Importing Hemp Seeds

Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is the sole species in the Cannabis genus, which shares the Cannabaceae family with hops and hackberries.

Hemp likely originated in the Himalayas, and from there, it was spread by humans and other animals. Hemp is among the oldest industries. By 8000 BC, hemp was woven into fabric. It grew in popularity over time on a global scale to eventually provide over 80% of all textiles and fabrics, including over 50% of the fabric called linen.

By 3000 BC, hemp was considered the most important textile, and even in China, where silk production was flourishing, hemp was relied on because it was cheaper than silk and was a strong fiber for clothing.

Hemp fabric and rope, medicine, and food had been incorporated into virtually all cultures of the Middle East, Asia Minor, India, China, Japan, and Africa by 2700 BC.

By 2300 BC, nomadic tribes from the East migrated into the Mediterranean regions and eventually Europe, introducing hemp along the way.

Hemp seed oil is said to burn the brightest of all lamp oils and has been used for millennia. Hemp seed sown for fiber may have been spread by Indo-Iranian people throughout the Middle East and Europe since 1500 BC.

By 1000 BC, hemp had become the world’s largest agricultural crop, providing materials to support civilization’s most important industries, including fiber for fabric and rope, lamp oil for lighting, paper, medicine, and food for humans and other animals. Hemp extracts became the top three most frequently used medications for two-thirds of the world’s population.

The Scythians were Iranic equestrian tribes who inhabited large areas in the central Eurasian steppes starting with the 7th century BC. Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian who lived in the fifth century BC, wrote of the Scythians;

After the burial, those engaged in it have to purify themselves, which they do in the following way. First they well soap and wash their heads; then, in order to cleanse their bodies, they act as follows: they make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined towards one another, and stretching around them woollen felts, which they arrange so as to fit as close as possible: inside the booth a dish is placed upon the ground, into which they put a number of red-hot stones, and then add some hemp-seed.

Hemp grows in Scythia: it is very like flax; only that it is a much coarser and taller plant: some grows wild about the country, some is produced by cultivation: the Thracians make garments of it which closely resemble linen; so much so, indeed, that if a person has never seen hemp he is sure to think they are linen, and if he has, unless he is very experienced in such matters, he will not know of which material they are.

The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy….”

From at least the 5th century BC, ship sails and riggings were made from hemp.

In 100 AD, the Chinese discovered how to make paper from hemp.

The Gutenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper in the 1470s. Christopher Columbus carried hemp seed on his fleet for use in case of shipwreck to grow crops for raw materials and for use as a food source.

In 1564, King Philip of Spain mandated the cultivation of hemp for food, fiber and medicine throughout the Spanish territory in Central and South America.

French Botanist Louis Hebert planted the first hemp crop in North America in 1606. In 1611, the King James Bible was printed on hemp paper. In 1619, America’s first hemp law was enacted at Jamestown Colony, Virginia, ordering all farmers to grow hemp. In 1631, ‘Must grow’ hemp laws were enacted throughout Massachusetts. Starting that year, and for the next two centuries, hemp was “legal tender’ and taxes could be paid with hemp throughout most of the Americas. Starting in 1632, ‘Must grow’ hemp laws were enacted in Connecticut and the Chesapeake Colonies. Rembrandt painted on hemp canvas in the 17th century.

In the 18th century, Gainesborough painted on hemp canvas. Starting in 1740, Russia became the world’s largest and best quality producer of hemp, supplying 80% of Western hemp rope for the next two centuries. In the 1750s, Benjamin Franklin started one of America’s first hemp-rag paper mills, thus freeing the American colonies from dependence on paper or books from England. From 1763 until 1767, farmers who did not grow hemp could be arrested and jailed in Virginia. In 1776, people organized spinning bees to turn hemp fiber into clothing for the Continental Army. That same year, both the first and second drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. In 1777, the Stars and Stripes, made of hemp fabric, was endorsed as the flag of the United States of America. In the 1790s, Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams all grew hemp on their plantations. In 1797, the U.S.S. Constitution was outfitted with hemp sails and rigging, like other ships. Hemp is still used on some ships because of its resistance to mildew and weathering and because it remains pliable in extreme conditions where plastic-based ropes become brittle and crack. Hemp played a crucial role in evolving the nation.

By the 19th century the King of England offered free land (and free hemp seed) to immigrants who moved to Canada and grew hemp. Hemp became an essential for new immigrants both as a food and for textile. During that century, Van Gogh painted on hemp canvas. The war between North America and Great Britain in 1812 was mainly about access to Russian hemp. Napoleon’s principle reason for invading Russia in the same year was due to Russian hemp supplies. Until the early 19th century, the word “linen” was used to refer to any fine fabric made from hemp or flax. That same century, Australians survived two prolonged famines by using hemp seed for protein and leaves for fiber.

