Hemp is booming. The image of the carrier plant of cannabis has turned 180 degrees, a formal “hemp hype” is flooding the markets. From CBD oil to superfoods, there’s almost nothing that doesn’t exist. But what’s behind the hype? And what can the hemp plant really do? An overview.

Hemp is trending. Since science has been researching more and more about the positive properties of the natural medicinal plant, products based on hemp have penetrated the markets of the world. The legalization of cannabis in the USA (Washington, Colorado) at the end of 2012 is regarded as the starting signal for the hemp boom, and other US states followed.

Although cannabis is still illegal for the general public in Germany, it has been increasingly used in medicine since legalization in 2017.

In addition to cannabis, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another active ingredient in the hemp plant is experiencing real hype: cannabidiol (CBD). Along with THC, CBD is the most researched of the 100+ cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and is primarily used for calming, relaxing and anti-inflammatory purposes.

The main reason why the two cannabinoids work differently is that they react differently to two specific receptors in the brain that are responsible for controlling the central nervous system. CBD can be purchased legally worldwide – including in Germany – as oil, flowers, drops or as a dietary supplement.

As the Zukunftsinstitut reports, the global consumption of cannabis and CBD has increased significantly in the wake of the pandemic. According to the Global Drug Survey Special Edition on COVID-19, 28 percent of people used cannabis products containing THC in the past period. Current statistics from the Statista platform also show that around 230.7 million euros were sold on the legal cannabis market in Europe in 2020. According to the forecast, sales could increase more than tenfold to over 3.1 billion euros by 2025.

In addition to THC and CBD, other hemp products are conquering the market: hemp oil, puree or seeds are primarily used in the kitchen and are said to be particularly nutritious. Hemp ointments, douches and cosmetics are revolutionizing skin care. The use of the hemp plant is certainly not revolutionary – the plant has been cultivated and used to manufacture clothing, paper, rope and oil for more than 12,000 years. But what can the products of the hemp plant really do?

Hemp seeds grow on the hemp plant, belong to the nut genus and are rich in essential fatty acids, protein and minerals. Accordingly, they are mainly to be found in vegan and vegetarian cuisine as a source of plant-based nutrients and protein and impress with their good nutrient profile:

Hemp oil is extracted from the hemp seeds. For this, the seeds of the plant are pressed. Like hemp seeds, it is full of high-quality nutrients and good fats.

It also provides important acids such as oleic acid, palmitic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid and gamma linolenic acid, which according to “Krankenkassenzentrale” support brain function and cell regeneration. It also scores with the same vitamins and minerals as the hemp seeds themselves. It can be used as an ingredient in salad dressings, smoothies and dips.

Tip: Hemp oil should not be heated above 160 °C, otherwise the valuable ingredients will be destroyed.

Hemp oil is also increasingly used in care products. Especially people with neurodermatitis or psoriasis benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of the oil. Cosmetics companies also offer entire care lines with hemp extract.

It is also said to provide relief from eczema, irritation, itching and rashes. A study by the University of Kashmir in India from 2014 proves the healing effects of external use of hemp oil on the following skin diseases:

In general, the combination of external and internal use is recommended.

Other hemp products that are primarily obtained from hemp seeds are similarly rich in nutrients. They are all considered superfoods and are sold in different forms. Here is a brief overview:

Products with CBD are also freely available and legal in Germany. CBD is said to have numerous health-promoting effects, some of which have already been scientifically proven, but the field of research on CBD is still young and capable of development. Since CBD has an activating effect on the serotonin receptor and various ion channels in the body, among other things, the active ingredient is said to have antispasmodic properties. As the health insurance center reports, CBD works in the body:

In everyday life, CBD is used primarily for relaxation and to increase well-being. Its effect is still being studied, but has already been proven in some scientific studies. Today’s CBD research is mainly concerned with the effect of the extract on the following complaints:

Some studies even prove the anti-cancer effect of CBD. For example, results from a 2018 study by the International Institute of Anticancer Research show that taking CBD regularly as a supplement to cancer therapy can help tumors shrink.

Further studies support the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD in diseases such as arthritis. In addition, CBD has been proven to help with weaning from nicotine, as shown by a US study from 2015. The effects of CBD are continuously being researched and have not yet been finally clarified.

THC also works through the cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. They exist twice under the names “CB1” and “CB2 receptors”. They serve as a “docking point” for the cannabinoids. The body normally produces these itself and actually only releases them when the neurochemistry affects the brain and the body must keep in balance.

If THC docks onto the receptors, it affects important functions of the nervous system – it takes over “control” over the body and has a psychoactive effect. Among other things, THC causes the body to release dopamine and thus creates a state of intoxication. However, it can also produce other unpredictable effects.

According to the German Hemp Association, the positive and negative effects can be summarized as follows:

Especially people who have little or no experience with cannabis usually react more strongly to the drug. The effect also depends on the type and level of the dose taken, body weight and other environmental factors. In the long term in particular, there are some risks associated with regular use, including physical consequences such as permanent brain damage and even death, as well as psychological and social consequences and even psychosis. There is also a risk of dependency.

THC has been permitted as a drug in Germany since 2017. It is only prescribed under strict regulations in rare cases and after extensive medical assessment, the intake is controlled. Due to its relaxing, mood-lifting effect, it can be used occasionally for the following complaints:

However, more than one in three breaks off treatment with cannabis because of side effects. There are currently only a few studies on the health-promoting effects of THC, so it is not possible to judge with certainty how effective cannabis is.