Hemp has become one of the most valuable crops in modern history. It is used to make clothing, rope, papers, oil, paper, and plastic. The U.S. is the biggest producer, but China is the biggest consumer. In the United States, the crop is grown mainly by farmers in the Midwest, who harvest the plant in early spring and sell it to manufacturers who use it to make clothes, ropes, and paper.
Hemp, aka cannabis sativa, has a long history of use dating back to 2900 B.C. The resins from its female flowers were used in China to tan animal hides and create paper. In the 18th century, the Chinese began making clothes from the fibers and using the plant as a medicine. It was used during the American Civil War to treat wounds and as a pain killer.
What is hemp?
Okay, let’s skip the Cheech and Chong jokes.
Hemp is not marijuana.
Although cannabis and marijuana are closely related, the cannabis plant (botanical name Cannabis Sativa L.) is only one of many varieties of cannabis (1).
THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active ingredient in marijuana that gets people high. Cannabis plants used for food and textiles today do not contain large amounts of this psychoactive compound compared to their party-grown cousins.
In Canada and the European Union, only varieties with less than 0.3% THC in the flowers can be legally grown, while marijuana flowers typically contain between 3% and 20%.
In the United States, controversy over the health and safety risks of cannabis cultivation has led to a virtual ban on the plant. A cultivation permit can be applied for at the Narcotics Control Board, but is usually refused. (Ironically, the first American flags were believed to be made of hemp fabric).
The cannabis products on store shelves in the U.S. and Canada today are made from plants grown primarily in Canada, where farmers have been allowed to grow them since 1998 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Use of hemp
Hemp is a versatile plant.
Its fibres, seeds and flowers can be used as raw materials for all kinds of products, from food to paper, from clothing to carpets.
Hemp is an organic crop that rarely needs to be treated with pesticides against pests or herbicides against weeds (1). In this way, the consumer can be sure that the hemp products contain only a small number of chemical residues.
In addition, many cannabis companies confirm that their plants do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and/or are organically grown.
Why is hemp so important?
Fatty acid profile
The nutritional properties of hemp are largely due to its fatty acid composition (2, 3).
The oil, which accounts for half the weight of the seeds, contains 75% essential fatty acids, including
- About 20% is made up of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
- is approximately 3% gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
- About 1% of the rising star of omega-3 fatty acids, stearidonic acid (SDA).
Essential fatty acid content of hemp oil based on data from 62 varieties grown in southern Ontario (cited in Small and Marcus 2000).
The unique ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 allows you to consume cannabis without having to balance it with other high-fat foods.
The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in hemp oil is 3:1. It’s a good relationship.
In most modern diets this value is 10:1 or even higher. High levels of dietary omega-6 compared to omega-3 have been associated with many health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders (4).
Hemp itself offers benefits that few other foods do (5).
Another fatty property of hemp is its high content of natural vitamin E compounds (tocotrienols and tocopherols) (1, 2, 3).
These free radical scavenging antioxidants protect the oil from oxidation and rancidity.
The typical vitamin E content per 100 grams of hemp oil is 100 to 150 mg. Therefore, one to two tablespoons of hemp oil covers the daily vitamin E requirements of healthy adults (dietary intake ratio or DRI: 15 mg/day).
Other quality of hemp
Hemp oil also contains a high concentration:
- Phytosterols, which are known for their health benefits;
- Chlorophyll, which has carcinogenic properties;
- Carotenes, important for healthy vision and growth; and
- Lecithin, which affects the composition of cell membranes and brain function (1).
New ways to raise EPA blood levels SDA
We usually focus on the fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are abundant in oily fish and cold-water seafood. These fats have many benefits for the heart and blood vessels and for the metabolism.
Other omega-3 fatty acids such as ALA are often underestimated because they do not have the same physiological properties as EPA and DHA.
As a result, fish oil is becoming an increasingly popular dietary supplement that people consider a staple of their healthy lifestyle. But, as we have noted here, fish resources are depleting.
The omega-3 fatty acid SDA is now recognized as another healthy fat and is considered a pro-EPA fat (6).
