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How are hemp and other Cannabis sativa L. extracts used in cosmetics?

Specific European and national legislation as well as international conventions apply to establish which type of extracts and derivates of the Cannabis sativa L. plant may be used in products, including food and cosmetics. Keep reading to find out more about hemp, an incresingly popular ingredient in cosmetics, and the differences in the extracts and derivates of the Cannabis sativa L. plant.

What is hemp?
Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa L. Hemp is a dioecious plant, which means that it can be separated into male and female plants. In hemp fields, there is usually a concentration of female hemp and sporadic placed males to pollinate the females and produce nutrient-rich seeds. Hemp has been used for over 10,000 years to make paper and fibres for clothing and fabric, but also in cosmetic products, particularly as an oil but also as other extracts and derivatives.

What is the difference between hemp, CBD and marijuana?
The Cannabis plant contains over 80 biologically active chemical compounds (cannabinoids). However, the most known ones are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Different taxonomic classifications of the genus Cannabis vary in their THC and CBD content. For example, Cannabis indica originally from India contains a high THC content associated with marijuana hashish production, whereas Cannabis sativa L. from Europe and western Eurasia has a high CBD content, traditionally associated with the textile industry, and more recently to applications within the cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical sectors. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects.

Marijuana and CBD are not the same even if they both come from the same plant. CBD is a single, isolated compound in the cannabis plant, while marijuana contains many naturally occurring compounds, including THC and CBD. Hemp seed oil, extracted from the seeds of Cannabis sativa L., Cannabaceae, has next to no THC or CBD.

How is hemp used in cosmetics and what are its properties?
There are several types of extract from hemp used in cosmetics:

  • Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil (Hemp seed oil): it is extracted by cold-pressing hemp seeds. Hemp oil is rich in properties that makes it a very effective moisturizer functioning as an emollient to soften and smoothen the skin. Hemp seed oil is high in essential fatty acids (omegas 3 and 6), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and other nutrients that keep the skin in a good condition. Due to its cosmetic properties, hemp seed oil can be found in products such as soaps, shampoos, lip balms, hand creams and massage oils.
  • Cannabis Sativa Seed Water: it is the aromatic water resulting from the steam distillation from hemp seeds. Hemp hydrosols are used as a base ingredient for face creams due to their moisturizing effect. Aside from skin conditioning, they can be used as well in hair products to condition the appearance and feel of the hair.

Other raw materials from hemp include by-products from production of hemp seed oil such as Cannabis Sativa Seedcake powder and Cannabis Sativa Seedcake, which may be used as abrasives, as well as derivatives such as Potassium Hempseedate, which can be found in soaps and handwashes, and Ethyl Cannabis Seedate, which may be used as a naturally derived Cyclopentasiloxane (D5) substitute.

Can cannabidiol (CBD) be used in cosmetics?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid that can be synthetically produced or isolated from Cannabis plants and used as a single ingredient. In cosmetics, CBD can function as an antioxidant and facilitate anti-aging properties.

To this date, cosmetic regulatory compliance of CBD as an ingredient itself relies on the part of the plant from which it is extracted. For instance, seeds when not accompanied by tops are acceptable, although these do not contain CBD, whereas CBD prepared from Cannabis extracts or tinctures from flower/fruiting tops where the resin has not been separated, as well as the separated resin, are not allowed for use. Indeed, the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs defines controlled cannabis as “the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant”, but does not consider Cannabis sativa seeds or leaves as controlled substances (as long as they are not accompanied by the tops).

In this context, Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 for cosmetics bans the use of CBD derived from resin, tinctures and extracts of Cannabis, as well as cannabinoids, resin and various extracts (e.g. Cannabis Sativa flower extract, Cannabis Sativa flower/leaf/stem extract) from cosmetic use (Annex II). Synthetically produced CBD is acceptable for end use.

How about detectable THC levels in cosmetics?
Under Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013, Cannabis sativa L. is considered as an agricultural product and as an “industrial plant” that may be grown legally as long as their THC content does not exceed 0.2%. However, for cosmetics, national legislations from EU Member States on controlled substances may apply. For instance, in France no THC is allowed, while in Luxembourg a THC concentration up to 0.3% is permitted.

How does regulation work outside the EU?
In the USA, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not prohibit or restrict the use of cannabis or cannabis-derived ingredients in cosmetics, and considers the possibility that a product containing these substances can have both a cosmetic and a drug use (for instance, creams to treat dermatitis or acne). Unlike in the USA, however, no therapeutic or medical claim should be asserted for cosmetics in Europe. This applies as well to products containing permitted cosmetic raw materials extracted from Cannabis sativa.

