Can you imagine a most hospitable and atmospheric place where all is made
from hemp ?
What is so healthy about hemp oil and foods?
The nutritional composition of oil from the marijuana plant
could be beneficial to your health. To most people, Cannabis sativa is
synonymous with marijuana, but the plant's Latin name means the "useful
hemp." Species designated sativa (useful) are usually among the most
important of all crops. In fact, the utility of hemp is manifold: the plant has
provided human beings with fiber, edible seeds, an edible oil, and medicine, not
just a notorious mind-altering drug.
In our part of the world, these other uses of hemp are no longer
familiar. We rarely use hemp fiber and know little about hemp medicine. Some
cancer patients have found it to be a superior remedy for the nausea caused by
chemotherapy, and some people with multiple sclerosis are grateful for its
relaxant effects on spastic muscles. Hemp seed is sometimes an ingredient in
bird food; otherwise, edible products from Cannabis sativa were virtually
This is all changing. In many parts of the country, promoters of hemp
cultivation are working to educate people about the immense potential of this
plant and to reintroduce it into commerce. They champion hemp as a renewable
source of pulp for the manufacture of paper, as a superior fiber for making
cloth, and as a new food that can be processed into everything from a milk
substitute to a kind of tofu.
Hemp seeds contain 25% high quality protein and 40% fat in the
form of an excellent quality oil. Hemp oil is just now coming on the market.
Produced by the Ohio Hempery in Athens, Ohio, it will be sold through natural
food stores in small, opaque bottles to be kept under refrigeration. It has a
remarkable fatty acid profile, being high in the desirable omega-3s and also
delivering some GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) that is absent from the fats we
normally eat. Nutritionally oriented doctors believe all of these compounds to
be beneficial to health.
Hemp oil contains 57% linoleic (LA) and 19% linolenic (LNA) acids, in the
three-to-one ratio that matches our nutritional needs. These are the essential
fatty acids (EFAs)-so called because the body cannot make them and must get them
from external sources. The best sources are oils from freshly ground grains and
whole seeds, but EFAs are fragile and quickly lost in processing. EFAs are the
building blocks of longer chain fats, such as eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that occur naturally in the fat of cold-water fish
like sardines, mackerel, salmon, bluefish, herring, and, to a lesser extent,
Adding these foods to the diet seems to lower risks of heart
attacks because omega-3 fatty acids reduce the clotting tendency of the blood
and improve cholesterol profiles. They also have a natural anti-inflammatory
effect that makes them useful for people with arthritis and autoimmune
Health food stores stock many brands of EPA/DHA supplements in
the form of fish oil capsules. I usually do not recommend them because I
think it's better to get your essential fatty acids in foods, and I worry about
toxic contaminants in fish oil supplements. But what can you do if you choose,
for one reason or another, not to eat fish? You can get some omega-3s in
expeller pressed canola oil, the only common vegetable oil that contains
A much richer source is flax oil. Flax oil is pressed
from the seeds of Linum utilitatissimum, the source of linen fiber and an oil
better known in this country as linseed oil, the base for oil paints.
Linseed oil is usually classified as a "drying oil"
rather than a food oil because its chemical characteristics cause it to combine
readily with oxygen and become thick and hard. This tendency to harden on
exposure to air quickly turns linseed oil rancid and unfit to eat, but makes it
useful as a vehicle for pigment on canvas. (The word "canvas" by the
way is a relative of "Cannabis," because true canvas is made from hemp
For dietary purposes flax oil must be pressed at low
temperatures, protected from light, heat, and air, stored at cool temperatures,
and used quickly once the containers are opened. Most flax oil is not delicious.
There is great variation in taste among the brands currently sold in natural
food stores, but the best of them still leaves much to be desired.
I have been recommending flax oil as a dietary supplement to
patients with autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and other inflammatory
conditions, but about half of them cannot tolerate it. Some say it makes them
gag, even when concealed in salad dressing or mashed into a baked potato. These
people have to resort to taking flax oil capsules, which are large and
Udo Erasmus, author of the classic book, Fats and Oils
(Alive, 1986), [and Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, The Complete Guide to
fats, oils, cholesterol and human health, Second Printing of Fats and
Oils, (Alive, 1996). This book is a fabulous resource on nutrition -] says that the problem is
freshness. Unless you get flax oil right from the processor and freeze it until
you start using it, it will already have deteriorated by the time you buy it.
contains more EFAs than flax and actually tastes good. It is nutty and free from
the objectionable undertones of flax oil. I use it on salads, baked potatoes,
and other foods and would not consider putting it in capsules.
Like flax oil, hemp oil should be stored in the refrigerator,
used quickly, and never heated. Unlike flax oil, hemp oil also provides 1.7%
gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). There is controversy about the value of adding this
fatty acid to the diet, but many people take supplements of it in the form of
capsules of evening primrose oil, black currant oil, and borage oil. My
experience is that it simulates growth of hair and nails, improves the health of
the skin, and can reduce inflammation. I like the idea of having one good oil
that supplies both omega-3s and GLA, without the need to take more capsules.
One of the questions that people are sure to ask about hemp oil
is whether it has any psychoactivity. The answer is no. The intoxicating
properties of Cannabis sativa reside in a sticky resin produced most abundantly
in the flowering tops of female plants before the seeds mature. The main
psychoactive compound in this resin is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Strains of hemp grown for oil production have a low resin
content to begin with, and by the time the seeds are ready for harvest, resin
production has dropped even further. Finally, the seeds must be cleaned and
washed before they are pressed. As a result, no THC is found in the final
A second question that people may ask is, "Is hemp oil illegal?"
The oil itself is perfectly legal. Hemp seeds are allowed in commerce if they
have been sterilized in some way to prevent germination. This is usually done by
subjecting them to heat.
Obviously, there is a political dimension to the
appearance of this product. For many years, Cannabis sativa has been stigmatized
as a satanic plant and its cultivation has been prohibited. As an ethnobotanist
interested in the relationships between plants and human beings, I have always
felt that making plants illegal was stupid, especially when the objects of these
actions are supremely useful plants like hemp. The plant is not responsible for
human misuse of it.
The efforts of companies in the hemp industry and other groups to promote hemp
cultivation are part of a campaign to rehabilitate this plant and change
society's view of it. Whether or not you wish to join that campaign, it must
seem counterproductive to deny ourselves access to the many benefits that hemp
offers. Of those, the gift of an edible oil with superior nutritional and
therapeutic properties is one of the most important.
If you have a chance to try hemp oil, a long forgotten, newly
rediscovered food, I think you will see why I am enthusiastic about it.
Andrew Weil teaches at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, has a
private medical practice, and is the author of Natural Health, Natural Medicine.
Hemp Oil On Sale Here Now!
(click on the image below)