Canadian Researchers Studying Hemp Protein to Treat Hypertension

Researchers at the University of Manitoba are investigating the use of hemp protein to prevent and treat high blood pressure, also called hypertension. The study of 35 hypertensive adult volunteers will also assess the effects of hemp protein on other physical attributes, including weight, cholesterol, body mass, hormones, and insulin production.

“Hypertension is a multifactor disease,” says Dr. Rotimi Aluko, the lead scientist for the clinical trial. “To get a full picture of the treatment, we need to know how the participants respond,” says Dr. Aluko, a professor in the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba. “The why is sometimes more important than the results,” he says. The clinical trial follows previous studies at the University where hemp protein was found to be beneficial to hypertensive rats.

The World Health Organization calls hypertension a global health crisis, responsible for 45-51% of global deaths, annually. Worldwide, over 1.3 billion people are hypertensive. Untreated, hypertension can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and sexual dysfunction, among other conditions.

“Drugs can have side effects, if we can demonstrate that this protein works to reduce hypertension, then people could take a natural protein instead.”

Dr. Rotimi Aluko

Recently, studies have shown that high blood pressure between the ages of 45 and 65 could lead to a higher risk of dementia later in life. In 2011, the United States spent US$46 billion on medicines, services, and missed days of work due to high blood pressure. Blood pressure is considered normal when the systolic (top number) is 120 and the diastolic (bottom number) is 80.

In the 22-week hemp protein study, the 35 adult volunteers with high blood pressure will be divided into three groups. All groups will have three 42-day periods during which the only food they consume is a fruit smoothie with protein powder taken twice a day. Each group, however, will have a different form of protein powder in their shakes: hemp, hemp plus peptides, or casein, which comes from milk. Participants will not know what form of protein they are consuming.

Dr. Aluko says that a smoothie was chosen for two reasons: it’s not hard to drink, and people can’t tell what kind of protein is in it. “A smoothie is easier for volunteers to consume, and you need to make sure participants are blind to the study,” says Dr. Aluko.

If the clinical trial shows that hemp protein can be used to lower blood pressure, Dr. Aluko says that one day hypertensive patients could take hemp protein instead of the commonly prescribed medicines. “Drugs can have side effects,” he says, “if we can demonstrate that this protein works to reduce hypertension, then people could take a natural protein instead.” Common side effects of high blood pressure medicines include diarrhea or constipation, cough, headache, skin rash and erectile dysfunction, among others.

The hemp protein powder for the clinical trial is being supplied by Manitoba Harvest, a cosponsor of the study. The protein powder is commercially available in the USA and Canada as Hemp Yeah! Max Protein. Manitoba Harvest has provided materials for three studies at the University of Manitoba. A 2017 experiment compared the effects of hemp consumption in the form of hemp protein or hemp snacks vs non-hemp controls. The goal of the experiment was to see how hemp products vs non-hemp controls impacted blood glucose, insulin, appetite, and food intake in adults.

The hemp protein for hypertension clinical trial is a recipient of Grant-in-Aid from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. According to a Foundation spokesperson, the grant was awarded to the study because “experts in the field judged it meritorious amongst the hundreds of applications against our rigorous standards of scientific excellence and relevance.”

If the clinical trial shows that hemp can help reduce blood pressure, then other treatment areas will be examined. “Following this trial, if we see a positive effect, then kidney disease will be next,” says Dr. Aluko. A 2011 experiment, also conducted at the University of Manitoba, showed that hemp protein had positive effects on rats with kidney disease, including normalizing heart size.

Although the hemp protein for hypertension clinical trial has generated a good response, Dr. Aluko says getting 35 people to sign up might take 6 months. Volunteers must live within a 45-minute drive from the research center in Winnipeg.

Dr. Aluko anticipates completing the study in 2019. The results should be published by the end of 2020.

