Valuable knowledge about production of cannabis for medical use27-04-2017
The result of this partnership is detailed knowledge about the potential of various sorts of industrial hemp cultivars for organic cultivation under Danish climate conditions and for production of CBD, as well as the importance of correct harvesting time and post-harvest processing for optimal CBD yield.
Strong experience in extracting plant oils
Søren Jensen is the owner of Nyborggaard. He grows hemp, flax, spring wheat, rye, rape and calendula and the farm is specialised in manufacturing for instance fine cold-pressed oils and stone-grinded flour. Nyborggard started to grow hemp seed and extract hemp seed oil in 2011, and sell the oil to health food stores.
In 2016, Søren Jensen took over Nyborggaard, which was founded by his parents who in 1999 turned it into an organic farm. In 2003, they started producing edible flaxseed oil and rapeseed oil. In 2007, Nyborggaard initiated the production of an oil mixture product with an optimal composition of fatty acids.
The hemp business is a minor business for Nyborggaard, and Søren Jensen started to explore the use of hemp. He established a partnership with Danish Technological Institute to test the best growth conditions for hemp to extract the substances, which would be interesting for medical use. This way Nyborggard became part of the Biofactory Consortium to set up a specific hemp project. Through the project period, the partners have tested the best growth conditions at the fields of Nyborggaard, the optimal harvesting times and the most proper way to dry the top shoots of the hemp with the purpose of finding the best way to extract the optimal CBD content of plant.
Twelve varieties of hemp tested
“We have conducted field trials at Nyborggaard to test 12 different varieties of hemp and different harvesting times to see how well the various sorts perform in terms of growth and CBD production,” says Mai-Britt Brøndum, Plant Technology consultant, Technological Institute. “Also, we have tested different cultivation and processing methods to increase the concentration of CBD in the plant material. “ The role of the Southern Danish University is to analyse the CBD content of the plants.
Hemp plants in green houses
“At the Danish Technological Institute, we have also set up other tests with hemp plants in green houses.” Mai-Britt Brøndum says. “In the green houses, we sprayed the plants with so-called elicitors, which may help boost the concentration of CBD in the hemp plants. Elicitors are chemical, physical or biological stress factors. Experiments have shown that elicitors trigger the production of certain high value compounds in plants, such as CBD. More research into elicitors and their effect on CBD production might be one method to further increase the quality and value of Danish hemp grown for medical use.
High CBD and low THC content
Asked about the perspectives of this collaboration project, Søren Jensen says that the benefit of the testing project is that right now that Nyborggaard gains a huge knowledge about the hemp sorts, they are able to grow and what the optimal manufacturing procedure is. “This is valuable knowledge if and when growing hemp for medical use becomes legal in Denmark,” Søren Jensen says. “We know how to grow, harvest and dry the hemp top shoots and extract cannabis with a high CBD content and a low THC content. It is, however, a challenge that we may grow this hemp but we may not sell it. On the other hand we are ready to start a production if it becomes legal to sell a product for medical use, although we would not be able to supply Denmark as a whole.”
About cannabis for medical use
Cannabis is the extract from the hemp plant and processed parts of the plant (pulverised cannabis, cannabis-oil) and may be used for medical use. Production of Cannabis for medical use is not allowed in Denmark, but is produced in some other countries, where a medical company grow and manufacture the cannabis with a special permission. The production is controlled to make sure which compounds are extracted and in which concentration. A doctor shall prescribe Cannabis for medical use.
Danish doctors may prescribe four different cannabis products for therapeutic use
- Sativex for multiple sclerosis
- Marinol and Nabilone, containing synthetic cannabinoids. Physicians may apply for permission to prescribe medicine which is not approved in Denmark
- Drugs produced at a pharmacy or a hospital as capsules or oils with cannabis compounds
- There is a four year trial (2018-22) giving physicians permission to prescribe other cannabis products for medical use
THC is an active compound, extracted from the hemp plant. THC is classified as a psychedelic substance and covered by the legislation on narcotics. It is illegal to buy or sell THC in Danish shops and web shops. Only pharmacies may sell medicine containing THC and only when prescribed by a doctor.
In Denmark it is not allowed to sell cannabis products with a measurable THC content, while other countries have a limit of 0,2% THC in the products. 0,2% is also the THC limit in the hemp which Danish farms may grow. In other EU countries it is possible to buy dried hemp top shoots, not as a medical product, but ad a food ingredient, which is stated to have a relaxing effect, like for instance chamomile tea.
CBD, cannabidiol, is the most active compound (cannabinoid) in cannabis. It is not in its clean form included in the declaration on psychedelic compounds and it does not have the psychedelic or intoxicating effect, which THC has. CBD has a relaxing effect on the muscles and has a positive influence on rheumatoid pain or sleep disorder and it may influence the symptoms of various neurological diseases.
BioFactory is an innovation consortium, which will examine how plant breeding, biotechnology and new production methods may design plants to get an even higher content of valuable ingredients. It may for instance be natural colour ingredients for food or active ingredients in natural medicine.
The partners of BioFactory are
Danish Technological Institute (project manager)
- Chr. Hansen A/S
- Knud Jepsen A/S
- AdvanSeed ApS
- Gartneriet Kronborg
- Herrens Mark ApS
- The University of Copenhagen – Faculty of Science, Department of Plants and Environmental Sciences
- Southern Danish University, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Environmental Technology
Knowledge dissemination partners
- Technological Institute
- Danish Agriculture and Food Council