Hemp is getting a lot of attention of late because of its perceived health benefits. It seems like everyone wants to try their hands on various products derived from this plant. But if it is simply a plant with a range of benefits and uses, then why has it been under scrutiny for so many years? Let’s have a look at all you need to know about hemp. Hemp’s complicated history may be discouraging for people who want to reap the beneficial aspects of this plant. So let’s look into some of the answers before we plan to use it.
What is Hemp?
Hemp, also known as ‘industrial hemp’, is a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis Sativa which is usually found in the northern hemisphere. Nobody knows how and where it was originated but historical records trace its origins to the Himalayan region in Asia. There are various varieties of the cannabis plant—cannabis Sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis as a drug and industrial hemp are both derived from the species cannabis Sativa and both contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It contains lower concentrations (less than 1%) of THC and higher concentrations of CBD (cannabidiol), which means it can do a lot good for you instead of getting you high.
What is Hemp Seed?
Hemp seeds, also known as ‘hemp hearts’, are small brown seeds that are rich in protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, and healthy fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6. Technically a nut, these small, crunchy seeds are safe to consume and contain only low traces of THC.
They have a very high anti-oxidant effect and are believed to improve heart health and reduce symptoms of ailments related to skin and joints. These seeds can be added to your meals as a whole or consumed in the form of powder for a well-balanced diet.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), roughly three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain about 116 calories and other nutrients mentioned below:
Protein 9.47 g
Carbohydrates 2.60 g
Fat 1.20 g
Total fatty acids 14.62 g
Monounsaturated fatty acids 1.62 g
Polyunsaturated fat 11.43 g
Saturated fatty acids 1.38 g
These seeds are also a great source of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, etc. Hemp seeds are readily available as shelled, grounded or split and a special thing about hemp seed is that it can be used in almost all varieties of foods for a healthy diet. The seed shells act as a bulking agent and add fiber to the diet aiding indigestion. Grinding the seeds helps the body to absorb more of the other nutrients. The hard outer shells can be easily shelled at home by using a mortar and a pestle or a food processor.
Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Protein Powerhouse: Hemp seed is valued for being a complete protein, containing all 21 amino acids, including all 9 essential amino acids. It’s important to consume essential amino acids through food because our bodies cannot produce them naturally.
Essential Fatty Acids: Hemp seed contains an ideal of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. These fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body but are required to support a wide range of cellular processes in the body, including the proper function of the heart and brain.
Loads of Nutrients: Hemp seeds are also an excellent source of Vitamin E, zinc, iron, and magnesium. Vitamin E and zinc are potent antioxidants that protect cells against the damaging effect of free radicals. Iron helps deliver oxygen-rich red blood cells throughout the body and magnesium plays a role in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body.
Hemp vs Cotton
For thousands of years, hemp was used to produce durable textiles in huge quantities. It used to be the go-to raw material for clothes, ropes, and even canvas. It is believed that the word ‘canvas’ was actually derived from ‘cannabis’. Hemp canvas, because of its durability, long life and strength even when wet, was used to make sails of ships that traversed the huge seas. But with the prohibition of cannabis, the hemp textile industry became a thing of the past, giving way to cotton. Despite its current popularity, the fact is that cotton fabric has a better alternative in hemp. Given an opportunity, hemp can clearly benefit textile industries and truly have a large impact on ecological sustainability.
Reasons Why Hemp is Better than Cotton
One acre of hemp, on an average, can produce approximately three times more fiber than cotton. Apart from that, the hemp crop uses less water than cotton crops. Also, cotton cultivation takes a huge amount of toll on soil, whereas hemp detoxifies the soil by removing harmful chemicals and pollutants and enriches it with nitrogen and oxygen. One study shows that and this unsafe use of chemicals impacts our ecosystems to a great extent since it ends up in the soil and rivers, whereas hemp can be grown with much fewer chemicals or none at all. Hemp fabrics are moisture absorbent, anti-bacterial and breathe well compared to cotton. These fabrics last long as they are three to eight times stronger than cotton and maintain their strength even when wet.
What are the Benefits of Hemp Seeds?
Initially, hemp was used for making clothes, ropes, footwear, food, pottery decoration, etc., after which it found its way into medicines—its leaves were used to heal wounds and oils and teas derived from it were used for pain relief. Hemp seeds have secured their position as a superfood. They not only have a rich nutritional profile but also provide a range of health benefits. As a dietary supplement, it provides a blend of simple proteins, rich minerals and vitamins and a perfect balance of essential acids and antioxidants.
Protects Brain: The CBD compound found in hemp seeds helps in neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and neuropathic pain.