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In Congress, a Changed House Finally Looks at Cannabis Banking

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bank officials and others urged Congress on Wednesday to fully open the doors of the U.S. banking system to the legal marijuana industry, a change that supporters say would reduce crime risks and resolve a litany of challenges for cannabis companies, from paying taxes to getting a loan.

The number of banks and credit unions willing to handle cannabis money is growing, but they still represent only a tiny fraction of the industry.

Most Americans live in states where marijuana is legally available in some form. But there’s a problem when it comes to banks: Most don’t want anything to do with money from the cannabis industry for fear it could expose them to legal trouble from the federal government, which still considers marijuana illegal.

That conflict has left many growers and sellers in the burgeoning cannabis industry in a legal dilemma, shutting them out of everyday financial services like opening a bank account or obtaining a credit card. It also has forced many businesses to operate only in cash — sometimes vast amounts — making them ripe targets for crime.

Banking, government and industry representatives at a House committee hearing urged lawmakers to pass a proposal that would allow cannabis businesses to access loans, lines of credit and other banking services, while sheltering financial institutions from prosecution for handling pot money.

California Treasurer Fiona Ma, whose state is home to the nation’s largest legal cannabis market, called the measure a critical step for the rapidly expanding industry.

Gregory S. Deckard, who spoke on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said the cloud of legal uncertainty was inhibiting access to banks while creating safety hazards for businesses.

The proposal, he said, “would offer the needed clarity” for more financial institutions to welcome the marijuana industry as customers.

But others had concerns.

Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri said the proposal would create confusion while marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. He questioned how banks would identify criminal operators and pointed to how Congress handled hemp, the low-THC cousin of the cannabis plant, which was removed from the list of federally controlled substances.

With the banking legislation, “we are putting the cart before the horse,” he said.

Legalization advocates have reason to celebrate that the hearing simply took place before the Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee. The proposal, or similar versions, have languished in the past.

“Lawmakers are not being asked to weigh in on whether marijuana should be legal or not. They are simply looking at whether banking services should be available to these businesses in states where it is already legal,” said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group.

The number of banks and credit unions willing to handle cannabis money is growing, but they still represent only a tiny fraction of the industry.

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Hemp Wick 101: Is It a Better Way to Burn?

While it might look like the stuff you made hippie necklaces out of in high school, hemp wick is definitely for smoking.

Marketed as a natural alternative to lighters and matches, this weed accessory has been popping up in head shops and cannabis stores all over Canada. But is it a better way to burn?

What is Hemp Wick?

Hemp wick is essentially a length of hemp twine that’s been coated in beeswax. Think of it as a slow-burning candlewick, especially for use with pipes and bongs.

hemp wick
Photos by Jesse Milns for Leafly

Simply light it up with a match or lighter, use it to spark your bowl as needed, then blow or shake it out when done. Be careful, of course, not to burn yourself. Because it’s a little bit sticky, you can even keep it wrapped and ready around your lighter or bowl.

Explore More Smoking Accessories

Why Use It?

The theory is inhaling hot butane from a lighter or the admixture of combustible chemicals, glue and wood from a match is worse for your body than a flame atop all-natural, wax-coated hemp twine. Hemp is cannabis, after all–it’s the same plant you’re already smoking (although, as you know, there’s really nothing in it that’s going to get you high).

Hemp wick also burns at a lower temperature than a lighter, meaning that hits are smoother and there’s more potential to appreciate terpenes. Added bonus: with hemp wick, very little ends up having to go to landfill.

How Is Hemp Wick Sold?

hemp wick
Photos by Jesse Milns for Leafly

You can buy a tiny bundle for just a dollar or two to rolls of up to 420 feet (no joke) or more. It can come in different diameters too-the thicker the twine, the slower and larger the flame-though it’s mostly sold at 1.0 millimetres. If your local head shop or cannabis store doesn’t have it, it’s very easy to find online–even the Ontario Cannabis Store carries it. Various hemp wick dispensers are also available.

The Verdict?

