Hemp is a word that may get some of you thinking back to the days of the Grateful Dead…or some of you may be scratching your heads wondering why we would be highlighting this superfood as something commonly misunderstood as marijuana. While both hemp and marijuana belong to the same plant species, they belong to a different subspecies. Hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed, and/or oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (the psychoactive substance that makes marijuana an illegal drug in the Western world). Hemp actually belongs to the same family of plants as mulberry, which is known for its ability to survive nearly every climate on Earth. Even better, hemp does not require any of the pesticides or herbicides that are used to keep weak plants alive. The best part of the hemp plant is that it produces a tasty (rich nutty flavor) superfood as a seed.
A brief history of hemp is that its production is probably the oldest industry on the planet, going back more than ten thousand years. The oldest relic of human industry is a piece of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8000 BC. Hemp has played a vital role in agriculture and culture – especially in America. The “hamp” place name (New Hampshire, Hampstead, Hampton, etc.) references locations where hemp was once grown. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp on their farms and Ben Franklin owned a hemp paper mill. Hemp continued as a massive agricultural crop in North America until the late 1930s. (SOURCE: “Superfoods” by David Wolfe). So…. Why isn’t hemp as readily used today? A long story short, there was a bunch of political and lobbying hoop-la that occurred in the early 1930s when the media giant Hearst (in coalition with DuPont Corporation) led a crusade to ban hemp because the two companies found a more profitable way to produce paper using trees rather than the widely-used hemp plant at the time. Hemp was incorrectly classified as marijuana as banned in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act (hemp production briefly resumed during WWII when its resources were needed for the war efforts). As a result, the hemp plant and all of its glory has been sheltered since, but is quickly making a comeback due to its resourcefulness (and the fact that people are aware that it’s NOT the same as THC-containing marijuana).
The hemp plant is extremely useful – all parts of the plant can be used. In fact, hemp can be used to make virtually anything that is currently made of cotton, timber, or petroleum. Getting into the health benefits of hemp, here is a complete run-down of why you should consider incorporating hemp into your daily dietary regime (SOURCE: “Superfoods” by David Wolfe). Warning: You’ll probably want to run out right away and get a bag of hempseeds after you learn how incredibly good they are for the human body:
First off, hempseeds are pretty insane regarding AMINO ACIDS AND PROTEIN. While writing all of the fascinating things about hempseeds, it spurred an idea for me to do a special article refreshing our memories on some important health fundamentals (stay tuned for that article to shortly follow). The hempseed is a complete protein source. One of the best sources of plant protein and fat is found in hempseed.
Hempseeds contain all of the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary to maintain healthy human life. No other single plant source has the essential amino acids in such an easily digestible form, or has the essential fatty acids in as perfect a ratio to meet human nutritional needs.
The oil from hempseed has the highest percentage of essential fatty acids of nearly any seed on Earth.
MINERALS!!! Hempseed typically contains over twenty trace minerals because hemp excels at absorbing minerals from the soil (unlike many of our burned-out farmed fruits and vegetables today grown in worn-out and abused soil).
PROTEIN!!! Shelled hempseed is 35% protein, 47% fat, and 12% carbohydrate. Packed with 33-37% pure digestible protein, raw hempseed (meaning it was not treated with heat processing, like many nuts and seeds are before being packaged and sold), with all their original life-force energy and enzymes intact, are one of nature’s richest sources of complete protein. Only algae (such as spirulina) exceed hemp in protein.
RAW SOURCE – Hempseed, unlike commonly available animal protein, is a pure, raw source of complete protein. It never needs to be cooked to kill bacteria, so all of its vital components stay intact.
EASILY ABSORBED!!! The human body can readily absorb and utilize all of the hempseed goodness because it blends easily into water, beverages, smoothies, shakes, and salad dressings without heat.
HYPOALLERGENIC!! (No, we’re not talking Labradoodles, here) Many people are allergic to common high-protein foods such as whey (dairy) and soy. Not hempseeds!
BRAIN BUILDING!!! Hempseed is a good source of brain-building, liver-supporting lecithin à this is a lipid (fat-oil) substance composed primarily of choline and inositol. It is found in all living cells as a major component of cell membranes.
CHLOROPHYLL!! Hempseed is one of the few seeds that contains chlorophyll à inside each hempseed are infant green leaves that will eventually open and grow as seed sprouts.
Approximately 47% of each hempseed is comprised of “good fats” – with an ideal balance of omega-3 (ALA alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 essential fatty acids (linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid).
LOW CARBS AND SUGAR! (Something every parent would like to hear for their children) The carbohydrate content of shelled hempseed is 11.5 percent and its sugar content is 2%. Of the shelled hempseed carbohydrate, 6% is in the form of fiber. The fiber content of hempseed flour is the highest of all commercially grown seeds!
