That comes despite confusion with marijuana

Hemp for health. That should be the plant’s new campaign slogan.

If you’ve not yet become a fan, then the seventh annual Hemp History Week, which starts today and continues through Sunday, is a perfect chance to get acquainted with this superfood, which is tremendously rich in nutrients. The event is a nationwide celebration and an effort by advocates to promote hemp’s value and versatility.

From 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday the Bowling Green Farmers’ Market will be involved by offering educational and tasting opportunities to showcase hemp.

First cultivated more than 10,000 years ago, hemp is a resource that can be used in many ways, such as in fabrics, biofuel, biodegradable materials, papers, medicines, and food items.

It is becoming increasingly popular these days, especially for its health benefits. Hemp offers protein, both soluble and insoluble fibers (the former can help to lower cholesterol, while the latter can potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer by helping to clear the intestines), magnesium and phosphorous (which benefit bones), iron (for oxygenation of the blood), and zinc (to boost the immune system).

Hemp also contains omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, and all of the essential amino acids. These can improve nerve function and heart health, aid in blood pressure regulation, and reduce inflammation in joints and tissues.

With all of these nutrients in a tiny package, there is one thing important thing that hemp doesn’t have, though: tetrahydrocannabinol. Widely known as THC, it’s the psychoactive component in marijuana.

Stated simply, hemp won’t get you high, but because it is in the same family or plant group as marijuana the two have been confused over the years.

Marijuana and hemp are related but are not identical. “Nevertheless,” wrote Jane Eklund in an article titled “Get Hip to Hemp” in the June issue of Taste for Life magazine, “in the U.S., the Marihuana (sic) Tax Act of 1937 didn’t distinguish between varieties, making it illegal to grow hemp as well as marijuana.” Hemp is therefore imported to the United States, primarily from Canada and the European Union.

Then the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified hemp and marijuana as Schedule I drugs, those designated by the Drug Enforcement Administration as “the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/​or physical dependence.”

In January, 2015, though, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced into the Senate and the House of Representatives in Washington; it is still in committee. If passed, it would remove the Schedule I classification and federal restrictions on growing the plant.

But for now, let’s get back to hemp and its healthy, but buzz-less, benefits.

Lauren Blake, a registered dietitian and wellness coach at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, raves about hemp as a rich source of nutrition.

“Hemp seeds are incredible,” she said.

They taste a little nutty, Ms. Blake said, but without a strong flavor. Add the seeds, which are gluten-free and have no known allergens, to smoothies or sprinkle them over cereal or yogurt. They’re good raw, cooked, or roasted, she said.

Although flaxseeds have become common and chia seeds are all the rage, hemp seeds are a nutritional powerhouse that beats them both. Ms. Blake said “the cool thing about hemp” is that it offers over 25 percent protein, “more than chia and flaxseeds,” which contain 16 percent to 18 percent protein.

Additionally, “hemp milk is great, especially for people who don’t do dairy,” she said. While soy has the most protein of nondairy milks, at 8 grams per cup, hemp milk contains 2 grams of protein per cup.

Hemp milk is a little harder to find, said Ms. Blake, though it’s regularly carried at health food stores.

One of those stores, the Phoenix Earth Food Co-op at 1447 W. Sylvania Ave., sells a wide variety of hemp-based food products: milks, powders to stir into smoothies, yogurt, oil that can be used for cooking, and vegetarian burger patties among them. It also offers hemp hearts, which are “the shelled hemp seeds,” said the co-op’s general manager, Sean Fitzgerald.

Some items — such as seeds and granola — can be purchased from bulk bins, so customers are able to take just a small amount to start with.

There’s even a new, and unexpected, item available: tofu made with hemp.

The biggest obstacle is “just getting people over that hump” of confusing hemp with marijuana, Mr. Fitzgerald said, and encouraging them to sift through outdated or incorrect information to realize how nutritionally beneficial hemp is. He pointed out the high concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and said that “not a lot of plant sources are good for that.” And he said, “It’s got the protein and the fiber — they work together to keep blood sugar from spiking.”

The co-op is participating in Hemp History Week and will offer special sale prices on some hemp items to help introduce customers to them.

Phoenix Earth Food Co-op general manager Sean Fitzgerald says he is keeping the shelves stocked with products made from hemp.

Kevin Spitler, who owns the Toledo Hemp Center at 1415 W. Sylvania Ave. (just a few steps from the co-op), said of hemp: “I like to call it super nutrition.” He especially noted its anti-inflammatory properties, and said enthusiastically, “Hemp’s one of the most nutritious things you can eat.”

His store sells tinctures, bath and beauty products, salves, oils, and much more, including hemp-infused dog treats. (Mr. Spitler’s 14-year-old dog, Bella, keeps him company while he’s working.)

As for food items for humans, in addition to hemp seeds and hearts, as well as hemp milks and granola, there are baking mixes — including Fabulous Flap Jack, Hempelicious Honeynut Bar, and GalaxSEED Energy Bar — from the Hadley, Michigan-based Lady Jane Gourmet Seed Co. Also available is a customer favorite: hemp coffee, a blend of 75 percent Arabica beans and 25 percent toasted hemp seeds.

According to the California-based Hemp Industries Association, in 2015 hemp showed a 10.4 percent increase in market growth. Mr. Fitzgerald said, of the plant’s newfound popularity, ”I hope it continues.”

Contact Mary Bilyeu at [email protected]

or 419-724-6155

or on Twitter @foodfloozie.