Hemp, Hemp Hooray!

article image

Many say that hemp (Cannabis sativa) is the
functional food for the future. The plants’ seeds contain potent
nutrition with an array of trace minerals, an abundance of protein
and fiber, and all the essential amino and fatty acids needed for a
healthy diet. What’s more, hemp is a renewable, reusable and
recyclable resource, producing four times as much pulp per acre as
trees and significantly more fiber per square foot than either
cotton or flax. This fast-growing annual also merits an
“environmental-friendliness seal of approval” — it typically is
grown without the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides thanks
to its natural pest resistance.

So why wait for the future when you can harvest the benefits of
dietary hemp right now? Interest in hemp is rising due to its
amazing versatility. Not only is hemp a healthy food, but it is
widely used in nutraceuticals and body-care products, as well as in
textiles and industrial goods.

Hemp may be hot, but what it’s not is a source of
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the hallucinatory psychoactive
ingredient in marijuana (which contains anywhere from 5 to 20
percent THC). Hemp belongs to a diverse plant species including
more than 500 varieties, of which marijuana is a distant cousin.
Growers have bred strains for dietary hemp, also referred to as
industrial hemp, to produce only insignificant trace amounts of THC
— less than 0.3 percent. The trace amounts are as harmless as the
trace amounts of opiates in poppy seeds.

Hemp History

Cultivation and use of hemp date back more than 5,000 years.
Historians have documented the plant’s use throughout the world as
a food grain and a source of fiber. George Washington, Thomas
Jefferson and other Founding Fathers grew hemp; Betsy Ross stitched
the first American flag with it; the signers of the Declaration of
Independence inked their John Hancocks on hemp paper; and Colonial
Americans used hemp as lamp oil and as canvas for covered

Today, industrial hemp is cultivated worldwide, with countries
like Canada and China leading the way. U.S. retailers and
manufacturers import large quantities of hemp fiber, hemp seeds and
hemp seed oil from Canada and other nations.

In 1937, the United States government banned hemp farming. But
in the 1940s, the crop was legally grown for the war effort (hemp
was needed to make rope, webbing and canvas, among other things, to
be used on navy ships — it was called the “Hemp for Victory”
campaign). In 1970, Congress designated hemp (along with its cousin
marijuana) as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances
Act, making it illegal to grow hemp without a license from the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA has approved only
one license, which expired in 2003. A number of states have passed
laws to allow hemp farming, including Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine,
Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia, but farmers in those
states still can’t grow the crop without a federal OK.

In spite of the Bush Administration’s attempt at banning sales
of products made from hemp, in 2004 the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals upheld its ruling to allow the continued manufacture and
sales of hemp-based products made from imported hemp.

From Stalk to Seed

The hemp industry is huge, with North Americans spending an
estimated $100 million annually on hemp products, ranging from
food, health and skin-care products to textiles, plastics and
biofuel. Historically, manufacturers used the fiber-rich stalk to
make nearly all sails for ships, but today the canvas-type material
is used to make tents, backpacks, bags and tarps. And hemp is now
appearing in carpets and myriad textiles and fabrics, from linens
and drapes to shoes, clothing and accessories. Even fashion giants
like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Adidas are in on the action,
adding hemp-made products to their clothing lines.

Stalk-based products also include insulation material,
fiberboard and other building materials used to make everything
from car moldings to kitchen cabinets; industrial products like
agro-fiber composites and caulking; and a plethora of paper
products, from cardboard to coffee filters. Hemp leaves’ uses are a
bit more limited, but they do make for great mulch, and can be used
as animal bedding or turned into compost.

Hemp seeds serve as a tasty food source that can be eaten plain
or added to recipes. Seeds also are pressed to make oil. The
resulting seed cake (crushed seed hulls) is used to brew beer,
crush into animal feed or grind into flour. On the industrial
level, the oil is used in lubricants, printing inks and in the
manufacture of synthetic resins widely used in adhesives and
paints. Various grades of hemp oil also are used as a nutritional
supplement or to flavor foods, as well as in body-care products and

Harvest Slaw

Serves 6 to 8

When selecting sweet potatoes at the supermarket, be sure to buy
varieties labeled”yams.”


  • 3 tablespoons hemp seed oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 6 cups shredded green cabbage (1/2 small head)
  • 2-1/2 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1/4 head)
  • 3 cups coarsely shredded, peeled sweet potatoes (about 3/4
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onions (about 1/4 large onion)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seed, for garnish


  1. To make the dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to develop.
  3. To make the slaw, toss together vegetables and almonds in a
    large serving bowl.
  4. Whisk dressing ingredients again to blend.
  5. Pour
    dressing over slaw and toss to mix well.
  6. Sprinkle hemp seeds over
    slaw, or serve on the side as a garnish.

Finding Hemp

Look for hemp seed oil, hemp seeds and other dietary hemp
products at your local health-food store or specialty store, such
as Whole Foods. Or, visit the Hemp Industries Association
(www.TheHIA.org) to find a store near you.

Hemp for Beauty

Skin endures a lot of abuse from our lifestyles and the
environment, and all that abuse comes with its consequences. Sun
exposure, pollution, poor nutrition, aging and free-radical damage
can weaken the skin’s natural protection and reduce its ability to
retain moisture. Skin-care products containing essential fatty
acids (EFAs) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) are beneficial for skin
that is dry, itchy, acne-prone, stressed or sun-damaged. These
essential components also are effective for atopic dermatitis,
psoriasis and inflammation — thereby preventing or diminishing

Hemp seed oil is not only rich in EFAs and GLA — making it an
excellent emollient and moisturizer with anti-aging properties —
but its unique oil profile is similar to that of the skin’s own
natural lipids. Instead of forming a temporary barrier on the
skin’s surface, hemp oil is absorbed by the skin, where it can
directly nourish the lipid layers of skin cells. You will find a
multitude of skin-care products and cosmetics on the market today
that contain hemp seed oil, including shampoos and conditioners
reputed to improve the structural quality and manageability of

Hemp for Health

Essential fatty acids exhibit powerhouse benefits that include
anticancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic properties. These
polyunsaturates help regulate mood, body temperature, organ
function, insulin balance and joint health. EFAs also help enhance
metabolic rates and lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol
levels, resulting in a reduced risk for atherosclerosis, heart
disease and stroke.

