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Furniture Wax vs. Hemp Oil

I have received a bunch of questions lately about Furniture Wax and Hemp Oil, the difference between the two and how I choose which one to use, so I thought it was time to write a post about it.  Let’s dive right in.

Furniture Wax

Why I started using it…

I read an article about finishing painted furniture with wax a few years ago, so I went to the hardware store and bought a can of Johnson’s Paste Wax.  That was really the only wax I was familiar with, so I started using it on some of my painted and stained pieces.  I had a few problems with it.  It was very stinky and the consistency made it difficult to move well on a piece of furniture.  I also couldn’t get it into fine nooks and crannies of pieces.  So, I started looking for other types of wax and found Briwax, Fiddes & Sons, Hannants, Howards and Mylands.  Wax was giving me the buttery soft, matte finish I had previously been looking for in all the wrong places (polycrylic, wipe-on poly, etc.)  I started using it on all of my furniture pieces and never looked back.

When I came out with my own line of milk paint, I knew I wanted to carry a wax with the line.  Fortunately, Homestead House, the Canadian company that manufactures MMSMP, had a relationship with an amazing wax company who now makes the Furniture Wax and other waxes that are sold with my line.


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When to use it…

You can use it anytime you want to add a topcoat to a piece with a porous surface.  You do not need to use wax over a piece with a satin, semi-gloss, or gloss finish.  Those paints can hold up fine on their own and any wax applied will just sit on top of the surface, not really serving a purpose.  Applying wax to a porous surface like flat latex, flat acrylic, milk paint, raw wood, stained wood, etc. is key.  It is absorbed into the pores of the surface, creating a hard and durable finish.

You can basically use any brand of wax over any brand of paint, so just figure out the combination that you like.

How to apply it…

Wax can be applied with a brush…

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…or a cloth.

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I know that wax brushes are all the rage (I’m coming out with one of my own in fact), but you don’t have to strictly use a wax brush to apply wax.  These brushes are well suited to the task because they have natural bristles and a lot of them!  They hold a lot of wax and are ideal for spreading it and getting it into the details of a piece.  If you don’t have one of these brushes, though, you can use an old paint brush that has bushy bristles.  That will do the trick.  For a cloth, make sure it’s a lint-free cotton cloth.

With both types of applications, only apply a very thin layer of wax.  I know, especially with the brushes, it’s easy to load the brush with a huge glob of wax, but that’s going to give you headaches.  If your wax is smeary, smudgy, sticky to the touch, hazy, etc. you have applied too much.  Massage the wax into the surface as you would apply lotion to your hands.  This will also give you a nice and even finish.

The more coats of wax you apply and the more you buff it, the shinier it will get.

Drying time, durability & care…

Wax should feel dry to the touch just after it’s applied and rubbed into the surface.  It’s okay if it feels slightly waxy or a little cold, but it shouldn’t feel sticky or wet.  You can start using the piece right away, but give it a full 30 days to cure.  During the cure time, just be gentle with it.  For cleaning, I just dry dust it with a cloth or scrub it with a wet cloth for dried on yogurt, oatmeal and the like.  The thing I love most about wax is that you can simply reapply it if a piece starts looking tired or gets scratched.  Lightly sand it with some steel wool, apply another coat, buff it and you have a new finish in about 15 minutes.  You can’t do that with poly!

Tricycle

The downsides to wax…

As I unfortunately learned one year at the Lucketts Antique Market, wax is sensitive to heat.  Just like crayons left in a car, a wax finish will melt in intense sun or heat.  For that reason, it’s not a good option to use on pieces if you sell them outside or are going to put them on a sun porch, etc.  It’ll do fine with some sunshine on it through a window or sitting near a radiator, as long as it doesn’t get too hot.  Keep this in mind if the piece will be stored in a truck or storage unit that isn’t climate controlled.  This is true of all brands of waxes, by the way.

The other downside is that it does take some muscle to do all of the applying and buffing.  I’ve gotten used to it, but it can be a lot  on the biceps!

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Hemp Oil

Why I started using it…

Homestead House introduced this product to me as their favorite finish for milk paint.  I had never even heard of Hemp Oil before and it took me a while to really “get it.”  I started using it to test it out to see if I wanted to carry it under my brand.  I loved the fact that it was easy to apply, virtually odor free and was 100% natural.  I knew a finish like that would be important for those who wanted to use milk paint because it’s all natural.  Once I decided to make it a part of the line, I felt like I needed to use it, even though I had a preference for wax.

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Then, I had the wax-melting experience at the Lucketts Antique Market.  Hmmm…time to get to know Hemp Oil a lot better.  I used it on all of my painted pieces last year and fell more in love with it.  The ease of application, the beautiful finish and the durability sold me on it.

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 When to use it…

 Hemp Oil can be used as a top coat and, like wax, is best on porous surfaces, so it can penetrate the surface instead of just hanging out on top.  If you use Hemp Oil as a topcoat, that is all you need.  You don’t have to put something else on top of it.

 It is also awesome at reviving wood that is dried out, water damaged and has lost its luster.  Again, the surface needs to be porous to work.  It’s not going to do much for a poly finish that looks tired.

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 How to apply Hemp Oil…

For a while, I applied it with a cloth, but I have started using a brush in recent months.  I feel like it’s a little faster and works the oil in a bit better, but a cloth will certainly do the trick and is probably better for large, flat surfaces.  You just wipe it on, let it soak in and then wipe away the excess.

It can also be used to “wet sand” a piece.  I just learned this technique at the retailer’s training in Baltimore and it rocked my world.  Brush on some oil, then sand with some fine sand paper.  Wipe away the excess oil with a cloth.  You can either sand to smooth or sand to distress with this technique and the result is a buttery smooth finish.

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 Hemp Oil provides a matte, almost satin finish, but the level of sheen increases with each coat.   I usually just apply one coat on the body of pieces and two coats on the tops for a little added durability.  The key with Hemp Oil, though, is to only apply what the surface will absorb.  If you apply too many coats, the oil will just sit on top.  There’s no harm if that happens, but you have to wipe the excess oil away and it’s a bit of a waste.

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Drying Time, Care & Durability…

Hemp oil dries to the touch very quickly, because it’s absorbed into the finish.  In other terms, it’s sort of the difference between lotion (Hemp Oil & Wax) and nail polish (latex, acrylic, poly, etc.)  While the oil is dry to the touch, it does need about 30 days to fully cure.  You can use the piece during this period, but it might feel a little oily to the touch while it’s curing.

I care for it the same way I do the waxed pieces.  Just a dry cloth for dusting and a damp cloth if something is being stubborn.  If the finish looks tired or is marred, I just rub on another coat of Hemp Oil (and wet sanding would be a great idea here, too.)

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 The downsides to Hemp Oil…

I haven’t tried painting over a piece that has cured Hemp Oil on it, but I’m guessing that might be a little tricky.  Some sanding and a bonding primer may be in order, but I’m not really sure.  I’ll have to let you know when I try it or hear from someone who has.

The other downside, if it really is one, is that it doesn’t have anything added to it.  It’s just oil, so it doesn’t have the “solids” and other things that make a finish feel hard to the touch.  A Hemp Oil finish doesn’t feel as hard as a wax or poly finish, but it is working and is very durable.  So, this isn’t really a negative, but something you need to expect and get used to.

So, which is better and which do you use when?

This is totally a preference thing.  I use both and love both.  I use Hemp Oil when I know a piece will be exposed to heat, so I don’t have to worry about melting.  I use wax when I’m just in the mood to use wax!  So, you’re really going to have to answer this question for yourself.  You may find you prefer one over the other or you like something else entirely!

I hope explaining the differences will help you decide.

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 Today after church, we had our fall festival, which involves a chili cook-off, pie bake-off and pumpkin carving.  I haven’t really done a lot of pumpkin carving in my life, but I’ll tell you that sticking my hand inside of a pumpkin and pulling out slimy, fibrous innards is not my thing at all!  I enjoyed helping my boys with the carving, but the scooping was gag-worthy.

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I think I’ll stick with painting pumpkins.

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Disclosure -Some of the wax links are Amazon Affiliate links.







