History Of Hemp
Originating from Central Asia, hemp has been used in a wide variety of ways for thousands of years. Its stem is a very important source of fiber used to make rope, sails, clothing and paper. The declaration of independence of the United States was written and printed on paper made of hemp. At the time, hemp was widely cultivated in North America.
Hemp is A Versatile And Ecological Plant
The cultivation of industrial hemp for its very strong and durable fibres offers an enormous potential: paper of all kinds (printing, newspapers, packaging, etc.), various textiles, various building materials (insulation, agglomeration, bricks, furniture, mortar, etc.). You can also make ethanol, cables, carpets, auto parts, animal bedding, etc
Another advantage is that the cultivation of hemp and its processing are less harmful to the environment than the production of paper from trees and textile from cotton. Its fiber yield per acre is 4 times higher than that of wood and its transformation into paper is less polluting. Its cultivation is also much less demanding in pesticides than that of cotton. The oil that is extracted from seeds is very popular in the natural cosmetics sector, because it would have a very good moisturizing and penetrating power.
In 1937, as part of a concerted fight against the illicit use of drugs, the cultivation of hemp was declared illegal in the United States (Marijuana Tax Act). Canada did the same in 1938 (opium and Narcotics Act).
Curiously, little is known about the food uses of hemp. Some sources report that poultry was fed and that Shinto practitioners in Japan ate it, as did the people of Eastern Europe who made grits and ” butter.” It was probably the difficulty to scale the hemp seeds that hindered their consumption.
Hemp Is Low In THC
Today, cultivation of low THC hemp is permitted in many countries, including Canada, which adopted the industrial hemp regulations in 1998 (it’s often referred to as “agricultural hemp”). Production, distribution, processing, export and import are regulated by Health Canada.
They require an annual license and compliance with several regulations, the most important of which, of course, is the one that limits the THC content of the plant. The maximum level is limited to 0.3% by weight of the leaves and to 10 parts per million (ppm) in the case of oil and flour produced from seeds.
Hemp food products are so low in THC that they cannot cause positive urine tests, a practice in some US employers.
In the United States, a federal bill-the Industrial Hemp Farming Act – was introduced in 2009 and again in 2011 to legalize the cultivation of low – THC hemp throughout the United States.
What Is So Special About Hemp Seeds And Oil
It is their essential fatty acid content that makes hemp seeds particularly interesting. Indeed, the vast majority of oils and foods consumed in Western countries provide too many omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) and too few omega-3 fatty acids (Ala alpha-linolenic acid). This imbalance-about 10 to 30 omega-6 to 1 omega – 3-causes conditions conducive to cardiovascular and inflammatory disorders.
However, in hemp seeds, the omega-6 / omega-3 ratio is 2/1 to 3/1 and corresponds to the ideal proportions for Human Health established at 1/1 to 4/1 (see our fact sheet omega-3 and omega-6).
Fatty Acid Content Of Hemp Seed Oil *
Saturated fatty acids: – 3-7 %
Mono-unsaturated acids (omega-9): – 5-9 %
Polyunsaturated acids (omega-3 and omega-6): – 75-85 %
Omega-3: – about 24 %
Omega-6: – About 60 %
* Hemp seed oil is made from whole seeds.
Source : Callaway JC and Pate DW (2009). Hempseed oil, chapitre 5, 185-213 in : Gourmet and Health-Promoting Specialty Oils, Robert A. Moreau and Afaf Kamal-Eldin (Eds.), American Oil Chemists
The fact that this oil also contains up to 4 % of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) adds to its interest, because some people are not able to synthesize this substance from omega-6 and therefore need a direct source. Borage oil (20% LFA) and evening primrose oil (10% LFA) are the best known sources of LFA, but are only available as supplements.
The proteins in hemp seeds are of better quality compared to those in other seeds. They contain significant amounts of sulphur-containing amino acids (methionine and cystine) and arginine, an amino acid that appears to play an important role in cardiovascular health. On the other hand, hemp seed proteins are better digested because they do not contain trypsin inhibitors (trypsin is an enzyme that digests proteins).
