Hemp oil is an oil extracted from the hemp plant. All plants in the Cannabis genus can produce the oil, but usually only industrial hemp is used to make hemp oil. Industrial hemp is a hemp varietal which has been cultivated specifically for industrial production, and it has a minimum of the psychoactive substances associated with the genus, most notably THC. Hemp oil is typically almost free of THC, and it has no psychoactive properties.
Seeds tend to produce the best hemp oil, although the whole plant can be pressed for oil. Cold pressed oil which has not been refined has a rich, nutty flavor and a green tint. After refining, hemp oil becomes colorless, and the flavor is fairly minimal. There are a number of uses for it, and a variety of packaging formats as a result.
One classic use is in soaps. Hemp oil is also used in paints and lubricants, and as a body care product. It may be rubbed directly onto the skin to treat cracked, dry skin, or it can be blended into body oils, body creams, and other personal care products. Some people also use it as a dietary supplement, taking advantage of the high concentrations of essential fatty acids in unrefined hemp oil and using the oil as a dressing or garnish to improve nutrition.
Unrefined hemp oil does not have a very long shelf life. The oil quickly goes rancid, unless it is stored in dark containers in a refrigerated environment. People who use unrefined hemp oil generally purchase it in small amounts so that it will not become rancid. The oil is also not suitable for cooking, because it has a very low smoking point. Refined hemp oil is much more shelf stable, although many of the benefits of it are not present after refining.
Hemp is a controversial crop in some regions of the world, due to concerns about psychoactive plants in the Cannabis genus. In some regions, cultivation of hemp is banned, although products made from hemp such as oil, hemp garments, and hemp paper may be legal. In other areas, hemp is permitted, but only industrial hemp, and some nations freely permit cultivation of all plants in this genus, assuming that regulation is a more efficient technique for control than outright bans. Wild hemp is also not uncommon in some regions of the world, making it difficult to enforce bans on hemp crops.