The use of hemp extracts as drugs spread through Western culture. Starting in 1837, Queen Victoria used cannabis resins to treat menstrual cramps, sparking enormous interest in the uses of cannabis as a medicine in the English-speaking world. In 1840, Abraham Lincoln used hemp-seed oil to fuel his household lamps. Sadly, hemp seed oil, long the most popular lighting oil in the world, fell to second place in popularity as whale oil became widely accessible. Starting in 1842 and for the next 48 years, extracts and derivatives of the hemp plant were the second and third most prescribed medicines in the US. Writers, including Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte CristoThe Three Musketeers (1844)) used hashish (a product composed of compressed or purified preparations of stalked hemp resin glands).

In 1850, the US census recorded 8,327 hemp plantations of 2,000 acres or more and an uncalculated number of small hemp farms, including that of my great, great grandfather, John F. Schive of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. In 1860 and for the next 40 years, Ganjah Wallah Hasheesh Candy Company produced one of the most popular candies in the U.S. It is made from cannabis derivatives and maple sugar, sold over-the-counter, and in Sears-Roebuck catalogs.

Lewis Carroll (Alices’ Adventures in Wonderland (published in 1865 on hemp paper), Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)) used and hashish oil (a resinous matrix of cannabinoids obtained from hemp by solvent extraction). In the 1870s, the popularity of smoking female cannabis tops, to ease the back-breaking labor of working sugar cane fields and tolerate the hot sun as well as to relax recreationally with no alcohol “hang-over”, began to spread in the West Indies with the immigration of Hindus who were imported to provide cheap labor. Gradually, this popularity made its way into the United States through St. Louis. By 1883, hashish smoking parlors opened in every major American city, including an estimated 500 such establishments in New York City alone. In the 1890s, popular American “marriage guides” recommend cannabis extracts for heightened marital pleasures. Women’s temperance groups, lobbying for alcohol prohibition, suggest cannabis as a suitable substitute for the “demon drink.”

Starting in 1901, the US Department of Agriculture predicted repeatedly that with the advent of machinery capable of harvesting, stripping and separating the hemp fiber from the pulp, hemp would again be America’s number one crop. In 1913, California became the first state to make possession of cannabis “or loco weed” a misdemeanor. One of the drivers of that law may have been racism, as Mexican farm workers enjoyed smoking marijuana. In 1915, Wyoming followed suit with prohibition. In 1916, the USDA published Bulletin No. 404, “Hemp Hurds As Paper-Making Material,” extolling and demonstrating the outstanding qualities of paper manufactured from hemp-pulp, a new process. The document was printed on hemp-pulp paper and explained the new technology. Previously, most paper was made with hemp fiber rags (worn out clothing). Texas enacted cannabis prohibition in 1919.

Until 1920, US Government papers were written, by law, on “hempen rag paper.” More states passed cannabis prohibition laws, including Iowa (1923); Nevada (1923); Oregon (1923); Washington (1923); Arkansas (1923); and Nebraska (1927). In 1929, Henry Ford began extensive research into the production of methanol (as a fuel) and the manufacture of plastics from renewable vegetable crops, including hemp and soy.

In 1935 in the US 58,000 tons of hemp seed was used to make non-toxic paint and varnish. The February 1937 issue of Mechanical Engineering included the feature story “The Most Profitable and Desirable Crop That Can Be Grown” which described the new machines being used to harvest hemp. That same year, four million pounds of hemp seed were sold retail as song-bird food in the US. An estimated 10 million aces of hemp grew wild in the U.S.A., providing an important food source for hundreds of millions of birds.

Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst’s empire of newspapers began using “yellow journalism” to demonize the cannabis plant and emphasize connections between cannabis and violent crime. His goal was probably to destroy the hemp industry. With the invention of the decorticator, hemp became a very cheap substitute for the wood pulp that was used in the newspaper industry. Hearst likely felt that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Andrew Mellon, then Secretary of the Treasury, as well as the wealthiest man in America, had invested heavily in nylon, DuPont’s new synthetic fiber. He considered nylon’s success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, passed on August 2, 1937, went into effect on October 1, 1937. The Act levied a tax equaling roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. The Act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana, or cannabis. It did include penalty and enforcement provisions to which marijuana, cannabis, or hemp handlers were subject. Violation of these procedures could result in a fine of up to $2000 and five years’ imprisonment.

The February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics ran a story, (prepared before the 1937 legislation was enacted) titled “New Billion Dollar Crop.” It described a new machine for harvesting hemp which “solves a problem more than 6,000 years old.” It further states that increased hemp production “will displace imports of raw material and manufactured products” and called hemp the “standard fiber of the world.” The article went on to say hemp can “produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to Cellophane.” This was the first time ever in US history the term “billion-dollar” was applied to the potential for an agricultural harvest.

The December 1941 issue of Popular Mechanics featured a story on Henry Ford, showing a picture of the car he “grew from the soil.” The automobile’s “plastic panels with impact strength 10 times greater than steel were made from flax, wheat, hemp, and spruce pulp.” The auto weighed 1/3 less than its 100% steel contemporaries.

After the invasion of Philippines stopped the supply of Manila hemp to US, the ban on growing hemp was temporarily lifted in 1942 when the US government launched the “hemp for victory” campaign encouraging farmers, including young 4-H Club members, to grow hemp in support of war efforts. The US government distributed 400,000 pounds hemp seeds to US farmers. Hundreds of thousands of US hemp acres produced 42,000 tons of fiber for rope, fire hose, sails, parachutes and even uniforms. Farmers and their sons who agreed to grow hemp are exempt from military service, even though America was at war.

In 1944, the LaGuardia Commission, started by New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, issued a report that contradicted the earlier reports that claimed that cannabis caused addiction, madness, and overt sexuality. Then, in 1957 hemp was once again banned.

In its 1969 Leary v. United States decision the Supreme Court held the Marijuana Tax Act to be unconstitutional, since it violated the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. In response, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which classified marijuana as a “Schedule I” substance. This is the harshest classification available for illegal substances, placing cannabis in a stricter category than drugs like cocaine. Schedule I substances are believed to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

In 1972, the USDA found that hemp seeds are lower in saturated fats than any other vegetable oil (including soybean and canola). Like soybeans, hemp seeds can produce a tofu-like curd, can be sprouted for salads, ground into meal, and also made into margarine. In 1975, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia discovered that cannabis is incredibly successful for reducing the size of many types of tumors, both benign and cancerous.

In 1989, garments containing hemp fiber became available to the American public for the first time in over 50 years; however, the clothing had to be imported to the U.S. from China (via Hong Kong) and carried a huge protective tariff.

In the 1990s, Martin Moravcik and Alex Chwaiewsky opened a store in Manitoba for hemp textile imports. At the same time, Moravcik organized university students, academics, farmers, and local government to advocate for the legalization of hemp. The group, Manitoba Hemp Alliance, successfully secured a government grant to source hemp seed and plant hemp trials. Around this time, Mike Fata joined Moravcik and Chwaiewsky. In 1998, after years of advocacy work, industrial hemp was legalized in Canada and an industry was born. That same year marked the founding of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods. Just as Manitoba Harvest was starting to export hemp food products to the United States, misconceptions arose again.

In 2001, the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) launched a campaign to make sales of all hemp products illegal in the US. Hemp retailers and manufacturers, together with the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), took legal action against the DEA. On February 6, 2004, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals issued a permanent ruling blocking the DEA regulations and thwarting the prohibition policy.

Today, hemp products are offered at numerous leading retailers and hemp foods are becoming a part of everyday diets. French bank notes are still produced from hemp paper, grown and processed in a small area of France. Yet, it is still illegal for hemp to be grown in the US.

Hemp seeds can:

