For many years, the cultivation of hemp was illegal in different parts of the world. However, this has changed in the last couple of years and many countries have relaxed their laws on hemp production. This has contributed to positive growth, as in the US alone, the sale of hemp-based products is projected to reach 2.61 billion dollars by 2022. The nutritional segment is one facet of the hemp industry that represents great potential.
Legal hemp is defined as plants with very low levels of the cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The European Union defines hemp as cannabis cultivars that contain less than 0.2% THC, while in the US the threshold is set at 0.3%.
Hemp is a crop with diverse applications in industries such as manufacturing, and cosmetics in the production of textiles, biodegradable plastics, paper, paint, animal feed, and medicine, as well as ingredients for nutritional supplements.
Hemp is packed with biologically active cannabinoids such as the popular cannabidiol (CBD), which offers significant therapeutic benefits including anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and spasmolytic effects.
As hemp is becoming mainstream, the nutritional segment is carving out a niche aside from industrial and therapeutic segments. This nutrient-rich plant has been consumed as a food for thousands of years. Hemp leaves, sprouts, and flowers are used to make juices and green salads for nutritional benefits.
Hemp seeds are a rich source of amino acids including methionine, cystine, and arginine. They are also loaded with fiber, minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids. This can be used to fortify foods and increase their nutritional value.
Hemp seeds are also used to make flour, which is rich in moisture, protein, and carbohydrates. Hemp seed oil can be used in cooking as a substitute for olive oil, and hemp seed oil may positively impact cholesterol levels. Hemp sprouts are also rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, and flavonols, which have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health.
The described nutritional benefits of hemp qualifies it be classified as a superfood and has the potential to revolutionize the nutritional industry.
Image Credit: Nicky Pe
- Cerino P, et al. A review of hemp as food and nutritional supplement. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2020; in press.