Nutritional Content Of Hemp Seeds
Nutritional info for shelled hemp seed (25 g)
Kilocalories: 125 kcal
Proteins – 8.3 g
Carbohydrate – 3 g
Fiber – 1.8 g
Lipids – 11 g
Source : Callaway JC and Pate DW (2009). Hempseed oil, chapitre 5, 185-213 in : Gourmet and Health-Promoting Specialty Oils, Robert A. Moreau and Afaf Kamal-Eldin (Eds.), American Oil Chemists Society Press, Urbana Il. [Accessed 30 may 2011]. www.finola.com
Unshelled hemp seeds are edible, but they are very crunchy. Manufacturers add them, after having grilled them, to the products in which this texture is desired. Seeds can be incorporated into all kinds of recipes (dressing, dips, sauces, muffins, etc.).
Research On Hemp Oil And Seeds
Very little human research has been published on foods containing hemp, as is often the case with exotic and new food sources.
Heart health. Because of the interesting omega-3 content of hemp seeds and oil, the potential preventive effect on cardiovascular diseases11 is being investigated . For the time being, a few animal trials have yielded mixed results or modests3-5,12. In humans, effects on cardiovascular risk markers have been minor6 or absent7.
Eczema. The particular lipid profile of hemp oil has attracted the interest of researchers in the field of eczema treatment. A preliminary study (20 subjects) yielded promising results, 8 but these have not yet been confirmed in another trial with more subjects.
Side Effects And Precautions:
– Like all products rich in omega-3 fatty acids, shelled seeds and hemp oil are easily oxidized, when exposed to air or heat. Oxidised fats are harmful to health. It is therefore recommended to purchase small quantities of oil at a time. As long as the container is closed, the oil can be kept cool for 10 months. Once the container is opened, the oil will keep for about 2 months in the refrigerator.
– Whole hemp seeds keep longer than those that are shelled, because the bark protects the fatty acids from oxidation. The peeled seeds, once opened, will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
– Hemp seed oil is ideal for dressing or for perfuming a dish after cooking. Because of its fragile omega-3 fatty acid content, it is not suitable for cooking.
– A single case of allergic reaction to the consumption of hemp seed has been reported.
Our nutritionist’s opinion
The nutritional benefits of hemp seeds lie in their high omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid Ala) content and good protein content. They are also a very good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine). Whole seeds contained some iron (1.8 mg/25 g). However, despite the high alpha-linolenic acid (Ala) content of hemp seeds, flax seeds remain the best source of this fat, which is the most absent from our diet.
So, they (flax seeds) are cheaper than hemp seeds. Also, since the arrival on the market of chia seeds, which are an excellent source of ALA and a source of iron and protein, hemp stands out less. However, healthy eating and good health are all about variety.
Eating hemp seeds in addition to flax seed or chia seeds will therefore bring additional nutrients (protein, vitamin B1 and iron), in addition to the discovery of a new flavor. It should also be noted that the hemp seeds and chia seeds are much softer for the intestines and easier to digest than flax seeds.
How To Choose The Best Hemp Oil
Hemp oil has very good nutritional benefits, but it is very expensive. You can find it mainly in health food stores. It costs about 30% more than linseed oil, which is already expensive.
Choose cold pressed oils, whose manufacturing process preserves the fragile omega-3 fatty acids. There are also hemp seed oil capsules on the market.
The Natural Products Market also offers several ready-to-eat products containing hemp. The list grows each year : dressings, bars, muesli, butter, cheese substitutes, chips, ice cream, salsa, herbal teas, coffee, “burgers”, etc. In the factory production process, the oil leaves a residue that is processed into flour; which can be used to make chips or a meal for animal feed.
If you are consuming hemp for its health, it is important to keep in mind that some of the ready-to-eat foods on the market contain only small quantities or contain other products (salt, sugar and others) that are not very healthy. Read the list of ingredients carefully.