Glossary of
Vegetarianism and
Vegetarian Cuisine

(noun)  Hemp is a plant with an incredible variety of uses, including food, clothing, paper, and skin care products. Hemp oil has been used medicinally in China since the Ming dynasty and is currently gaining ground in the West as a healthy and delicious alternative to other types of oil.

Hemp oil contains a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids, as well as Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), which is rarely found in food. (GLA supplements are usually derived from evening primrose, black currant seed, and borage seed oils). Hemp oil also contains antioxidants, vitamin E, and chlorophyll.

The mildly nutty flavor of hemp oil lends itself well to salad dressing and to drizzling over pasta, dips, and steamed vegetables.

Buying hemp oil

Hemp oil is not always readily available, particularly in the United States (see notes, below).

Hemp oil can be purchased at many natural food stores as well as on the internet.

Storing and using hemp oil

Hemp oil can be damaged by exposure to heat, light, and air, so it should be kept in a tightly-capped, opaque container in the refrigerator. Once opened, hemp oil should be used within three months. You should never cook with it over high heat, though it is fine to drizzle it over warm foods.


Though hemp is related to marijuana, hemp contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive ingredient THC and does not cause a “high.” However, there is slight possibility of testing positive for drug use. Producers of hemp food products are often members of the
Test Pledge, which guarantees that there is not enough THC in their products to trigger a positive drug result.

The Bush Administration spent several years trying to get products made with hemp banned, but the hemp industry defeated the Drug Enforcement Agency in court in 2004 and the proposed ban was overturned. Hemp products are therefore legal in the United States, but the stigma and propaganda are harder to overcome.

Recipes with hemp oil

Also see

olive oil

Learn more

Fat and Oil: the good, the bad, and the unhealthy


Vegetarian Glossary Index