I should've known this would happen. The minute I think I can "whip out a short article" about a new topic, I wind up sitting hunched over my PC for hours and days. Then the days roll into weeks as I scour my private "magazine jammed library", the Internet and books for anything I can find about my new topic. Finally I start asking everyone I see about the topic at hand.
When I can't stand my obsession any longer, I force myself to sit down and write what was supposed to be a "short article" and has morphed into a novella.
My interest in hemp has actually been brewing since 1998 when I received literature from Alterna, a hair care manufacturer, of salon quality products. I read their literature about their Hemp Seed Shine Shampoo and Conditioner that contain Hemp Seed Oil. I considered the options and then put the information into the back of my mind with all my other thousands of hair related thoughts.
To my delight I discovered in 1999 that the Knotty Boy Dread Wax (which we love at HairBoutique.com) is made with Hemp Oil. So it seemed that my karma with hemp was definitely written in the heavens.
Recently I was at a party that was hosted by two hard core health food addicts. The snacks included HempNut peanut butter on fresh celery, HempNut Smoothies made with HempNut milk, HempNut cake (made with Hemp flour) and even HempNut seeds in a can. Geez, did they like hemp or what?
I teased the host that he should have called the party a "HempNut Festival" and he laughed as he dragged me down the hall to see his collection of hemp oil products that he and his wife use for their hair, skin, nails and you name it. I asked him if he had used it for his cat's coat and he got very excited. "What a great idea", he exclaimed, as he ran off to find his unsuspecting Persian.
The Universe works in mysterious way. The day after the party I received three different emails asking that HairBoutique.com start carrying Jason's Hemp shampoo and Nature's Gate version of the Hemp shampoo (they are now both on the way to HairBoutique.com and should be here soon).
We already carry the famous Sun Dog Hemp Shampoo and Conditioner which has generated rave feedback from HairBoutique.com buyers.
Note: Jane Bullock tested Sun Dog and gave it a big thumbs up.
We also carry the well-known Dr. Bronner's Liquid Hemp/TeaTree Soap which is often used to make shampoos. Both products are great and I have used both. However, I understand that some people have a special brand they prefer and since we already buy from Jason's and Nature's Gate, we will add those hemp products as well.
Maybe someone was trying to tell me something. Not wanting to endure any more hemp obsessed thoughts, or ponderings, I decided to exercise the hemp demons and write this article about hemp for your hair.
Yes, I know, you can also eat hemp, put it on your nails and skin, use it on your cat (well maybe) and even feed it to the birds. Trust me, we will get to those thoughts in this tome.
Hemp is not a simple "put it on your hair" article. There are many issues that surround hemp from the thousands of commercial uses, the controversy over hemp in the US, its role as an essential fatty acid and whether you should ingest it or slather it on your hair and skin. But I digress.
What The Heck Is Hemp?
Hemp has actually been around for thousands of years. Ever controversial, some historians claim that hemp was discovered over 10,000 years ago, while others argue that hemp really didn't show up until about 6,000 years ago. Whatever you want to believe, the ultimate truth of the matter is that hemp is not new on the scene. It is has been around for a very long time.
The hemp plant was discovered growing wild in the Orient where the fiber was used for writing paper and the seed was used for oil and food. The people in China discovered that the wild hemp plant offered great nutritional value along with tons of other uses. Hemp was used as a food source thousands of years ago and can claim that it has been around longer than the now popular soy.
Ultimately the early explorers carried hemp to Europe where the very popular hemp butter was invented. Hemp eventually made its way to the colonies where it was farmed by such celebrities as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. As a raw material, thousands of uses for hemp known as "Cannabis sativa", were discovered.
Experts today believe that hemp is used in over 30,000 products including food, fuel, paper, hair and beauty care, clothing and so many other ways that it would be impossible to list. Hemp seed is sometimes even used as an ingredient in commercially sold bird food.
As always, I caution anyone reading this article to never experiment with a new product or ingredient without doing the proper research and talking to a health care professional. Hey, who knows, my friend may be justified with experimenting on his poor cat's fur. In all fairness I suggested to him that he talk to the cat doctor before doing anything wild and crazy.
Why Is Hemp So Controversial?
Unfortunately there have been a lot of wild rumors and half truths attributed to hemp. Yes, it is true that industrial grade hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant which also is known as "Cannabis" and hemp, but the relationship is extremely distant.
