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The Health Benefits of Hemp

Nutritional Advantages of Eating Hemp Seeds and Hempseed Oil

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Lana Butner, ND, LAc, is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in New York City.

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Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is cultivated for making a wide range of products including foods, health products, fabric, rope, natural remedies, and much more. The various parts of the hemp plant are used to make different products.

The seeds of hemp are edible and are considered highly nutritious with a high concentration of soluble and insoluble fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for heart health and skin health.

Hemp is grown for non-drug use because it contains only trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive component of the marijuana plant that is responsible for getting a person high).

Also Known As

  • Narrow-leaf hemp
  • Bitter root
  • Catchfly
  • Indian-hemp
  • Milkweed
  • Wild cotton

Health Benefits

There are three different species of plants that come from the Cannabis genus (in the Cannabaceae family). These include Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

Hemp classifies as varieties of Cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC content. Marijuana, on the other hand, describes Cannabis plant species that have more than 0.3% THC, which can induce euphoric effects.

The hemp seeds are the primary part of the hemp plant that is edible. The leaves can be used to make a tea, but it’s the seeds that contain most of the plant’s nutrients. In fact, hemp seeds have over 30% fat, including essential fatty acids. The health benefits of hemp, therefore, primarily come from its seeds.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are, pretty much, as the name implies—the seeds of the hemp plant. Sometimes, the seeds are also referred to as hemp hearts.

They are high in insoluble and soluble fiber, rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which has been linked in studies to many health benefits, offers a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.   Note that hemp hearts have had the fibrous shell removed and, thus, are lower in fiber and other nutrients than whole hemp seeds.

A 2016 study discovered that GLA has very strong anti-inflammatory properties and has a “great potential to dampen [the] inflammatory processes and improve signs and symptoms of several inflammatory diseases.”  

Hemp seeds contain the perfect 3-to-1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is considered the optimal ratio for heart and brain health. This ratio is difficult to attain in the Western diet, as most foods contain far too many omega-6 fatty acids (like vegetable oil) and not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and other wild-caught, cold-water fish).

Hemp seeds contain many nutrients, including minerals (such as magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc) as well as vitamins.  

The high content of 20% soluble and 80% insoluble fiber, in whole hemp seeds, may aid in digestion while helping to lower bad cholesterol and improve heart health.   The insoluble fiber in hemp seeds has also been linked with a lower risk of diabetes.  

Hemp Oil Versus CBD Oil

Hemp oil (also called hempseed oil) comes from the seeds of the hemp plant; it is made by cold-pressing hemp seeds. Hempseed oil differs from CBD oil in that CBD oil is extracted from the cannabis plant and then combined with a base oil (such as coconut, MCT, or olive oil).

Hempseed oil, which comes from the seeds only—and not from a hemp variety of the Cannabis plant itself—does not contain any psychoactive properties (such as those from THC which cause a person to get high). Hemp oil has its own unique properties and health benefits.

Hemp oil is used in foods for its high level of healthy nutrients such as:

  • Proteins
  • Essential fatty acids (EFAs)
  • Minerals (such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, and more)
  • Antioxidants (such as Vitamin E)

Hemp oil can be used as a cooking oil and, just like any other type of healthy oil, can be added to foods such as salads, dips, and spreads.

Animal studies have shown that hempseed oil may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.  

Hemp oil is often used as a hair conditioner, a skin moisturizer. Some studies found that hempseed oil may improve dry, itchy skin and help symptoms of eczema, reducing the need for prescription medication.  

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is a powder made from the seeds of the hemp plant; it contains over 25% high-quality protein with nearly 20 amino acids and nine essential amino acids.

Hemp protein is an excellent choice in a protein powder for vegetarians or vegans because it also contains essential fatty acids that are vital to health. The protein content in hemp seeds is considerably higher than that of flax or chia seeds, which contain only around 15% to 18% protein.

Other Health Benefits

Hemp has been used to treat a variety of health conditions, but there is not enough clinical research data to back up the claims that hemp is safe or effective to treat many illnesses. These include:  

  • Asthma
  • Cough
  • Bloating
  • Arthritis
  • Syphilis
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart problems
  • Urinary conditions (increasing urine flow)
  • Warts (when applied topically to the skin)

How it Works

It is thought that hemp contains chemicals (like the drug Lanoxin) that lower the blood pressure, slow heart rate, and increase the strength of the heartbeat, and increase urine output.

Hemp is also known to have terpenes, which are molecules produced by plants that are responsible for the plant’s distinctive smell (such as lavender). Studies are beginning to show that terpenes are thought to have many health benefits including neuroprotective (brain-protective), anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties.  

Possible Side Effects

According to RX List, taking whole hemp by mouth can cause many side effects including:  

  • Throat irritation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

There is not enough clinical research data to prove that hemp is safe for use in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or to use topically (on the skin).