Hemp wick is not for the clumsy. If hand-eye coordination is an issue, you might redefine ‘burning one down,’ right? But if you’re kicking back to savour a bowl, its steady flame and mild beeswax aroma make it a very pleasant alternative to fumbling with matches or lighters. Some purists, though, might still prefer the ash-less and comparatively tasteless experience that comes with burning butane.

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The Cannabis Cloning Equipment Buyer’s Guide

Growing cannabis can seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before, especially figuring out how to get started. A cannabis plant is a lot more delicate in its infancy and it’ll need more care and attention than adult plants.

Growing from a clone can be a lot easier than growing from seed because you skip the process of germination every time you start a new crop, saving you time and labor. Modern technology has also made growing clones easier than ever.

To clone, simply take a cutting off a plant, put it in a rooting medium or cloning machine, and give it nutrients or a rooting solution. It’ll root out and be ready for potting in 10-14 days and you’ll have a solid start to your cannabis plant.

A clone is an exact genetic copy of its mother, so there’s no need to worry about it having less potency or different effects than those of the original.

Below are some different cloning methods and products that we recommend, in a range of prices so you can get the one that fits your needs.

Base Level Cloning Equipment

These options are great for someone getting into growing and not sure if they want to invest in a more expensive product. Anyone can get started and use these simple methods with ease.

Root Cubes and Trays (~$40)

The tried-and-true and most basic method of cloning, starting your clones in root cubes is something that every grower has done in their lifetime. To get started, you’ll need:

  • Set of 1 1/2 x1 1/2 inch rooting cubes (~$15)
  • Tray to catch water (~$2)
  • Tray-cell insert to put your rooting clones in (~$2)
  • Humidity dome (~$5)
  • Rooting hormone (~$5)
  • Heat pad (~$10)

There are multiple types of rooting cubes made from different material, each with its own benefit:

  • Rockwool: Made by melting rock and spinning it into fine threads, this common material is sterile and very porous. Make sure it has good drainage because it sucks up water easily.
  • Peat: These hold onto moisture and are organic and biodegradable, but they can have difficulty maintaining their structure.
  • Foam: These cubes don’t get as waterlogged as rockwool and have no effect on pH levels.

Before cloning machines became more affordable this method of cloning was the go-to for growers, but now it’s less desirable because it can be a hassle to use all the pieces and machines are much easier and have a higher success rate.

With these supplies, you can successfully clone cannabis and also propagate from seed, making this a desirable option for anyone wanting to do explore both methods.

Clone Bucket 8 (~$50)

This is the most affordable aeroponic system in our buyer’s guide. Aeroponics is the practice of growing plants with their roots suspended in air, while they receive a continual misting from sprays and nozzles in the cloning machine (see graphic of this system below). This gives roots high levels of oxygen, helping clones grow rapidly.

With a very simple design, the Clone Bucket offers a misting system for 8 clones for just under $50. The 2-gallon bucket is small in size and will give you similar results to more expensive aeroponic cloners.

Its spray nozzle is attached to a 171 gallon per hour (gph) pump which is more than enough to keep your clones happy. The plus side is that it has few moving parts, but if the nozzle ever clogs, your clones will be in trouble.

This functional and affordable machine is great for anyone looking to experiment with cloning. You can also make your own version of this with a 5-gallon bucket or something similar if you want to cut costs even further.

Midrange Options

(Leafly)

These cloners are great if you will be cloning routinely and want a product that doesn’t require much attention so you can focus on other aspects of your garden.

HydroFarm OxyClone 20 ($70)

Instead of misting clone stems with spray nozzles, HydroFarm’s OxyClone submerges stems completely under water. This allows the roots to receive both oxygen and H2O to ensure that clones stay healthy while developing roots. This different design is great because it has few moving parts and no spray nozzles, which are known to clog up.

This model is made for 20 clones, but OxyClone also offers versions with 40 and 80 clone sites for growers with bigger gardens.