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Comments

  1. thanks for doing such a great job of explaining the differences and when to use, etc. You do such a good job of making the info understandable.

  2. Thank you for a great explanation. Really interested in trying hemp oil. I have stripped several coats of paint from a 1940s kitchen chair down to bare wood. Would hemp oil be a good choice for a natural look?

  3. Thank you Marian for this post! It’s a great one! Pinned it right away.

  4. This is very helpful info. Thanks Marian. Will post this on my facebook page for my bloggers and co. ;-)

  5. Thank you so much for this excellent post Marian! I have been wanting to try hemp oil and this information is all so very helpful. Have a great week! Pinning and sharing this too.

  6. Nancy Horwath says:

    My husband made me wood counter tops and we did lots if research for a finish. I wanted a natural look. All the oils on the market were not food safe. I have followed you for a while and love all the things you do. I was looking at your new line of milk paint, because I have a hutch from my mother that I want to paint. I found your hemp oil and it sounded like the product I was looking for. I works beautifully!! It gives the counter tops protection with a little shine. I apply it about every 6 months!! Also great for old cutting boards.

  7. Great explanation of both. I’ve been using wax for painted and your hemp oil for the tops and reviving wood. I’m thinking of doing a wash over stained wood and sealing with hemp oil. I LOVE your hemp oil. It is so easy to use and I love the nutty fragrance.

  8. Great info. Am really looking forward to your brushes coming out as I have had a hard time finding a good brush in my area. I am loving your (& Maria’s) MMSMP product shots!

  9. Perfect timing! I have just finished painting my first piece with your products :) I used linen paint with bonding agent, then without. I then used hemp oil and interestingly the color of linen became visible with the luster. I then distressed slightly (and messed up my back!). Then I added antiqueing wax to the turned legs and edges. ONE QUESTION….I was told by Laura from Ironstone Nest that once you wax that is it–wax AFTER I hemp oil! I am so tempted to hemp one last time on the top and lower shelf as the wax kind of pulled into the other areas. Viewing at an angle I don’t see the smooth shine I would like all over the flat portions (top and shelf). Would Hemp Oil just sit on the wax and be a mistake???

    I would love to add that this was a wonderful “imperfect” experience for me. I am very creative and crafty. I looked at it like a piece of art. I was afraid to add the antiqueing wax but new if I didn’t it would look just like a piece from 1990 with latex paint and some sanding. I looked at every “too much paint sanded off there” and “the wax stuck to the areas here more due to the paint not being as smooth” as part of the beauty of the products and process. I look forward to enjoying my World Market Everette Foyer Table turned Antique! (Drawer pulls are being added also.) And I can’t wait to use the Boxwood color! I have the perfect piece, knobs…just not one place to put it! And hemp oil is a dream! My husband asked if I was going to Hemp Oil the house :) (Yes, very long–sorry.)

  10. Sheila Ludolph / La La Lu Redesign says:

    This is great to know about and thank you for the explanation about differences between the two. I often sell my painted furniture at outdoor markets and have been become so frustrated when the top of these pieces start to “melt” due to the heat of the sun. Hemp oil may be my solution! Cant wait to try it!

  11. This was a well explained post. I just finished up a table with Artissimo and hemp oil and love how dark it made it the colour. Can’t wait to share. Have a great Monday

  12. Can hemp oil be used to add moisture and life back to old wicker? And, if used on chairs, is there any worry about it coming off onto clothing?

  13. Mary Jane says:

    Thanks so much for all the info. I have been using wax for a while now, but I am resistant to using it because I tend to change colors in my house over time and I am always worried about repainting over wax. Could you address this. I have never tried to repaint, but always worry when I wax a piece about changing my mind down the road, especially on pieces that are that special splash of color…….I will end up deciding that I want the splash to be a great turquoise instead of orange! Will I need to sand all the wax off or what? Thanks for the help! And by the way I loved the chair…….you know the one…….don’t worry about anything you are doing a wonderful job. I loved the way the edging on the chairs where the nails where was some sort of a thin bias strip instead of a trim…..i am going to use that idea someday!

