As it regulates hemp production, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is simultaneously researching and developing end uses for the crop.
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Peoria, Ill.-based Midwest Bioprocessing Center (MBC) are working together to expand the market for hemp seed oil into new cosmetic ingredients.
Chemists with the ARS’ National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria have patented a process called “bio-catalysis” that is a major component of the two-year agreement between the USDA and MBC. The process replaces chemicals and solvents with enzymes and heat “to catalyze reactions that bind natural antioxidants like ferulic acid to lipids in soybean and other vegetable oils,” according to a USDA press release.
The research team previously used compounds from soybean oil that the cosmetics market adopted because they offered absorbed ultraviolet (UV) and antioxidant properties. Now, per the release, “the ARS-MBC team will focus on bio-catalyzing hemp oil to make ‘cosmeceuticals’—skin-care ingredients that perform specific functions, like protecting skin from UV light, retaining moisture, or stabilizing other active ingredients used in skin-care formulations.”
Meanwhile, NCAUR scientists are researching processing hemp into fiber products, food ingredients, adhesives, lubricants and fuels.
The ongoing research explores just some of the many end products that can be made from hemp. Among other things, the crop is used for flooring material, animal feed, parts for high-end cars and masks for the COVID era.