By Amy Kennard
While hemp oil may be somewhat new to the health and beauty scene, its roots run deep. Originating in Central Asia, hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber as early as 8000 BC.
Hemp is obtained from the cannabis sativa plants. You’ve probably heard of cannabis as it relates to marijuana, but the species used to make the drug contains higher levels of the component “tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” which is what gives those who use it a “high.”
Hemp versus CBD
Many people confuse hemp oil with CBD oil. CBD oil contains cannabidiol, a component of cannabis, and is extracted from the stalks, leaves, and buds of the cannabis plant. Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds. While hemp oil has many beneficial applications, CBD oil is used more for medicinal purposes and has appeared promising for treating conditions including anxiety and epilepsy, as well as aiding in cancer treatments. While it does contain very low levels of THC, it is more likely to produce a more of a calming effect than the “high” resulting from marijuana. Hemp seeds contain negligible amounts of THC, but they are high in antioxidants, minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, and essential fatty acids — more than any fish and most fish oil supplements.
It’s the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are causing hemp oil to become a go-to for everything from skin care to heart health.
The “Skin-ny” on hemp
The fatty acids in hemp oil are known to provide nourishment and moisturizing properties for skin and some products, including face and body creams, use hemp oil as their main ingredient. The oil is reported to help prevent dry skin as well as some skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne, reducing the need for skin medications.
Because hemp oil doesn’t clog pores, it’s an ideal moisturizer for oily skin types. It’s also said to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and rejuvenate the skin to give it a more youthful glow.
Some shampoos, hair oils, and conditioners are using hemp oil not only for the moisturizing and conditioning properties, but also for scalp issues like dandruff and other conditions that cause itching and drying. It’s also reported to reduce hair loss!
Hemp for your health
Hemp’s fatty acid content also offers potential health benefits. It may lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of cancer, inflammation, and blood clots, as well as boost immunity. Animal studies have shown that hemp oil may also reduce blood pressure and help the heart recover after a heart attack. In a study of women suffering from PMS, a daily dose of hemp oil significantly decreased their symptoms, including breast pain and tenderness, depression, irritability, and fluid retention.
As a food additive, hemp oil is perfect for vegetarians and vegans, who may have trouble getting the right balance of fatty acids from their regular diet. Because of its low carbohydrate and sugar content, the oil is a natural for diabetics, and can even help moderate blood sugar levels.
How to use hemp
To alleviate dryness, simply rub the oil or lotion containing the oil directly into dry, cracked skin. Before shampooing, massage a tablespoon of the oil into your scalp and let sit for 10 minutes or so — you may find you don’t even need a conditioner. It can also be used in a steam facial, to remove makeup, and help strengthen nails and cuticles.
Incorporating hemp oil into your diet is easy, as you can use it almost interchangeably with olive oil. Its nutty flavor can be used in salad dressings, as a butter replacement, or to sauté vegetables. However, use caution when heating; hemp oil loses quality and flavor if used in high-heat cooking.
Hemp oil and products containing hemp oil are widely available online, in natural and wellness product stores, pharmacies, and some big-box stores. However, keep in mind that the oil is formulated as a nutritional supplement and not regulated by the FDA. There are a number of credible sources online that will steer you toward the most reputable places to buy. Before you make that purchase, do your research to ensure that you are getting the purest form of hemp oil for the best quality and effectiveness.
For more information, you may contact Dr. Karla Akwa, at Center for Integrative Medicine, 309-789-8057 or visit her website, www.drakwa.com. Dr. Akwa is board certified in family medicine and provides holistic care primarily for women. She has a special interest in bio-identical hormone therapy, weight loss, and nutritional cleansing.