Have you heard of hemp? This powerful plant has made numerous headlines in the recent years, mostly due to its CBD extract. But, there are even more hemp benefits to be discovered. Find out how it can help your immune system, skin health and more.April 28, 2022 5:41 pm February 12, 2019 4:09 pm
What is hemp?
Hemp is a green, leafy plant from the Cannabis sativa family. Famously, hemp plants are often confused with the varietal of cannabis plant used to make marijuana. However, hemp is different because it contains very low levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. So, you can rest assured that hemp doesn’t have any intoxicating effect!
There are seemingly endless stories about hemp’s healing power. People who have tried remedy after remedy, medicine after medicine to combat everything from eczema to PMT to gut and bowel issues rave about its positive effects. It has a pleasant, nutty flavor and many people like to incorporate it into foods such as cakes and breads.
Hemp is also useful outside the realm of health and wellbeing. It’s one of the strongest fibres in the plant world, and is used to make a huge range of products. These range from rope, oil, plastic to building materials.
Where does hemp come from?
As a cultivated crop, hemp has been around for many thousands of years. Carbon dating has traced our use of hemp back to at least 8,000 BC. In China, hemp seed oil has been used in food and medicine for at least 3,000 years.
In the sixteenth century, Henry VIII encouraged farmers to grow hemp widely in Britain to support the ships of its Navy. As the ships set sail to explore and, indeed, define, the world as we know it, everything from riggings and sails to maps and even the pages of the sailors’ Bibles were made using hemp oil and fibres.
The emphasis on hemp as a central crop for farmers continued in the New World. Colonial Americans were even able to pay their taxes with hemp.
Hemp makes a comeback
When Rudolph Diesel invented his eponymous engine in 1896, he planned to power it with hemp oil and other vegetable and seed oils. Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company, shared his vision and was also a producer of hemp fuel.
Ford extracted important products such as methanol and creosote from hemp. Unfortunately, today we usually source these from fossil fuels. Given the current climate crisis, this seems like a major missed opportunity, especially since it was fuelled by the manipulations of Ford’s competitors. These rivals pushed for a change of laws and public opinion by blurring the very real distinction between hemp and its cousin, the marijuana plant. It’s a misconception which continues to this day.
Luckily for us, hemp has made an impressive comeback in recent years. This is largely due to increased commercial farming of hemp in Europe during the 1990s. The resurgence of hemp has also encouraged scientists to examine the data behind traditional wisdom about hemp’s healing powers.
Healing hemp in the modern day
Studies at the Departments of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Kuopio in Finland found that hemp seed oil greatly increased the levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the blood. This omega-6 fatty acid is very effective at reducing inflammation, which adds credence to claims that hemp seed oil works well for eczema sufferers.
Dr. Jace Callaway of the University explained, “increased serum levels of GLA might help explain some of the numerous anecdotal reports of seemingly miraculous cures from people taking hemp seed oil, particularly those suffering from chronic health problems such as allergies, dry skin, slow wound healing and even rheumatoid arthritis.”(1)
Hemp seed oil has an unusual 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is exactly the ratio these two fatty acids should occupy in your overall diet. It contains about 56 grams of linoleic acid (omega-6) and 20 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) per 100 grams.
A dietary imbalance of these fatty acids could be behind many of the diseases common in Western society today. The diet of the average American features a 15:1 to 16.5:1 proportion of these fatty acids.
A healthier balance of omega-3 and omega-6 may have a beneficial effect on several types of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.(2) Their presence in exactly the right ratio in hemp seed oil means that the human body can best absorb their nutritional value.
Hemp is a source of vitamin D
Hemp seed oil is also a rich source of vitamin D, useful for overall wellbeing and bone health. Confusingly, Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin, but a hormone which keeps calcium, magnesium, and phosphate in balance within the body.
The essential substances which, as a group, compose Vitamin D are only present in a few foods. For your body to use them, your kidney and liver need to convert them first.
A lack of Vitamin D may lead to rickets, or soft and malformed bones, which continues to ail children throughout the world. Vitamin D deficiency can also affect the elderly, causing another global health problem known as osteomalacia.
Although sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D, we need Vitamin D in our diets to prevent rickets. Vitamin D is also valuable for regulating immunity and normalising blood pressure.
“Hemp seed oil is a rich source of vitamin D, useful for overall wellbeing and bone health."
Shelled hemp seeds are also known as hemp hearts. This seems especially appropriate considering that hemp seed oil may support a