Clone King 25 ($70)

A reputable midrange option, the Clone King is an aeroponic cloner with 13 spray nozzles and a powerful 317 gph submersible pump. With so many nozzles and a strong pump, you can be sure that every developing root gets a healthy dose of fresh H2O, promoting strong, healthy, and rapid growth. If one of the nozzles clogs, your clones will still make it because there are many backups. Other models have 36 and 64 clone sites.

High-End Cloning

The cloners here are the top-of-the-line with all the bells and whistles. Some might argue that cloning doesn’t have to be this complicated, but the products below will step up your growing game.

TurboKlone 24 ($145)

(Click to enlarge. Courtesy of TurboKlone)

The TurboKlone is our top choice for high-end cloners. The design is similar to the Clone King but it also has a cooling fan to help maintain a consistent temperature in the rooting chamber. This helps keep the water cool, making it easier for clones to receive oxygen, which means faster rooting and healthier clones.

It’s important to note that in order for this cooling process to work, the ambient air temperature must be cooler than the temperature of the water. The TurboKlone is also available in models with 28, 96, and 144 clone sites, covering both small- and large-scale growers.

Tissue Culture Microclone Kit ($250)

The most expensive and most complicated form of cloning, tissue culturing is an emerging method for cloning cannabis. This process involves taking a tissue sample from a mother plant and sterilizing it, then giving it the right hormones, nutrients, and light.

The culture can be preserved indefinitely and to start growing it, the grower can just give it a different set of nutrients to encourage root development.

There are numerous benefits to this cloning method. Tissue cultures are completely sterile, meaning you don’t have to worry about pests or diseases being transferred into your grow room. These cultures can also be stored for long periods of time, given they have the right environment, and they save space because you don’t need to keep a mother plant around.

Tissue culturing is an advanced technique and should be explored by growers looking to preserve the genetics of a specific strain rather than just grow a few quick clones.

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Why CBD Works Better With a Little THC (Even If You Don’t Want to Get High)

Way back in 2014, I wrote an article called Desperately Seeking CBD that profiled several families who either broke the law or moved clear across the country to access cannabidiol (CBD)–a non-intoxicating compound found in the cannabis plant that’s proven effective in treating pediatric seizure disorders that don’t respond to more conventional therapies. At the time, the father of a two-year old epilepsy patient explained that they’d uprooted their entire existence and moved to Colorado just to try the treatment.

The best available science makes clear that whole-plant cannabis preparations are quantifiably superior to single compounds.

Five years later, you can buy CBD ice cream in Texas. Cannabidiol is officially “trendy.” Capsules, tinctures, ointments and oils containing the compound can be readily purchased online (as well as at gas stations and hair salons nationwide), and the legalization of hemp farming this December via the most recent US Farm Bill means that this rapidly growing market segment will likely expand exponentially over the next five years.

All good news, even if the recent media focus on shiny objects like CBD-infused cocktails has threatened to crowd out significant research showing cannabidiol has tremendous promise in treating cancer, diabetes, head trauma, chronic pain, neurodegenerative disease, depression, anxiety, and addiction.

But unfortunately, along the way, there’s been a lot of shady operators selling CBD in a largely unregulated grey market, and as a result a ton of misinformation has attached itself to this potentially life-saving cannabinoid.

In fact, Project CBD–a non-profit dedicated to boosting science-based understanding of cannabidiol–has compiled an extensive list of pervasive misconceptions. One of which is “CBD is medical, THC is recreational.”

On the contrary, even small doses of THC combined with CBD can improve the efficacy of your cannabis medicine.

THC Is TLC for Your CBD

Originally, cannabis contained far less THC than it typically does now, and a lot more CBD. But over time, breeders have created ever more potent strains, as that’s what fetches the best price in the underground market. These breeders certainly understood that selecting for greater potency meant maximizing THC output, but just ten years ago few had even heard of CBD, never mind realized it was steadily getting bred out of existence.

