Hemp Oil’s Nutritional Value
Hemp oil’s primary value is its high content of the two essential fatty acids (EFAs) Omega-3 and Omega-6. Essential to tissue growth and metabolism, these critical EFAs cannot be produced by the body and must instead be present in the diet. Intake of both EFAs in sufficient amounts and proper balance is essential for prevention or treatment of a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, menopause, osteoporosis, atopic eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
With an EFA content of about 75%, hemp oil not only contains one of the highest amounts of EFAs of all plant oils, but it also contains a significant amount of the Omega-3 EFA which is often deficient in the human diet. Its balanced EFA ratio, which closely matches human nutritional requirements, makes hemp oil an ideal ingredient in a variety of food, supplement, and personal care products. When larger production volumes and lower prices can be achieved, hemp oil may well find industrial uses similar to those of linseed (flax), sunflower and soybean oils, which are now used in paints, inks, solvents, binders, and in polymer plastics.
The body needs Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) that aid in cell maintenance for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and overall physical health. The body does not produce EFAs and they only come from a few food sources: fish oil, the seed and oil of hemp, flax, borage, or primrose. Hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated EFAs, with a volume level of 81 percent. EFAs aid in the maintenance of cell membrane fluidity and stability, development and function of brain and nerve tissue, oxygen transfer and energy production, immune functions, and conversion into compounds involved in all body functions including local hormones governing inflammatory responses.
It also contains Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid made in the body from linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid (EFA). GLA is the product of the body’s first biochemical step in the transformation of a major essential fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA), into important prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are essential to the proper functioning of each cell. Every cell’s structure in the human body depends on fatty acids formed from GLA.
In December 1991, findings on the importance of essential oils motivated two professors at the University of California, the physician William Eidleman and the biochemist R. Lee Hamilton to make the following public statement, “Essential oils support our immune systems and guard from damage due to viral infection. And where do we find the richest sources of essential oil? In the seeds of Indian hemp. The ridiculous ban on this most precious and valuable plant must finally be officially lifted. The proper use of cannabis guarantees us exceptionally good health and the possibility of solving the world’s nutrition problems in the turn of a hand.
How Hemp Seed Oil is Made
Hemp oil or hempseed oil is obtained by pressing hemp seeds. Cold pressed, unrefined hemp oil is dark to clear light green in color, with a nutty flavour. The darker the color, the grassier the flavour. The fresh leaves can also be consumed in salads. Products include cereals, frozen waffles, hemp milk ice cream, hemp tofu, and nut butters. A few companies produce value added hemp seed items that include the seed oils, whole hemp grain (which is sterilized by law in the United States, where they import it from China and Canada), dehulled hemp seed (the whole seed without the mineral rich outer shell), hemp flour, hemp cake (a by-product of pressing the seed for oil) and hemp protein powder.
Hemp seeds contain no THC (or if so, only very trace amounts), the psychoactive substance found in the related varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp seeds contain a three-to-one ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential other nutrients and fatty acids include magnesium, phytosterols, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin.
Refined hempseed oil is primarily used in body care products. Hempseed oil has found some limited use in the production of shampoos, detergents and soaps. It has also received attention in recent years as a possible feedstock for the large-scale production of biodiesel. There are a number of organizations that promote the production and use of hempseed oil.
Hash oil, not to be confused with hempseed oil, is used for both recreational and medicinal purposes and made from the mature female flowers and leaves of the herb cannabis, thus having a much higher THC content. Hash oil should not be confused with hemp, as the modern usage of the word ‘hemp’ is reserved for plants that meet the legal requirement of containing 0.3 % THC or less. Hemp seed may be a significant source of phytates as evidenced by studies by Russo and Reggiani, June 2013. They were studying animal feed and the potential of anti-nutrient disadvantages of hemp seed meal.
Hempseed oil is manufactured from varieties of Cannabis sativa that do not contain significant amounts of THC, the psychoactive element present in the cannabis plant. There is no THC within the hempseed, although trace amounts of THC may be found in hempseed oil when plant matter adheres to the seed surface during manufacturing. Regular accredited sampling of THC in Canadian hemp seed oil shows THC levels usually below detection limit of 4 ppm (parts per million, or 4 mg/kg).
Hemp Nutritional Supplements
Encapsulated hemp seed oil supplements are found in natural foods markets, usually next to increasingly popular flax supplements, part of a $25 million U.S. market for EFA supplements. Flax oil, with its very high content of the Omega-3 EFA, is usually taken short term to correct Omega-3 deficiencies. However, hemp oil is the better choice for long-term consumption because it contains a more desirable balance of the two EFAs. The value of hemp oil as a broad-range oil supplement is further enhanced by the presence of Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA), and is the primary reason people buy borage and evening primrose oil, which helps to treat such ailments as neurodermatitis, arthritis, and PMS.
Because it is more versatile, tastier, and keeps better than other high EFA oils, hemp oil is also used as a culinary ingredient. Hemp oil may be used like cold-pressed olive oil in sauces, flavorings, dressings, low-heat cooking, and sautéing. The success of fine olive oils as well as the exotic nut and seed oils category (grape seed, hazelnut, macadamia, etc.) provides a strong indication that pure, bottled hemp seed oil would have a moderate yet lucrative market. In addition to bottled oil, there are many fine food preparations on the market that utilize hemp seed oil as the key ingredient, such as salad dressings and other oil-based marinades, chutneys and sauces.
Hemp milk or hemp seed milk, is a drink made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground into water, yielding a creamy nutty beverage. It is marketed in health and fitness publications as a “new health food darling”. Hemp milk also contains 10 essential amino acids, making it a good vegan source of protein as hemp protein does not contain phytates, enzyme inhibitors found in some soy protein that can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals. Hemp protein may also be more digestible than soy protein because unlike soy, it does not contain oligosaccharides, complex sugars that can cause flatulence if not properly broken down during digestion.
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