Hemp seed oil is made from the hemp plant – Cannabis Sativa – and should not be confused with the subspecies indica, which is the illegal variety that contains the psychoactive compound delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as about 60 other cannabinoids.
The oil used in cosmetics and skincare products does NOT contain the psychoactive THC ingredient and is therefore not subject to any legal restriction.
It contains 50 – 60 % linoleic (LA) and 19% linolenic (LNA) acids, as well as antioxidants in the form of vitamin E and carotene. Phytosterols, phospholipids, as well as a number of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium and phosphorus are also present.
The profile of the essential fatty acids found in it closely resembles the skin’s natural lipids, and it therefore neutralizes the effects of dehydration, and protects against a dry skin.
The essential fatty acid – linoleic – found in this oil, as well as its metabolite, gamma-linolenic acid, have proven to have very beneficial therapeutic effects on the skin. These fatty acids contain glycerides, sterols and phospholipids.
Fatty acids occur naturally in the skin and are helpful in protection against oxidative damage. Fatty acids can help with supplementation of the skin’s intercellular matrix.
Youthful, properly functioning, skin contains ceramides, but with age the level of ceramides decreases and the polyunsaturated fatty acids that make the ceramides flexible are replaced by less saturated fatty acids. This action, coupled to the slower metabolism of the skin, aids in wrinkle formation and skin aging.
The topical use of fatty acids has an anti-inflammatory action on the skin and also recompenses for the lower ceramide levels, thereby reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Apart from all of this, the oil also contains around 23% protein and all nine essential amino acids, as well as two sulfur-containing amino acids – methionine and cystine – which are normally found in low quantities in vegetable proteins.
Some studies have also shown that topically applied omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid and omega-6 linoleic acid, both found in good quantities in hemp seed oil, are effective in the therapeutic treatment of acne skin, since it helps in inhibiting the inflammation and thereby preventing or alleviating “breakouts”.
As light and finely textured oils, such as hemp seed oil, condition and provide moisture to the skin, they are often also included in skin care to prevent dehydration and de-fatting of the skin. The very high levels of essential fatty acid found in this oil makes it an ideal candidate for use in skin washes, cleansers and creams.
Although Cannabis sativa is mistakenly linked to hashish (dagga/marijuana) and its negative connotation, hemp seed oil, as it is used in cosmetic products, does not cause hallucinations and is not banned by any government.
The main economic importance of hemp is the fiber, and hemp is often used for rope making, but in history, the seed, either as a paste or as a liniment, was used in folk medicine as a remedy for tumors and cancerous ulcers.