Friday, January 12, 2007


Just got a call from Suzanne at the Cornwall Soap Box, who is looking to add Cornish grown hemp to her soap. The search was not as easy as it seemed, turns out the big companies in the UK have a large demand for hemp oil (with its Omega 3,6 and 9 oils) and keep the growers busy. Hemp has been grown recently in Cornwall, but much of this is for fibre, such as insulation and cigarette paper.

Suzanne is a bit of a purist, insisting on fair trade and natural ingredients, she gets her shea butter direct from Togo and palm oil from a fair trade plantation in Colombia. The bars are then wrapped in mulberry paper made in a non-sweatshop in Thailand.

She shared with me some basic facts about soap making. It turns out this is a harder process than I thought. Firstly the fats or oils are mixed with lye (sodium hydroxide) in a ratio based on the saponification value of the fat or oil. Then essential oils and/or colouring agents are added. (She does not use colouring agents). Her technique on adding the hemp oil is to add it a bit later in the process so it is not totally absorbed in. The soap then has to cure for six weeks.

Turns out that hemp is a very popular ingredient in specialty soaps, a web search turns up dozens, including the Taimado brand pictured above. The Body Shop has made hemp soap (a green bar with a hemp leaf design), but I suspect they are not as purist as many of these small outfits. In fact, many of their products have lots of chemical in them, as noted in an upcoming Journal of Industrial Hemp article.

It's good to see hemp being used in soap, this is a traditional use of it, and I read somewhere that Polish soaps made with hemp had a slightly green tint. A good range of hemp skin care products can be found at The Hemp Shop in Brighton.

No comments: