Updated June 2020: Last week Dr. Bronner’s announced that 100% of the USDA Organic hemp seed oil in our product line – that’s 30 metric tons annually – is now sourced from U.S. farmers. I thought this was the perfect time to republish this article about the benefits of hemp seed oil and answer the oft-asked question: “Why have we used hemp seed oil in many of our body care products for over 20 years?”
There are a lot of superlative claims about hemp oil: most unsaturated oil, best essential fatty acids (EFA) ratio and combination, highest amino acid variety, only plant source of vitamin D. Can one oil be all that? In short, yes.
Before we go further, let me address some unspoken questions.
Will hemp seed oil make me high?
No, it won’t. Hemp seed oil is pressed from the seed of the hemp plant, and this seed does not contain THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana. The 2018 Farm Bill made clear this distinction by defining industrial hemp as Cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, well below any threshold of impact.
What’s the difference between hemp seed oil and CBD oil?
There’s been a lot of hubbub around CBD oil on the market lately, which derives from the same plant: Cannabis sativa. However, while neither are psychoactive compounds, CBD oil is not the same as hemp seed oil. CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is found in the flowers and leaves of industrial hemp. Hemp seed oil is pressed from the unshelled whole hemp seeds. While it is possible that some flower or leaf remnants are present among the hemp seeds, the potential amounts of CBD oil in Dr. Bronner’s products would be minute.
Hemp seed oil contains unsurpassed essential fatty acids (EFAs). As we are increasingly learning, there are “good fats” and there are “bad fats.” What makes a “good fat” good has much to do with these EFAs, specifically Omega-3 and Omega-6, which are present in hemp seed oil in the perfect ratio of 1:3. Plus, hemp seed oil contains the anti-inflammatory gamma linoleic acid (GLA) as well as Omega-9. Its fatty acid profile is better than fish oil’s, better than flaxseed oil’s—it is the best. Among many benefits, these EFAs provide for more elastic skin and shiny, stronger hair.
Hemp seed oil contains a power-packed punch of additional nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5, vitamin B9 (folate), and vitamin D (of which it is the only plant source), along with a useful dose of the antioxidant vitamin E (tocopherols) as well as all 10 amino acids for protein building. Add to that list chlorophyll, phytosterols, phospholipids, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, and a bit of iron and zinc.
Hemp seed oil is non-comedogenic. In other words, it doesn’t clog pores. And because its lipids mirror the lipids that our skin produces naturally, it works in sync with our body to soothe and cleanse. Healthy skin produces linoleic acid. If, for whatever reason, the skin can’t produce linoleic acid, it alternatively produces oleic acid, a thick and sticky pore blocker. Hemp seed oil contains the good linoleic acid.
Hemp seed oil is also a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture into the skin. Instead of sitting on top of the skin the way less-effective oils do, it’s able to penetrate the skin, moisturizing between cells and strengthening the cell matrix. It can get to hair roots, as well, strengthening the scalp and reducing dry flaking or dandruff. It evens out skin tone and reduces blotchiness.
How to Use It
Hemp oil is inexpensive – especially when you think of all the products it replaces: acne treatments, makeup to cover problem areas, moisturizers, and makeup removers, for instance. Here are just a few ways you can use this effective oil in your daily skin and hair care routines.
1. Alleviate dry skin. Rub the oil directly onto dry, cracked skin. For a deep conditioning treatment for hands and feet, massage in the oil then wear socks or gloves overnight to let it work its magic.
2. Strengthen nails and heal cuticles. Massage a small amount of hemp seed oil directly into nails and cuticles—great for both fingernails and toenails.
3. Remove makeup. Oil follows the “like dissolves like” rule, which means that hemp seed oil will dissolve the oils and waxes in makeup, especially in stubborn eye makeup. Gently rub a small amount of oil into the makeup and wipe with a cotton ball or a soft tissue.
4. Mask overnight. Massage hemp seed oil into cleansed facial skin before bedtime.
5. Steam facial skin. Massage a tablespoon of oil into the skin on your dry, clean face, massaging for several minutes. Then lay a hot (not scalding) damp washcloth over your face and let it sit until it cools. Wipe with the washcloth. Repeat with another hot washcloth until all the oil is wiped off. Washing your face afterwards is optional.
6. Condition hair. Before shampooing, massage a tablespoon or so of hemp oil into your scalp and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Afterwards, shampoo as normal. You might find you don’t need conditioner.
7. Reduce acne. This may sound crazy, but this oil actually reduces acne. Massage hemp seed oil into problem areas and work it in gently for several minutes. The oil will actually draw out sebum plugs that cause whiteheads, blackheads, and even cysts. Do this daily during breakouts.
8. Relieve eczema. A 2005 study found that two tablespoons of dietary hemp seed oil consumed daily may help relieve the effects of atopic dermatitis, or eczema.
9. Support overall health. Eat it. You can eat it straight and enjoy its nutty flavor or you can put it in salad dressings, as a butter replacement on toast, rice, potatoes, vegetables. Keep in mind that pure hemp seed oil cannot be used for high-heat cooking. It has a low smoke point and will totally break down even at a moderate heat, at which point all nutritional benefits are lost.
Bear in mind that pure hemp seed oil goes rancid easily. It needs to be kept in the fridge. However, you can look for it as a shelf-stable ingredient in other personal care products.
In celebration of Hemp History Week, Maria Rodale, from the Rodale Institute originally published a version of this article in 2016 on her blog, Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen. For more details and a fantastic timeline of Dr. Bronner’s hemp advocacy, which culminated in the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, which separated industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, check out this press release.