Transparency and traceability
Following baseline regulatory compliance, for the formulation and subsequent claims made about natural and organic cosmetics, transparency and traceability are key to ensure that any substance extracted or derived from hemp used in a product ensures certain verifiable qualities. When using raw materials from Cannabis in cosmetics, brands should choose reliable supply chains that give proof of the traceability of these plant extracts from crop-to-shop. This is a key aspect for regulatory compliance but also for end consumers because it reassures them about the origin and qualities of these substances when used in a cosmetic product.

Hemp Seeds Market in India and its Dietary Benefits

The medical properties of cannabis are not a new-found discovery. The hemp plant has been cultivated for more than 12,000 years and, while it has great economic significance. In India, this plant’s unique properties were recognised thousands of years ago in the Atharva Veda.

The industrial hemp market is projected to surge at a CAGR of 34% from USD 4.6 billion in 2019 to USD 26.6 billion by 2025. Due to its various health benefits, the growth of this market is attributed to growing drastically. However, the complex regulatory structure of industrial hemp and its usage in different countries is expected to block the market growth of industrial hemp. Today increasing demand for hemp seeds over traditional herbal seeds is driving the growth of the market. The growing demand for personal care products, protein supplements, cosmetics and several other health products will boost the market in the forecast period.

Reasons why hemp is expected to dominate the market

Hemp fiber is majorly used in the textile and pulp & paper industry, due to its long and robust fibers as compared to cotton. Also, being a renewable source material, its application has been expanding in many diversified industries such as construction, animal bedding, automobile, agriculture, and furniture. Moreover, its usage to obtain biofuels and bioplastics has also been expected to increase its demand in the coming years. Also, hemp oil is projected to be the fastest-growing type, owing to its role in preventing conditions such as anxiety, depression, pain, and acne. Furthermore, the growing usage of hemp oil in personal care products, health supplements, and food & beverages are expected to drive the market for this type.

Hemp seeds obtained from the plant “Cannabis sativa” contain only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They are rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3). They are also a rich source of vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, among others. Seeds of hemp are majorly used to produce oil which is consumed in food and beverages, animal feed industries and cosmetics. It is also used in nutritional supplements and medicinal and therapeutic products such as pharmaceuticals. Increasing consumer awareness about the benefits associated with these products is also taking the success ahead.

Growth of Hemp in India

India has a long-standing cultural affinity with cannabis due to its religious and sacred place in Indian society. According to World Drug Report, New Delhi is the third-largest consumer of Cannabis globally, where Mumbai is the sixth, even surpassing Los Angeles and London, respectively.

Being a tropical nation, India has a greater photoperiod which is favourable in hemp growth and its flowering as well. Based on the planting density fibre and seed yield can be varied, and the desired production can be enhanced with minimal efforts. One of the most interesting verticals of a hemp crop is its organic growth. This industrial hemp can be grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Not just this, the multipurpose hemp can also be used in crop rotation to eliminate pesticides effects, soil remediation, weeding fields, and bio-absorption of heavy metals and contaminants. Rising awareness among the Indian consumers about the benefits of industrial hemp and increasing legalization to cultivate industrial hemp in many parts of the country is expected to drive its market in India.

Dietary benefits

Hemp seeds are incredibly healthy, and they may be one of the few superfoods worthy of their reputation. So let’s look at the dietary benefits of the same.

Incredibly Nutritious

Hemp seeds are a great protein source, as more than 25% of their total calories are from high-quality protein. Hemp seeds are also a great source of vitamin E and minerals, which can be consumed raw, cooked, or roasted. It also contains GLA, which is harder to find and prevents inflammation and also helps to bind and balance the body’s hormones.

Better Heart Health

Interestingly, eating hemp seeds may reduce your risk of heart disease. It keeps cholesterol and blood sugar at healthy levels and improves blood circulation. These seeds are particularly rich in the amino acid arginine which plays a role in the body’s production of nitric oxide which causes the blood vessels to dilate and relax. Thus, in turn, it lowers blood pressure and reduces your risk for heart disease.

Aids digestion

Hemp seeds are packed with antioxidants like fiber which help the digestive system and boost daily energy. Fiber is an essential part of your diet and linked to better digestive health. Whole hemp seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, containing 20% and 80%, respectively leading to keep your digestion on track.

A Pain reliever

Hemp seeds offer great restorative properties that can alleviate joint pain, arthritis, and general aches. It contains constituents that work with the body’s own cell receptors to help reduce pain. Anecdotal evidence also shows that hemp seed oil makes a soothing and gently pain-relieving massage oil for rubbing into the muscles following a workout.

Food for the skin

Hemp seeds include more than 30 per cent fat, and they are particularly rich in alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6). These oils are often used in cosmetics because they have the ability to penetrate through layers of skin to promote cell growth. These seeds can also help to repair and moisturize dry and damaged skin – they also support healthy hair and nails.