Industrial grade hemp is non-hallucinogenic and completely drug-free. Hemp seed oils are perfectly legal. Hemp seeds are allowed to be used for commercial products if they have been sterilized in some way to prevent germination. This is usually done by subjecting them to heat.
Hemp oil that is used in hair care, supplements and oils are also completely legal. It is important to note that the strains of hempseeds that are grown for oil production start life with a very low resin content. By the time the seeds are actually ready for harvest, resin production has dropped even lower. The final stages of hemp seed productions requires that the seeds be cleaned and washed before they can be pressed. As a result, no THC (the resin found in illegal drugs) is found in the final hemp seed product.
In case you have heard of all the controversy about hemp based products, there has been a lot of press directed to the legal aspects of farming hemp products in the United States. Without going into the long winded details, there are several groups that have formed to help educate the public and the US Government about the benefits of hemp raw materials. So you will probably hear more about the "free industrial use hemp in the US" movement.
Remember, if you flunk a drug test, don't try to tell them it is from your hemp shampoo or skin care. They won't buy that one. You will have better luck saying you had poppy seed rolls for lunch.
Alterna & The Marketing Of Hemp Haircare
Although they didn't discover the many historical benefits of hemp, the Alterna company did recognize the many benefits that hemp offers for the hair. Cosmetic grade hemp seed oil is a rich source of essential amino acids which have proven benefits for hair.
Alterna recognized the huge growth potential for utilizing hemp as a hair-care ingredient and introduced their hemp oil product line in 1998.
The hair chemists at Alterna discovered, what health food advocates already knew, that hemp seed oil is one of the very richest sources of nutrients that when injected into hair care formulas. Hemp seed oil has been proven to help some people with the development of healthy kerative formation. In other words, hemp oil, for some people, can help develop hair that is strong and healthy.
As we all get older it is a fact that our hair slowly becomes deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. By using external hair care products coupled with internal supplements like Hemp, Flax and Evening Primrose Oil (all high in fatty acids) we may starve off the aging to our hair and skin.
Alterna promises that the hemp seed oil's concentration in their products is a perfect 3:1 ratio of essential fatty acids. The 3:1 ration is what a healthy human scalp and hair should consist of. This ratio is also what our bodies can most easily absorb.
When used on a regular basis, Alterna promises that its hemp-based products make a dramatic difference in the look, feel and behavior of any hair type.
I am not sure who got to the hair care market first, Alterna or other companies. However, there are several options for hemp infused hair and beauty care products now on the market.
You will hear the same promises from other makers of hemp oil based hair and beauty products including Dr. Bronner, Sun Dog, Nature's Gate and Jason's, to name a few of the more popular health food store brands.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids
The first few times that I tried to dig down and understand the 411 on Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) my head started to spin. This is because it is a complex topic that can take many twists and turns.
Looking at fatty acids from the 10,000 foot view, they are the building blocks of fats that impact all cell membranes while improving energy metabolism and cardiovascular health. Why do we need them you might ask?
The human body produces absolutely no EFAs on its own accord. Scientific research has discovered that even though the human body doesn't produce EFAs, we still need them for optimal health.
The experts believe that it is important that EFAs be consumed on a regular basis. Ninety percent of all Americans take in too little EFAs. It has been suggested by some medical and nutritional experts that high cholesterol is caused by an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in the human body.
EFAs are the building blocks of longer chain fats, such as eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that occur naturally in the fat of cold-water fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, bluefish, herring, and, to a lesser extent, tuna. The best sources are oils from freshly ground grains and whole seeds, but EFAs are fragile and can be quickly lost in improper processing.
EFAs are so important to add to the diet because they function as essential building blocks in every membrane of every cell in your body. Not only do they help retain the good substances in your cells, they keep the bad ones out.
They are also important for healthy hair, skin and nails. Because we can't naturally make EFAs, we have to obtain them from natural sources such as vegetable and fish.
Omega 6 Vs Omega 3.
What makes things even more confusing at first is that there are two types of Essential Fatty Acids that we need to pay attention to.
The two types of EFAs are linoleic (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic (omega-3). You may see the EFAs referred to as LA and LNA.
LA stands for linoleic acid which is omega-6. LA is found in polyunsaturated safflower, sunflower, and corn oils. LA and its derivatives belong to the family of polyunsaturates. In addition to linoleic acid (omega-6) the LA family includes gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), dihomogamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and arachidonic acid (AA).
LNA is alpha-linolenic acid which is omega-3. Sometimes LNA is referred to as super-unsaturated oil or fat. LNA is found in flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, some high quality vegetables and deep-water fish. Flax oil, pumpkin oil and purslane are also good sources of LNA.
