Food, fashion, nutrition, grooming, self-care — the common factor across them all is hemp. What is it about this plant that you can’t turn left or right without bumping into it? And how does it help? We find out
Did you wonder ‘will this get me high?’ when you heard of hemp? Don’t worry, you’re not being judged. The answer is an obvious no, but there’s quite a confusion about what hemp is, and why it’s literally in every moisturiser or muffin you come across. Let’s begin by understanding hemp.
“Hemp has a plethora of medicinal benefits without the psychoactive effects. The hemp protein is derived from the cannabis plant, and is a great plant-based protein source. THC, the hallucinogenic ingredient found in marijuana, is not present. It can become a great staple in your diet whether you already consume a plant-based diet or not,” explains Harshal Goel, founder of The Trost, a brand committed to health and wellness through hemp nutrition.
“Cannabis is the umbrella term, and hemp and marijuana are broad classifications of it. THC and CBD are present in both marijuana and hemp. Hemp contains high CBD and low THC (less than 0.3 per cent), while marijuana contains much more THC (over 0.3 per cent),” explains Kunaal Kapoor, the co-founder of Hempivate, a platform that sells wellness, fashion, and nutrition products.
Bombay Hemp Company is one the country’s leading companies on the forefront of the hemp revolution that boasts a wide range of brands under its umbrella including a fashion label, wellness products, hemp fabric and nutrition products. Yash Kotak, Co-founder & CMO at Bombay Hemp Company explains, “Hemp is an extremely versatile crop, with over 25,000 proven uses in a multitude of industries. This native crop shows the potential to propel exponential changes in many industries while aiding and improving the quality of life at large. Hemp products under the category of health and wellness hold massive opportunities in the Indian market.” Speaking about the future of this unique plant in India, he continues, “ Working with hemp is environmentally sound, economically equitable, and socially inclusive. The versatility of the crop makes it a no-brainer for it to be plugged in as a raw material or as a main ingredient in most of the product offerings. In the Indian market, the crop holds a massive opportunity, given all the scientific evidence as to why the plant should exist in the first place. There are more reasons made for it than against it. Hemp has been out and out an Indian crop and I strongly believe with times to come and the right kind of scientific evidence people will pick up on it.”
The last three years have brought hemp to the forefront of not only consumption, but also conversation. FSSAI issued a notification on November 15, 2021, stating, “The hemp seed, hemp seed oil, and hemp seed flour shall be sold as food or used as an ingredient in a food for sale subject to conforming standards.” Thanks to this clarity, the hemp space is bound to see quite a boost in the coming years.
Rohit Shah, co-founder and CEO of Hemp Horizons, delves a little into the history of this domesticated crop. “Pick any ancient civilisation and you’ll find cannabis being cultivated, used as medicine, used as a construction material. Take Ajanta Ellora caves for instance — history shows that these were covered and protected by wild cannabis grown over the years. Mayans used cannabis, Mesopotamia historical data has cannabis usage for clothing, medicine, nutrition, Chinese civilisations used hemp. Vedas deem cannabis as one of the five sacred plants. What other affirmations do we need?”
With entrepreneurs and startups aiming to create a culture with hemp, the demand has been on an all-time high (quite literally), from therapeutic products, prescription-based products to relieve pain and anxiety, nutrition powders, oils, and other personal care products. Shah says that as people are realising its benefits, the demand is sure to rise. “In India, we have seen a four time growth in our processing quantities in the past 12 months. More and more brands, restaurants, cafés have started looking at hemp seed products as a healthy, gluten free, soy free, dairy free alternative. The pet industry has already started using hemp seed oil as a joint and skin health oil for pets. Hemp powder is also a great alternative for high fiber nutrient dense meals for pets,” he details, and Kapoor further adds, “The demand chart was initially hindered due to the Indian government’s decision of banning hemp cultivation until July 2018. Now that more awareness is being created and dialogues are being opened up regarding the benefits of hemp, the demand for new as well as existing products has risen quite significantly.”
Go to any good, clean eating restaurant, and they will have a few hemp favouring dishes worth trying. Sante Spa Cuisine in Khar offers Zucchini Zoodles with Hemp Pesto and Braised Kale Salad with toasted Hemp seeds. We tried zoodles, and loved the texture as well as the taste; a great weekday lunch option if you don’t want to feel sluggish after a meal. Chef Shailendra of Sante Spa explains, “Hemp has a lot of health benefits and as a substitute to using nuts, we’ve incorporated hemp seeds to make a beautiful earthy pesto for our pastas. Also, we use hemp oil to make salad dressings. The thought was to be able to use a melange of ingredients that are healthy, locally sourced, and have benefits that are great for our everyday lives.”
