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51 things you need to know about hemp:

  • 150 million years ago, after the Big Bang, plants began to grow amongst dinosaurs. (Alternative

version: God invents the world plants, including hemp and hundreds of thousands of others plants)

  • The hemp plant grows from a seed, and can grow up to 15 to 20 or so feet tall. It grows generally as
  • an annual, and is a long fibre plant.
  • When archaeologists found a remnant of hemp cloth in ancient Mesopotamia (today’s Iran and

Iraq), thereafter dating it to 8,000 B.C., it provided evidence hemp was likely the earliest plant cultivated for use as a textile fiber.

  • China likely has the longest history of hemp cultivation. It is said to span 6,000 years.
  • Some say that in the year 1,200 B.C., hemp fiber was used to construct the Pyramids. How they were actually built is traditionally considered unknown.
  • France has cultivated hemp for no less than 700 years to today. Spain and Chile have cultivated for a similar amount of time.
  • Although not associated with the plant, Russia was a major grower and supplier of hemp for hundreds of years.
  • In around 150 BC, the Chinese produced the world’s first paper from hemp.
  • Buddhist texts, which are dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, are considered the oldest documents written on paper. And—you guessed it—they were written on hemp paper. (How’d ya know?)
  • The medical uses for hemp are made clear by the literature, and the plant had been passed down for centuries as a medicine. Seeds and flowers of the hemp plant, for instance, were recommended for difficult childbirth, convulsion, arthritis, rheumatism, dysentery and insomnia.
  • Hemp was an important crop during the Middle Ages, providing much of the world with it’s food and fiber.
  • Sailing ships were made possible thanks to hemp.
  • The word 'canvas' might be derived from the word 'cannabis'.
  • Some believe Native Americans used hemp seeds. Scholars say captive slaves brought them from Africa.
  • In the 16th century, Jacques Cartier wrote that the North American soil was “frill of hempe which groweth of itselfe, which is as good as possibly may be scene, and as strong.”
  • Since hemp was such an important resource for the American colonies, it was illegal not to grow hemp in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.
  • Americans had to legally grow hemp generally during the Colonial Era and Early Republic.
  • Before Canada became a country, hemp was grown in its western and central provinces.
  • The French Regime during the eighteenth century is said to have subsidized the hemp plant before any other crops.
  • Today, a fortune 500 company in France called Kimberly Clark prints bibles on hemp-based paper.
  • The invention of the mechanical cotton gin at the end of the eighteenth century made cotton easier to produce than hemp. Hemp fell out of favor.
  • The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
  • U.S. Presidents Washington and Jefferson each grew hemp.
  • George Washington, the first President of the United States, once said: "I am very glad to hear that the Gardener has saved so much of the St. foin seed, and that of the India Hemp. Make the most you can of both, by sowing them again in drills. . . Let the ground be well prepared, and the Seed (St. foin) be sown in April. The Hemp may be sown any where."
  • Thomas Jefferson, second president of the United States, once said: “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”
  • Benjamin Franklin is said to have started the first hemp paper mill, the product of which fueled the Colonial Press. Others aren’t so sure.
  • At the end of the nineteenth century, the Shely Fiber Breaker was invented. According to Scientific American, the machine was “designed to break six to eight thousands pounds of hemp or similar fiber per day.”
  • California, a leading global agricultural hub today, grew hemp throughout the state from about 1900 to 1920.
  • However, California was the first state to list cannabis as a poison in The Poison Act.
  • The state made a misdemeanor the possession of “extracts, tinctures and other narcotic preparations of hemp, or loco-weed, their preparations and compounds”
  • Henry Ford’s Model-T was first built to run on hemp fuel and the car was constructed from the hemp plant. Ford apparently had his own hemp field.
  • U.S.-based big business and government undermined the hemp industry in the 1930s. Propaganda bedeviled hemp, as petroleum based textile companies, media interests and barons.
  • Written in early 1937, the February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics stated that hemp would become “the billion-dollar crop.”
  • That same article cited more than 25,000 various products which could be created from hemp.
  •  In 1937, the U.S. government drafted prohibitive tax laws on hemp dealers. Enforcement of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 ended a profitable hemp industry. Hemp production was soon banned altogether.
  • Canada’s government prohibited hemp production under its Opium and Narcotics Act in 1938.
  • To meet the demands of World War II, both the U.S. and Canadian government allowed the production of hemp once more. Farmers had to have special permits to grow hemp for the war effort.
  • The film Hemp for Victory was released by the United States Department of Agriculture. According to the film: “In 1942, patriotic farmers at the government’s request planted 36,000 acres of seed hemp, an increase of several thousand percent. The goal for 1943 is 50,000 acres of seed hemp.”
  • In June of 1942, this photo appeared in Farm Journal and Farmer’s Wife. The caption reads: “All the hempseed available in the U.S. is stacked in this Kentucky warehouse under armed guard.” 
  • After the War, the hemp ban persisted, itself a victim of a global War on Drugs.
  • A map published by the USDA in 1970 demonstrated that hemp could be grown throughout most of the United States. Today, the plant is far more widespread.
  • The 1970 Controlled Substances Act makes industrial hemp a type of marijuana and thus farming is made illegal.
  • In 1999, U.S. Customs seized 40,000 pounds of bird seed on the border of Canada. The feed had sterilized hemp seeds. Jean Laprise, the farmer who grew the seed, told the New York Times: "They say it's a tractor-trailer full of drugs. We say it's a tractor-trailer full of birdseed."
  • In 2014, the Farm Bill sought to allow industrial hemp cultivation in the United States.
  • In February 2015, two cannabis related bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress that sought to make the hemp plant legal at the federal level.
  • Hemp has long been cited as an alternative to fossil fuels. Proponents claim it burns cleanly and could thus reduce pollution.
  • Hemp was legally planted on Virginia soil in June 2016 for the first time since World War II.
  • The popularity of craft brewing has resulted in many craft brewers using hemp, such as Humboldt Brewing Co.
  • A variety of the plant species, hemp, or cannabis sativa L, won’t get you high.
  • The hemp plant proves highly resistant to many insects and diseases. Many argue this means the plant does not need as many pesticides and herbicides, if any, to grow abundantly. That means it can be grown organically.

