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Refined Vs. Unrefined: Hemp Seed Oil

Hempco LogoHempco Admin
5 Mins. Read

Out of all the resources that hemp can be broken down into, the seed has to be one of the most diverse in application. 

Not only can hemp seed be consumed, but it can also be pressed to yield a nutrient-rich extraction that can be best described as nature's most perfectly blended oil.

However, it can also be taken one more step that people are often unaware of: refinement.  

This week, we're going to be looking at the differences between the two types of hemp seed oil and what they can be used for.

Whats the difference between refined and unrefined hemp seed oil
What's the difference between refined and unrefined hemp seed oil

Unrefined Hemp Seed Oil

DID YOU KNOW? Unrefined hemp seed oil contains the compound gamma-linoleic acid that helps in the formation of hormones in the body.

Much like the name suggests, unrefined hemp seed oil has not undergone the refinement process. It is raw, and obtained by a process of cold pressing hemp seeds. Cold pressing is a process in which a hydraulic press is used to extract liquid from fruits, seeds, and vegetables without the use of heat). 

By not using heat during the extraction process, thermolabile constituents like vitamins and physical properties like the color and odor are not affected.  The vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and fats are what make hemp seed oil so good for our skin and bodies.

The chemical compounds in the oil that are so healthy for us are as follows;

  • Essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by the body such gamma-linolenic acid which is an omega 6 fatty acid, and alpha-linolenic acid which is an omega 3 fatty acids present in a ratio of 3:1
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids e.g. oleic acid and stearidonic acid
  • Vitamins: it contains Vitamin A, B, and E
  • Antioxidants and 
  • Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc.

All of this nutritional goodness is exactly what makes pure, unrefined hemp seed oil so good for our bodies.  Whether you want to eat it, drink it, or lather it on your skin, you're going to see all the benefits first hand.  

If you're consuming it internally, it's recommended at the dose of 1-2 tablespoon fulls per day.  It can and can be incorporated in the form of a smoothie, soup or in a salad (when the taste is agreeable).

Hemp seed oil also makes  an incredible skincare product. The presence of antioxidants, it is essential in slowing the rate of aging, and giving rise to glowing, radiant skin...  But you can read more about that here!

The unrefined hemp seed oil has a pleasant odor, dark green color, and a nutty taste. It is has a shelf life of 3-6 months once opened, and 12 months bottles.

Rancidity can be observed when it is near or has passed the expiration date. This is as a result of oxidation of the fatty acid present in the oil.

DID YOU KNOW? Unrefined hemp seed oil helps to reduce the blood cholesterol level and is perfect for use by people suffering from diabetes.

raw pressed hemp seed oil

Refined Hemp Seed Oil

DID YOU KNOW? The refined seed oil is perfect for dry skin because of its moisturizing and emollient properties.

Oils have many uses outside of consumables and cosmetics, as we know.  The problem with hemp seed oil is that it just contains too much healthy stuff to be viable for commercial uses.  That is, until it's refined.

To remove the nutritional properties of unrefined hemp seed oil, the oil extracted via cold-pressing undergoes a refining process. The quality of this process depends on factors like;

  • How much of the active constituents are removed
  • The noticeable changes in physical properties like color

The processes involve heating the cold pressed oil, which causes almost everything healthy in the unrefined oil to be destroyed.  The major processes that are employed are: 

  • Distillation: a distillation apparatus is employed separates the matrix and the color based on their melting point, a high temperature ( ≥ 2700C) is employed which results in loss of thermolabile constituents e.g. vitamins. 
  • Decolorization: freshly extracted oil undergoes processes to remove the dark green color using absorbents like CarbonX. CarbonX has the advantage of reducing the removal of active constituents. 
  • Winterization: winterization removes the wax and triglycerides that can lead to greasiness. it involves mixing the oil with an ethanolic solution, heating to remove the solvent, and then freezing. Upon cooling, wax and other triglycerides separate out and can be collected through methods such as decantation.

After being refined, the hemp seed oil has a light green transparent appearance, with no odor or taste. 

Refined hemp seed oil still contains major constituents found in the unrefined counterpart, however, due to a high amount of heat employed while refining, thermolabile compounds like vitamins are destroyed.

While many constituents were removed through refinement, is now a great, sustainable raw material for products such as commercial paints, oils, varnishes, and lubricants.  This is due to...

  • lack of odor.
  • Longer shelf life 
  • Less cost. 
  • Less greasy due to the absence of wax, which has been removed using winterization.

The refined oil is employed to manufacture other products such as;

  • Plastics: Plastic manufactured using hemp seed oil are eco-friendly; they are not pollutants during or after use because they are biodegradable. You can read more about hemp bio-plastics on our other blog post here!
  • Bio-fuels: The refined hemp seed oil can be further refined to produce fuels such as ethanol which is an additive to gasoline and is used as fuel for some aircraft.  You can read more about hemp bio-fuels here! 


So now you know. 

There's a lot, isn't there?  And we didn't even get into all the different uses for the physical hemp seed itself yet - this is just the oil!

Are you beginning to see why we truly believe that hemp is the most diversely applicable plant on earth?

We'd love to hear any uses for hemp seed oil that we missed.  If you can think of any, drop a comment below!

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