After one hundred years of silence, hemp, the most versatile plant on the planet is making a comeback. Hemp has more faces than any other plant – whether you are eating it, building your house from it, nourishing your skin with it or using it to tethering your yacht, hemp does it all. Even though hemp and marijuana are related, you cannot make good fibre from marijuana and you cannot get ‘high’ from smoking hemp.
The Rich History of Hemp
For over 10,000 years cannabis sativa l. has been an important source of nutrition and medicine for many cultures. For example, in Chinese medicine the leaves, flowers and stalk were all used for a variety of different ailments. Traditionally hemp was also used for currency, paper and fibre for rope, cloth, baskets and clothing. From the 5th Century BC until the late 19th Century hemp sails and ropes allowed ships to rule over the waves. Cotton and linen perish easily, but hemp is strong and durable, sustaining through all weather. It’s pliable nature and resistance to mold still makes hemp rope superior to plastic ropes today. Another historical accolade for this plant was a car made entirely of hemp, which ran on hemp-ethanol, built by Henry Ford in 1925.
“Make the most of the Indian Hemp Seed and sow it everywhere.” – George Washington
The Fall of the Hemp Empire
Hemp fell of the map in the western world less than a hundred years ago. The widespread shun of this plant started in the USA in 1937 during the Reefer Madness Campaign. The movement stirred up mass hysteria labelling marijuana as the devils weed. The most powerful newspaperman in America, William Randolph Hearst, and businessman, Darwin DuPont, instigated the campaign. Yet their victim was not marijuana, it was their business competitors: the hemp industry. The campaign was launched just after DuPont had invented nylon and acquired the patent for tree paper, which made the high quality hemp paper and rope a major threat. Their scheme worked well; with the cultivation and import of hemp out of the way DuPont made billions on paper, plastic, paints and other petrochemical products.
Soon the whole western world could no longer tell the difference between marijuana and hemp. Yet in Asia the massive hemp industry carried on undisturbed. Many European countries such as France, Germany, UK, Spain, Holland and Italy realised there was no logic to banning hemp and reinstated production.
A Nutritional Gem
Technically a nut, hulled hemp seed typically contains around 30% oil (8% saturated fat) and up to 37% protein. Including considerable amounts of nutrients essential for a healthy body including vitamin A,B’s and C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, manganese, magnesium and sulphur. Hemp seeds typically contain over 20 trace minerals.
The ‘taboo stamp’ prevented nutritional research on this plant until recently. Studies have now shown that this delicious little seed is a potent source of brain food. Even though hemp and marijuana are both cannabis there is now an easy way to tell them apart. Scientists test hemp to make sure it has less than 0.3g of the psychoactive compound THC, meaning there is absolutely no chance you can get ‘stoned’ from eating hemp products.
Hemp seeds are full of essential fatty acids (EFAs), essential because your body can’t make them itself. In contrast to the shorter-chain and more saturated fatty acids, the body doesn’t use EFAs as an energy source. It uses them as raw materials for making cell membranes, regulating inflammation and for hormone production. EFAs help your brain to absorb and use proteins, especially when you are growing, as well regulating your immune system. EFAs are usually found in raw nuts, seeds and deep-water fish. Hemp seeds contain a higher percentage of essential fatty acids than any other food.
The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in hemp seed oil is considered to be optimal for human health (more so than flax). Hemp seed oil is over 80% in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and is an exceptionally rich source of the two EFAs linoleic acid omega-6(55%) and alpha-linolenic acid omega-3 (25%). Hemp oil also contains a decent level of the omega-6 gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a well-known anti-inflammatory.
Omega-3’s are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties, but there is so much more to this primary nutrient. Omega-3 is divided into two main categories’. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)is essential for the growth and repair of the brain,and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)is needed for the growth and repair of all connective tissue and is known to reduce cardiac risk factors.
Most plant sources of omega-3 come in the form of ALA (alphalinolenic acid), which needs to be converted by the body into EPA and DHA. Hemp oil also contains SDA (stearidonic acid), a form of omega-3 normally found in fish oil. According to the 2009 study on SDA published in The Journal of Nutrition, it appears to functions most like EPA compared to ALA. And a significant increase of EPA has been seen in people that ingest SDA.
Vitamin E is a high-grade antioxidant, which works to prevent free-radical damage. It is also essential for healthy hormones and nervous system, plus it improves muscle strength and repairs skin damage making it an all round top longevity nutrient. This is great news especially since the large majority of vitamin E supplements are derived from either a petrochemical source or GMO soya. Keep your eyes pealed for dl-alpha-tocopherolthis label shows the vitamin E source is synthetic.
Hemp has a good dose of lecithin, a fat essential for all cells, also found in other seeds and egg yolk. Lecithin is used in the brain to reinforce neurological pathways. It is also needed for healthy liver, gallbladder and skin. Unlike soya lecithin, hemp seeds do not contain GMO.
