As Senior Product Manager at Manitoba Harvest, Jeff Casper uses his background in food science, biochemistry and culinary arts to help us innovate and design the world’s most delicious and nutritious hemp foods. We sat down with Jeff to mine some of his expertise on CBD, hemp foods and hemp’s power for transforming lives.
Q: What does a food scientist do at Manitoba Harvest?
A: I look at the formulation of the ingredients going into the products as well as the finished products themselves. On the food science side, on a physical level I ask how do all the chemical ingredients work together. From a science perspective, food is chemistry, just as people are chemistry. For example, hemp hearts have active enzymes. We look to develop something that not only tastes good but has functional benefits as well. Our products should meet technical objectives in quality or content of protein, or have certain phytonutrients, as in the case of CBD. We make sure they’ll be stable, and that every product truly has what we say is in it.
Q: Can we start with the basics here on CBD? Can you describe what it is?
CBD (short for cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are a class of phytochemicals — which are compounds produced by a plant. Cannabinoids in the hemp plant, including CBD, work within our bodies to help support balance and wellbeing.
Q: How do they do that?
A: We all have receptors throughout our bodies that interact with CBD and other cannabinoids, and that help maintain certain aspects of our health and biological stability. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which evolved over time because we as a species have interacted with the environment for hundreds of thousands of years, evolving alongside plants like hemp that we used as food and medicine. So the ECS is meant to interact with these kinds of compounds.
CBD is important, but there are many other minor cannabinoids present in the hemp plant. CBD is one of the most prominent and abundant cannabinoids in hemp, and it’s the one we know the most about, largely because of the benefits it provides to many people. But there’s much more to learn about the benefits of the other cannabinoids in hemp as well, such as cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromine (CBC) — and how all these compounds work together in what’s known as the “entourage effect.”
Q: Your average person who is interested in hemp and CBD is being bombarded with a lot of information from many different sources. What’s your advice on finding trustworthy information?
A: There are a few trusted sources of information out there, particularly peer-reviewed scientific sources. That’s information coming from people doing legitimate research, not hearsay comments and statements based on projection and speculation. The most solid information is coming out of analytical testing and peer-reviewed research. With the internet, there’s a lot of stuff out there, and the half-truths are often the most problematic.
One of the things that I watch out for is when people or companies are obviously touting things that haven’t been proven yet, such as saying their product is able to cure or treat a disease in a very specific manner. Some are marketing to legitimate needs that people have, but in such a manner that it basically says it will cure and treat everything that might be a problem for people. That’s a red flag in terms of credibility, because the science hasn’t reached the point where we should be making claims like that. What’s important to know, though, is that for many people CBD promotes a feeling of overall balance and wellbeing. And I’m one of them.
Q: We want to get back to that, but first, a lot of people are having a hard time knowing what CBD products to try because they aren’t sure they can trust the ingredients on the label. What’s your advice for them?
A: Look for a company that has a strict and intense quality program. That’s really critical — knowing the supply chain, where it is produced and how it’s brought to market. A lot of people are making products with no experience in GMP (good manufacturing processes), making products in unsanitary conditions not appropriate for food manufacturing, let alone pharmaceuticals. Some of these companies may not know if the heavy metals present in their hemp crop are being removed or concentrated. Is the crop properly stored so it isn’t developing mycotoxins? How strict is the testing they’re implementing for the finished product? How do you know you’re getting what’s on the label?
Trust is a huge issue for CBD consumers. It’s a critical consideration for anyone looking to buy these types of products.
Q: Is that the idea behind the QR code on Manitoba Harvest Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract product labels?
A: Exactly. It points to that product’s COA, or a Certificate of Analysis. It links up the contents of each specific bottle to the batch of Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract it came from. Each batch is inspected and analyzed by a third-party lab to ensure our consumers are getting exactly what they think they’re getting. The QR code on each product links directly to that product’s third-party batch test lab results.
Q: Why does the carrier oil matter when choosing a CBD product?
A: Carrier oil matters because CBD can oxidize. When you put it into hemp seed oil, olive oil or other oils with polyunsaturated fats, the environment in that oil can degrade the cannabinoids and their efficacy can go down over time as the oil is exposed to oxygen. MCT oil is highly stable; it protects the potency of CBD and other cannabinoids.
Our CBD oil drops and sprays are both based in organic MCT oil. It has a low viscosity, a neutral taste, lower caloric content, and good bioavailability for CBD. MCT has health benefits of its own as well — it’s been shown to support healthy body fat levels, increase energy and provide a mental boost.
Q: Manitoba Harvest offers several different ways to consume Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract with CBD — drops, sprays, softgels and plant-blend protein powder. What are your thoughts on the best delivery system?
A: Look at what works with your daily routine. Some people on the go prefer the softgel because it’s easier to travel with something that’s not a liquid. For a quicker rate of absorption, others might prefer the drops over a softgel. Others have preferences around taking something in the morning versus at nighttime. You might start the day by adding some unflavored CBD oil drops to your coffee, and then take a softgel before bed. Or if you make a smoothie after your daily workout, the protein powder with CBD might be the perfect way to kill a few birds with one stone.
Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract isn’t like an aspirin — you don’t just pop it when you have a headache. It’s more of a routine from a holistic health standpoint, so it’s about what’s going to allow you to be consistent. It really is a personal experience. People need to experiment with what works with their lifestyle and sensory preferences.
Q: You talk a lot about CBD as one component of what makes hemp beneficial to people, but not the only one. What else makes hemp so good for us?
A: Hemp is a superfood that many people have not yet tried. It has a nutritional profile that represents what everybody needs to be eating more of right now: less refined carbohydrates and more healthy dietary fats and plant-based protein. It has phytonutrients that are essential for life. The phytochemicals from hemp can help elevate the quality of life when incorporated into the diet, and CBD is one of those. I’ve seen that in my own family.
Q: That was our next question! You mentioned CBD and Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract bringing you personal benefits. Would you mind telling us more?
A: Well, I did my share of personally testing Manitoba Harvest Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract while developing our product line. I have scars from an old injury that can get very sensitive and painful in the winter cold. After using CBD, I noticed my scar sensitivity and pain was significantly reduced, which helped me with my overall wellness. So I see a lot of promise in it from personal experience, and the science I see emerging suggests that there is something to this. This is a plant that has been prohibited from being part of people’s lives for so long, and it’s now making a comeback to where it was hundreds or even thousands of years ago as part of people’s lives and diets. There’s lots of potential to help transform people’s lives for the better, and I’m truly excited to be part of this journey.