In other words: It is converted to EPA. In fact, in people who consume SDA, EPA levels of phospholipids in the blood can double (7, 8).
SDA is an intermediate in the omega-3 pathway from ALA to EPA (see below), but does not accumulate in blood lipids like ALA (9). This specific omega-3 fat is thus completely converted into its products, particularly EPA (7, 9).
SDA may increase the total blood omega-3 index, which is considered an important factor in the development of cardiovascular disease (10).
SDA-rich oils, such as. B. Hemp oil is a plant-based source of SDA.
Conversion to EPC and DHA
GLA : Do you control your weight?
Gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, is another important constituent of cannabis (1-6%, depending on the cannabis strain).
GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that influences various processes, from inflammation and vascular tone to the induction of labor during delivery.
GLA has been shown to reduce the progression of psoriasis, atopic eczema and premenstrual syndrome. It may also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular, psychiatric and immunological disorders.
Aging and disease (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) have been shown to interfere with GLA metabolism, making dietary sources desirable.
GLA supplementation may be useful for weight management after significant weight loss (11).
The researchers studied obese women who had lost a lot of weight (~60 pounds) and gave them 890 mg of GLA from 5 g of borage oil (to get ~1 g of GLA per person) or a placebo (olive oil) for one year after weight loss.
Women who did not receive GLA gained more than 16 kg the following year. Those who received GLA gained only four pounds.
The mechanisms proposed to this end include:
- Increased levels of arachadonic acid (AA) in blood lipids after supplementation with GLA. People with obesity and the metabolic syndrome tend to have lower AA levels in tissue lipids (12, 13). Moreover, increased AA levels in blood lipids are associated with increased lipid sensitivity, down-regulation of lipogenesis (new fat formation), up-regulation of lipid oxidation, and increased leptin secretion (10, 11).
- The conversion of GLA into its extension product, DGLA, which is anti-inflammatory, through the production of beneficial eicosanoids that can suppress weight gain (11).
Hemp oil contains ~450 mg of GLA per tablespoon. To achieve an intake of ~1g of GLA, 2 tablespoons per day is required.
Although you can get the same amount of GLA from a lower dose of borage or evening primrose oil, hemp oil is the only natural cooking oil that does not require supplementation. It is also a higher yielding plant and much easier to grow.
Hempseed contains all the essential amino acids. The seeds contain 25-35% protein, and some modern hemp protein products contain up to 70% protein per 100 grams – just like whey protein isolate.
Hemp protein is derived from two high-quality storage proteins, edestin and albumin, which are easily digestible.
Compared to soy protein isolate, hemp protein may be of higher quality due to its higher content of certain essential amino acids, as well as methionine, cysteine and arginine (14).
Overall, the protein composition of hemp is very complete, highly digestible and hypoallergenic. It is also a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of amino acids.
Hemp fibres are usually kept for the production of solids and special paper; the seeds are a by-product of food (1, 14).
In whole seeds, about 25-50% of the total carbohydrate content is fiber, both insoluble and soluble. Some brands of hemp protein powder even contain up to 14 grams of fiber per serving.
In theory, hemp products can provide all the dietary fiber a person needs in a day.
What you should know about cannabis
The green colour of hemp oil, hemp butter and hemp protein is due to the high chlorophyll content of the ripe seeds, which is not destroyed during the low temperature processing of hemp products.
Although chlorophyll can accelerate the auto-oxidation of the oil in light, this is not a problem as long as the oil is kept in a cool, dark container.
One of the benefits of dietary chlorophyll is protection against various cancers, including colon and breast cancer (15). So when you try cannabis products, know that green is good.
The cannabis fruit is not a real seed, but a seed, a tiny nut encased in a hard shell.
Whole hemp seeds contain about 20-25% protein, 25-35% oil, 20-30% carbohydrates and 10-15% insoluble fiber (1), as well as minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc (2). It is also a source of carotene, a precursor of vitamin A.
What is the best way to use hemp oil?