Eating hemp seeds is not considered as unsafe as is ingesting the hemp leaves or other parts of the plant. But the seeds can cause mild diarrhea because of the high-fat content.

Interaction with Medications

Do not ingest hemp when taking cardiac glycosides or diuretics.

Cardiac Glycosides

Cardiac glycosides, such as Lanoxin (digoxin) help the heart beat strongly and can slow down the heart rate. Hemp is also known to slow the heart rate; this could result in bradycardia. Do not take hemp when taking Lanoxin without consulting with the prescribing physician or another healthcare provider.

Diuretics

Diuretics such as Diuril (chlorothiazide), Thalitone (chlorthalidone), Lasix (furosemide), Microzide (hydrochlorothiazide) and others may lower potassium in the body as they work to flush fluids. Hemp has a similar action.

When there is an increase in urine/fluid output, it’s common that potassium is also lost. Taking diuretics and hemp together may result in dangerously low potassium levels which could adversely impact the heart.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, or cooked with other foods. Hempseed oil has been used as food or made into medicine for thousands of years in China.

There are many ways to eat hemp protein, oil, and seeds, including:

  • In a smoothie
  • On oatmeal or cereal
  • Sprinkled over salads
  • As a nut butter
  • As a form of milk (hemp milk)
  • On yogurt
  • In meal bars or granola bars
  • As a salad dressing (hemp oil)
  • Sprinkle (hemp seeds) on casserole dishes
  • Add hemp seeds to baked goods
  • In recipes
  • As a cooking oil

Storage

Exposing hemp seeds to air for long periods of time or storing hemp at high temperatures can cause the degradation of its healthy fat content; this could result in trans-fatty acids (which are the very worst type of fats a person could eat).

It is recommended to store hemp seeds and hemp oil at cool temperatures, away from exposure to bright light, in an airtight container. It is best to refrigerate hemp products after opening.  

Many hemp products, including hemp oil, hemp milk, and hemp protein powder can be purchased at a health food store, or online.

Cooking hemp seeds or heating the oil to temperatures above 350 degrees Fahrenheit can denature the fats, destroying the healthy fatty acids. Hemp seeds and oil are best eaten raw; if cooking with hemp oil, use low heat.

Dosage

The dosage of any herbal or natural supplement depends on several factors, including a person’s age, health condition, and more.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before taking hemp (or any other herb) regarding the recommended dosage. When taking herbal preparations, never exceed the dosage or other recommendations on the package insert.

When eating hemp seeds, some experts suggest starting out slow (such as 1 teaspoon) then gradually working up to more as tolerated, particularly for those with digestive problems.

Selection

Hemp seeds are grown in many different countries, but the hemp that is grown in Canada is said to produce a great tasting, high-quality seed.   Look for products that have been tested in the lab for purity and potency.

Keep in mind that the regulations on hemp grown in the U.S., Europe, and Canada are stricter than those in other countries, such as China. Also, Canada’s products are non-GMO. Be sure to select an organic product for the ultimate in nutritional value, taste, potency, and overall quality.

Common Questions

Are hemp seed hearts that same as hemp seed?

No. Hemp hearts have had the fibrous shell removed and, thus, are lower in fiber and other nutrients than whole hemp seeds. Hemp hearts not as nutritionally beneficial as the whole hemp seed. However, hemp hearts are very high in healthy polyunsaturated fats.

Are hemp seeds legal to ingest in the U.S.?

Yes, hemp seeds are legal in the United States, but the seeds must contain a minimal amount of THC (the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that gets a person high).  

According to the FDA, some hemp products, including hemp seeds, hemp seed protein powder, and hempseed oil are safe for food, and therefore there is no need for special legislation regarding legalization.

Can eating hemp cause a person to fail a drug test?

No, not when eating moderate amounts of hempseed oil, protein powder made of hemp, or hemp seeds. There are only trace amounts of THC in hemp; unless a person is using other variations of the hemp plant, such as marijuana, (or ingesting abnormally large amounts of hemp) failing a drug test from eating hemp seeds is unlikely.

Although hemp hearts do not contain any THC at all, the shells do have trace amounts (below 0.3% THC).

Therefore, although a person is very unlikely to test positive on a drug test from eating hemp seeds, those who are recovering from cannabis addiction—with a goal of avoiding all exposure to THC— may want to avoid eating the whole hemp seeds, and opt for hemp hearts instead.

What does hemp taste like?

Hemp seeds have a very pleasant, mild, nutty flavor, like unsalted sunflower seeds, but the texture is not as hard.

Learn what medical research says about the nutritional benefits of eating hemp seeds, hempseed oil, and hempseed protein powder.

Hemp Protein Powder Benefits and Risks: Everything You Need to Know

The word ‘hemp’ can conjure up mental images of naughty cigarettes and hippy fashions, but there’s no need to panic – that’s not what hemp protein powder is all about!

