What is Hemp Seed Oil?
Hemp oil comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. The plant itself has many uses, including providing material suitable for paper, clothing and even construction. Such versatility was first documented by the ancient Chinese around 6,000 BC when it was utilised in everything from bows and arrows to archaic medicines.
Hemp was once a widely grown crop under the early colonies. While many plants take from the soil, Hemp can transform marginal land and turn it into an excellent growing space after a few years of cultivation. This made it a healthy and sustainable way of providing a wide range of products globally. Unfortunately a combination of politics and prohibition resulted its eventual outlaw but after more than a century, these bans are beginning to fall. Unsurprisingly a flood of hemp-based products has hit the market in response.
Hemp vs Cannabis
Hemp seed oil is NOT the same as Hemp (hash) oil. Hemp is a member of the cannabis plant family, of which there are 3 discrete species : Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. The seeds of the Cannabis Sativa plant are used to create Hemp Oil. These seeds contain hardly any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the active drug component of the cannabis plant. Any residual amount of THC from harvesting or processing would not be significant enough to have any effect.
Cannabis Indica is known as the medicinal hemp plant and was originally cultivated for its phytochemical properties. It contains a much higher concentration of THC than Sativa or Ruderalis. The oil produced from the plant itself could rather confusingly, still be referred to as hemp oil, as well as hash or cannabis oil.
In summary Hemp oil made from seeds –> drug free, Hemp / Hash oil made from the plant –> contains THC drug. Therefore Hemp seed oil is the one used in UK cosmetics and your bath products won’t get you high. Many countries require testing for THC in hemp oil and it should be no more than 5-10 parts per million. Interestingly, Northern India is one exception and the Lassi (a popular yoghurt-milk drink) sold on street corners or in cafes is frequently spiked with crushed cannabis leaves called Bhang.
Thanks to its hydrating properties and its ability to prevent moisture loss, the oil assists in keeping skin youthful and supple. It can also be used as part of a regimen against drying conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Fat but Fit : Hemp oil consists of both omega 6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids in the ratio 1:3 (which is better than fish and flaxseed oil’s profiles). Although cosmetics containing hemp should not be eaten, 100% pure food grade hemp oil could be consumed as part of a healthy diet. A combination of essential fatty acids is necessary for healthy cell production and many western diets today do not consist of a good balance of omega 6 and omega 3 (often being too omega 6 heavy).
Gamme Linolenic Acid (GLA) : Hemp oil is rich in GLA. This is a type of omega 6 fatty acid but is great for topical skin application, supposedly having anti-inflammatory properties. GLA is also known as evening primrose oil or borage oil, however opinion is divided when it comes to the benefits of adding this oil to your diet.
Additional Nutrients: calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, vitamin A, B1, B3, B5, B9 and Vitamin D (of which it is the only plant source). The list doesn’t end there, it also has Vitamin E (Tocopherol), 10 amino acids for protein building, chlorophyll, phytosterols, phospholipids, sulfur and a bit of iron and zinc.
Non-comedogenic : Although Comedogenic (pore-clogging) ratings are fairly unreliable, it is believed that Hemp oil mostly does not clog pores. This is because it contains fatty acids similar to those naturally produced by the skin.
It is a common myth that oily skin cannot tolerate topical oils, in fact chronically drying out the skin can, in the long run, promote oil production as the body tries to compensate. Healthy skin produces Linoleic acid and if for whatever reason the body cannot produce this, it alternatively produces oleic acid which is a thick and sticky pore-blocker. Hemp oil contains Linoleic acid which works in synergy with the skin.
Natural Humectant : This means it draws moisture into the skin. Instead of just sitting on the surface it is able to penetrate the deeper layers, moisturising between cells and strengthening the cell matrix. Used in hair roots, it can calm the scalp and prevent flaking and dandruff.
Dermatitis : According to one study conducted in Finland, hemp seed oil helps to alleviate dermatitis, which is an inflammatory reaction within the skin. It was found that symptoms of skin dryness and itching improved after using Hemp oil for 20 weeks.
Therefore Hemp is a relatively inexpensive way of moisturising dry skin, strengthening nails, removing makeup, conditioning hair and supporting overall health. However it should be noted that pure Hemp seed oil goes rancid easily and needs to be kept in the fridge. If you are searching for it as a shelf-stable ingredient, look to brands such as HempzBeauty which contains the safe preservatives necessary for bathroom use. These brands also provide a much more user-friendly texture and floral scent, as opposed to the natural nutty aroma.
If you had concerns about the origins of hemp, don’t be so quick to dismiss its healthy properties solely based on its kooky cousin.