In Japan, hemp was historically used as paper and a fiber crop. There is archaeological evidence cannabis was used for clothing and the seeds were eaten in Japan back to the Jōmon period (10,000 to 300 BC). Many Kimono designs portray hemp, or asa (Japanese: 麻), as a beautiful plant. In 1948, marijuana was restricted as a narcotic drug. The ban on marijuana imposed by the United States authorities was alien to Japanese culture, as the drug had never been widely used in Japan before. Though these laws against marijuana are some of the world's strictest, allowing five years imprisonment for possession of the drug, they exempt hemp growers, whose crop is used to make robes for Buddhist monks and loincloths for Sumo wrestlers. Because marijuana use in Japan has doubled in the past decade, these exemptions have recently been called into question.
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 seeds can be eaten raw, ground into hemp meal, sprouted or made into dried sprout powder. Hemp seeds can also be made into a liquid and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk and tisanes. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids. The leaves of the hemp plant, while not as nutritional as the seeds, are edible and can be consumed raw as leafy vegetables in salads, and pressed to make juice.
Hemp seeds -- sometimes called "hemp hearts" -- are sprinkled on foods, pressed for oil, ground into protein powder and made into milk. Afraid of psychotropic side effects? Don't be. While these small, pale-beige to dark-brown seeds form the edible part of the hemp plant (aka pot, ganja, weed, grass, Mary Jane, doobage), they don't contain THC, the active drug found in hemp leaf.
Hemp seeds are one of the best sources of plant-based protein and GLA and have a wide variety of health benefits, including their ability to improve heart health, stimulate digestion, build muscle mass, eliminate insomnia, treat anemia, and aid in weight loss. They also help to stimulate metabolic activity, boost the immune system, reduce symptoms of menopause and menstruation, improve skin and hair health, and build stronger bones.