For a long time, hemp seeds were ignored for their nutritional benefits because of hemp’s botanical relationship to medicinal varieties of cannabis. However, hemp seeds don’t cause any psychotropic reactions and instead may provide significant health benefits because of hemp’s unique nutritional profile.
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that actually has a long history of use in the United States. Unfortunately, since the 1950s it’s been lumped into the same category as marijuana because it contains a small amount of naturally occurring tetrahydrocannabinoids (THC), and its use has been marginalized to a great extent.
TCH has been researched extensively, and science shows us that when it’s not smoked, it has substantial health benefits with hardly any side effects. We’re talking about improving everything from asthma to cancer, much like the benefits of cannabidiol.
Not as powerful as marijuana, industrial hemp contains about 0.3 percent–1.5 percent THC, whereas marijuana contains about 5 percent–10 percent or more THC. This means two things:
- Eating hemp seeds is extremely beneficial for you and your family.
- Consuming hemp seeds and hemp products will not get you high like smoking a joint so they’re completely safe, healthy and legal.
If you’re looking to improve digestion, balance hormones and improve metabolism, then hemp seeds may just be the superfood you’re looking for.
What Are Hemp Seeds?
Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are the seeds of the hemp plant, or Cannabis sativa. Although marijuana comes from the same plant, hemp seeds only contain a trace amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and they will not get you high. In fact, hemp seeds are safe and very healthy to eat.
Hemp is actually one of the most widely utilized and diverse industrial crops in the world. Its fibers are considered the longest and most durable of all natural fibers, and it can even be grown without deadly herbicides and pesticides. Hemp seed oil, or hemp oil, is made by pressing hemp seeds. Unlike cannabis oil, which, where it’s legal, is often used to treat pain and other health conditions, hemp seed oil contains only trace amounts of THC and is used for many commercially manufactured products. Some of the products made with hemp and hemp oil include:
- Body care products
- Building materials
- Cleaning products
- Health foods
7 Benefits of Hemp Seeds
1. Rich in GLA
Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA) is a necessary building block for some prostaglandins — hormone-like chemicals in the body that help smooth muscles, control inflammation and body temperature, and are vital to other body functions. Researchers have surmised that GLA supplementation is necessary for proper hormone health, which is probably why many women suffering from PMS symptoms have been helped by it. (1)
GLA and GLA-rich foods like hemp seeds have also been observed to help people with:
- Breast pain
- Diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin allergies
2. Arthritis and Joint Pain
Research has shown that hemp seeds and hemp seed oil can be helpful in relieving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology took a look at hemp seed oil’s effects on arthritis. What researchers found was hemp seed oil treatment lowered the survival rate of MH7A rheumatoid arthritis fibroblast-like synovial cells, and at certain doses it even promoted cell death. They concluded that hemp seed oil has anti-arthritic effects, which can help patients suffering from its symptoms. (2)
For treatment, take one tablespoon of hemp seed oil daily along with a quality fish oil.
3. Weight Loss
Hemp is a natural appetite suppressant and can help you feel full longer and reduce sugar cravings. Some experts recommend that adding four tablespoons of the seeds to your breakfast will help curb excess hunger the entire day. (3) This is partly due to the fiber in hemp seeds, which promotes satiety and in turn aids weight loss.
4. Digestive Health
High in insoluble and soluble fiber, hemp seeds provide more than enough bulk to keep your gastrointestinal system regular. Additionally, this healthy mixture of roughage feeds the probiotics in your gut and helps secure a robust immune system.
One of the benefits of high-fiber foods like hemp seeds is the ability to help relieve constipation. A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology and conducted at Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Chinese Medicine comprised two parts: a placebo-controlled clinical study and dose determination study. Subjects were studied in a two-week run-in, eight-week treatment and eight-week follow-up plan who had excessive syndrome of constipation and were given hemp seed pills. (4)
The researchers found that a dose of 7.5 grams was more effective and therapeutic than doses of 2.5 or five grams, and that the hemp seed pill treatment was effective for relieving functional constipation.