Ratio of Omega 3 To Omega 6
The first few times that I tried to dig down and understand the 411 on Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) my head started to spin. This is because it is a complex topic that can take many twists and turns.
A normal human brain has a 1:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 EFAs.
It is unfortunate but the average North American diet is much higher in Omega-6. The 1:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio has shifted dangerously high to approximately a 20:1 ratio.
Omega-6 is prevalent in many foods and oils consumed today, whereas omega-3 is difficult to obtain from today`s standard diet. Most people are deficient in Omega-3.
The 1:1 ratio of some EFA formulas help to raise Omega-3 levels while the consumer continues to receive Omega-6 from outside food sources, which maintains a healthy balance.
Hemp Seed Contains Both LA & LNA
Hemp seed actually contains amounts of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids as well as being a natural, vegetarian source.
Food quality hemp oil only recently become more abundant in the marketplace. Hemp Oil is actually superior to the highly touted flax seed oil. Hemp oil contains more EFAs than flax and actually tastes good. It is nutty and free from the objectionable undertones of flax oil.
Hemp seed oil, if done correctly, can be extracted from the seeds to obtain hemp seed oil where the omega-3 and omega-6 content is concentrated.
Organic, unrefined, unsterilized, and unfumigated hemp seeds are rich source of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Hemp seed oil, when cold-pressed, contains 20% Omega-3 essential fatty acids (LNA), 58% Omega-6 essential fatty acids (LA), 11% Omega-9 FA and 1-2% Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA).
Hemp oil contains GLA, a fat that is normally absent from what we eat, is a derivative of Omega-6 and is valued for its anti-inflammatory properties, amongst other benefits. Nutritionally oriented doctors believe GLA is very beneficial to health.
Hemp oil also has the perfect three-to-one ratio that matches our nutritional needs. In order to maintain the delicate Omega-3 content, Hemp Seed Oil cannot be used for cooking or heated above 120F/49C.
Everything must operate in balance. The same is true about EFAs. Omega-3 and omega-6 are necessary in our diet, but must exist in the appropriate ratios for the person taking the supplements.
Today's North American diet is sorely lacking in omega-3 EFAs. Our intake of omega-6 EFAs are much higher but mostly from the "bad" fats that include refined and hydrogenated oils, and these have negative effects.
The best omega-3 vegetable source is flax seeds. Moreover, the loss of a 1:1 ratio of omega-6:omega-3 EFAs is contrary to the diet of our ancestors when there was little evidence of chronic diseases.
North Americans must therefore increase their omega-3 EFAs consumption in order to right this ratio, which has seen it swing dramatically to 20-25:1 in favor of omega-6 EFAs.
Internal Benefits Of Hemp Oil For Hair
Now that you have waded through the tedious explanation of Omega 3 vs Omega 6 oils and discovered the perfect ratios, you also know that hemp oil has both Omega 3 and Omega 6 at the same time.
What happens if you take hemp oil internally as either an oil or supplement?
Many health experts believe that you have to build good health from the inside out. This belief is shared by hair experts who believe in the benefits of adding EFA supplements or oils to the diet.
Should you take hemp oil to help dry or damage hair? According to many experts, it will definitely help. However, should you take it as a supplement, an oil, as part of your daily menu? Only you can decide what is the best course of action for you and your body.
It is also important to talk over any major change in nutritional habits with your primary health care physician to make sure you are on track and not undoing any other benefits.
Can you get the same benefits from just using hemp oil externally? Again that depends on a variety of factors from the overall condition and health of your hair and body and your own personal requirements.
How To Take EFAs
Hemp oil are part of the "good fats" and essential fatty acids that doctors recommend as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Should you take it internally as part of your daily diet?
Keep in mind that many health agencies follow the general recommendation that total fat intake should make up no more than 30% of one's total calorie intake. The recommended intake for polyunsaturated fats, Omega-3 and Omega-6, is 5%-10% of one's total calories.
Nutritional experts also recommend that any essential fatty acid supplementation is based upon a general rule of thumb of 1 tsp. of oil per day for every 35 lbs. of body weight. Therefore a person weighing between 105 and 140 lbs. should consume 3- 4 tsp of hemp oil per day to achieve and continue to maintain optimal health.
Remember that fats are a more concentrated energy source per gram than carbohydrates or protein; fats provide 9 calories, while carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram.
