Hemp does give a damn about its bad reputation. This particularly trusty strain of Cannabis has been besmirched by its illicit cousin marijuana, a cultivar of Cannabis that is smoked for recreational purposes. Hemp has a microscopic and harmless amount of THC—the chemical in marijuana that gets you high—and has an extremely versatile skill set.
From nutritious foodstuffs to composite plastics for automobiles, hemp can be used for more than kitschy, hippy jewelry. In addition to its wide range of applications, the hemp crop is easily cultivated; its water and soil purification properties help to renew farm fields and can even kill weeds. Unfortunately, industrial hemp has been illegal to grow in the U.S. since 1958—save Colorado, of course—and can only be enjoyed legally by importing hemp products from Canada or other parts of the world.
There are thousands of possible uses for hemp, but the most beneficial purpose is hemp foods. Forty-four percent of the hemp seed is edible oils, and they’re chock full of essential fatty acids like Omega-6 and Omega-3.
Sharon Palmer, RD, dietitian and author of The Plant-Powered Diet, told us that “Plant Omega-3s have heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits.” She explained the plethora of ways hemp can be infused in a diet, too. “With its soft, sesame seed-like appearance and nutty flavor, you can sprinkle hemp seeds into cereals, salads, breads, casseroles, and desserts.”
Palmer said the hemp/weed confusion “was more prevalent in the past, but people are starting to get it more now. It’s a different breed of plant than marijuana.”
The world’s largest hemp food manufacturer is Manitoba Harvest in Canada, where industrial hemp is legal to grow. They plant, harvest, and manufacture hemp for products like edible hemp seeds, hemp oils for cooking, and were the first to successfully develop water soluble hemp protein powder for shakes and smoothies. Manitoba Harvest offers both certified organic and natural hemp products with a THC content of less than 10 parts per million.
Simply put, hemp is remarkably healthy and starting to break free from antiquated fallacies. Palmer thinks its been a long time coming. “I think hemp is the next ‘it’ food—it has been for a while,” she said. “I don’t think it will be a flash in the pan; it has historical, nutritional, and sustainable significance.”