5. Hair, Skin and Nails
Hemp seed benefits for skin and hair go a long way in improving dry, red, flaking skin. Mostly used in high-end cosmetic products, hemp oil is oftentimes included in lip balms, lotions and soaps. The oil in hemp seeds penetrates the inner layers of the skin and promotes healthy cell growth — the recipe for smooth, soft skin. In fact, researchers studying the effects of hemp seed oil on atopic dermatitis, or eczema, a skin condition that causes inflammation and dry skin, found that patients’ symptoms improved with the use of the oil. (5)
Since hemp seed oil is also good for skin disorders, such as psoriasis and eczema, it’s a good idea to eat at least a couple tablespoons of hemp seeds every day to maximize these benefits as well. You can also make a homemade skin cream combining hemp seed oil, shea butter and essential oils like lavender.
Because of its perfect fatty acid profile of omega-3 fats and GLA, hemp seed helps naturally balance inflammation levels and strengthen the immune system.
The British Journal of Cancer reports that the THC in hemp seeds can stop and possibly reverse glioblastoma multiforme (a deadly form of brain cancer). (6) The journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment confirmed the THC in hemp seeds improved advanced stage breast cancer. (7) Researchers from the University of Rostock, Germany, discovered similar evidence that cannabinoids derived from hemp seeds can inhibit cancer growth and metastasis, particularly in lung cancer. (8)
All this shows the potential of hemp seeds as some of the best cancer-fighting foods available.
7. Heart Health
Some of the key ingredients in building a healthy heart include fiber, plant-based protein, healthy fats and eating less sugar. Hemp seeds help in doing all of those things. Research in animals and humans strongly suggests that hemp seeds can improve cardiovascular health and high blood pressure. (9, 10)
I recommend adding two tablespoons of hemp seeds to a morning smoothie to naturally lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol and improve triglycerides.
Hemp Seed Nutrition Profile
Research shows that hemp seed provides an excellent source of nutrition. (11) Here are some key facts about the incredible health benefits this superfood offers:
- Excellent 3:1 balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which promote cardiovascular health.
- High in GLA, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that’s been proven to naturally balance hormones.
- “Perfect protein” not only containing all 20 amino acids, but also each of the nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce.
One ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds contains about: (12)
- 161 calories
- 3.3 grams carbohydrates
- 9.2 grams protein
- 12.3 grams fat
- 2 grams fiber
- 2.8 milligrams manganese (140 percent DV)
- 15.4 milligrams vitamin E (77 percent DV)
- 300 milligrams magnesium (75 percent DV)
- 405 milligrams phosphorus (41 percent DV)
- 5 milligrams zinc (34 percent DV)
- 3.9 milligrams iron (22 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram copper (7 percent DV)
Hemp Seeds vs. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds pack much of the same nutritional punch as hemp seeds. However, hemp seeds have a more well-rounded nutrition profile. That said, chia seeds have a bit more fiber than hemp seeds, with five grams of fiber per tablespoon. Like hemp seeds, chia seeds can also be added to smoothies and other recipes.
How to use Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are sensitive to heat and light, so there’s no need to soak them. It’s also best to store them in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.
You can add hemp seeds to smoothies or grind them up and sprinkle them on your yogurt, cereal or other meals. There are lots of other hemp seed recipes you can try, like my Pecan Coconut Balls that incorporate hemp seeds, or you can try a hemp protein powder.
Hemp seeds are also available as hemp nut butter, which you can consume like you would peanut or almond butter. Also, much like almond milk, you can use hemp milk as a milk substitute.
It’s best to use hemp seed oil as a finishing oil rather than as a cooking oil. Drizzle it on salads and pastas or other dishes.
Precautions with Hemp Seeds
There really aren’t any hemp seed side effects. Hemp seeds are high in nutrition and aren’t known to cause any drug interactions with common medications. If you take anticoagulants, you may want to be more cautious about consuming hemp seeds because they inhibit blood platelets and may cause a bleeding risk. If you have concerns about possible interactions with any medications, check with your healthcare provider.
Final Thoughts on Hemp Seeds
- Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, have a high nutrition profile and are a healthy addition to most diets.
- Hemp seeds are the seeds of the same plant as marijuana, the cannabis plant, but they do not contain high levels of THC and will not get you high.
- Hemp seeds and hemp oil benefits include properties that can be helpful in improving symptoms of arthritis and joint pain; improving heart and digestive health; promoting hair, skin and nail health; and boosting the immune system to guard against cancer.
- These seeds are not not known to cause interactions with any common medications, but they may cause a risk if consumed by someone who is taking a anticoagulant medication. Check with your doctor if you are concerned about any possible drug interactions.