Heart Health: Omega-3 fatty acids that are present in hemp seeds improve the health of the heart and reduce the risk of heart diseases. The seeds also contain high levels of arginine, an amino acid that is converted into a chemical called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an essential component for artery and vein dilation and it also helps in keeping the blood vessel walls elastic and smooth.
Reduces Inflammation: The amount of omega-3 and omega-6 present in hemp seeds can help reduce inflammation. In addition, hemp seeds are a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid which may also have anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, this reduced inflammation helps in managing the symptoms of various chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, etc.
Improves Skin: Hemp seeds are a rich source of plant fiber. Plant fibers are believed to help in managing the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (AD) and acne.
While consuming hemp seeds has lots of potential health benefits, one should avoid overdoing it. The healthiest option is to eat an assorted diet that contains a wide range of nutrients.
What are the Different Varieties of Hemp Seed?
There are three main types of hemp production—grain/seed, fiber, and hybrid (produces both fiber and seed). Each variety uses a different type of seed, equipment, and techniques. They also require different amounts of land, labor, nutrients, and pest control.
Grain/Seed: These are slender and about 5-7 feet tall. They produce an oilseed with high protein and nutritional value. They are planted using a grain drill, a corn platter or a broadcast seeder. Their maturity rate is 100-120 days after planting. It is important to clean and dry them properly before storing.
Fiber: This variety is slender and may range from 10-18 feet in height. These are grown for bast fiber which has great potential to be used in the textile and construction industries. Their maturity rate is around 45-70 days after planting. They are harvested using a mower or a hay baler. They are left in the field to dry and then baled before storing.
Hybrid: This is a bushy variety and may reach heights of around 6-12 feet. These plants are grown and harvested for CBD, which has many potential health applications. This variety is planted either by hand or using a transplanter. They are harvested by hand and removed from the field. Since they are a hybrid variety, their clones may be transplanted outdoors and greenhouse systems may be used year-round. Post-harvest they are dried in sheds or warehouses and then flowers and leaves are removed from stalks, packaged, and sent for oil extraction.
What is Himalayan Hemp?
Himalayan hemp is coming to the forefront after a string of controversies linking it to marijuana in the wrong way. The level of psychoactive substance, THC, found in the Himalayan hemp flowers is typically between 0.2% and 0.3% as compared to THC levels of 4% to 5% in marijuana.
Himalayan hemp is a climate-adaptive crop that can grow from 40 cm-4 m in height depending upon the seed variants, water availability, rainfall, and other climatic conditions. Soil rich in nitrogen and temperature variation of 15-25 degrees is preferred for its cultivation and speedy growth of the plants.
It needs consistent moisture only during the germination and planting process and once grown, its taproots can easily reach the underground water reserves.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Himalayan hemp crop is its organic growth. It can be grown without the use of any pesticides or herbicides. Besides, this multipurpose plant can also be used in crop rotation for soil remediation and to eliminate pesticide effects and bio-absorption of contaminants.
Consumed globally, Himalayan hemp is considered among the best grades of hemp. It is used as a substitute for cotton, clubbing it with other natural fibers like silk to produce textiles. The plant is also used for manufacturing paper products and fiberglass as well as an alternative source of biofuel.
Which Country Has the Best Hemp Seed Variety?
With so many hemp seed products in the market, it can be confusing to know which one to buy.
For edible hemp seeds, Canada is known to have the best quality among other countries that grow hemp. This is not only related to the taste of the hemp strain used by Canadian farmers but also to the strict restrictions which the Canadian government enforces. Canadian farmers are allowed to use only those varieties of hemp seed that are listed under Health Canada’s List of Approved Cultivars. Canada produces hemp seeds that are non-GMO verified, which means the seeds are not genetically modified. Let’s take a look at the meaning of various certifications:
Certified USDA Organic: Means 95% or more of the product must be organic.
Non-GMO Verified: An extra quality standard that food producers can apply to. If a product is already USDA certified then it does not contain GMO ingredients.
Certified B Corp: Only available to private companies who meet strict social and ethical standards.
With Chinese hemp products flooding the market, lots of manufacturers are now warning consumers as these Chinese products aren’t regulated as strictly as Canadian ones. So it’s important to look for the “Pro-Cert Organic” certifications on the brands that you buy. Since you won’t be able to taste the hemp until you buy a packet, make sure you check the labels to ensure that it is certified and of good quality. While buying the product, it’s always good to look for the following nutritional information on the packaging to ensure you are buying the best quality. This information is usually given per 30g serving:
There is around 11g of protein per 30g serving.