Project CBD was founded in 2009, a time when CBD had almost entirely vanished from the cannabis gene pool. The organization’s founders recognized that while there’s long been evidence of CBD’s medical efficacy, unlike THC, it wasn’t reaching actual medical cannabis patients in appreciable amounts. So they worked directly with cannabis labs in California (then a new phenomenon) to identify the few remaining CBD-rich strains in circulation and make them available to growers, researchers and patients.

Which means you can put them down as big fans of CBD. Just don’t put down THC while you’re doing it.

Project CBD receives many inquiries from around the world and oftentimes people say they are seeking “CBD, the medical part” of the plant, “not THC, the recreational part” that gets you high. Actually, THC, “The High Causer,” has awesome therapeutic properties… [but] diehard marijuana prohibitionists are exploiting the good news about CBD to further stigmatize high-THC cannabis, casting tetrahydrocannabinol as the bad cannabinoid, whereas CBD is framed as the good cannabinoid. Why? Because CBD doesn’t make you feel high like THC does.

Project CBD categorically rejects this moralistic, reefer madness dichotomy in favor of whole plant cannabis therapeutics.

The best available science makes clear that whole-plant cannabis preparations are quantifiably superior to single compounds because the plant’s complex mix of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids interact synergistically to create an “entourage effect” that enhances each other’s therapeutic effects.

  • A study conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that combining THC and CBD produces more potent anti-tumor effects when tested on brain cancer and breast cancer cell lines than either compound alone.
  • A 2010 study found that patients with intractable cancer-related pain tolerated medicines that combined THC and CBD notably better than a pure THC extract.
  • A 2012 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that CBD “inhibits THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment”

Finding the Sweet Spot

Products with a balance of THC and CBD are becoming more commonplace in cannabis shops as consumers realize the value of cannabinoid synergy. (Elise McDonough for Leafly)

Lots of people (like yours truly) enjoy the psychoactivity of cannabis and find it mood elevating and healing in and of itself, but rest assured that you don’t need to get high AF to reap the benefits of THC.

However, finding your optimal dose will involve some trial and error.

According to Project CBD:

The successful use of cannabis as a medicine depends to a great extent on managing its psychoactive properties. The goal is to administer consistent, measurable doses of a CBD-rich cannabis remedy with as much THC as a person is comfortable with… Preclinical science lends credence to the notion that a small amount of THC can confer health benefits. Oral administration of a low dose of THC (1 mg/day) resulted in “significant inhibition of disease progression” in an animal model of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), according to a 2005 report in Nature, which noted: “This effective dose is lower than the dose usually associated with psychotropic effects of THC.

In a feature called We Asked a Scientist: What’s the Right Dose of CBD?, Nick Jikomes, Leafly’s in-house neuroscientist, explored the complicated process involved in optimizing the benefits of cannabis without going one toke over the line, including managing the complex interplay between THC and CBD.

CBD is essentially getting in the way of THC’s ability to bind the CB1 receptor, which is why the presence of CBD has a significant impact on the psychoactivity of THC-containing products, [and] why the ratio of the two compounds is important for anticipating the effects of cannabis products… While THC and CBD have different pharmacological properties, they can both have similar physiological effects, probably acting through different mechanisms. For instance, both compounds can have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects; they may act through different mechanisms, so having THC and CBD could potentially enhance an outcome surrounding pain relief.

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a legally operating cannabis dispensary, you should have no problem finding flowers, concentrates, topicals, and edibles with a wide range of THC-to-CBD ratios. But patients and consumers still sourcing their cannabis from the underground market will encounter more difficulty.

Browse Menus Near You For CBD/THC Products

One suggestion is to try combining whatever form of CBD you can access locally with the best whole-plant cannabis you can lay your hands on. Perhaps this means swallowing a CBD capsule and then taking a few puffs off a joint an hour later.

As always with cannabis, start with small doses and work you way up until you find the sweet spot.