Many alternative health professionals recommend a daily tablespoon of omega-3 rich flax oil to counteract cholesterol problems. If you don't like taking the oil consider taking the capsules which are no muss/no fuss.
If you prefer to take supplements instead of the oil than take the recommended dosage listed on the bottle.
Please note that certain health conditions require adjusted levels of fat intake. Be sure to check with your health care professional when deciding the level of fat intake that works best your personal health program.
Cooking With EFAs?
It seems like a no brainer to use the EFAs in the preparation of our foods. That would be an easy way to get the supplements that our bodies need.
Unfortunately the EFAs that we need are not well suited for cooking that uses heat. Why?
Hemp oils, like all EFAs, are very unstable and will break down into very unhealthy compounds when exposed to light, oxygen, and heat. Which of course includes frying, broiling or other high heat methods.
In many studies where heat was applied the hemp oils broke down very rapidly and then became toxic compounds with those nasty free radicals that float through your body causing all kinds of damage basically altering the good oil to bad.
Hemp For Your Tummy
Richard Rose, the Hemp King, is the founder of HempNut, Inc the leading food company specializing in researching, developing and marketing hempseed foods since 1994. Thank you to Richard for his great work in pioneering great recipes for Hemp Seeds.
You can buy The Original Organic HempNut™ brand of shelled hempseeds, in 12-ounce cans, flushed with inert nitrogen gas to prevent oxidation which is another word for rancid. They are good and great at parties (as my friends discovered).
HempNut brand products do not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the drug in Cannabis), and they will not cause a positive drug test. The hemp nut products contains 9% omega-3 and 31% protein. They help support healthy heart, brain, immune, and lung function.
As part of the promotion of hemp nuts, the HempNut company provides free recipes that use the product in food. Hemp Nut Recipes include Hemp Nut Milk, Waffles, and Hemp Nut Cake (from hemp nut flour) to mention just a few of the 10 recipes that are available on the HempNut General Store site and can be made safely without damaging the hemp oil or hemp seeds. If you love hemp for your tummy, this is the site to check out. Although it is not advisable to cook hemp nuts or hemp oil at high temperatures, they make fabulous additions to smoothies, salad dressings, spreads, dips, cold pasta, and eaten just plain. Some people pour the nuts on their baked potato instead of butter.
Many people eat hemp nuts raw from the can and report that they are good tasting like pine nut or sunflower seeds. People that use hemp oil as food products says that it is very tasty and that it actually smells like a nutty version of sunflower seed oil.
Hemp flour is also available to be used in some forms of baking. A good source of Hemp Flour which is hard to find is Fresh Hemp Foods.
More Hemp Tummy Treats
Another company that specializes in hemp food products is Nutiva which makes a line of shelled hempseeds that can be enjoyed right out of the can.
I personally have tried the Nutiva's Organic Snack Bars and they are good as well. Hemp is regarded by many in the health food world as a super-nutritious condiment for cooking and baking.
Shelled hempseed is packed with 33 percent pure digestible protein and is rich in iron and vitamin E as well as omega-3 and GLA. Hempseed is considered by leading researchers and medical doctors to be one of the most nutritious food sources on the planet.
A recent report funded by the Canadian government states that hemp protein is comprised of 66 percent high-quality edistin protein, and that hempseed contains the highest percentage of this of any plant source. Hemp also contains three times the vitamin E contained in flax. So it will definitely help with skin issues, along with helping with dry hair and scalp.
Hemp Oil & Hemp Oil Capsules
Where to purchase hemp oil or hemp oil capsules? Hemp oil for internal digestion can be purchased from some health food stores. Hemp oil that is used for external uses has been spotted at some of the Body Shop stores, although not all.
It is important to note that once you open the hemp oil you should refrigerate it if possible because it can spoil and get rancid. Keep it out of direct sunlight and avoid temperature extremes.
Buying & Storing Hemp Oil
In this section I have listed a few important hints for smart buying of both hemp oil and hemp oil capsules.
If packaged correctly hemp oils keep for years without spoiling. Out of that package, light, air, and heat attack the hemp. Just like other perishable foods and produce, the hemp-rich oils should be made with care and obtained as fresh as possible.
Hemp oils should be made and packaged in the absence of light, oxygen, and heat. Frozen solid (which does not damage them), oils remain unspoiled for a long time. Cooking with hemp oils damages them and can cause heat problems including hardening of the arteries. Like flax oil, hemp oil should be stored in the refrigerator, used quickly, and never heated.