Hempseeds have a high content of vitamin E (three times higher than flax seed!) in the form of alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienols (ummm….OK, so what this means is there is a wide variety of natural-occurring vitamin E sources here, thus making it super absorbable and usable by the body. Most of the vitamin E we take in supplement form is only in the alpha-tocopherol form).
Hempseeds are also an outstanding source of monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids (which are considered a healthy energy source and a quality beautifying oil).
(Remember my article on sprouted grains a few weeks ago?) Hempseed naturally sprouts on the hemp plant late in the growing season (during autumn), lowering phytic acid and increasing enzymes, which make the seed even more digestible.
Hempseed’s essential fatty acid and protein profile provides a healthy alternative to fish, which is becoming increasingly risky to eat, given rising mercury and PCB contamination.
Hemp leaves are also edible (and no, you won’t get high from eating them) – they contain a high percentage of silica, which is useful in building strong bones and beautiful skin, hair, and nails.
FIBER! Hemp leaf is rich in fiber – one side of the hemp leaf is so soft and the other side is abrasive, so as the leaf is eaten and the fiber moves through the body, the sides of the leaf churn through the digestive tract, scrubbing and softly cleaning the intestines.
Dried hemp leaf tea has a reported phenomenal taste as well as antimicrobial action.
Thanks to its nourishing oil, hemp is booming in the personal hygiene industry with hemp found in soaps, shampoos, lotions, lip balms, and bath oils. Companies such as Dr. Bronner’s soap that I mentioned a few weeks ago in my “If You Can’t Put It In Your Mouth, It Doesn’t Belong On Your Skin” article (a great alternative to the other health and beauty products) uses hemp oil as part of their formulations to create fabulous cleansing agents.
Hemp is used as a great textile – it’s four times warmer than cotton, four times more water absorbent, and has three times the tensile strength as cotton…not to mention it’s much safer than conventional cotton because it does not need to be sprayed with tons of pesticides and herbicides. Many clothing companies are now making clothing options made out of hemp.
Hemp makes great paper (it was originally used as the first paper fiber thousands of years ago until the wood-pulp paper industry changed that in the 1930s) that requires less chemicals, natural resources, and can be easily and readily recycled. Hemp can even be used to make rope, plastics (which is way better than relying on petroleum and chemicals to make current plastics), and wood-like building materials. Hemp can even be used as a fuel source!
WHERE TO FIND/HOW TO USE HEMP:
OK, so I barraged you enough with happy hemp facts and why hempseeds are sooooo good for you. Some of you are probably still wondering if eating hempseeds is a concern with the whole “marijuana” concept. No, you won’t get high from eating hemp seeds (well, high on health, maybe….hah…hah…hah….one thing hemp seeds don’t do are cure bad humor, sorry). Just keep note of a few things:
- To be imported into the U.S., hempseed must be cracked out of their shells (due to the strict hemp agriculture laws). You can easily find hemp seeds in many stores across the U.S. now – many grocery stores carry them, especially Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and any health store. You can even buy them online.
- There are many hemp seed products out there: shelled hempseeds (for eating), hempseed protein, hempseed cold-pressed oil, hempseed butter, raw hempseed energy bars (many of which come in chocolate varieties…yum), raw hempseed ice cream, hempseed milk (a great non-dairy alternative), hempseed salad dressing, hempseed breads, and hempseed body care products.
- Hempseed protein powder is a great alternative to milk-based protein powders!! My husband has been using hemp protein powder in his smoothies and after workouts rather than the overly-processed isolated milk-based protein powders. I even use the hemp protein powder to add to baking recipes and raw snack recipes. Trader Joe’s sells a great hemp protein powder (in addition to other health stores, or online).
- Hempseeds are great eaten alone or as a snack. They go well sprinkled on salads and they add a richness and flavor to smoothies and salad dressings.
Here are a few recipes to try:
1 cup hempseed
4 cups filtered water
1 pinch sea salt
¼ – ½ vanilla bean
Blend all ingredients in a blender and filter through a strainer, nut-milk bag, or other fine-mesh bag.
Add 1-3 tablespoons of a sweetener if you wish (raw honey [not if using for young children], agave nectar, or stevia). Optional: add berries, peaches, and/or papaya.
Add hemp milk to your smoothie or shake, your morning cereal, or to coffee/tea. You can also drink hemp milk straight and many people find it a better alternative to dairy, especially those with dairy intolerances or sensitivities. From experience, I find hemp milk to be the creamiest and richest of the nut/seed milks.
Add hempseeds to your morning smoothies or shakes. These tend to taste better when added to a smoothie base of frozen bananas and coconut milk and/or oil.
1/3 cup hempseed
¼ cup hempseed oil
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbs lemon juice
2 sprigs parsley
2 tbs hempseed butter
2 tbs honey
Blend all ingredients until smooth.
Here are some other great sources for hempseed recipes: