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What are Hemp Seeds?

N. Phipps
N. Phipps

Hemp seeds are produced from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L. While hemp is commonly confused with marijuana, as it belongs to the same family, the two plants are quite different. Most notably is the level of THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Hemp contains less than 1% of the psychoactive drug while marijuana contains up to 20% or more.

Hemp plants are cultivated for industrial use and harvested for their fibers, seeds, oils, and meal. Industrial hemp seeds are available in different forms. They can be sterilized, toasted, roasted, or cracked. Hemp can be pressed into oil or hulled into meal. Hemp thrives nearly anywhere, tolerating a variety of growing conditions. It’s rarely affected by pests or disease, making hemp quite hardy. In fact, the plant provides numerous benefits.

Hemp plants.
Hemp plants.

Industrial help has many uses, from paper and textiles to plastic and fuel. In fact, it can even be used in place of traditional paper made from trees, as hemp paper can be recycled more times than that made from wood. Hemp also yields nearly four times as much as trees. Plastic produced from hemp is also biodegradable, making it better for the environment. Hemp seeds can be used in a variety of food products as well.

George Washington grew hemp.
George Washington grew hemp.

Hemp seed food products are also considered more allergy-free than many other seeds. Hemp seeds contain the perfect balance of essential amino acids for sustaining good health. In addition, hemp seed oil contains necessary fatty acids, also known as good fats. Not only can hemp seeds provide valuable nutritional benefits to people, but they can also be used in pet foods and taste good too.

Hemp seeds, often used in baking, come from the hemp plant.
Hemp seeds, often used in baking, come from the hemp plant.

While hemp seeds are grown in many parts of the world, its major producers include Canada, France, and China. Hemp has been prohibited from cultivation in the United States since about 1950. Despite its value, the U.S. government doesn’t recognize the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies all varieties of Cannabis as marijuana, making industrial hemp just as illegal regardless of its use.

Hemp fibers can be turned into very strong rope.
Hemp fibers can be turned into very strong rope.

Considering its popularity from long ago, when even our forefathers appreciated the value of hemp seeds, it seems unusual that the plant would have such a bad reputation today. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp plants in their gardens. Hemp paper was even used for the Declaration of Independence, and Benjamin Franklin produced hemp paper at his mill. The environmental advantages and nutritional benefits of growing industrial hemp seem to many to be worth lifting its restrictions.

Discussion Comments


If hemp seeds have so much nutritional value, I don't understand why we can't use them in the U.S. I didn't know previously about the hemp seed's health benefits, but now that I do, I'd like to be able to benefit from them. Is the level of THC in the hemp seed actually harmful? Have there been any studies done to find out?


Okay, I admit it -- I was one of those people who thought that hemp and marijuana were the same thing. I stand corrected.

The thing is, I see things for sale all the time, like bracelets, that are supposedly made out of hemp. Is this illegal in the U.S. too, or is it only illegal to grow the hemp for industrial use? Can you use it to make things like bracelets, if the hemp comes from somewhere other than the U.S.?


Isn't it crazy that the Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp, a substance that is now illegal for industrial use?

It seems a bit odd to me that it's illegal. Even if there is a slight amount of THC in it, what's the harm of using it for something like paper?

I've heard that apple seeds have arsenic in them, but apples aren't illegal. Sometimes I just don't understand the laws we have. Hemp seems like it can be very useful and versatile.

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    • Hemp plants.
      By: Boyan Dimitrov
      Hemp plants.
    • George Washington grew hemp.
      By: Georgios Kollidas
      George Washington grew hemp.
    • Hemp seeds, often used in baking, come from the hemp plant.
      By: jurgajurga
      Hemp seeds, often used in baking, come from the hemp plant.
    • Hemp fibers can be turned into very strong rope.
      By: simmittorok
      Hemp fibers can be turned into very strong rope.