Last Update: September 27, 2022
On June 9, 2020, Dr. Bronner’s announced that 100 percent of their organic hemp seed oil for its soaps and other products is sourced in the U.S. We chatted with Nancy Metcalf, Marketing Campaign Manager at Dr. Bronner’s, about this incredible accomplishment.
In 1999, Dr. Bronner’s began sourcing organic hemp seed oil from Canadian farmers and reformulating soaps and body-care products to include hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil gives our soaps a smoother lather and moisturizing after-feel. But we wanted to source hemp seed oil from U.S. farmers, so in 2010 we partnered with other hemp product manufacturers and launched the Hemp History Week campaign—a nationwide public education, sales, and marketing effort to renew strong support for hemp farming in the U.S.
This effort changed federal policy on industrial hemp, thus allowing U.S. farmers to once again grow this versatile, profitable, and environmentally friendly crop. Hemp was previously considered a drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), due to decades of misinformation conflating hemp with THC-containing marijuana. At the end of 2018, after Hemp History Week’s 10 years of successful education and lobbying campaign, hemp was removed from the CSA with passage of the Federal Farm Bill. Since that time, Dr. Bronner’s has partnered with two U.S. hemp oil manufacturers—Victory Hemp Foods in Kentucky, and Healthy Oilseeds in North Dakota—to source the hemp oil we use in our soaps.
A lot of the challenges were related to social stigma around hemp. Education was our biggest effort—many people would say “hemp” and assume we were talking about THC-containing varieties of cannabis. It took a lot of work to educate not only the public but also our policymakers.
Some of the big wins that came out of the campaign were partnering with a few Senators, specifically Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky. We had bipartisan support for the bill to remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Senator Wyden was an amazing champion—each year during Hemp History Week, he presented a basket of Oregon-produced hemp consumer products to the Senate floor to impress on his colleagues the value of hemp and prove its economic potential for farmers and manufacturers alike. Senator Wyden drove home the fact that hemp raw materials were being imported primarily from Canada and China, and not grown in the U.S, due to the outdated federal policy.
Environmentally, hemp is beneficial because of its long taproot. Soil erosion is a major challenge of our time due to deforestation and industrial agriculture practices like tilling—hemp’s long taproot can actually help stabilize degraded soils and mitigate erosion. Hemp has been used around the world for this benefit. Additionally, hemp is a low-input crop and can adapt well to organic systems, thus protecting farms and ecosystems from harmful agrochemicals.
Also, in states where farms grow primarily a corn-soy rotation, that lack of genetic diversity in the field will actually become a breeding ground for agricultural pests. There’s a soy nematode that will impact soy crops—that can negatively impact a minimal two-crop rotation system. Canadian hemp farmers found that introducing hemp into a corn-soy rotation helped break that pest cycle. All this to say—biodiversity is super important. In Kentucky and Colorado, we witnessed a boom in bee populations related to new hemp fields, due to hemp’s prolific pollen production, which also serves as a stop-gap between other crops’ pollen cycles.
For farmers, it’s a really great economic opportunity because they’re able to introduce a new cash crop into their businesses. Processing hemp in a local area is an economic stimulus for jobs and helps decrease transportation distances. For example, with importing hemp from Canada there is additional transportation and carbon footprint in moving that commodity across the continent—versus being able to grow, process, and sell it in a local bioregion.
Hemp seed oil is the oil pressed from the hemp seed. It is an excellent source of essential fatty acids—especially for those on a plant-based diet. It is rich in perfectly balanced omega-3 and omega-6, and contains super-omegas stearidonic acid and gamma linolenic acid (GLA). It is gluten-free and contains no known allergens.
Hemp seed oil comes from mature hemp seeds produced by pollinated hemp flowers. Hemp seed oil contains no cannabinoids (no THC, no CBD). Hemp varieties grown for seed are cultivated as row crops similar to wheat or corn. When harvested, the seed is separated from the plant and sold for food products or pressed into an oil for nutritional supplements or body-care products.
Hemp-derived CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid and is sometimes known as “hemp oil”. CBD works with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system—it is non-psychotoxic and supports nearly every human biological function. CBD is pressed from the unfertilized female hemp flower, which contains various cannabinoids. Hemp varieties grown for CBD are cultivated botanically with wide spacing that allows the plant to branch broadly and produce high yields of large flowers, thus maximizing the cannabinoid production.
Hemp seed oil’s high concentration of GLA is very nourishing to the skin. Dr. Bronner’s has heard that our castile soaps are more moisturizing since we changed the formula to include hemp seed oil. GLA has been shown to support wound healing and decrease inflammation. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of people using hemp seed oil to help heal sunburns.
Additionally, hemp seed oil can be used as a healthy nutritional supplement, similar to a flaxseed oil. While hemp seed oil contains more omega-6 than it does of omega-3—and omega-6 sometimes gets a bad wrap—the omega-6 in hemp seed oil is present as GLA, which is a healthy form of omega-6. Comparatively, arachidonic acid—an omega-6 often found in animal-derived oils—is the form that can be proinflammatory and not beneficial outside of natural injury responses. To learn more, view the National Library of Medicine’s summary on Wound Healing and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: “From Inflammation to Repair”.
Our 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap or Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Bar Soap. All Dr. Bronner’s products are produced with the highest-quality organic and fair-trade plant-based ingredients (our Magic Balms and Lip Balms contain sustainably harvested beeswax and are our only non-vegan products). We’ve worked with supply partners around the world to set up organic and fair-trade farm and production chains where we were previously unable to reliably source raw ingredients at these standards. We are now working to certify all our major raw ingredients under the new Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) standards. In 2020 our coconut, palm, and mint oils—from our sister companies Serendipol (Sri Lanka), Serendipalm (Ghana), and Pavitramenthe (India), respectively—received Silver RO-Certification under the Regenerative Organic Alliance’s pilot certification program.
But if I were to choose one product, the peppermint liquid soap is really my go-to. It’s Dr. Bronner’s legacy product and was the first soap produced by Emanuel Bronner in the U.S. back in 1948. It is produced through the ancient Castilian soap-making process. It is safe for body, home and Earth, and is an excellent all-around soap for showering, hand washing, dishes, floors, car, laundry, and so much more!
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