Ingredient of the month: Hemp Seed Oil
What is it?
Hemp seed oil is extracted by cold pressing certain varieties of the cannabis sativa plant (those lower in levels of THC — delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in cannabis).
Where does it come from?
Hemp grows in many climates, from the tropics to subarctic regions. It has been illegal to grow in the US since 1937, but is legal in 30 other industrialized countries. Optimal extraction techniques involve crushing the seed without solvent in an environment free of light and oxygen, with as little heat as possible, quickly cooling and maintaining temperatures through final packaging.
When was it discovered?
Hemp is one of the oldest human-used materials, esteemed as a food source and for its curative powers. One of the oldest relics is a piece of hemp fabric dating to 8,000 BC. Medicinal uses for hemp seed in China extend back to 4,000 BC.
How is it beneficial?
Hemp seed oil contains among the lowest levels of saturated fats, and high levels of essential fatty acids in a balance of 3:1 — 57 per cent linoleic acid (omega 6) and 19 per cent linolenic acid (omega 3) — which is considered optimal for human consumption. These play a vital part in transferring oxygen from the lungs to the body's cells. It also contains vitamin E and phytosterols.
What can it be used for?
Recent warnings to pregnant and nursing mothers by the Food and Drug Administration about trace mercury in fish oils have significantly increased sales of hemp seed oil in supplements. Increasingly it is seen in anti-inflammatory, moisture-balancing and anti-ageing skin-care products. Hemp oil extract can also be used as an ingredient in nontoxic, biodegradable inks, paints and varnishes.
— James Townsend