Hemp is a strain of the cannabis Sativa plant which is grown specifically for industrial use, but it’s nothing to do with marijuana or any highs you may expect from cannabis.

Hemp does contain the two main components of cannabis: cannabidiol, the part that relaxes you and acts as an anti-inflammatory, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the part that gives you a high.

However, the distinct plant strain used to cultivate hemp for industrial purposes has so little THC, that it’s impossible to experience any delirium or psychoactive effects as a result of consuming it.

It is specifically bred to contain as low a level of THC as possible and can only legally be grown to contain naturally occurring trace amounts.

Don’t write off hemp because of the popular misconceptions around the cannabis plant as a whole – there’s a lot to this plant and it can do a whole heap of good!

What is Hemp Protein Powder?

There are a variety of protein powders available, but hemp protein powder is a plant-based, entirely vegan option.

It’s made by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder and can be added to shakes, smoothies or foods to boost their protein content – and quite considerably, too!

As more people choose to follow a plant-based diet and more is understood about hemp protein’s health benefits, it comes as no surprise that this protein-packed natural powder is rapidly increasing in popularity.

It has an earthy and nutty taste but isn’t overpowering, so can be added to other flavours without outshining them.

Hemp protein has a fantastic nutritional profile and studies suggest hemp has many health benefits.

Although it’s a great protein powder in its on right, the best nutritional benefits come when hemp protein is used in conjunction with other vegan proteins, to create a powerful mix of plant-based goodies.

Nutribuddy use hemp protein alongside pea and rice protein in their range of vegan shakes to pack a nutritional high-protein punch.

5 Amazing Hemp Protein Powder Benefits

Hemp Protein is a Complete Protein – Move Over, Whey!

Hemp protein is known as a complete protein; meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body must consume through food and is unable to create for itself.

Some other vegan proteins, namely nuts, seeds, beans and grains, are incomplete proteins, making hemp, along with pea and soy, the reigning champions for vegan protein-seekers.

Essential amino acids are organic compounds made up of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, with a variable chain group.

Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body itself, but the essential ones have to be specifically consumed. The nine essential amino acids found in hemp protein powder are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine.

Studies have found that the profile of essential amino acids within hemp is similar to the profiles of soy and egg whites; both of which are often touted as great sources of protein.

It’s Far Easier to Digest than Animal Proteins

Unless you’re well versed in consuming high amounts of protein and already have a robust protein intake as a result of protein powder, your body may not be used to digesting it.

That’s not to say that this will cause problems, but it can, in some cases, have minor side effects.

When embarking on a new healthy eating and fitness regime, it’s important to be kind to yourself as well as to be strict.

Your gut health, in particular, is paramount.

There is a misconception that plants are easier to digest than animal products and by-products, but this isn’t always the case.

However, clinical studies into the digestible content of hemp protein (and therefore, hemp protein powder) show that up to 98% is completely digestible, making it incredibly easy for the body to process.

This may make hemp protein a good choice for those with sensitive stomachs or IBS.

Hemp contains the protein strains of edestin and albumin, both of which are very swiftly broken down by the body, which is believed to contribute to its easy digestion.

However, it is thought that the digestibility of hemp protein can vary depending on its processing – so be sure to choose one of high quality, preferably derived from cold-pressed seeds.

If you’re following a vegan diet, hemp protein powder is an easy-on-the-gut plant-based option with superior protein content and fantastic health benefits.

It’s Nutrient-Dense and Provides More Than Just Protein

Some protein powders, particularly those created specifically for the health and fitness market, contain only protein and little else.

This is not the case for hemp protein powder however: there’s a lot more to this plant than just the big ‘p’!

Hemp protein powder is packed with vitamins and minerals alongside its high protein content.

It’s a great source of fibre and unsaturated Omega-3 fats. However, the real nutritional value lies within its minerals.

You’ll find phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc and copper within; in fantastically large proportions for such a finely ground powder!

Another mineral found in hemp protein powder is lignin amides, which have impressively strong antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are hugely beneficial for the body, as they protect it from oxidative damage.

This, in turn, leads to a greatly reduced risk of chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.

Not bad for a plant often painted as just a recreational high, eh?

See Ya, Cravings! Hemp Protein Powder is Fibre-Packed

Hemp protein powder’s combination of both protein and dietary fibre makes it the ideal dietary supplement to aid weight loss and to maintain a healthy weight moving forward.

As a whole, plant-based protein powders contain little fibre; so a real benefit of hemp protein powder is that it packs a serious punch fibre-wise!

The type of hemp seeds used within the powder, and the way in which it’s been processed, can affect the fibre content within.

But, on average, you can expect to consume between 20-30% of the adult Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of fibre per serving.

