Let’s get one thing straight. Hemp, often lumped together with marijuana, doesn’t actually get you high. While marijuana and hemp are both varieties of cannabis, hemp is selectively bred for its fiber and marijuana for its narcotic effects. Although the two look and even smell alike, they are structurally different.
First off, hemp has microscopic amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical in marijuana that gets people high. For a meaningful comparison, industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%, while marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%.
Hemp has a colorful history. For millennia, it’s been grown for fiber (textiles and paper) and food. In this country, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. In fact, Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. These days, however, the U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn’t currently allow the cultivation of hemp.
If the Hemp Farming Act gets passed this year, it would remove the constrictions on its cultivation. Meanwhile, millions of dollars worth of hemp is imported into the United States each year (mainly from Canada and China) in order to fulfill the growing demand for hemp products: Annual retail sales for hemp products was estimated at $573 million in 2015.
Hemp seeds are a versatile resource, used in everything from birdseed to rope.
The North American Industrial Hemp Council estimates that hemp can be used to make more than 25,000 products. For the sake of brevity, let’s cover the three main areas that hemp can be utilized for: food, skincare and textiles.
Hemp seeds are nutrient dense, containing more than 30 percent fat and 25 percent protein. They contain liberal amounts of two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Blessed with a mild, nutty flavor, hemp seeds can be eaten raw, cooked or roasted.
Hemp seeds are also rich in gamma-linolenic acid, which has been linked with several health benefits such as supporting a healthy inflammatory response in the body. Plus, hemp seeds are a goldmine of vitamins and minerals—supplying vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.*
My go-to way to eat them is in my morning smoothie, but many people love sprinkling them on salads or cooked vegetables or mixing them into soups and sauces. You could also try them in hemp recipes like this.
Hemp is dream fabric: stronger than cotton, modest water requirements, and does not need pesticides to grow. According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, because of its importance for sails (the word “canvas” can be traced back to “cannabis”) and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies.
Hemp contains anti-bacterial and anti-mildew properties, meaning clothes are less likely to mildew.
As a gateway experiment, hemp sheets are breathable, wicking and get softer with use.
Hemp’s ample stores of fats are similar to fats found in human skin, making hemp oil an ideal moisturizer.
Hemp’s anti-inflammatory qualities works topically too: The omega-6 fatty acid makes it an effective skin soother for rashes and it doesn’t clog pores.
Check out Nature’s Gate Hemp Moisturizing Lotion, which contains hemp seed oil and other botanical actives that can replenish dry, dehydrated skin.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.