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The Home Hashmaking Buyer’s Guide

With all the effort that goes into growing your own beautiful cannabis, it’s a shame to think that you might be throwing away your leftover plant material instead of making delicious hash.

While many of the extracts you purchase in stores are created using solvents and industrial grade products, a lot of high-quality hash on the market is made using age-old solventless techniques that anyone can do at home.

The concept behind creating hash has been around for centuries and simply involves separating trichomes from cannabis plant material. The process has become exceedingly complex over the last decade but there are numerous low-cost ways to create your own.

Here are some simple solventless methods and products to get you started on making your own terpene-rich hash.

Rosin Pressing

(Leafly)

Technology for rosin pressing has taken off in the last few years in a response to the growing concern for impurities and risks associated with solvent-based extraction methods like butane hash oil (BHO) or propane hash oil (PHO).

Instead of using flammable solvents to chemically separate trichomes from plant material, a rosin press utilizes heat and pressure to extract valuable resin from cannabis plant material or kief.

A primitive form of rosin pressing first came about when cannabis aficionados would use hair straighteners to apply heat and pressure to their favorite nugs to create a terpene-rich hash oil. Today, numerous companies use technology to create presses that allow consumers to customize temperature, pressure, and duration to get an ideal rosin product.

It’s common for people to use flower instead of trim when making rosin because it’s more difficult and time-consuming to extract quality results from trim.

If you are going to use trim, the workaround is to first make low-quality hash through the dry-sift method (discussed below) and then press that into high-quality rosin. Low-quality hash is high in impurities while high-quality rosin is low in impurities.

There are a few downsides to rosin pressing. It takes a lot of product to produce oil and consumers might not find the return worth the investment. Also presses can be expensive, but after the initial investment, you can have fresh rosin whenever you want.

Here are a couple presses that we recommend:

The Nug Smasher ($796)

For the cannabis enthusiast, this tried-and-true press can apply 12 tons of pressure to your flower. Built with steel, the Nug Smasher has two 4″ x 4″ heated plates that can handle up to 14 grams of flower in one press, making it ideal for homegrowers who are processing a lot of product.

This manual press heats quickly and provides consistent results time after time and has a lifetime warranty.

My Rosin Press (Gen 2) ($449)

One of the simpler and more affordable options out there, My Rosin Press is about the size of a coffee maker and only weighs 13 pounds, making it easy to transport if you want to take it to a friend’s house.

It has two 3″ x 3″ heated stainless steel plates that are operated with a manual lever, and it applies up to 6 tons of force on up to 1.5 grams of material. This press has a low input and is best for people looking to create small quantities of rosin with quality buds.

Ice Water Extraction

Using cold water, ice, and agitation, you can create a quality hash at a very low cost. Cold temperatures combined with agitation snap trichomes off of cannabis plant material, which then sink to the bottom of your container because they weigh more than water.

Because of the simplicity of the method, you’ll get a quality solventless hash with just a few screen bags, a bucket, and ice water.

The quality of the product produced with this method depends on the quality of the material used. When done properly, you can create full melt bubble hash, one of the cleanest and tastiest hashes out there.

It’s called “full melt” because it’ll turn to liquid when heated and won’t leave residue in your dab rig because of its low amount of impurities.

(Leafly)

Best of all, supplies needed to make this kind of hash are basic, affordable, and easy to get. The downside to this method is having to handle cold temperatures. After a fall harvest, you won’t want to stand around and produce tons of this hash with ice water in the dead of winter.

Ice water extraction products can range a lot in price., but here are some good ones to start with:

5-Gallon Bubble Bags ($30)

Bubble bags allow you to separate trichomes from plant material by pouring the ice water mixture through a series of bags with finer and finer meshes. These simple pieces of equipment used to be quite expensive but are now readily available for as little as $30. Most kits come with at least four bags with different meshes, which is plenty sufficient.

