Quick Lesson About Hemp – Sustainable Product & Superfood

By Audrey van Petegem, Senior Editor

Tuesday was election day here in the United States (in case you missed that…) and here in California, Prop 19 and its effect on the state's economy has grabbed lots of attention. California voters have already passed a law allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and Prop 19 was going a step further in legalizing marijuana for recreational use (only in California, right!).

Although it was not passed, it brought a lot of heated debate about the hemp industry also. There is much confusion between hemp and marijuana because both are cannabis plants, but hemp contains 0% Tetrahyrocannibinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana that makes it a drug. The laws in the United States prohibits hemp being grown legally. It is however, legal to manufacture and consume hemp here. Almost all hemp products sold here in the United States are grown in Canada because it is grown legally there (thank you Canada).

So why was it illegal to grow hemp here in the United States? It was only in the 1930's when hemp (cannabis) became illegal. Before that it was widely used. In fact, fourth USA President Thomas Jefferson was a hemp farmer. Did you also know that it was not just any string that connected Ben Franklin to the kite of his famous experiment? It was, in fact, a hemp string.

In 1937 William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont company were instrumental in passing the Marijuana Tax Act (making the possession or sale of cannabis illegal in the USA). Hearst wanted to see the hemp industry fail because he had a significant financial interest in the timber industry, which manufactured his newsprint and magazine empire, the Hearst Co. DuPont was in the textile industry, making synthetic material, such as nylon. DuPont knew that the prominent use of hemp would greatly impact the sales of their textiles. Greed was the main reason for the Marijuana Tax Act to be passed. That, and the confusion between hemp and the drug variety cannabis, marijuana. It was not until 1998 that the US started to import hemp seed and oil.

So, why is hemp such a great sustainable plant? The United States Department of Agriculture states that one acre of hemp produces as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees. In addition, hemp is fast growing and is naturally sustainable. Hemp plants naturally grow close together, meaning there is little room for weeds, so no fertilizers or pesticides are needed. The strength of hemp fiber makes it popular in paper products and because it is eco-friendly it is used as an additive in recycled pulp to help strengthen it for new products. It potentially has thousands of possibilities for use; from food and body care products to plastics, paper, textiles and building materials.

Here are some great hemp products that I have been using:

The North American Hemp Co has a personal care product line made with Certified Organic hemp seed oil. When I was in Canada this summer I saw this line of hemp products and wanted to try it (since I knew I wanted to write an article on hemp). The Hemp Holy Grail Body Lotion moisturizes without feeling greasy and I love the feel of it on my skin. My daughter and husband both have eczema and hemp oil is known to relieve eczema symptoms because it contains Omega-3 and vitamin E – and it has proven most effective for our family. Thank goodness I can buy it on amazon.com here in the US.

Just like Salba which I wrote about a few months ago, hemp is considered a superfood. It contains all 10 essential amino acids and is an excellent source of protein. It has the balanced ratio of essential fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6. Hemp is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and helps the skin heal. So, I now also enjoy baking with hemp and know those chocolate chip cookies are just a bit healthier. My kids never know that I also sprinkle a bit in my Rice Krispies squares.

I am totally addicted (no pun intended) to toasted, salted hemp seeds. They are a little like soy nuts. Since my daughter is a vegetarian this is a great alternative to protein. I put these seeds in her school lunches and so far, the Principal has not called me.

I now also put a bit of hempseed oil on my toast (better than butter) in the morning. I also add it to my salad instead of olive oil. The hemp oil gives it a bit of a nutty taste, which I like. Hemp oil is not recommended to cook with because it breaks down when heated. And, it must be refrigerated after opening.

There are many manufacturers of hemp clothing, but one of my favorites is Efforts.ca. Hemp is so easily grown that clothing made from it is inexpensive, long lasting due to its strong natural fibers and is, in fact, more breathable than cotton – so this t-shirt will soon become one of your favorites.


Even though Prop 19 did not pass, I am sure this is not the end of it.  In the meantime, I will continue to buy hemp products from Canada.

Let us know if you have any favorite hemp products that you like to use.

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