Hemp: a bunch of old rope?

The answer is a definitive NO!

Hemp is a plant with a long history of human use for food, medicine, clothing, paper, carpet and rope. The reason? It’s easy to cultivate, requiring little pesticide and herbicide use (even in today’s agriculture) and has great strength and versatility. Evidence from 10,000 B.C shows it’s use, so it’s been around for a while! Today we use hemp to manufacture bio-plastics and fuel, for clothing, rope, paper and it is coming into prominence as a food of great nutritional value.

Is hemp the same as marijuana?

Hemp is Cannabis sativa L. and is one of many close cousins of marijuana (Cannabis sativa). It has barely-to-no measurable levels of the psychoactive, compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) associated with its narcotic effects, so it won’t get you “high”. Until recently it was not legal, in Australia, to sell hemp for human consumption for this reason. On the 28th of April 2017, the Council of Australian Governments approved hemp safe as a food product, which is good news for us!

Hemp as food

Hemp is packed full of goodness: the seeds are eaten raw, ground into meal, sprouted, or made into dried sprout powder. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, oil is cold-pressed from the seeds. Milk, juice and tea are other ways to consume it.  The seeds are rich in:

  • B Vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Omega-3 (OM3) and Omega-6 (OM6) Fatty Acids
  • Vitamin E

It is a good source of dietary fibre and importantly a great source of protein;100g contains 33g of high-quality protein. Hemp also contains more than 20 amino acids, the building blocks of muscle and tissue (9 of them essential), making it a valuable and delicious solution for vegans. Adding hemp can boost the protein quality and quantity of smoothies, snack bars and flour mixes such as in bread, muffins and pasta.

What is it good for?

It makes very strong rope, fabric and other hardwearing materials- hence the term’ a bunch of old rope’ because it’s very strong! The medicinal/food value of hemp includes:

Nutrition– composed of more than 30 percent healthy fats, including the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. They also contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which supports the normal cell, nerve, muscle and organ growth and function.

Vegans- hemp is a good source of digestible, quality protein (more than 50%), omega-3 fats, calcium, zinc and iron.

Food intolerances- gluten, soy and lactose-free, hemp milk, butter and meal can be substitutes that are equal to their dairy and grain equivalents with easy absorption with low reactivity. Hemp milk is delicious and easy to make- all you need is a blender, hemp and some water, it’s that easy!

Heart Health- containing several compounds that support heart health including amino acid, arginine and essential fatty acids OM6 and OM3. Arginine can enhance blood flow and support healthy blood pressure as a precursor to nitric oxide which helps to relax smooth muscle and dilate blood vessels, allowing a blood to flow more freely. This can reduce plaquing of the arteries and blood clots.

Skin Disorders– it’s high fatty acid content and the near perfect ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3, make it a great moisturiser. It is included in many cosmetic products including lip balms. Research suggests hempseed oil may improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis and eczema.

PMS and Menopause- GLA in hemp promote prostaglandin E1 which helps to reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome by reducing the effects of prolactin.

Digestion- Whole seeds contain high amounts of soluble and insoluble fibre, both soluble and insoluble, which benefits digestive health. It adds bulk to help reduce constipation. Fibre is a prebiotic that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and colon. Consuming fibre has been linked to reducing cholesterol and regulating blood sugar.

Weight loss- High protein and dietary fibre improves satiety and helps to regulate blood glucose, reducing “energy crashes” that may drive you towards a sugar hit.

Can everyone consume hemp?

Most people can tolerate it well. As it is an easily digested protein it suits those who require a low reactive food- it contains no gluten, lactose and soy. Easy assimilation makes it a great pre-workout shake as it won’t aggravate your stomach during exercise, common to other proteins. Too much in your diet can cause looser stools (diarrhoea), so don’t over-do it!

Hemp is high in the amino acid, arginine which can trigger the Herpes simplex (cold sores) virus if consumed in high quantities.

Caution should also be used by people who suffer from autoimmune conditions. The protein in hemp seed contains high levels of globulin edistin, required for blood proteins, antibodies and immunoglobulins, boosting the immune system. This may be too stimulating in these cases.

Can it be used for cooking?

Hemp is best used raw as a salad dressing or dipping sauce. Frying or cooking with hemp oil destroys the health benefits.

Hempseeds make a milk that is high in protein and calcium.  As easy to make as blending hempseeds and water, it is easy to digest and so it is unlikely to cause any digestive upset.  Click here for our Hemp Milk Recipe.

 

Desley is a qualified naturopath who believes good health is simple and easy to achieve for everyone. She is a practical naturopath and horticulturist who likes growing her own fruit and vegetables and cooking from scratch because she believes whole, good food is the best medicine for our bodies. Her special interests in health are stress/fatigue and mood issues such as anxiety and depression, especially for adolescents.


References:

www.hempfoods.com.au/page/nutrition/

www.theconsciousdietitian.com/all-recipes/hemp-milk-recipe/

www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/yogurt-recipes/homemade-hemp-milk/

Desley Hatfield
Desley Hatfield

Desley Hatfield is a Naturopath whose special interests include stress, fatigue and mental health issues but she is interested in working with anyone who is committed to improving their health and wellbeing. Food as medicine is a major part of Desley’s practice.