Hemp oil is an extract from industrial hemp plants, grown legally under licence, which is used as a food supplement to help improve and maintain health.
Hemp, or cannabis to give it its correct scientific name, is one of the oldest plants known to mankind. 100 years ago and for thousands of years before, it was grown widely all across Europe, the USA and Asia. It was a basic agricultural crop, its fiber used for making rope, fishing nets and for weaving into strong, hardwearing textiles. Way before cotton, it was used to make clothes, sails and other fabric products. It’s actually much stronger, more thermally efficient and requires fewer chemicals and less processing than cotton to make it useable. Its seed can be eaten whole, ground into flour or pressed to produce a highly nutritious oil. The leaves can be treated as any other green vegetable and its flowers contain powerful compounds used as medicine to treat all sorts of ailments. In the late 1900s, more than half of all pharmacy medicines contained cannabis.
Then, in the early part of the 20th century, cannabis became the subject of an extraordinary campaign of fear and terror. It was demonized, claimed to be responsible for causing all sorts of problems in society and portrayed as a dangerous drug. From about 1925 in Europe and 1937 in the US, it was effectively banned right across the world.
Although there is still a hangover from all the scare stories and misinformation around cannabis, science is now proving that in fact it is one of the most important plants on the planet and has a great deal of benefit to offer.
How is CBD Oil Made?
Despite the ban on cannabis, many countries have allowed certain varieties to be grown under license for the same purposes as before. These varieties are called ‘industrial hemp’ and have been selectively bred to produce low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. In Europe, industrial hemp must contain less than 0.2% THC, in the Americas the limit is 0.3% and it still contains all the other ingredients found in any other variety of cannabis. These include other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and many other compounds which are highly nutritious and healthy.
Hemp oil is not the same as hemp seed oil and it is very important to understand the difference. Hempseed oil is made by pressing the seeds and is a highly nutritious but delicate oil containing a balance of omega 3 and 6 which is almost perfect for human consumption but it contains only trace amounts of cannabinoids. It is excellent for salad dressing, baking and low temperature cooking but not for frying or cooking at high temperatures. For the same reason it is not a good oil for use as fuel or biodiesel.
How is Hemp Oil Made?
Industrial hemp for fibre or seeds is grown outside in fields much the same as any cereal crop. For fibre, it is sown very close together and often grows very tall. Seed varieties are shorter and are given more space to mature and develop flower heads.
There are many other potential uses for hemp but there are currently very few hemp processing plants and without such outlets, there is nowhere for farmers to sell their crop. One of the best qualities of hemp is the strength of its fiber but this makes harvesting and processing it much more difficult. It literally destroys machinery used for other agricultural crops.
As more and more industrial hemp is being grown for hemp oil, different cultivation techniques are being used. Plants are given more room, they are often grown under glass or in a polytunnel, sometimes under lights, either as a supplement to sunlight or indoors as the primary lighting source. Each plant is individually nurtured and allowed to mature and flower to produce the optimum levels of cannabinoids. Typically, the plants will now be grown as ‘sinsemilla’, without seeds so that all male plants will be removed as soon as they can be identified. Plants may be grown from cuttings rather than seeds. If a particularly successful mother plant can be identified, its genetic clones through successive generations can be a much more productive method than growing from seed.
Once the plants have been harvested, they are allowed to dry slowly and naturally. Only the flowering tops are used for producing the highest quality oil and these are crushed and ground finely before extracting the oil. The extraction can be achieved in many different ways, such as using ice water or some powerful and quite nasty solvents such as alcohol or butane. However, the gold standard today and the way that all Love Hemp products are produced is by ’supercritical CO2 extraction’.
When pressurized and gently heated, CO2 changes from a gas into a ‘supercritical’ state somewhere between a gas and a liquid and it becomes a powerful but very safe solvent which will extract the oil from the plant matter. With the pressure varied it can be adjusted to extract particular components so ‘tuned’ to leave only traces of THC. Also, because all this takes place at relatively low temperatures, the volatile terpenes and flavonoids in the plant are more easily preserved and these are important to the beneficial effects of the oil.
The Endocannabinoid System
Hemp oil works as a food supplement by nourishing our endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a relatively recent discovery but is now thought to be one of our most important physiological systems. In fact, we now know that all mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians and even primitive forms of life such as sea urchins have an endocannabinoid system. Just about the only animals that don’t are insects.
The endocannabinoid system’s main function is to maintain a healthy balance in our bodies. It is internal to the body which is why it has the prefix ‘endo’ from the Greek word meaning ‘within, inner, absorbing, or containing’. It consists of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids are fatty substances or oils in microscopic quantities which interact or bind with cannabinoid receptors. The cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant are called phytocannabinoids (‘phyto’ means ‘from a plant’). They aren’t exactly the same but are very similar to endocannabinoids and they too interact with our cannabinoid receptors.
