Regina, Saskatchewan — Hemp seed oil is the current darling of nutrition experts. Now the challenge is to let the public in on the secret, says Jason Freeman, president and general manager of BioHemp Technologies, which recently moved its headquarters from Vancouver to Regina.
“The properties of hemp seed oil are phenomenal,” says Freeman. “Once the public knows about them, it’s easy to sell. We have opened up 73 accounts across Canada in the last two-and-a-half months alone,” he says.
Freeman’s nutritional claims for hemp seed oil are reinforced by Kelley Fitzpatrick, president of the Saskatchewan Nutraceutical Network in Saskatoon.
“Hemp seed oil is truly unique,” says Fitzpatrick. “It is about 80 per cent polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), specifically linoleic acid and alpha linolenic acids, which cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from our diets. It is also a rare plant-source of gamma linolenic acid. Furthermore, the nutritional balance of these essential fatty acids in hemp seed oil is ideal.
“The PUFA are converted into eicosanoids in the body, which have a beneficial effect on the health. For example, PUFAs have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering blood cholesterol and blood pressure, and reducing blood platelet coagulation. They can also reduce inflammation, making them beneficial for those suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis. Hemp seed oil also contains plant sterols that have shown to reduce the risk of prostate and colon cancer.
“For optimal cell function, nutritionists generally recommend one tablespoon hemp seed oil daily,” says Fitzpatrick.
According to Freeman, the hemp seed oil sold by his company is made from a high-yielding hemp variety called Fin-314. He says Fin-314 is suited for growing in northern climates, and is a dwarf variety that can be harvested with conventional machinery.
BioHemp buys organically grown hemp seeds from a Saskatchewan company called Gen-X Research Inc. Gen-X, in fact, is the reason BioHemp relocated to Saskatchewan.
“It’s difficult to secure a supply of certified organic hemp grain, but Gen-X was able to meet our needs. We moved here because we wanted to work more closely with this company,” says Freeman.
Freeman’s association with Gen-X began in the late 1990s, when he worked for a hemp sales and marketing company with a mandate to facilitate the legalization of industrial hemp. When this was achieved in March, 1998, Freeman further studied the hemp market and decided there was an existing infrastructure for edible hemp such as oil and seeds, but not for fibre, so the following year he and four partners incorporated BioHemp.
“We chose to call our product — to date, hemp flour and hemp seed oil in bottles or capsules — ‘Mum’s Original’, a name we think distinguishes our product from competitors that have scientific or ‘natural’ names. Our target market is women over 40 years of age. This demographic accounts for 75 per cent of health food purchases. Women, like most, will have to be educated about hemp seed oil, but they are more open to new ideas,” says Freeman.
Part of that education may focus on misconceptions based on hemp’s history.
“Hemp seed oil does not have any psychoactivity because it does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC. Health Canada stipulates that all hemp seed products must contain less than 10 parts per million of THC, and every hemp crop in Canada is tested to ensure these standards are maintained,” says Fitzpatrick.
About 3,500 acres of hemp were licensed in Saskatchewan in 2000, down from about 7,600 acres in 1999.
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