At least 1g of fiber per 30g serving. Hemp hearts usually contain less fiber than hull-on.
Amount of omega-3 and omega-6.
How to Consume Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are available in shelled, split or ground varieties. One may remove the hard outer shell of the seeds at home by using a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Inside the hard hemp seeds lie soft, white or light green inner kernels. These seeds are packed with essential amino acids and can be consumed by sprinkling a spoonful on top of a smoothie, salad, yogurt or cereal.
Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor which makes them a safe substitute for people with nut allergies. These seeds can be dry toasted over low heat to make them even nuttier. Alternatively, similar to almond milk (which is made by blending almonds and water), one can make hemp seed milk which can be used as an alternative to dairy products in various recipes and drinks.
A couple of spoonfuls of these seeds pack a huge amount of essential nutrients. They are easy to cook and eat. It’s best to store them in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator. Hemp seeds are also available as hemp nut butter, also it can be consumed in the same way as peanut butter or almond butter spread on a toast or with pancakes.
These seeds are readily available in online health food stores and supermarkets. Online stores also offer other products such as hemp protein powder which is an alternative to whey protein powder and hemp milk which may be fortified with extra nutrients.
What are the Benefits of Hemp Oil?
Hemp oil (also called hemp seed oil) is harvested by cold-pressing the hemp seeds. Although it comes from the cannabis plant, it usually contains only a trace of THC, the psychoactive, intoxicating element in cannabis. It is a natural source of important nutrients including polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 and proteins. It promises a lot of health benefits:
Skin Benefits: One of the most important benefits of the hemp seed oil is its effect on skin. The abundance of essential fatty acids in hemp oil helps in alleviating skin irritations, dry skin, eczema, etc. by offering benefits like anti-inflammation, skin cell repair, moisturizing, balanced oil production, and anti-aging properties. It reduces irritation when applied to the skin because of nutrients like linoleic acid that enable skin repair and regeneration. These nourishing components also have the ability to moisturize the skin without clogging the pores. As a result, hemp seed oil works wonders on acne-prone skin by moderating oil production and reducing the incidence of clogged pores. Hemp oil can also be ingested for skin benefits because of the presence of GLA that aids in skin growth, repair, and inflammation.
Hair: Hemp oil acts as a deep conditioner for dry and brittle hair. Applying a small amount of this oil while conditioning or after a shower can work wonders in terms of moisture and hair growth. The fatty acids present in the oil help moisturize the scalp, adding on to your natural oils. This is the reason why fatty acids are often used in hair products and serums. The omega-3s present in the oil also helps to add shine, tame unruly hair, and give it the required strength.
Heart Health: In addition to the positive skin benefits of hemp oil, it is also beneficial for a healthy heart. Even when the hemp seeds are cold-pressed for extracting oil, the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are preserved and these offer cardio-protective effects such as reducing blood pressure, clearing up the veins, decreasing the chance of heart disease, improved heart rate, etc.
Strong Immune System: Hemp seed oil also helps in boosting the immune system with the help of valuable nutrients. There are various essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot make on their own and we need to consume foods that are rich in these essential fatty acids to maintain good health.
Difference Between Hemp and CBD Oil
Hemp seed oil and CBD oil differ in the part of the plant they come from and how they are used. Hemp oil is extracted from hemp seeds. The plant contains low levels of cannabinoids including two most commonly known—THC and CBD. This oil is obtained by cold-pressing hemp seeds similar to how olive and coconut oil are obtained. The extracted oil does not contain any THC since there is no THC in the seeds. There may be some small traces due to plant matter sticking to the seeds during the extraction process. However, modern commercial methods of oil extraction decontaminate seeds by 99.99%.
Nowadays in the market, you may even find oils that are extracted from various parts of the hemp plant; they contain some amounts of THC or CBD but are still labeled as hemp oils since they are extracted from hemp plants. This information is usually printed on the bottle. As a consumer, it is important to diligently read the information on the bottle before purchasing it especially if you are concerned about CBD and THC-free products. Hemp oil should be used as garnishing oil rather than cooking oil similar to extra virgin olive oil. You may drizzle it on salads, pasta or side dishes. It has multiple uses, from being a vitamin supplement to being an important ingredient in cosmetics.
On the other hand, CBD oil contains a high concentration of cannabidiol. This oil is extracted from hemp that is specifically cultivated to be high in CBD. This makes the ratio of CBD to THC much higher and ideal for making CBD oil (also known as CBD hemp oil). This oil is typically produced using an ethanol or CO2 extraction process to obtain cannabinoid-rich oil from industrial hemp plants, which produces very different effects when compared to traditional hemp oil.
