Is industrial hemp the same as marijuana?
No. Industrial hemp is NOT the same as marijuana although they both belong to the same cannabis plant genus. They, in other words, are two distinctly different varieties of the same Cannabis Sativa plant species and have different biochemical compositions and uses. Industrial hemp is a non-psychoactive variety and the products derived from it are used mainly for food, fiber, fuel, and other industrial purposes whereas marijuana, the psychoactive cousin of hemp, is used primarily for medicinal and recreational purposes.
So, if they are not the same, what are the major differences between industrial hemp and marijuana?
What makes industrial hemp different from marijuana is its low level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, i.e. below 0.3%. However, marijuana used for medicinal and recreational purposes has THC content ranging between 2% to over 20%, which causes one to feel “high” if consumed. Besides the Cannabis Sativa, there is another putative species of the cannabis genus named Cannabis Indica, which is used typically for the production of charas (a form of hashish) in some countries. However, this species also has higher levels of THC and hence, is fundamentally different from industrial hemp variety used for food and fiber. Here is a common example used to elucidate the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. A St. Bernard and a Chihuahua are two different varieties of dogs, but they both are different breeds of the same Canine species. Likewise, though marijuana and industrial hemp come from the same species of plant, they are two fundamentally different varieties with different uses, modes of cultivation, scientific features, biochemical composition, and THC content.
What is THC?
Plants belonging to the cannabis genus contain unique psychoactive constituents called cannabinoids. The most well-known among these cannabinoids is Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, popularly known by the acronym THC. However, different plants of cannabis genus contain varying levels of THC. The high level of THC content (ranging between 2% to 20%) is credited with making marijuana psychoactive variety of cannabis, while significantly negligible levels of the same compound make industrial hemp a non-psychoactive variety of the same genus.
What is the THC content in industrial hemp?
As against its marijuana counterpart, industrial hemp contains lower and comparatively negligible amounts of Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The THC content of industrial hemp is below 0.3%, which is why food products made from it are considered safe for consumption. Moreover, industrial hemp contains another cannabinoid, namely Cannabidiol (CBD) which is found to counter the effects of THC, and also has a number of medicinal properties and benefits. In marijuana, however, the level of THC is significantly higher (ranging between 2% to over 20%) and CBD content is lower as compared to industrial hemp.
What is CBD? And what are its medical benefits?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active cannabinoids found in industrial hemp and other plants belonging to the cannabis family. Unlike THC, another cannabinoid identified in such plants, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound. This means that the presence of CBD in industrial hemp doesn’t cause one to get “high” on consumption. On the other hand, it is found to have many therapeutic and medicinal benefits. A review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 2013 found that CBD has antiemetic, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumoral and anti-depressant properties. A fascinating property of this compound is that is can offer natural protection against the psychoactive properties of marijuana. The medicinal benefits of CBD are still being researched, and its therapeutic potentials are being explored by researchers across the world. Since industrial hemp has high levels of CBD content and negligible levels of THC, food products made from it are said to have many health benefits.
Is hemp cultivation legal in India?
Yes. Cultivation of industrial hemp for seed, fiber, etc. is legal in India provided that the THC content of the plants grown for such purposes is less than 0.3%. However, unlike in the case of many other agricultural and cash crops, there are no national ministries or regulatory bodies established exclusively for industrial hemp. Currently, India doesn’t have a national framework either for the cultivation of hemp or for the production and commercialization of hemp-based products. As per the NDPS act 1985, state governments are vested with the power to grant permission for industrial hemp cultivation in different Indian states.
Is Indian climate and geography suitable for hemp cultivation?
Absolutely. Unlike many other agricultural and cash crops, industrial hemp can grow under most climatic and geographic conditions. Currently, this magic crop is cultivated in many countries with varied climate and geographical specificities, such as the cold regions of Canada, hot and humid conditions of Australia, etc. The tropical climatic conditions and the diverse soil conditions in India are suitable for industrial hemp since it can adapt well to temperate as well as tropical climatic zones. It has been observed that hemp plants grow and yield their best when cultivated in warm climates. Besides this, exposure to longer durations of sunlight, ample moisture, and soil fertility contribute to the growth, quality, and yield of industrial hemp.