Bubble Magic 5-Gallon Extraction Washing Machine ($133)

Based off of compact washing machines, you can put bubble bags into this machine and let it do the stirring and agitation for you. No more ice cold hands stuck stirring your product, which will save a lot of time if you are trying to get through a large amount of product quickly.

Dry Sift Hash

(Leafly)

This type of hash is produced when trichome heads are broken off and fall through screens as cannabis is sifted or handled. Considered to be lower in quality, dry sift or kief has a lot of contaminants, or more plant material.

Producing a high-end dry sift requires patience, knowledge, and skill in order to successfully isolate the trichomes and get a pure product.

The final product can be used as a powder that can be sprinkled onto joints or bowls or it can be pressed to form a brick of hash that is easier to handle.

Here are some products to help sift and collect your kief:

Dry Sift Screens ($150-210)

You can work your raw material–either flower or trim–into these framed screens to produce kief. Most kits come with a 149-micron screen and an additional, thinner 75-micron.

Start with the bigger mesh and then work down to the smaller mesh. You can get good quality with two screens, but if you want to go for top-shelf results, use an additional finer-meshed third screen of 45 microns to sift out even more impurities.

Trim Bin ($52)

A trim bin is excellent for catching trichomes while you trim cannabis. The tray has a 150-micron screen that will do a fine job of dry sifting for the first step, but you’ll want to process the collected kief through another screen or two with finer meshes for a higher-quality product.

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Cannabis Consumers Have Higher Sperm Counts, Harvard Study Finds

New research conducted at Harvard could disprove another major myth about cannabis fans.

A study published on Wednesday in the Human Reproduction medical journal found that male cannabis smokers might actually carry higher sperm counts and concentrations when compared to men who have never used the botanical drug.

“Those who had never used marijuana had 28 percent less potent semen.”

“Our findings were contrary to what we hypothesized at the start of the study,” study lead author Feiby Nassan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Researchers analyzed health surveys and semen samples from more than 650 men who were part of couples seeking treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center between 2000 and 2017. The majority of the men participating had normal sperm counts, suggesting that other conception issues may have been the issue.

A survey found that 55 percent of men reported ever smoking marijuana in their lifetimes, and 11 percent said that they currently smoked marijuana.

Experts found that men who reported to have smoked marijuana had an average sperm concentration of 63 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Those who had never used marijuana were 28 percent less potent (48 million sperm/milliliter).

However, researchers also observed that people who stopped smoking tended to have slightly higher sperm counts than current pot smokers.

“We spent a good two months redoing everything, making sure that there wasn’t any error in the data,” said co-author Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We were very, very surprised about this.”

Testosterone Might Be The Link

One possible explanation could be that men who generally produce higher testosterone levels are more likely to use marijuana, rather than the implication that cannabis use itself affects sperm potency.

“It is well-documented that within normal ranges, high testosterone levels are associated with greater engagement in risk-seeking behaviors, including drug use,” Chavarro said. “Higher testosterone levels are also related to slightly higher semen quality and sperm counts.”

Despite the surprising results, experts say that much more research must be conducted before reaching a definitive conclusion.

“We could have found what we thought we were going to find, and maybe wouldn’t have been as surprised and would have ended up writing a very different paper,” said Chavarro. “But the fact that we showed the exact opposite forced us to look very, very deeply into the marijuana health effects literature. There is not that much. We are operating mostly on assumptions and good intentions and hunches.”

In 2017, Stanford University researchers found a similar surprise — cannabis users had significantly more sexual intercourse than non-users. Male daily cannabis consumers had 1.3 times more sex per month (6.9 sex instances) than never-users (5.6 instances) as well as very infrequent users of cannabis (5.5 instances). Female daily cannabis consumers had sex about one more time per month (7.1 occurrences) than never-users (6.0 occurrences) as well as very infrequent users of cannabis (6.0 times).

Do you think cannabis has hurt or helped your ability to conceive? Let the Leafly community know in the comments below!

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