Due to the high content of unsaturated fatty acids, the oil is extremely sensitive to oxidative rancidity caused by heat and light. Do not use cooking oil. Instead, use hemp as a healthy oil for dipping, in salads or as an addition to smoothies.
What other foods are made from hemp?
The possibilities are endless. Here are some of the most popular foods you can easily find in stores today:
- Hemp milk is an excellent substitute for rice, soy or cow’s milk. Use it as a muesli, in smoothies or just pure.
- Hemp oil – because this oil is not made from a nut, it can be consumed by people with nut allergies. It also goes well with toasted Ezekiel bread.
- Hempseed is an excellent addition to salads or simply as a snack.
Summary and recommendations
Hemp products are underrated, but they have a number of health benefits. It is an eco-friendly way to include more protein, healthy fats and fiber in your diet.
- Delicious, organic, vegetarian and vegan food.
- Acceptable for people with nut allergies
- Provides a broad spectrum of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
- One way to increase your fiber intake
- A protein choice for smoothies and baked goods
- Supports cannabis cultivation for a healthier and happier planet
Thanks to its unique fatty acid profile, hemp can treat atopic dermatitis in humans.
The seeds are small, soft and round, making them easy to chew and digest. They taste like pine nuts.
Hemp protein powder is easy to mix with water or juice and tastes delicious.
What delicious hemp smoothie recipe can I make today?
Light Hemp Smoothie with Berry Flavor
2/3 cup of water
A measure of Hemp Pro 70
1 tablespoon hemp seed oil
1/3 cup frozen gemischte bears
Put all ingredients in a blender, pour into a cup and enjoy!
Click here to see the sources of information referenced in this article.
Hemp: A new crop with new uses for North America. p. 284-326. Small, E. and D. Marcus. 2002. In : J. Jenik and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html
Hempseed oil : A source of valuable essential fatty acids. Defern, J. L. and D. W. Pate, 1996. Journal of the International Hemp Association 3(1) : 1, 4-7.
Hempseed as a source of nutrients: Overview. Callaway JC. Euthytic. 140 : 65-72, 2004.
The importance of the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Simopoulos AP. Exp Biol Med. 2008 Jun;233(6):674-88.
Efficacy of hemp oil in diet in patients with atopic dermatitis. Callaway JC et al J. Dermatol. Process. 2005, 16, 87-94.
Synthesis and accumulation of stearidonic acid in transgenic plants: a new source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Ruiz-López N et al. 2009 Sep;7(7):704-16
Dietary Stearidonic Acid is a long-chain (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid with potential health benefits. Whelan J. J Nutr. 2009 Jan;139(1):5-10.
Soybean oil enriched with stearidonic acid increased the omega-3 index, a new marker of cardiovascular risk. Harris WS et al. Lipids. 2008 Sep;43(9):805-11.
Metabolism of stearidonic acid in humans : Comparison with the metabolism of other n-3 fatty acids. James MJ, Ursin VM, Cleland LG. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1140-5
Relationship between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in tissues and the risk of coronary heart disease. Harris WS, Assaad B, Poston WC. Am J Cardiol 2006;98:19i-26i
Gamma-linolenate reduces weight gain in previously overweight individuals. Schirmer MA, Phinney SD. J. Nutr. 2007 Jun;137(6):1430-5.
Obesity and weight loss alter the content of polyunsaturated lipids in serum. Phinney SD, Davis PG, Johnson SB, Holman RT. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:831-838
Fatty acid composition of erythrocytes and metabolic syndrome : National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute GOLDN study. Edmond K. Kabagambe et al. Clinical Chemistry. 2008;54:154-162
Physicochemical and functional properties of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate. Tang CH, Ten Z, Wang XS, Yang XQ. J Agric Food Chem. Nov 15, 2006;54(23):8945-50
http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/15/4/717.full.pdf Hemen and chlorophyll intake and risk of colorectal cancer in the Dutch cohort study. Balder HF et al. Cancer Epid. Biomarker Prev. 2006 ; 15(4) : 7171-25.
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