Fibre promotes satiety and gives you the ‘full’ feeling faster.

This doesn’t just stop you eating or drinking less at the time, but also maintains that feeling for longer than usual; so there’s no need to revert to snacking later on.

This helps you lose weight initially as you begin to incorporate increased fibre consumption within your diet, but also to keep the extra pounds off as you continue not to overeat and instead consume the right kind of foods in appropriate portion sizes.

Hemp Protein Powder Fats Will Keep Your Heart Healthy

Hemp seeds contain a lot of fat, but fear not: it’s the good kind!

When pressed into a powder (be that to make hemp protein powder or any other hemp product), hemp loses a lot of its naturally occurring fats, but over 10% of these still appear, so they’re not all gone.

The unsaturated fats found in hemp are the same as you’ll find in avocados, oily fish and nuts, which are well known for their numerous health benefits.

The most important of these benefits is increased heart health.

The debate rages on as to whether excess consumption of saturated fats can actually contribute to the risk of heart disease, but it’s been proven that unsaturated fats do the opposite.

Unsaturated fat reduces blood cholesterol, to mediate the levels to a state which reduces the risk of fatty build-up in the heart vessels and therefore lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and malfunction.

What’s more, the Omega-3 fatty acids within hemp protein powder are perfectly balanced with Omega-6.

The typical Western diet has an imbalance between these fats and these levels are often linked to the development of not just heart disease, but also cancer.

Hemp Protein Powder Risks: Should You Worry?

There’s no doubt that the negative connotations around marijuana are rife and such misconceptions will take a long time to die down.

We’re still a long way off full legal medical use of cannabis, so it’s no surprise that the plant is misunderstood and that so many people hold incorrect information on it.

Cannabis, as a drug, is made up of two parts: CBD, the relaxant, and THC, the psychotic.

The latter is what gets you high. Whilst there is a trace amount of THC in hemp, it’s completely naturally occurring and is never enough to induce any kind of psychoactive effects or any negative side effects.

The amount of THC found within hemp protein powder is not enough to affect the result of any common drug testing.

Hemp is completely legal and is grown and curated to a nutritional standard which is stringent and vigorously and regularly tested by the relevant authorities.

Unless you have a specific allergy to hemp, there is absolutely no reason to avoid consuming hemp protein powder.

However, the impressive nutritional profile of hemp protein powder can cause minor side effects if you’re not used to such a healthy dose of goodness all in one go.

The high fibre content may cause diarrhoea or stomach ache if eaten too quickly, so take it slow and ease in gently if you know you don’t already get enough fibre in your diet.

Hemp protein’s health benefits far outweigh any potential risks or side effects, and if you’d consume any other protein powder without second-guessing it, you need to ask yourself: why is this different?

We all do it, and it is incredibly smart to educate yourself on exactly what you’re choosing to consume as part of a healthy diet.

But we’re pretty confident that once you know and understand hemp protein powder’s benefits, you’ll be sold!

The Bottom Line

As with any foodstuff, hemp protein powder risks are present; but they’re minor.

And often, it seems that they’re only really discussed and debated so frequently because of the plant from which hemp is derived.

Ultimately, there’s no doubt about it: hemp protein powder and other vegan protein powders are here to stay, and rightfully so.

They’re not just cruelty-free, but sustainable too, and have less of an impact on the environment than anything involving animal by-products.

The longstanding misconception that protein comes only from meat will soon be swiftly swept aside as consumers are able to gain a better understanding of their own nutrition and dietary needs and make educated purchasing decisions for the good of their own health.

Hemp protein powder boasts a complete protein profile and a whole host of health benefits to boot, so even if you’re not following a vegan diet, don’t discount it just yet – there’s more than meets the eye to this little green plant and its offspring!

At Nutribuddy, we’re firm believers in proper protein intake from plant-based powders – so all of our product range is 100% vegan, containing no animal products, no animal by-products and no dairy.

This means that we choose not to incorporate proteins such as whey protein or casein protein within our products because they’re derived from milk.

Our in-house dieticians and nutritionists know how to perfectly balance a meal with everything the body needs… and they don’t need anything but plants to do it with!

If you’re looking to give your protein intake a real hike without resorting to anything animal products, the Nutribuddy High-Protein Sculpting Shake makes for a fantastic addition to your diet and exercise regime.

Completely cruelty-free and only utilising the naturally occurring protein from plants, almost a whopping 60% of a serving of this is pure protein, including hemp.

There’s no need to cut meals out and replace them with this shake, but instead, use it as a snack or dietary addition on top of your usual food and drink consumption (providing that’s healthy, of course!) to give a real protein and mineral boost to your nutritional profile.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nutribuddy Ltd.

What are the real benefits and risks of hemp protein powder, is it a safe addition to your diet and can it make you high? We investigate this nutritious vegan protein powder once and for all.