What are the agricultural benefits of industrial hemp compared to other agricultural or cash crops?
As an agricultural crop, industrial hemp has certain features that make it an ideal choice for cultivation. Here are some such features:
- Growth rate: Industrial hemp is a fast-growing crop compared to many others. It typically can be harvested within 75 to 90 days of seeding. This means that farmers can grow industrial hemp multiple times through the year, which makes it an economically profitable agricultural option for rural farming communities.
- Climatic and geographic conditions: Industrial hemp can be cultivated in a variety of climatic and geographic conditions, from tropic to temperate. It grows all through the seasons and under many geographic conditions and terrains.
- Land usage: Another fascinating feature of industrial hemp is its efficiency in terms of land usage. If grown under optimal conditions, it is found to yield about 200% more per acre than cotton.
- Fewer resources: Unlike most of its substitutes, hemp plants require fewer resources at different stages of its cultivation. Most importantly, it is easy on the soil, resistant to drought and increased UV radiation, and can be grown in the same soil for consecutive years without depleting the nutrients in the soil.
- Naturally resistant to pests and weeds: Here is the winner! Industrial hemp plants can naturally repel weed growth and are immune to many diseases and insect attacks. As a result, hemp can be grown, even on a commercial scale, with negligible pesticides and herbicides. As the plants are highly resistant to pests and diseases, crop loss due to pests and diseases can be ruled out to a considerable extent.
What are the environmental benefits of industrial hemp?
Industrial hemp is an excellent option for substituting many highly toxic, pollution-causing, non-biodegradable products we use in our day-to-day lives. Here are some of the environmental benefits of hemp:
- Soil fertility: It is proven that cultivation of industrial hemp increases the fertility of the soil. When allowed to dry in the field, hemp plants return up to 60% of the nutrients they have taken from the soil.
- Removal of toxins and harmful chemicals: Industrial hemp removes the harmful effects of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides from the soil. Many countries have turned to hemp cultivation as a means to remove harmful chemicals and toxins. For instance, the Fukushima Nuclear Leak has prompted Japan to cultivate hemp in order to remove the aftereffects of radiation.
- Biodegradability: The products made from industrial hemp are 100% biodegradable compared to their non-hemp counterparts; they are recyclable, as well. Biomass fuels produced from hemp can offer a non-toxic and cleaner alternative to the fossil fuels we use today. When used for paper pulp production, it can help reduce deforestation to a considerable degree; hemp fiber offers an excellent and recyclable substitute for petroleum-based synthetic fibers that are harmful to the environment at many levels. As for building materials, hempcrete can be used instead of wood; it not only reduces cost but also saves trees.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HEMP PRODUCTS
If I recently consumed a hemp-based food product, will I come positive in the drug screening test?
No. If your test results are based solely on the hemp-based product you have consumed (that is, you should not have consumed any other food with psychoactive compounds), you will not come positive in drug screening tests. Firstly, industrial hemp has negligible levels of THC, so food products derived from it will have in them little or non-detectable traces of it. Secondly, all hemp-based food products should be certified by regulatory bodies and tested in third party laboratories for THC content before they reach markets. Different countries have different regulations regarding what the THC content should be. For instance, Canada has a legal limit of 10 PPM (parts per million) while some European countries have set this limit as 5 PPM. As a result of such non-traceable levels of THC content, the hemp food products you consume will not give positive results on drug screening.
Are hemp-based foods safe for children and pregnant women?
Yes, absolutely! Food products derived from industrial hemp are considered safe for children and pregnant women. In fact, hemp has numerous nutritional benefits because it contains folic acid, essential fatty acids, Omega 6, Omega 3, essential amino acids, plant-based protein, dietary fiber, etc. So hemp food products are considered beneficial for the health of children and pregnant women. However, like any other food product, hemp food too should be consumed in moderation and the serving size should be determined according to a person’s body weight and other determining factors. If you are a pregnant woman, as a general rule it is safe to get a green signal from your doctor before you add anything new to your diet, including hemp foods.
