With the recent buzz around legal hemp, the wellness market has been flooded with goods like “hemp seed oil” and other hemp products that don’t contain CBD. What specifically are the benefits of these products and how are they used?
According to Joy Beckerman, principal at consulting firm HempAce International, these hemp seed oil and hemp-derived CBD products are completely different and have little to do with each other. “What we have here is hemp seed oil and hemp extract, which people often mistakenly call 'hemp oil,’” she says.
Hemp seed oil and hemp extract are also processed differently. Hemp seed oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the hemp plant similar to canola, sunflower, or olive oil. Meanwhile, hemp extract, which contains CBD, is extracted from the flowering buds, resin and leaves of the hemp plant, via C02, ethanol, or industrial solvents.
Due to this confusion in which "hemp seed oil" is often mistakenly called "hemp oil," consumers should check the label to ensure they are purchasing the correct product for their needs. If you're looking for CBD, hemp seed oil isn't what you want; and if you're looking for hemp-based products for their nutritional content, then you may be disappointed in a hemp oil CBD product. Hemp extract also tends to be more expensive than hemp seed oil, so unknowing consumers may fall prey to higher price tags attached to products they're confusing with what they actually need.
Becca Recker - sales and marketing lead for Frogsong Farm, a vertically integrated craft hemp farm in Oregon - points to the differences in growing and processing hemp-derived CBD and hemp seed oil. “You can’t get much CBD from hemp grown for seeds," she says. "High quality CBD is extracted from the flowers of female-only plants, which have been protected from male plants to avoid pollination. This unpollinated state means the plant puts its energy into producing big, juicy, resinous flowers and in effect produces high levels of the CBD, THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes we seek in the full-spectrum CBD industry.”
Full-spectrum CBD means that in addition to CBD, the product contains all the other cannabinoids present in hemp, including CBG (Cannabigerol), CBN (Cannabinol, and THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin).
Conversely, Recker notes, “In order to get hemp seeds, you need to grow female and male plants for pollination to occur and for seeds to be produced." Plus, she adds, the flowers of seedy hemp plants have far inferior cannabinoid profiles.
Even though hemp seed oil does not interact with receptors in the body's endocannabinoid system like hemp extract does, hemp seed oil can be a beneficial addition to a healthy diet. In fact, hemp seeds contain about 80 percent polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. According to Marissa Fratoni, holistic registered nurse, yoga teacher, and wellness coach, "hemp seed oil is a superior resource of omega-3 (linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid) fatty acids. It has the perfect ratio (3:1) of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids recommended by the World Health Organization for optimal health.” Other prominent nutrients found in hemp seed oil include vitamins A and E, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium.
With its light nutty taste, hemp seed oil can also be used in lieu of vegetable oil in marinades, sauces, and dressings. However, it should not be heated above 120°F lest it start to lose its beneficial properties. Meanwhile, dried hemp seeds can be viewed as a superfood similar to flax and chia seeds, which are a great addition to cereals, yogurts, smoothies, and the like.
Like any plant extract, hemp seed oil can be beneficial when applied topically as a moisturizing oil in reducing dryness and rejuvenating the skin. "Essential fatty acids help build cell membranes throughout the entire body," Fratoni notes. "Skin is no exception. These nutrients are protective as they produce the skin's natural moisture barrier, which ensures that the skin is well-hydrated."
She also points to other skin care benefits availed through the vitamins and minerals present in hemp seed oil. Vitamin A protects against sun damage, bolsters collagen production and prevents breakdown, which results in aging. Vitamin A also promotes cell production which ensures that skin is not only doing its job as a part of the immune system, but also maintains its suppleness. Vitamin E, on the other hand, is a powerful antioxidant (like vitamin A) that protects against UV damage from the sun. Calcium plays a significant role in cell renewal, too, while magnesium helps to cleanse and balance the skin's own oil production. And zinc is a powerful antioxidant that reduces damage caused by free radicals and helps the skin glow.
In addition to nutritional uses, hemp seed oil can be used in household cleaning products, as well, such as laundry detergent, and as a cosmetic ingredient in personal products such as shampoo and soap. It can also be used in the manufacturing and production of plastics, paints, lubricants, and construction materials, and as a source of biodiesel fuel.
There are numerous benefits to hemp beyond hemp seed oil. In parts of Europe, for instance, industrial hemp is being used to make biodegradable plastics for car parts and packaging. The fiber could be used for paper and fabric. “Hemp grows faster and in more diverse growing conditions than most industrial crops like cotton, paper trees, and so on," says Reckler, "making it a very promising renewable resource."