    • Mary Jane,
      I can tell you that Laura from the Ironstone Nest (featured on Marian’s blog) had told me when I purchased items from her that wax is the last thing you do. (I was using Hemp Oil and Antiqueing wax.) She told me that if I waxed a piece I would have to strip it before repainting it. Marian may have another take but thought I would share. (Which is why I presented my question above to Marian.)
      Kristin

      • Mary Jane says:

        Kristin, thanks for the comment, I was kinda thinking that i would have to strip it off if I did change my mind…….Marian may have a primmer that would work to cut the wax. So far I don’t have anything I am wanting to change, but I know a great new color will catch my eye and I will HAVE to make the move on painting something I have waxed:)

  14. Thanks Marion for answering some of the questions that I had. Really appreciate it!

    Happy Monday!

  15. PattyM says:

    Thanks for this information. One question – is hemp oil similar to tung oil? I used to use tung oil on raw wood pieces that I had stripped and sanded. It is a wonderful product that really brought the wood to life. It is applied the same way that you described the hemp oil application. After the wood was fully saturated with thin coats, I let it dry and then buffed it with 0000 steel wool. Somehow the buffing made it feel like a non-porous, durable surface. Like hemp oil, it is natural and there is no odor. Does anyone ever use shellac anymore? I did a French polish finish once that was beautiful. Some of the old methods and products may not be as convenient but they really are better. Poly looks so plastic in comparison. I’m looking forward to trying the hemp oil in the near future.

    • They are a bit different, but the idea is the same. Tung OIl is a bit stronger stuff and can handle use outside. We are actually going to start carrying it with our line!

      Yep, I agree that poly looks like plastic and I am not a fan of it!

      • Tina Moye says:

        What would be best to use on table top that has been chaulk painted. The heat from cooked pieces scares me if I wax, due to melting and then indentions. Also I used outdoor paint for this piece due to heat being a concern. Thanks for taking the time to answer.

  16. Sally Hanselman says:

    I got new soapstone countertops in my kitchen last year. The manufacturer recommended wiping with mineral oil occasionally, but I hated the thought of that kind of product where I prepared food. I used MMS Hemp Oil and it is fantastic on that. Lasted much longer (a consideration, because it does cost more than mineral oil), too.

  17. Yvonne Wilson says:

    I am getting ready to refinish a farm table. I am currently sanding then want to just put a light stain on it. Should I use Hemp oil or wax to protect it? I don’t want to use anything that will give it a shiny finish. Thank you for your blog, I read every entry!

  18. Gilda says:

    Marion, I have a front door that was stripped and sanded. I like the ‘raw’, unpainted look, HOWEVER the door faces EAST and the wood is looking dried out. I was just thinking of Johnson’s paste wax UNTIL I read your post today…I am thinking that the oil would be better than the wax (because of it being a door (we have a glass storm door, full-view, in place)…
    YOUR RECOMMENDATION? thanks so much.. your product looks like it might be what I need but,,,which one???

    • Yeah, wax would not be good for a door, especially one exposed to heat. I would suggest using Tung OIl, which you can get at any hardware store. It’s durable and meant for use outside. You won’t have issues with melting, etc. And, if it gets tired looking after being exposed to the elements, just apply a refresher coat and give it a “buff” with fine steel wool.

  19. Nancy says:

    Great explanations! So is hemp oil always clear? Or would you have to stain a piece if you wanted a darker look before putting the hemp oil on top? And you would have to use dark or white wax for those special finishes I’m assuming? Thank you!

  20. Elaine says:

    I’m sorry to say I have not tried your paint, BUT I have tried another well known brand. I cleaned my kitchen table and chairs, then painted with chalk paint. Then, I waxed it. After 4 months, the paint comes off when I clean the table, so I’m going to have to sand it and redo the process. I didn’t sand prior to painting because I was told that wasn’t necessary with chalk paint. I’m wondering if anyone else has this problem and what do you do to keep it from happening? I’ve painted other pieces and use polycrylic and the same thing happens if it’s just barely bumped against anything. Actually, I could take my fingernail and scratch right down to the original color. PLEASE HELP!