How is hemp used for clothing? What are the benefits of hemp clothes?
The stalk of industrial hemp is a great source of natural fibers, and can be processed for making clothes and accessories such as shirts, dresses, jeans, bags, hats, and many others. It is interesting to note that until the 1920s, hemp was widely used for making clothes; the first pair of Levi jeans was made from hemp fiber. Hemp clothes are strong, lightweight, absorbent, durable, cost-effective, and easy on the environment. Moreover, they are naturally resistant to ultraviolet light and mold. Breathability is another strong suit of clothes made from hemp, and they stretch lesser compared to many other natural fibers. Hemp fiber is an extremely versatile material, so it can be blended with other fibers for producing clothing of different textures and qualities.
Is hemp better than cotton? Does hemp fabric last like other fabrics such as cotton or polyester?
Industrial hemp has certain added advantages when we consider the resources used for cultivation. For instance, industrial hemp requires only half the amount of water used for producing cotton. The use of large quantities of pesticides is considered one of the greatest downsides of cotton, but industrial hemp doesn’t need any pesticide because it is naturally resistant to insects and weeds. Compared to cotton, clothing made from hemp fabric may be a little rough in texture, but it gets progressively softer with wearing and washing. Hemp clothes possess all the qualities normally attributed to cotton, such as great comfort, longevity, breathability, etc. On the whole, hemp clothes make an excellent substitute for cotton fabrics in terms of their aesthetical properties, fabric quality, and more importantly, environmental friendliness.
Do hemp food products have any side effects?
Hemp food products don’t have any known side effects if consumed moderately under defined conditions and in defined quantities. However, they can have possible interactions with certain medicines because of the high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids they contain. For instance, Omega 3 fatty acids are likely to increase the effects of blood-thinning medicines such as aspirin and clopidogrel. Likewise, they may also increase the levels of fasting blood sugar, so those who are under medication for diabetes (for instance, medicines such as insulin, glyburide, glucophage, etc.) should exercise caution when taking hemp-based food products. If you have any of the above conditions, it is strongly advised that you consult your doctor before you include hemp food in your diet. Similarly, people with bleeding disorders or those who bruise easily should talk to their healthcare provider before including hemp food in their diet because Omega 3 fatty acids are likely to add to the risk of bleeding.
What are the nutritional benefits of hemp food products?
Hemp seeds are loaded with nutritional benefits, especially because they are excellent sources of protein and essential fatty oils. In addition to these, food products derived from industrial hemp also contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals important in our diet. Here is a quick overview of the nutritional profile of hemp seeds:
- Polyunsaturated fats (good fats): The dietary fat contained in hemp seeds is composed primarily of polyunsaturated fats, also known as the good fats. Of the total fatty acids hemp seeds contain, 80% is composed of polyunsaturated fats. The remaining 20 % is comprised of monounsaturated fats (11%) and saturated fats (9%). It contains zero trans fats.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs): Hemp-based food products also contain Omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid) and Omega 6 (Linoleic acid), two essential fatty acids required by our body. Since the human body cannot synthesize essential fatty acids on its own, they should be given to our body by means of food. Hemp food products serve as a great way of providing our body with the essential fatty acids our body needs. It is to be noted here that the ratio of Omega 6: Omega 3 in hemp food products is 3:1, which is the optimum ratio for growth and development, and also for the health of our heart.
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) and Stearidonic Acid (SDA): Hemp-based foods are excellent sources of naturally occurring GLA (the direct metabolite of Omega 6) and SDA (the direct metabolite of Omega 3). Both GLA and SDA are crucial for the proper function of our anti-immune and anti-inflammation systems.
- Plant based protein: Hemp seeds are natural sources of plant based protein. The high amounts of vegan protein contained in them are not only of high quality but also highly digestible. Another important feature of hemp protein is that it is free of trypsin inhibitors.