While flaxseed oil certainly is rich in EFAs, hemp ranks higher
at 80 percent — the highest total of any seed oil. With a 3:1 ratio
of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, hemp provides the ideal
combination of EFAs needed for optimal health. The gluten-free
protein is easily digestible, with a protein content that is
comparable to soybeans. And hemp contains a class of proteins
called globulins, which function as carriers of certain hormones,
lipids and antibodies necessary to maintain a healthy immune

Hemp surpasses even soybeans when it comes to its range and
balance of nutritional benefits. Hemp contains a bonus of
gamma-linolenic acid, which is the active component found in
evening primrose oil. Both seed and oil are abundant in
antioxidants and contain a myriad of vitamins, minerals and trace
minerals. No other seed oil offers a level of nutritional value
that is so in sync with our dietary needs. And you can obtain these
benefits with just one tablespoon of hemp seed oil a day. Now
that’s easy to digest.

Hemp for Taste

Hemp seed usually is available shelled, which often is called
“hemp seed nut,” though small bits of the green hull may remain.
About the size of a sesame seed, hemp seeds have a delicate, nutty
flavor reminiscent of sunflower seeds. The oil is more intense in
color than a dark olive oil and has an exceptionally nutty flavor
that marries well with just about any food.

A word of caution: Because the oil is highly unsaturated, it has
a low smoke point, much like flaxseed oil and other nut oils.
Therefore, avoid frying or cooking with the oil at high
temperatures — the heat can alter the molecular structure, changing
good fatty acids into harmful trans-fatty acids. Warming the oil at
low temperatures for a short period of time, however, is fine. For
example, you might add the oil to a sauce during the last several
minutes as it simmers. You also can use the oil in baking at
temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

Hemp oil will stay fresh for up to a year if frozen. Once the
oil has been opened, store it in the refrigerator and use it within
three months for maximum nutrition. But that’s not hard to do. In
fact, it’s a piece of cake, because hemp oil lends itself to such a
variety of foods — including cake.


Hemp Seed Oatmeal with Asian Pears and Hazelnuts

Serves 4

If ripe Asian pears are not in season, apple varieties like Gala
or Fuji make a tasty substitute. Save time and buy prechopped
hazelnuts at your supermarket or specialty store.


  • 1-3/4 cup water
  • 1-1/2 cups diced Asian pear (about 1 medium)
  • 1-1/4 cups regular rolled oats
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons honey


  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add Asian pears,
    oats, coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and ginger.
  3. Cover,
    reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in hemp seeds and simmer,
    covered, for 2 minutes more or until thick.
  5. To serve, sprinkle with
    hazelnuts and drizzle with honey.

Hemp Seed Crab Cakes

Makes 8 patties

Here’s a quick fix for an appetizing lunch or light supper. Serve
with Harvest Slaw on the side for a double dose of healthy
polyunsaturated essential fatty acids.


  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery (use upper stalk with celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup fresh whole-grain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1-3/4 cups fresh lump crab meat, shell pieces removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise, celery, basil, chives and
    garlic until thoroughly blended.
  2. Add breadcrumbs and hemp seeds.
  3. Gently mix in crab meat until mixture clings together. If mixture is
    too dry, add a little more mayonnaise; if it seems too wet, add a
    few more breadcrumbs.
  4. Shape the crab mix into 8 equal patty cakes.
  5. Put on plate, then
    cover and refrigerate for an hour or more until ready to cook.
  6. To
    cook cakes, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large
    nonstick skillet.
  7. Cook crab cakes for 3 to 5 minutes on one side or
    until golden brown, then flip.
  8. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive
    oil to the skillet and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until
    golden brown. (If you need to cook the cakes in two batches, divide
    the oil accordingly.)
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve
  10. Great served with sliced avocados on the side.

Banana Hemp bread with Cashews

Makes 1 loaf

Instead of using butter or margarine as a spread for warm bread
slices, try cashew butter or hemp butter for a nutty change of


  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 2/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted cashews
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup hemp seed oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (such as canola or sunflower)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt or applesauce


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine both
    flours with sugar, cashews, hemp seeds, baking power, baking soda
    and salt; set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, both
    oils, mashed bananas, vanilla, and yogurt or applesauce.
  4. Fold
    banana mixture into flour mixture, stirring just until
  5. Coat a loaf pan with a nonstick cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter into
    pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  7. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or
    until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove from
    oven and let sit in pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn out onto a
    rack to cool.
  9. Slice, serve and enjoy.

Kris Wetherbee is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to
Herbs for Health. She lives in the hills of western Oregon with her
photographer husband, Rick Wetherbee. Contact her at www.HerbsForHealth.com/contributors.

The reference list for this article is extensive. If you would
like a copy, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to
“Hemp,” Herbs for Health, 1503 SW 42nd St.,

Topeka, KS 66609; or e-mail us at editor@HerbsForHealth.com.


Azida, Inc.
(520) 803-8872

Earth Friendly Goods
(877) 447-1521

Everything Hemp
(800) 308-6149

Manitoba Harvest
(800) 665-4367

(800) 993-4367