  1. Fight free radicals. Hemp seeds are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, including anti-aging antioxidantsManganese and copper, both abundant in hemp seeds, help form the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within your cells).
  2. Fight chronic inflammation. Copper in hemp seeds reduces some of the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis because it is important in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzymes. Hemp seeds contain a healthy anti-inflammatory 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, hemp seeds contain an especially beneficial type of omega-6 fat called GLA (gamma linolenic acid). GLA is a direct building block of anti-inflammatory hormones, which can be helpful to anyone with an inflammatory condition such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, or arthritis. GLA also supports a healthy metabolism and facilitates fat burning, and it can help reduce hormone-mediated symptoms, such as those of PMS.  Unfortunately, this special omega-6 fat is not typically found in foods. Your body can convert the typical food version of unprocessed omega-6 called linoleic acid (LA) into the “useable” GLA form your body needs, but the conversion process is not always efficient. As you age, the enzymes your body uses to convert LA to GLA become less efficient. Diabetes, infections, and even stress can also reduce your body’s ability to convert dietary LA into GLA. Incorporating hemp seeds into your diet on a regular basis can ensure a healthy dose of GLA. Cannabidiol in hemp seeds is also an anti-inflammatory.
  3. Build strong bodies. Manganese in hemp seeds activates enzymes for using several key nutrients, helps synthesize fatty acids, and facilitates protein and carbohydrate metabolism and formation of bone. Copper in hemp seeds helps synthesize collagen and elastin, the substances that provide structure, strength, and elasticity in bones and joints; helps your body produce the pigment called melanin, which gives hair and skin its color. Phosphorus in hemp seeds helps in the formation of bones and teeth, utilization of carbohydrates and fat and synthesis of protein, energy storage, muscle contraction, and kidney function. Magnesium in hemp seeds helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong; and is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. The vitamin K in hemp seeds helps protect your bones from fracture, helps prevent postmenopausal bone loss.  Hemp seeds are an excellent source of biologically available and easily digested protein. Just 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 11 grams of protein.
  4. Promote cardiovascular healthCopper in hemp seeds works together with iron in the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells; helps synthesize collagen and elastin, the substances that provide structure, strength, and elasticity in blood vessels; and plays a role in the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, which affects your body’s biological response to stress, and is also involved in controlling blood pressure. Phosphorus in hemp seeds helps with heartbeat and nerve conduction. GLA in hemp seeds helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and improve cholesterol ratio. This keeps the heart healthy and also prevents plaque buildup in the arteries, which can ultimately lead to heart attack and strokes. Magnesium in hemp seeds keeps heart rhythm steady and promotes normal blood pressure. The fiber in hemp seeds helps lower cholesterol. The vitamin K in hemp seeds allows your blood to clot normally and helps prevent calcification of your arteries. The The GLA in hemp seeds supports healthy hair, nails, and skin.  in hemp seeds also reduce inflammation that can cause high blood pressure and poor blood circulation.
  5. Promote mental health. Copper in hemp seeds is important for the production of thyroxine, a hormone that keeps your thyroid gland functioning normally; helps preserve the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects your nerves; helps your mitochondria produce energy: and plays a role in the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, which affects your body’s biological response to stress, and is also involved in pain, cognition, mood, and emotions. Iron in hemp seeds is required for oxygen distribution, energy production, immune system function, DNA synthesis, and a stable mood.  Your brain needs the fatty acids in hemp, which can prevent diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and can also improve your memory. Cannabidiol in hemp seeds relieves anxiety and treats schizophrenia. Hemp seeds can also alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and can improve your mood.
  6. Give you glowing skin. Hemp oil is used in skin lotions, soaps, and lip balms, because this oil penetrates the inner layers of your skin and promotes vigorous cell growth for smoother and softer skin. Hemp is also good for clearing up skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, and dry skin. The GLA in hemp seeds supports healthy hair, nails, and skin.
  7. Promote weight loss. Hemp can help induce weight loss, because the fiber makes you feel full longer. Adding just a few tablespoons of hemp seed to your meal can reduce your food cravings significantly.
  8. Relieve digestive disorders. Hemp provides high amounts of fiber, which keep your digestive tract healthy and clean, and eliminates digestive disorders such as constipation and bloating. Cannabidiol in hemp seeds relieves nausea.
  9. Prevent cancer. The fiber in hemp seeds helps prevent colon cancer. The vitamin K in hemp seeds provides possible protection against liver and prostate cancer. Hemp contains plant sterols and antioxidants that can help reduce risk of colon, breast and prostate cancers. Cannabidiol in hemp seeds inhibits cancer cell growth.
  10. Control blood sugar. Hemp seeds are also helpful if you are at risk of diabetes, or are diabetic, as they can control your sugar levels. Magnesium in hemp seeds helps regulate blood sugar level. Their healthy fats help in the quick absorption of glucose from the bloodstream and its conversion into energy. Therefore, your sweet cravings will decrease, and energy levels will increase.

Nutrients in 1 Ounce of Hemp Seeds



Daily Value


1.96 mg



0.36 mg



308 mg



109.2 mg



6.36 g



3.67 mg


vitamin K

14 µg



8.26 g



12.32 µg



7.81 g



1.68 mg



0.11 mg






22.68 µg


vitamin B6

0.11 mg



36.4 mg



0.64 mg



0.05 mg






95.2 mg



7.64 µg



2.52 µg


vitamin E

0.5 mg



1.12 µg


pantothenic acid

0.16 mg


vitamin A

0.56 µg



0.56 mg



0 mg


Hemp seeds are typically sold as a health food product. You can find them at health food stores or in the health food or supplement section of your grocery store.

Try sprinkling hemp seeds over a salad, as a topping on granola, puddings, or other desserts. Add hemp seeds to smoothies at home and in many cafes and juice bars. You can also use hemp seeds in baking and cooking, although their nutritional content is at its highest in their raw state.

Try hemp seed in the following recipes:

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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