- Dietary fiber: The dietary insoluble fiber, an inevitable component of a healthy diet, is found abundantly in hemp seeds. They contain 10% soluble fiber and 90% insoluble fiber. As a result, hemp foods are considered excellent for the health and proper functioning of our digestive system.
- Essential Amino Acids (EAAs): Amino acids are considered as the building blocks of protein and are important for lean body mass and muscular repair. Our body requires 10 essential amino acids that are supplied through the dietary fiber, most of which are contained in hemp seeds. They have an impressive portfolio containing good levels of enzyme-producing EAAs such as arginine, histidine, methionine, and cysteine.
- Gluten free: Food products made from industrial hemp are inherently free of gluten, a protein found in most grains. Hemp flour, thus, is an ideal substitute for its gluten-filled counterparts.
What kind of carbohydrates/sugars does hemp contain?
Industrial hemp doesn’t contain starch, but it contains sugar in the form of sucrose in considerably small quantities. The whole hemp seed is composed of 35.4% carbohydrates, of which more than 34% is dietary insoluble fiber and the rest is sucrose. For more details on the nutritional profile of hemp seeds, see the previous question.
Where does hemp protein powder come from?
Hemp protein powder is made from the nutrient-dense whole seeds of industrial hemp plants. It is one of the best and richest sources of plant-based protein and contains an impressive portfolio of amino acids, and most of the essential amino acids our body needs.
What is the difference between hemp seed hearts and hemp seeds?
Hemp seed hearts are raw hemp seeds, but with their outer shell removed. They are also known as hemp nuts and hemp hearts. Hemp hearts are said to contain higher quantities of protein compared to whole seeds and have a more pronounced nutty and sweet flavor compared to non-hulled hemp seeds.
QUESTIONS ABOUT NHCO
How do you ensure the quality of hemp products cultivated in your farms?
We follow stringent quality measures to ensure that the products coming out of our company meet the quality and health guidelines prescribed by governmental bodies. We also put in our best efforts to make sure that our products are of international quality and standards. The processing and production of hemp products are carried out and the manufactured products are stored in our warehouses under defined conditions. Moreover, the products will be tested in our labs as well as third party labs to determine their quality and consistency. The upcoming research and production facilities at our farm are equipped with state-of-the-art machinery and equipment to make sure that every step in the process is accurate and flawless.
Is the hemp you use in your products organic?
Yes. We cultivate industrial hemp organically in our farm. We do not use any kind of chemical pesticides, weedicides or fertilizers at any stages of cultivation. Only natural fertilizers and pest and insect repellents such as the neem, charcoal, and cow-dung are used. Likewise, we test random samples of plants periodically to eliminate the possibility of any kind of chemical traces. All products in our proposed product portfolio are organic, produced from hemp plants grown organically under optimal growing conditions.
Is the hemp you grow genetically modified to reduce THC levels?
No. At NHCO, we use hemp seed varieties that contain negligible or non-detectable levels of THC. The initial batch of seeds will be imported from Australia and Canada, after which our upcoming research facility will produce high-quality and high-yielding seeds through selective breeding.
How can I purchase your products?
Our product portfolio is under development. So currently, we do not have our products available for purchase. Kindly keep an eye out on the ‘Our Products’ page of our website and follow us on our social media pages for any news related to the launch of products. We deeply regret the inconvenience.
Where do your hemp seeds come from?
We intend to import the first batch of our hemp seeds from Australia and Canada. In order to provide hemp seeds to farmers at affordable rates and develop seeds that are suitable for Indian soil and climate, we plan to set up an in-house research facility for conducting research and development activities. Our R&D team will develop the later batches of seeds through selective breeding, by following the strict guidelines prescribed by concerned authorities. We strive to ensure that the seeds we give our farmers are high in quality and yield.
Is hemp grown sustainably in your farm?
Yes. As a company committed to protecting the ecosystem, we ensure ecological sustainability at every stage of cultivation and production. Industrial hemp is grown organically in our farm without using any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Likewise, the processing and production units at our farm follow stringent measures such that no carbon footprints are left on our environment.