Since we did history, here’s also a little science. Hemp powder and seeds contain a protein ratio of 2:1 — 30g of hemp powder or seeds contain 15g of protein. The brain uses amino acids to create protein, which are obtained through diet, most commonly from animal products such as meat, milk, and eggs. Hemp products, on the other hand, contain all of the amino acids required to aid in the repair of muscle cells, the regulation of the neurological system, and the regulation of brain function. This makes them an excellent animal-free alternative in food, not to mention they are rich in fiber, fatty acids including the 1: 3 perfect ratio of Omega 3s and Omega 6s naturally present, Vitamin E, minerals, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc as well.
Luxury Ayurveda brand SoulTree has recently launched their range of hemp products. Dr. Ipsita Chatterjee, Ayurveda Expert & Technical Head, of SoulTree explains the benefits of hemp in personal care products. “There is an intrinsic sense of curiosity and interest in the consumer about the ingredient, which has enabled the journey of discovering beauty and wellness solutions featuring hemp, and specifically with our range of products, the Hemp Ayurvedic Treatment Facial Oil, the Hemp Soothing Elixir Face Serum and Hemp Treat and Nourish Day Cream are seeing overwhelming adoption and demand.”
Skincare brands such as Colorbar, Juicy Chemistry, Neemli Naturals, Beardo, and many others are introducing hemp-based ranges. “Our Vita Hemp range includes a serum, moisturiser, and night oil, which restores and balances the skin. Hemp oil is rich in vitamins and antioxidants, which hydrate and relax the skin. Hemp oil also repairs the skin from sunburn, redness, and dryness,” explains a spokesperson from Colorbar. Similarly, Beardo has introduced a wide range of hemp products that caters especially for men’s skincare needs including face wash, hair oil, face scrub and soaps. “We found natural ways of keeping the skin healthy with our miracle ingredient – introducing skincare’s best kept secret – hemp seed oil – a multipurpose warrior with all-round benefits,” says the brand’s website.
Beardo’s CEO explains, “As a company we are very optimistic about the future of hemp for personal care in India. In fact so kicked that we have launched not just with one product but an entire bouquet of six products under the hemp umbrella. We acknowledge that it will take some doing, on consumer education, but given how the entire ecosystem is growing with multiple companies now offering these products, the compounding effect is sure to take wings some time down the road.”
Hemp seed oil in skincare comes with a lot of benefits. “It treats and heals acne-prone, dry, rosacea-prone, and sensitive skin. The perfect ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and the rare Gamma-Linolenic Acid, act as the ideal skin barrier, reduce inflammation, and improve texture and appearance. Vital amino acids nourish skin, restore visible damage, strengthen skin surface, and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Phytochemicals promote healthy cell turnover and maintain water balance in the skin,” adds Dr. Chatterjee.
Trost is the first brand to do rollen cigarettes, one of their CBD-based prescription products. Goel explains, “One has to fill a medical consultation form. Upon filling the same, a virtual appointment will be booked with an Ayurvedic doctor, who will be able to advice on recommended dosage etc. as per one’s ailments.”
There’s so much scope in hemp yet to be explored, brands and doctors unanimously agree. Time to try that hemp seed oil before bed time.
LEGALITY OF HEMP IN INDIA
In 2015, the cultivation of hemp was legalised by the Uttarakhand government. As the Cannabis Sativa crop is often perceived as a drug for its psychoactive properties, both the cultivation and harvest of this crop is regulated globally. Each year, the sowing of Cannabis Sativa varieties is reviewed, certified seeds are used to start the crop, field registrations are required, and throughout the cycle of cultivation, the crop continues to be monitored by authorities.
Currently, it is legal to grow hemp in India under the conditions that the THC levels are maintained below 0.3 percent, and an individual is only allowed to cultivate the seeds, leaves, and stalks of the plant. (Flowers are still banned under certain conditions). Pure Hemp products such as seeds, apparels, accessories, and personal care can be sold without requesting a prescription; however, when it comes to CBD/THC centric products, a prescription is needed for verification.