Obtain the oils and/or seeds from the highest quality of sources and make sure that you look at the date all the products.
When buying your oil look specifically for companies that make oil that uses high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic for their bottles. HDPE was invented in the early 1950s. Decades of research and development have gone into making it safe for packaging vegetable oils today. HDPE has not been found to migrate into food. HDPE that is usually black plastic also protects the oils from the harmful effects of light and oxygen.
Research has led some companies to the conclusion that colored glass is not an acceptable material for unrefined oils, because it allows light to reach the product, creating an environment for photo-oxidation.
Look for the hemp oil and hemp oil capsules in the refrigerated section of any store where you purchase the product. Check for cold-pressed oils. This process avoids high temperatures and eliminates exposure to light and oxygen to preserve the oils integrity.
Check the use-by date. Avoid bottles nearing their expiration dates. At home, note the supplement's use-by date on your calendar.
Hemp Oil For Your Hair
Is it best to use hemp seed internally or externally for your hair? Most nutritionists believe that to really get benefits from a supplement, we need to take them internally. If you are experiencing hair or skin challenges, taking hemp oil as a capsule form or as a food, will offer the best results.
Taken internally, it is thought by many to simulate growth of hair and nails, improve the health of the skin, and can even reduce inflammation from arthritis or related diseases.
While the hemp based shampoos and hair care products can offer the benefit of softer hair and skin, it can not be as supportive as taking the oil internally.
My experience is that it simulates growth of hair and nails, improves the health of the skin, and can reduce inflammation. I like the idea of having one good oil that supplies both omega-3s and GLA, without the need to take more capsules.
Some people experiment with adding hemp seed oil directly to their favorite shampoos and conditioners as a home grown custom recipe. Others will apply the oil directly to their hair as a form of conditioning. Not well suited as a hot oil treatment, the oil can still be applied to hair and left on overnight. It can also be used to oil braids, cornrows or other hair weaves.
If you wish to experiment by adding hemp oil to your hair start slowly with a little oil. If the formula works, you can slowly increase the amount you use.
The advantage that hemp seed offers is that it combines the benefits of omega 3 and omega 6 along with GLA. One product will supply what you need. If you take capsules this can be even more beneficial.
If you wish to take Hemp Seed Oil internally, there is good news. The oil has a distinct, earthy flavor and a light green color. Some people describe the taste of hemp seed oil is nutty. Many people enjoy the flavor.
One word of warning, some people have allergies to hemp oil. Others find it to cause their hair, skin and nails to become too oily. After all, hemp seed oil is an oil.
The key to using hemp seed either internally or externally is to take your time and evaluate the results that you experience over time.
Modern science confirms that the nutrients present in unrefined oils are absorbed into and through the skin and provide nourishment to a variety of organ and glandular systems.
High quality, unrefined vegetable oils such as hemp contain one or both of the EFAs, omega-3 and omega-6. They also include the natural antioxidants, Vitamins A and E, and a number of other important nutrients. This is great for your hair as well as your skin if your body can handle it. Some bodies can't handle the richness of this oil.
Other Hemp Scoops
Although many people love the results that hemp oil products have for softening hair and skin, some people have reported that it can be over lubricating. If you have oily hair or skin, consider trying the hemp oil products slowly to see if there is an over abundance of oil production.
I have had a few people complain that hemp products can be both too oily and drying at the same time.
The reason this may happen is because some products that are salon brands may combine the hemp oil into a base that includes drying chemicals. Therefore while the hemp may add the oiliness the chemicals might dry the hair at the same time. Sound crazy? Believe me, it happens more that you can know.
I have listed some of the other products that I am currently aware of that have hemp oil or hemp ingredients:
Allways Natural - Moisturizing Formula (Available in health food stores & Indian grocery stores).
Alterna's Hemp Seed Shine Shampoo and Conditioner contain Hemp Seed Oil. Sold in fine salons.
Jason's Natural Hemp Shampoo - Available at health food stores and at HairBoutique.com in the near future.
JR Liggett's - Jr Liggett's Body Scrub with Hemp that can be used as a body scrub or on the scalp.
Nature's Gate Hemp Shampoo - Available at most health food stores.
Indian Hemp can sometimes be found in a hair grease used by black women and Indian women. Another name for heavy hemp is jaborandi and it can sometimes be found in Indian grocery stores. Some women believe that the use of Indian Hemp will make hair grow really fast.
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Original Publication: 11/18/2001 - Revised Publication Date: 05/22/10
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