Proteins are large, complex molecules that have many important jobs in the body. Protein can be used as an energy source as well as growing and repairing organs, connective tissue and muscles, plus creating hormones and neurotransmitters. Proteins are constructed from a set of 22 amino acids, eight of which cannot be made by the body and therefore need to be obtained through food. Hemp seeds are a complete protein. Hulled hemp seeds contain a good dose of the eight essential amino acids.Hemp protein is made up of albumin (35%) and globulin edestin (65%), which are both highly absorbable. Edestin is described as a “sturdy” protein, pure, easy to prepare, and highly stable. Globular proteins include hemoglobin (blood protein),hormones, antibodies and enzymes; therefore edestin can be used to make these useful molecules.
A study looking at hemp protein, published in the journal Food Chemistry, found the proportion of digestible (bioavailable) amino acids in hemp protein(88–91%) was significantly higher than that of soya protein.
The researchers verified hemp “can be utilized as a good source of protein nutrition for human consumption.”
A 2010 study published in the Journal Agricultural and Food Chemistry writes, “Hemp proteins are equal to or greater than certain grains, nuts and some pulses.” Unlike some nuts and soya beans hemp seeds are also free from enzyme inhibitors that prevent the absorption of nutrients.
Unlike meat and pulses, these seeds do not have to be cooked. Many amino acids are heat sensitive, especially lysine, proline, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, threonine, alanine, glycine, serine, cystine, tyrosine and arginine. When food is cooked these amino acids either die or become denatured, and the bioavailability of all remaining amino acids is compromised to some degree.
DNA, Moods, Heart, Immunity and Erectile Dysfunction
Edestin (only available in hemp) is exceptionally high in the amino acid arginine.This is needed for lowering inflammation, repairing blood vessels, kidney function, reversing erectile dysfunction and supporting a healthy immune and cardiovascular system. The core string of DNA used to hold genes together is rich in arginine, making hemp protein a primary food for DNA repair and longevity. It also contains a high level of the essential amino acid methionine, which is needed for liver protection and efficacy. Methionine has been found helpful for people with allergies and even schizophrenia.
Edestin is one of the few plant sources of tryptophan, an essential amino needed by the body to make the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin.
Both these neurochemicals work to calm the nervous system, help balance mood, behavior and mental abilities and are mandatory for sleep and a healthy endocrine function.
According to the World Health Organization hemp seeds contain the sufficient nutritional requirement of amino acids (except lysine) needed for infants and children and can be used as a valuable source of nutrition.
Apart from vitamin E, these seeds also contain up to 4% GLA, which the body needs for hormone production. GLA has been found to improve breast sensitivity in women during PMS. The good news is that even though GLA doesn’t normally occur alongside omega-3 in plant form, it does in hemp oil.
Sulfur-bearing amino acids are needed by the liver to support sulfation: the elimination of toxins and breakdown of old hormones and neurotransmitters. During sulfation toxins are bound to sulphate and ushered down the intestinal tract to be eliminated from the body. Sulfation can be enhanced by amino acids like methionine and cysteine found in hemp seeds.
Lecithin from hemp oil also regulates fat metabolism in the liver. It binds to triglyceride lowering proteins and boost levels of HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Lecithin is rich in phosphatidylcholine, which is needed by the liver to produce low-density lipoproteins to carry fats from the liver.
Protein has an important role in our immune system. The most significant gamma globulins are immunoglobulins, a form of antibody. Edestin is similar to serum globulin as it can be metabolized in the human body to biosynthesize immunoglobulins. The body’s ability to fight invaders or infections depends on its ability to produce antibodies. If one is deficient in globulin proteins the body may not be able to produce enough antibodies. Thankfully hemp protein is one of the best sources of gamma globulins.
GLA does more than support hormone pathways it also has a potent anti-inflammatory action. In the 2010 study published in the journal Inflammation researchers found that GLA inhibits inflammatory responses by deactivating the inflammatory proteins NF-kappaB and AP-1, plus it reduced oxidative stress.
All autoimmune disorders involve chronic inflammation including multiple sclerosis. In a 2013 trial researchers found hemp oil beneficial for multiple sclerosis and found a clear improvement in all clinical scores.
For centuries is has been suggested to use hemp seeds in rheumatoid arthritis treatment. In Korean and Chinese folk medicine Hemp seed has been used as a treatment for these diseases. A 2014 study found that hemp seed oil treatment reduced the survival rate of and promoted cell death in the arthritic cells.
The 2009 study on hemp seed oil and dermatitis found that, “Dietary hemp seed oil caused significant changes in plasma fatty acid profiles and improved clinical symptoms of atopic dermatitis. It is suggested that these improvements resulted from the balanced and abundant supply of PUFAs in this hemp seed oil.” This said ingesting hemp oil could help improve the general quality and hydration of your skin.
Heavy Metal Detoxification
Heavy metals have the capacity to cause quite a bit of mischief within the body. They can lock into receptor sites and create ‘broken telephone’ messages within cellular communication. The results can be disastrous. According to this 2010 study hemp even has the ability to help chelate heavy metals from the body.