Cannabinoid receptors are membranes in our body’s cells that enable signals to be passed back and forth. There are CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors in the immune and gastrointestinal system. Scientists have suggested that there is a CB3 receptor but this is still theory at present.
The enzymes are responsible for the manufacture and disposal of endocannabinoids.
Our body manufactures endocannabinoids in order to pass messages concerning functions such as pain, inflammation, memory, appetite and mood. Providing your ECS is working properly, it will regulate everything to bring your body into healthy balance. This is why taking hemp oil containing cannabinoids nourishes your ECS. For instance, a trial in Israel on older people showed how those taking hemp oil as a supplement gradually moved towards their ideal body weight whether they had been under or overweight at the start.
Of course, just as important as any supplement is eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and getting good quality rest. Over indulgence in junk food or alcohol, overwork, stress, anxiety can all knock your ECS out of shape so topping up with a Love Hemp supplement on a daily basis is a very good idea.
As we get older, all our bodily functions become less efficient. This is what aging means. Our skin becomes less elastic so we develop wrinkles and sagging, our bones become less dense, more brittle and our joints become worn. Our digestive system doesn’t work as well and we lose strength in our muscles. All these effects of aging can be countered by staying as healthy and balanced as possible so another good reason to supplement your diet with hemp oil from Love Hemp.
Probably the most important cannabinoid in hemp oil is cannabidiol (CBD). It is why you will also hear hemp oil called CBD oil although, in fact, a more accurate term for it would be low-THC cannabis oil. Hemp oil can contain up to about 40% CBD but also all the other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and compounds found in the plants from which it is made.
CBD has many valuable properties which make it beneficial as a food supplement. It is proven in the lab to be anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-oxidant, anti-depressant, neuroprotective, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anti-emetic (anti-nausea) and analgesic (pain relief). This doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work in living, breathing human beings in all these ways but it shows what type of conditions Love Hemp products can be useful for.
In high doses CBD can be used as a medicine for its properties as an anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant and analgesic (pain killer). However, this is not the purpose of Love Hemp products. Taken at recommended doses as a food supplement, CBD in hemp oil can help to maintain and improve your health just as with vitamin or mineral supplements.
Scientists now recognise that the most benefit from hemp oil and CBD comes from what is termed the ‘entourage effect’. This is where all the ingredients in cannabis work together in synergy. Taking any of the components individually does not seem to work as well and even the trace amount of THC found in hemp oil, although it won’t get you ‘high’, is important to activating and working with all the other ingredients.
How to Use Hemp Oil
You can take hemp oil by swallowing it, by absorption through the mucus membranes in your mouth, by inhaling it, by absorption through the skin or by suppository. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, each is more or less efficient at getting the cannabinoids into your bloodstream. There’s also a large element of personal choice and it depends on the reason you’re using hemp oil.
The most obvious method is a few drops of highly concentrated oil in your mouth. The best way is under your tongue and hold it there for as long as you can. That way at least some of it will be absorbed through your mucus membranes directly into your bloodstream. When you swallow what’s left it will pass through your gastrointestinal system and into your liver. Studies show that as little as 6% of what you ingest orally will actually end up in your bloodstream but this is much the same for any substance that is metabolised through your liver. So those few seconds holding the oil in your mouth may significantly increase this. Other studies show that taking hemp oil along with high quality olive oil, rapeseed oil or hempseed oil may improve absorption. Adding hemp oil to the fat you use in baking may also help more of it get through to your bloodstream.
For many people the most convenient method of all will be taking hemp oil in capsules just like vitamin or mineral supplements.
Remarkably, inhaling hemp oil by vapourising it, using an e-cig liquid or ‘dabbing’ CBD crystals is probably the most efficient method of ingestion. Studies suggest that 18% to 30% of inhaled cannabinoids will be absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream. Research suggests that the beneficial effects of cannabinoids take place more quickly when inhaled but may last for a shorter period of time. When swallowed the effect takes longer but also lasts for a longer period.
Hemp creams or body salves can be rubbed into the skin and absorbed directly into the small capillary blood vessels. Some people using hemp oil as a supplement to help with aches and pains find this directly targets the area of their body that is affected.
Hemp oil suppositories can also be an efficient means of absorption, particularly for those who are using it as a supplement to help with digestion. Absorption via a suppository avoids most of the cannabinoids going through the liver and may mean twice as much gets into your bloodstream as when swallowing it.
Love Hemp products are available for all methods of ingestion. It really is up to you to try various different ways and find out which suits you best.