CBD oil is usually used for medicinal purposes as it works through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS is responsible for keeping the body in a state of balance by impacting hormone production, mood, sleep, pain, appetite, and immune response. CBD also helps to stimulate the body’s natural cannabinoid production to maintain the efficiency of the receptors and the optimal function of the endocannabinoid system.
Is Hemp Oil As Good As CBD Oil?
Both hemp oil and CBD oil are extracted from the same plant but have different uses. They vary in the amounts of THC and CBD present in them and thus benefit people in different ways. One can’t be said to be better than the other one. It all depends on the consumer and the purpose for which they plan to purchase the oil. It is referred to as a superfood because of the high levels of omega fatty acids and other natural nutrients that are present. As a result, it has great use in hair and skin products. Also, due to low amounts of saturated fats, hemp oil has found an important spot in many kitchens. It adds a crispy, nutty flavor to foods and is great as a salad dressing. It is ideal for protecting the body from free radicals and replenishing it.
On the other hand, CBD oil is more commonly used in holistic healing practices to lessen anxiety, chronic pain, address sleep issues, etc. or any other ailments that are difficult to treat without the use of heavy medication.
Hemp oil offers small health advantages rather than working on healing prospects.
What Are Some of the Medicinal Properties of Hemp Oil?
Hemp seed is well-known for its health and nutritional benefits. It contains good amounts of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates needed for the body. Hemp seed oil, formed by cold-pressing hemp seeds, is used in a variety of ways and may work to improve overall health.
Heart Health Hemp seed oil benefits are related to its 3:1 ratio of two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids—linoleic acid (LA) and a-linolenic acid (LNA) that are especially beneficial to the heart. A diet rich in healthy fats (fats which contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) helps in improving insulin sensitivity and stabilizes the rhythm of the heart.
Weight Regulation Hemp oil contains high amounts of dietary fiber. Adequate consumption of fiber keeps the gut clear and helps in weight regulation of the body.
Managing Cholesterol Levels With the presence of β-sitosterols, hemp oil is believed to be more effective oil compared to other vegetable oils (such as soybean, rapeseed, etc.) in lowering cholesterol levels. Also, with the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, it helps in overall cardiovascular health.
Muscle Tension Hemp oil also helps in relieving general tension in the muscles caused due to stress. With an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, it also promotes recovery from muscle tension due to exercise. Rubbing a bit of hemp seed oil into tight muscles may help release tension and relax the muscles.
Fights Free Radicals Hemp oil contains powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress (a byproduct of too many processed foods, environmental pollutants, and a stress-filled lifestyle).
How Can Hemp Contribute to Reducing Global Warming?
While talking about saving the environment, we generally mean controlling climate change. Global warming has turned out to be a real threat to human beings, wildlife, and the world at large. The gases responsible for global warming are carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide. A large amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere due to the use of fossil fuels in vehicles, factories, and electricity plants. Nitrous oxide, on the other hand, comes from fertilizers, industries, and the loss of rainforests that would otherwise be storing CO2. While nitrous oxide is 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide is the main culprit in global warming.
A part of the solution to global warming can come from hemp. It’s Plantation is considered to be eco-friendly because of the following reasons:
Hemp plantation replenishes the soil with nitrogen and nutrients thus restoring the overall health and fertility of the soil. With its long roots, the hemp tree also firmly holds the soil that helps in controlling soil erosion. These plants grow fast and thus help in carbon sequestration (absorbing carbon from the air and storing it back into the earth). They also require very less water as compared to its cotton counterpart, thus saving water and helping in maintaining underground water levels.
Hemp can grow almost anywhere in any climate. It does not need any fertilizer or pesticides, thus reducing land, water, and air pollution significantly. On the contrary, it actually clears up toxins from the ground and helps the soil maintain its health. Also, making cloth and paper by processing hemp fiber does not require any chlorine thus reducing the production of dioxins. Today, the paper industry uses wood pulp which has become the third-largest polluter on earth. Making a switch to hemp fiber will contribute immensely to the control of the pollutants.
Hemp produces much stronger fiber than most other plants, thus its products support the basic principle of eco-living—Reuse, Reduce and Recycle—and helps in controlling deforestation.
Hemp fuels emit 80% less carbon dioxide with almost no sulfur dioxide compared to fossil fuel. This prevents the ozone layer from depleting by generating fewer greenhouse gases and by not causing acid rain—two major factors that contribute to global warming and climate change. If legalized and professionally harvested, it can provide important solutions to at least some of the major causes and complications of global warming.