The precious oil from hemp seeds is a miracle superfood in its own right. For some of us, hemp seed oil is part of a daily health regimen. I take a tablespoonful a day with my morning vitamins to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) and have done so for 21 years. It has helped keep the symptoms to a minimum and me out of a wheelchair, so far.
Amid the thousands of uses for hemp, the benefits of its tiny seeds stand out. With easy to digest, plant-based protein and fiber, they make good snacks or smoothies and are yummy-crunchy sprinkled on foods.
I visited the websites for Manitoba Harvest and Nutiva, the two purveyors of hemp seed products in the U.S., for more information. Manitoba Harvest boasts, “hemp seeds are rich in protein and have all 10 essential amino acids. They also contain omega-3, omega-6, …SDA, and the rare omega-6 Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA).” Lots of websites tout the health benefits of omega fatty acids. WebMD, for example, mentions anti-inflammatory action, heart health, arthritis, and lowered dementia risk, among others. Besides fish oil capsules, they even list specific vegetable sources such as nuts and broccoli. But, to their shame, nowhere will you see a reference to hemp seed oil, the best non-fish source. No need to waste your money on expensive gel caps of fish oil, and therefore no need to suffer fishy burps. Just swig a mouthful of this oil straight from the bottle. It tastes good, really.
You can cook with it but it’s not for frying. Like olive oil, it is too delicate for that. Use it anywhere you would use a good, extra virgin olive oil. The nutty flavor is tasty in salad dressings, for example. Manitoba Harvest suggests brushing tortilla wedges with hemp oil, sprinkling them with sea salt and baking at 3000 Fahrenheit to make your own tortilla chips. The Nutiva site recommends drizzling it on popcorn or making hummus with it. They also call it “your secret skin care weapon.” Smooth on a drop of hemp seed oil instead of store-bought lotion; it’s a whole lot better for you. They also have a recipe to make your own facial mask and a link to show you how to make your own hemp soap.
Both websites also include information on hemp history and current hemp activism. Nutiva provides links to Vote Hemp and The Hemp Industries Association and claims, “hemp is the world’s most sustainable plant.” The Manitoba Harvest site includes a timeline with a short list of important dates in modern hemp history, including the 2001 DEA ban on the import of all hemp products. I recall that time all too well. Suddenly, my local co-op could not get the blessed oil I’d been relying on to minimize the ravages of MS. But, as the timeline goes on to gloat, in 2004 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals placed a permanent injunction on the DEA, blocking them from banning hemp products. My medicine was back. The incident illustrates just how irrational the DEA has always been toward cannabis — even the totally non-psychoactive forms of the plant are persecuted. Just ask the folks who count on CBD strains these days.
Both companies get their seeds from Canadian farmers. The Manitoba Harvest timeline includes reference to co-founder Martin Moravcik starting the Manitoba Hemp Alliance and successfully lobbying the Canadian government for permission to start growing hemp in 1990. Since then, Canada has been a main source for hemp fiber and seeds.
Nutiva, based in Richmond, California, offers many other familiar, healthy and delicious products as well; hazelnut spread, coconut oil, coconut and palm sugars, even coconut flour. Their hemp homepage (nutiva.com/hemp) includes a picture of hemp farmer President George Washington and says, “Today he would be arrested as a criminal for growing his favorite cash crop.”
Both companies are impressive in their commitment to socially conscious business practices. Nutiva’s stated core values are “innovation, purity, community and wellbeing.” They back up these values with action, supporting dozens of in-house and community projects, such as the local Rescue Mission. At their website you can read several pages worth of social, environmental, and food education projects. They’ve included a bunch of impressive statistics too. For example, forty-one percent of their senior management personnel are women. The U.S. average has crept up just 22 percent according to a March 2014 Business News Daily report, “Out of the 45 countries examined, the United States ranks in the bottom 10 for the percentage of women in senior management positions, with women occupying just 22 percent of senior roles.“
Each employee is entitled to a $75 per month wellness and exercise reimbursement plus free Nutiva products. One percent of their profits have been donated to sustainable agriculture groups since the company’s founding in 1999. So far, over $3.6 million has been given. Nutiva sells red palm oil and several coconut oil products from the tropics, all purchased through Fair Trade practice that care for the local people and other species as well. The site includes reports of environmental devastation by other companies, including loss of orangutan habitat, a predatory model of resource extraction in action. Hmmm, sort of sounds like those devastating, cartel-driven mega-grow sites mutilating our public lands here in Humboldt County and throughout the nation. Nutiva, on the other hand, assures us they are not killing orangutans! You can download their 2015 Social and Environmental Report to see it all.
Manitoba Harvest is based in Winnepeg, Manitoba as their name suggests. Co-founder and CEO Mike Fata used hemp seed products in his successful “health overhaul,” which included losing 100 pounds. He has been advocating the health benefits of hemp seeds ever since. They, too, are strongly progressive in their approach to business. Manitoba Harvest is a member of something called B Corp, an organization of companies dedicated to changing the focus of business. The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence states, “We envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good.”
Manitoba Harvest takes what they call a “seed to shelf approach.” They carefully monitor what seeds are planted. In collaboration with Canadian farmers, they have seen ten times as many acres planted in hemp in 2011 than in 2001. The seeds are processed carefully to avoid crushing the hulls before pressing, and to avoid generating too much heat during pressing to protect that delicate oil. Each product undergoes a minimum of 34 tests before being accepted.
The company devotes all their energies to organic hemp seed products. They process and sell Hemp Hearts, or raw, shelled hemp seeds. These have twice the protein of flax or chia seeds and less than half the carbs. Also note, neither flax nor chia seeds contain the rare GLA so essential for health. Hemp Hearts are also made into Bites – sweet snack foods sold unflavored or with chocolate or cinnamon flavoring, and also offer vanilla, chocolate or apple cinnamon bars. Rev up your day with the “world’s first water soluble” hemp protein powder in original, chocolate or vanilla flavors. Select which of their four products work best for you, Hemp Pro 70 with 20 grams of protein per serving, Hemp Pro 50 with 15 grams of protein, Hemp Protein Smoothie with greens, which adds a blend of spinach, kale and broccoli, or Hemp Pro Fiber containing half your daily fiber needs in one 30 gram serving. They claim it can be substituted for flour in baking too. Of course, my favorite is and forever will be the cold-pressed, cold-filtered oil.
Use hemp seed products for more than your health. Buy them to vote with your pocketbook for legalization. As both of these companies point out, the U.S. hemp industry is severely hampered by prohibition. The timeline at the Manitoba Harvest site highlights a recent glimmer of hope, the 2014 US Farm Bill that redefined hemp as separate from marijuana (the Feds less than technical term for psychoactive cannabis varieties). Pick up some of these products to thank members of the international community for legalizing hemp production and these two companies for keeping the dream alive!
Written by Molly Cate