Both hydrolysate and edestin have been found to contain valuable antioxidant properties to help prevent cellular damage within the body. A 2010 study found, “A novel antioxidant peptide derived from hemp seed by-product was investigated. The peptides possessed protective effects against cell death and oxidative apoptosis.”
Ear, Nose and Throat
Hemp seed oil was dispensed in an open clinical trial involving in and outpatients, for the treatment of chronic ear, nose and throat disorders for a total of 117 cases. “The results allowed us to consider hemp seed oil as an effective means for treating ENT disorders as well as injuries resulting from traumas or burns.”
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a dangerous disorder than can lead to many health problems. The 2014 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that hemp seeds have strong hypotensive effects and can be used as a therapeutic agent for both the prevention and treatment of hypertension.
The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in hemp seeds have beneficial effects on our cardiovascular health. A 2010 meta-analysis study found, “The data supports the hypothesis that hemp seed has the potential to beneficially influence heart disease.” A 2007 study on hemp seeds and heart health writes,“Our data demonstrate that dietary hempseed can provide significant cardioprotective effects during postischemic reperfusion. This appears to be due to its highly enriched PUFA content.”
Tony Budden, owner of the hemp company, Hemporium shares the story which exposes the strength of hemp’s immune boosting capacity;
“ In the 1950’s a Czechoslovakian orphanage lost access to medical care. This was a great problem as many of the children were suffering from TB. The doctor decided to feed the children with hemp porridge everyday knowing that the protein would help build the immune system to fight the TB. It worked. The hemp seeds also helped to prevent the wasting syndrome, which happens when TB blocks the absorption of nutrition.”
Neurology and Cannabinoids
Hemp seeds also contain an interesting oil called cannabidiol or CBD oil. In the last decade science has identified the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This has triggered an exponential growth of studies exploring the endocannabinoid system and its regulatory functions in health and disease. The endocannabinoid system has been found to have a key role in both in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs.
Modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system, cannabidiol has been found to be neuroprotective.CBD shows therapeutic promise in a wide range of diseases and pathological conditions such as anxiety disorders, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis.
Bones, Connective Tissue and Organs
Hemp leaves are also edible and make fabulous tea. Hemp leaves contain an abundance of silica and compelling data suggests that silica is essential for health. Orthosilicic acid is the form of silica predominantly used by the human body and is found in numerous tissues including bone, skin, tendons, aorta, liver and kidney.
Hemp seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Beneficial bacteria in the gut feed on soluble fibre, which also helps regulate blood sugar balance. Insoluble fibre is necessary to enable waste products to be eliminated out of the gut and also plays a role in blood sugar regulation.
Dr Axe’s View on Hemp
World-renowned doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and founder of the Exodus Health Center Dr Josh Axes said,
“Hemp seeds are great for people who want to pack on muscle, build strong bones and people who want to lose weight. Plus it’s helpful for people who have trouble sleeping or struggle from depression or anxiety.”
According to Dr Axe, 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds equals 10g protein and 3000 ml omega 3 in the ideal ratio for your body. He says it’s, “healthier than flax. It has almost no carbs or sugar, but very high in fibre.”
And it has 50% your daily requirement of magnesium.
“We know magnesium is critical for relaxing muscles, for proper brain function, for improving digestion and I found that magnesium is the number one mineral most people are deficient in today.”
Also, it has 50% of your daily value of phosphorus and 25% your daily value of zinc (essential for healthy hormone balance).
The rich elements of hemp oil make it an absolute must when it comes to skin and hair products. Many companies have caught on to hemp oil’s nourishing qualities and are now using it in moisturisers, body butters, lip balms, soap, shampoo, conditioner and even deodorant.
A 2009 study found hemp oil has potent antimicrobial (bacteria and fungus) properties. “The results showed that essential oils of industrial hemp can significantly inhibit the microbial growth.” In the 2014 study on the antibacterial qualities of hemp the researchers found, “Cannabinoids, alkanoids, other bioactive compounds or phenolic compounds of lignin may contribute to the antibacterial character of hemp.”
The Future of Hemp
Striving forward with a 300 million dollar hemp industry, Canada is a prime example of why we should put aside our prejudice of this non-psychoactive plant and get on with reaping the benefits.
Today modern clothing and furnishing manufacturers have caught on to the old wisdom of hemp fabric and are once again beginning to utilize it in every way possible. The other, often understated strength of this plant is its immune system. There is no need to use any form of pesticides or other toxic chemicals when growing hemp as it grows like a weed, so to speak. In fact even though Canada has a massive industry in hemp production, there is no registered pesticide, herbicide or fungicide recommended for use. The height and bushiness of hemp shades the ground further preventing growth of invasive plants within the plantations. And with modern technology we can even make houses out of hemp fibre.
The diversity of hemp oil is gaining popularity and it is even being used to make fuel and plastic. In fact the environmental benefits of using hemp are so huge they could potentially assist in reforming the international, food, housing and forest crisis. The possibilities are endless.
“Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” – Henry Ford