France is the world's largest hemp produce, and China is a close second.

All About Hemp

Hemp is not marijuana.

Although hemp and marijuana are closely related, the hemp plant (botanical name Cannabis Sativa L.), is just one variety of many Cannabis strains (1).

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active substance in pot that gets people high. Hemp crops used today for food and fabric don’t have much of this psychoactive component compared to their partytime cousins.

In Canada and the European Union, only varieties containing less than 0.3% THC in their flowers can legally be farmed, while marijuana flowers typically contain 3 to 20%.

In the U.S., debate over the threat of hemp farming to health and safety keeps the crops pretty much illegal. A license to grow crops can be obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration, but it’s usually refused. (Ironically, the first U.S. flags were supposedly made from hemp fabric.)

Hemp products you find on the shelves today in the U.S. and Canada come from plants grown mostly in Canada, where farmers have been allowed to grow them since 1998 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.


Hemp is a versatile plant.

Its fibers, core, seeds and flowers can be used as raw materials to form products ranging from food to paper, and clothing to carpeting.

Hemp is an eco-friendly crop that rarely needs pesticide treatments for bugs or herbicides for weeds. Thus, consumers can be assured that hemp foods are low in chemical residues.

Also, many hemp companies certify that their plants contain no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and/or are grown organically.


Hemp’s nutritional benefits derive largely from its fatty acid composition.

The oil, which makes up half of the weight of the seeds, contains 75% essential fatty acids, of which:

  • about 20% are the omega-3, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA)
  • about 3% is gamma-linoleic acid (GLA)
  • about 1% of the rising omega-3 fatty acid star, stearidonic acid (SDA)

The unique ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ensures that you can consume hemp without needing to balance it with any other food rich in fat. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of hemp oil is 3:1. This is a good ratio. Most modern diets are an alarming 10:1, or more. High dietary omega-6s relative to omega-3s is associated with numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Hemp alone offers benefits that few other foods provide.


Another “fat” property of hemp is that it contains a high content of naturally-occurring vitamin E compounds (tocotrienols and tocopherols).

These free-radical scavenging antioxidants protect the oil from oxidation and rancidity.

Typical levels of vitamin E per 100 grams of hemp oil are about 100 to 150 mg. Therefore, one to two tablespoons of hemp oil meets the daily requirement of vitamin E for healthy adults (dietary reference intake or DRI: 15 mg/day).