    • I’ll be honest about painted table tops. I am not a fan of them for that reason. Painted finishes do not wear very well, so I always strip, stain and finish my table tops and that wears so much better. My kitchen table, dining table and bar stools are all waxed and they have held up very well. I scrub and use a mild soap and water and have not had to rewax or anything.

  21. beverlee lyons says:

    Ilive in HOT Texas and had some problems when I first started using the wax. It would melt in the heat. Especially noticeable on the tops. I have to do somethings outside, and some of my shows are outside. I contacted the mfgr. and they kept telling me I was using too much, that I was doing something wrong. So, I just quit using it…and I am so happy to know that it was not a myth of mine. Heat really does make a difference in the wax.
    Thank you for the tips….I love your wax more than any I have tried…it goes on smooth…and you don’t have to wait forever for it to dry!

  22. I’ve used lemon oil in the past on some antique oak dressers I’ve had since I was a kid. I wonder if there’s much difference between the hemp and the lemon?

    I’m going to try out the milk paint on a bakers rack that I want to use on my porch next summer. I have a lot of time before it’s needed so I’m sure I’ll procrastinate for a while.

  23. Cecilia says:

    Great info, the Hemp oil is just what I need for an old cabinet that needs to be sanded and some oil.

  24. Mindy says:

    Thanks for the information. I refinished a table and used Johnson’s wax for the top and it is stinky. I have to reapply fairly often (we wipe the table off after meals of course) and have thought that maybe the hemp oil idea is the way to go. Stinky isn’t good in a closed up house. I also just used paint on the legs of the table (stain on the top) and have had the same experience that Elaine above has had. Am planning to use chalk paint and change the color.

  25. I looooove hemp oil. I did a dresser yesterday which I stripped (only to find that it was oak!) and stained the top in dark walnut. I painted the body in Flow Blue. I finished it all up with hemp oil and cannot begin to tell you what a huge difference it makes. It intensified the color beautifully!

  26. julie says:

    Does the hemp oil provide any protection? Like from glass rings, etc? (ps. I’m totally with ya on the pumpkin innards — YUCK! a true test of parental love!)

  27. thank you for all the knowledge, research and time put into this post.

    it’s generous that you both produce your own pieces to sell and teach us how to do the same thing.

    blessings!

  28. Ashley says:

    How well would the hemp oil work on Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint?

  29. Marlene says:

    Thanks for the great information – Might just help get me out of a slump!

  30. Okay, Look at you!! I love the wax and hemp tips, but the best picture is of you looking so slender and fit and happy with your son!

  31. One down side to the Hemp Oil is ANTS! They love, love, love it. And they can find the tiniest of drops! I store my Hemp Oil in a ipi lock bag in the refrigerator.

    • connie says:

      Help I use hemp oil on everything and just found a huge load of ants on my table. How do I stop this?

  32. Hm…I’ve never had that problem or heard of it from anyone else. I wonder if it’s a certain kind of ant in a certain geographic area?

    • Th great people at Shades of Amber in Monument, CO that’ve me a heads up about this. I did my best to keep it off the ground, but in the end failed.

    • Lorraine says:

      Hello! I know this is an old post, but i’m having a problem with ants visiting my hemp oil as well lol! I googled hemp oil and ants to see if any one else had a problem and found this post. I was oiling a piece outside today and ants were just flocking to me by the dozens. I bought some MMS paint and am getting a little worried when it’s a whole table i’ll be painting vs a small cake topper i was making today. Does hemp oil dry out completely once it’s cured? Thanks! I’m so excited to use the paint :D

  33. Alison Campbell says:

    I’ve just finished using chalk paint to re cover my shaker style kitchen units ( I live in Ireland and can’t get milk paint

  34. Elaine says:

    Is hemp oil the same as tung oil? I want to paint a pie safe and am not sure if I can just clean it with TSP and paint or whether I will have to do more to it.

  35. Jennifer says:

    You look awesome Marian. Glad to see you’ve stuck to the healthy lifestyle despite what I would imagine as a crazy hectic schedule. More power to you !!!

  36. Believe me, pumpkin ‘guts’ will be fond memories when your kids are grown and gone. Everyone tells you these things and I never really listened…. BUT it’s true!!
    Enjoy while you can.

