Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the war. The earliest traces of human use can be found in the hemp fibres that were used by civilisations dating back to 3,000 B.C. It's actually not surprising at all that the hemp plant has been so popular as it is extremely versatile in use. Up through the 20th Century, help fibres have been used to making sailcloth and ropes for sailing. Today hemp is still used in a myriad of products. Textiles, plastics and cellulose are all made using hemp. The plant isn't just used for its fibres; its oil is also very popular. Both food and medicinal products are made using hemp oil.
Hemp has been used in food products more and more in recent years. It started with the vegan and vegetarian boom and was recognised as a superfood as people are more and more interested in nutrition. Hemp isn't just used for its healthy qualities. The seeds of the plant are brown to dark grey, have a 3-4 millimetre diameter and have a hull around them. They have a bold, herbal flavour that is slightly nutty. You can use them as you would nuts when you're cooking. They also make a lovely garnish for soups and salads and can be added to cereals or desserts as well as many other vegetarian meals.
Ground, the seeds can be used for baking and are often used as a substitute for conventional grain flours. The seeds can also be pressed to extract a tasty oil that taste great on salads, veggie dishes or in pestos. The leaves and flowers of the hemp plant are also dried and used for teas. There are many popular types of foods that are now made with hemp, but some types of food like chocolate are not available everywhere yet.
Hemp products are said to have all kinds of health benefits. They could support lower cholesterol, weight loss and muscle building. Although the hemp plant has been used for centuries, intensive research on its positive effects has only recently begun. The initial findings of many health studies have been positive, but not enough research has been conducted yet to report their findings conclusively.
What is clear, is that from a nutritional point of view, hemp products make a lot of sense to eat. Hemp seeds are rich in essential fatty acids. They contain the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a ratio of 1:3, which is very beneficial for the body. The seeds are also rich in easily digestible protein and the vitamins B1, B2, B6 and E. They also contain high amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
The hemp plant produces more than 60 different cannabinoids. The two best known are THC and CBD, the latter of which has been trending lately.
Unlike the CBD, THC has a strong psychoactive and hallucinogenic effect, which is why hemp has been banned in many countries. However, only hemp varieties with a THC content below 0.3% may be used for food production in Europe. This content is so low that the plants are not covered by the Narcotics Act. Hemp producers in the EU are subject to strict and regular quality controls that ensure that their products are non-psychoactive. Caution should be exercised when buying hemp products made outside the EU, however.
Whether or not hemp is truly a miracle plant remains to be seen. What is indisputable is that hemp seeds contain a lot of nutrients that make them a valuable food. As hemp is naturally gluten and lactose free, it also can be great for people with allergies or intolerances.