US organically grown by regulation.
This certification means that farmers have met specific measures of soil quality and use no artificial pesticides, or genetically modified crops.
2. Third-party tested
Another positive sign is if the seller does third-party lab testing of their CBD oil, and makes the results readily available.
Doing so not only detects heavy metals, pesticides, and pathogens but ensures that your CBD oil really is full of CBD and not THC or any other unwarranted additives.
A major sign of proper hemp cultivation and process, is CBD products that are THC-free.
This means that, in order to be considered legal hemp, the plant must contain less than 0.3% of the high-inducing cannabinoid known as THC.
All legal hemp-derived products (such as CBD oil) will come from hemp plants that are grown with minimal THC to ensure there is non associated “high.”
As long as you do a little homework prior to purchasing, you can easily discover which tools will best help you decide where to buy CBD oil.
And as growers and researchers continue working with hemp, they’ll continue to develop specialized breeds for different purposes to develop a truly versatile plant.
Ultimately, all this gives farmers all the more reason to grow more hemp for the benefit of everyone.
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