    Did the pumpkin carving spark any paint color ideas?

  37. Leslie Pringle says:

    I have used both and love them – thank you Marian for the wax guide and how to use it.. I use to be heavy handed with it and I’ve learned my lesson.

    For the hemp vs wax.. if anyone out there is like me and likes to try your hand a refinishing fake wood furniture (ie laminate over particle board).. hemp oil does not work well – it needs a wood surface to stick to. I’ve done many pieces of fake wood furniture with chalk paint and my latest piece was done with MMSMP in typewriter and used wax with great results.. I tried an area with hemp oil and the oil just sat on top.

    I am looking forward to the new brushes!!!

  38. I’m wondering if the hemp oil, which I could easily find in France in organic stores, would change the colour if the piece is painted white.

    • It doesn’t yellow the paint, but it will bring out the undertones of the paint. So, if the paint is more cream, as in Linen, it will look more yellow. If it’s a cooler white, it will bring out those cooler tones. Sometimes some yellowing can be pulled out of the wood underneath, though, so it’s a good idea to test out a small spot.

  39. Thanks for all the information! I love the smooth subtle sheen of furniture wax but haven’t tried hemp oil yet. Now I can’t wait to!

  40. thanks for the info Marian! Pumpkin innards aren’t my fave either!!! Did the boys get in on the scooping action because that seems right up a little boy’s alley?!

  41. JaneEllen says:

    What an excellent post. So much well needed info on what to use and why/whynot. I read the whole thing and then went back to read again. I also will read all the comments. I learn so much from comments on blogs.
    Wish I had enuf ink to print it out but will save it all so I can print It after SS payday, if there is one this month that is.
    Always enjoy your blog. Happy week

  42. Atesh Stahl says:

    Hi Marion,
    I have used your hemp oil with great success in the past . But the last time I used it, it smelled rancid and left a terrible odor on the pieces I brushed it on. Have you ever had that happen and do you have any solutions to counter act the smell? It has not diminished after several days now. Thanks!

  43. Hemp oil has a distinct smell, but it shouldn’t smell rancid. I would be happy to send you a new bottle, if you want to give that a try.

  44. Kat Wynveen says:

    Have you ever used walnut oi? If so, what was your take on it?

  45. Kat Wynveen says:

    Loved the “pumpkin guts” bit. As kids, we had a Halloween party where we were blindfolded and had to walk through “guts” with our bare feet. Then ate cat’s eyeballs (peeled grapes) and drank witch’s blood (unsweetened red Kool-Aid), shook hands with the dead (rubber gloves filled with ice water, and finally exited through wet hanging nylons. Best party ever.

  46. You info is invaluable as usual, thanks so much!

  47. christina says:

    will hemp oil change the color of my unfinished wood table? I am really looking to just protect, not darken. Please help… I’m stalling because I’m just unsure.

  48. Marian, I am a bit confused about the wet sanding with the hemp oil. What does it accomplish? I could see doing it to have an easier clean up, but does the end result look different than dry sanding?

    Thanks for a great post.

  49. The wet sanding does almost eliminate the dust, which is nice, but it also smooths the paint out, so it is buttery smooth. If you’re using it to distress, the look is more worn and less scratchy.

  50. anita powell says:

    “I am so grateful to Dr.Rick Simpson for providing me with Hemp oil here in the United State of America. My mother was diagnose with cancer of the breast 13 months ago, and ever since then she have done a lot of Chemo and Radiation that have not help me, but only damaged her immune system and render her weak and helpless. I came across the Phoenix Tears and i have read about the Hemp oil a lot and saw the Post that Dr. Rick Simpson could provide me with Hemp Oil here is the State, i contact him on: [email protected] for the procurement of this medication, to my surprise the medication was procured and delivered within 24 hours and she have been on treatment for the past 2 months and 2 weeks. Am now here to testify that my mum is no longer a cancer patient, I have experience a total transformation in her life with Dr. Rick Simpson Hemp oil service. for all cancer patient that live in the America region and Europe at large, get your Hemp oil from Dr. Rick Simpson at: [email protected]

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