The oil of hemp also contains high concentrations of:

  • phytosterols, known to have beneficial effects on health;
  • chlorophyll, which is shown to be anti-carcinogenic;
  • carotenes, necessary for healthy eyesight and growth; and
  • lecithin, for cell-membrane composition and brain function.


We usually focus on EPA and DHA fatty acids, found abundantly in cold-water fatty fish and seafood. These fats have numerous cardiovascular and metabolic benefits.

The other omega-3s, such as ALA, are often down-played because they don’t appear to have the same physiological properties as EPA and DHA.

Thus, fish oil is an increasingly popular supplement that people consider a staple of their health regimen. But, as we’ve pointed out here, fish sources are becoming depleted.

The omega-3 fatty acid SDA is now being recognized as another beneficial fat, and is considered a “pro-EPA” fat.

In other words, it converts to EPA. Indeed, when humans consume SDA, blood content of EPA in phospholipids can double.

SDA is an intermediate in the omega-3 pathway from ALA to EPA (see below), but does not accumulate in blood lipids like ALA. So, this special omega-3 fat is converted completely to its downstream products, most importantly EPA.

SDA can increase the overall blood omega-3 index, considered to be an important factor for cardiovascular disease.

Oils rich in SDA, such as hemp, provide a plant source of SDA.


Gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, is another significant component of hemp (1–6%, depending on species of Cannibis).

GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that has impacts ranging from inflammation and vascular tone to initiation of contractions during childbirth.

GLA has been found to alleviate psoriasis, atopic eczema, and PMS, and may also benefit cardiovascular, psychiatric, and immunological disorders.

Aging and disease (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) have been shown to impair GLA metabolism, making dietary sources desirable.

GLA supplementation may be helpful for body weight regulation after significant weight loss.

Researchers studied obese women who lost a large amount of weight (~60 lbs) and provided them 890 mg of GLA from 5 g of borage oil (to give ~1 g of GLA to each person), or a placebo (olive oil), for one year following weight loss.

The women not receiving the GLA regained over 16 lbs in the subsequent year. Those who received GLA only regained 4 lbs.


Hemp seeds provide all essential amino acids. The seeds contain 25–35% protein, and some of the hemp protein products today contain as much as 70% protein per 100 grams – similar to whey protein isolate.

The protein in hemp comes from two high-quality storage proteins, edestin and albumin, which are easily digested.

When compared to soy protein isolate, the protein in hemp might actually be superior due to the higher content of some essential amino acids and methionine, cysteine and arginine.

Overall, the protein makeup of hemp is highly complete, highly absorbable, and hypoallergenic. It’s also a sustainable and earth-friendly source of amino acids.


Hemp fibers are usually saved for production of durable fabrics and specialty papers, leaving the seeds as the food byproduct.

Of the whole seeds, about 25% to 50% of the total carbohydrate content is fiber, both insoluble and soluble. Some brands of hemp protein powder even contain up to 14 grams of fiber per serving.

Theoretically, hemp food products could supply a person with all the fiber they need in one day.

What you should know about hemp

The green color of hemp oil, hemp butter, and hemp protein is due to the high content of chlorophyll within the mature seed that is not destroyed during low-temperature processing of hemp foods.

Although this chlorophyll can quicken auto-oxidation of oil exposed to light, as long as the oil is kept in a cold, dark container, this won’t be an issue.

Benefits of chlorophyll in food include protection against several types of cancers, including colon and breast (15). So, when you try your hemp products, know that green is good.

The fruit of hemp is not a true seed, but an “achene”, a tiny nut covered by a hard shell.

Whole hemp seed contains roughly 20-25% protein, 25-35% oil, 20-30% carbohydrates and 10-15% insoluble fiber, plus minerals like phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. It’s also a source of carotene, a Vitamin A precursor.


Because of the highly unsaturated nature of the oil, it’s extremely sensitive to oxidative rancidity under heat and light. Don’t use the oil for baking or frying. Instead, use hemp as a healthy dipping oil, on salads, or added to smoothies.


Hemp foods are under-appreciated, but carry so many health benefits. They’re an earth-friendly way to get more protein, healthy fats and fiber in your diet.

  • A tasty, organic, vegetarian/vegan food
  • Tolerable by those with nut allergies
  • Provides a wide array of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
  • A way to bump up dietary fiber intake
  • A protein choice for smoothies and baking
  • Supports hemp growing for a healthier, happier planet