Hemp is a good plant with a bad reputation. While many acknowledge it can have benefits in several areas, it is tainted in social perception due to its association with the drug marijuana.

According to David P. West, Ph.D., writing for the North American Industrial Hemp Council, there are several plants in the genus cannabis with the unique molecular compounds called cannabinoids, of which many have been identified. However, there are two primary cannabinoids that are of importance in hemp classification. On the one hand, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive ingredient in plants of the cannabis genus, produces the typical effects of marijuana. On the other hand, cannabinoid, CBD, is an anti-psychoactive ingredient. Cannabis plants used as drugs are high in THC and low in CBD. Likewise, plants in this genus that are high in CBD and low in THC are called industrial hemp. West reports the levels of THC in industrial hemp are so low no one could get high from smoking it; it is definitively not marijuana.

How is hemp used?

As a fiber, hemp is a traditional material for making rope; it can also create paper and hemp linen. Hemp can also be used to produce plastics, and even bio-fuel and ethanol.

Hemp Car writes that hemp can also be part of a healthy diet. Hemp seeds can be pressed to make oil that is rich in fatty acid, which are viewed as essential for healthy diets. Beyond that, seeds can be ground and used for baking.

The Washington Post published an article on the health benefit of hemp hearts, or raw shelled hemp seeds. The heart of the seed is the most nutritious part, and is an excellent source of all essential amino acids, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. It also contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. According to the Post, hemp hearts can increase energy levels, stabilize the appetite and improve digestion. Hemp hearts are also gluten-free, considered a raw food and free of allergens like soy and dairy. They also do not trigger nut allergies. The Post reports hemp hearts taste like sunflower seeds and can be used similarly in recipes.

In Canada, Manitoba Harvest is well known for their line of hemp products, including Hemp Hearts, hemp oil and protein powders and even a line of hemp drinks, an alternative to dairy products. However, while you may find Manitoba Harvest on your grocery store shelves, the company itself is still private.

For those looking to invest in natural foods fueled by hemp, Naturally Splendid (TSXV:NSP) is the only publicly traded company that specializes in hemp superfoods. The company’s Natera Hemp line of hemp-fueled products features hemp seed products as well as protein powders. Natera Hemp products are also available in select stores in British Columbia and Alberta.

Health benefits

According to Natural News, the essential fatty acids in hemp can help reduce blood cholesterol. A reduction in cholesterol can maintain heart health and reduce plaque buildup in arteries, which lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. The source also claims fatty acids can help brain function and perhaps improve memory and mood. Hemp oil is an ingredient in many cosmetic products because it can smooth and soften skin, Natural News reports, and can even be used as a treatment for skin disorders like psoriasis.

Hemp can also help digestion with its high amounts of soluble fibers. For this same reason, hemp seeds act as a natural appetite suppressant for some by inducing a feeling of fullness. The news source also claims hemp can help minimize cravings for sweets.

Medical News Today emphasized the health benefits of hemp, reporting linolenic acid, found in hemp, is an omega-3 fatty acid that some studies have suggested may prevent coronary heart disease. Hempseed oil also contains sterols, which are steroid alcohols. They are acknowledged to help lower cholesterol. Daily intake of sterols may have a connection to a lower risk of heart attack, as well. The aliphatic alcohols in hempseed oil can also lower cholesterol and reduce platelet aggregation. One of these alcohols in particular is phytol, which is associated with antioxidant benefits. Phytol is also found in spinach, beans, raw vegetables and asparagus. Hempseed oil also contains tocopherol, which can help patients fight degenerative diseases like atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

According to Care2, the omega-6 fatty acid has its own benefits. It can stimulate skin and hair growth and maintain bone health, along with possibly helping the brain function. Care2 reports there are many ways in which hemp can help regulate the metabolism and help people feel fuller for a longer period of time by slowing the body’s digestion. This can also prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar that have a significant emotional and physical impact.

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