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The Farm Bill that passed through the US Congress took industrial hemp (a cannabis cousin which contains very low amounts of the psychoactive ingredient THC) off the list of Schedule One drugs and opened up its production to entrepreneurs across a range of areas. Industrial hemp can produce fiber, fuel, grain, food oils and protein, and the cannabinoids (CBDs) it contains are being tested for medicinal uses.
Cornell University has been researching various aspects of hemp including how attractive its pollen is to honeybees (answer: very) and which pathogens attack it (answer: depends on the growing region, but be careful planting it in rotation with beans.) It is also researching medicinal uses.
Dr. Joe Wakshlag of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine tested CBD oil to see if it could help dogs who are experiencing pain from osteoarthritis. His results were published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science in July of 2018.
This was a double-blind placebo trial with dogs suffering from osteoarthritis and multi-joint pain. In a double-blind test, the veterinarian/owner does not know which patient is receiving the placebo and which is receiving the drug. That way they can record results without the bias of knowing which patients “should” be improving.
Sixteen dogs received CBD oil made from industrial hemp or placebo oil every twelve hours for four weeks. The animals themselves of course could not report their pain levels, so veterinary assessment and owner questionnaires were completed before the treatment and at weeks two and four weeks measuring the animals’ mobility and activity as an indicator of pain level. Blood tests were also performed at each visit.
The results were significant, according to the researchers with over 80% of the dogs taking the CBD oil showing “significant improvement in pain levels and quality of life” without discernible side-effects.
ElleVet Sciences, a company in Portland Maine that makes hemp makes hemp-based pet chews and oils for pets with arthritis and muscular issues funded the study. The anecdotal evidence that cannabinoids and hemp could relieve pain was compelling, but “largely unscientific,” said the company, so it sponsored the clinical trial.
One important note for pet owners who are considering hemp-based products for their animals is the difference between products. Even though all may accurately use the word “hemp” on the label, industrial hemp plants can contain different types and levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, so each product needs to be scientifically tested itself. The cannabinoids alone are a group of as many as 60 different compounds.
Dr. Larry Smart of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences says the university hopes to expand its work by creating a long-term industrial hemp breeding program for research purposes.