The Cannabis sativa plant is a nutritious food source with many proven health benefits. In late 2017, low-psychoactive hemp seeds were legalised for sale as a food product in Australia.
The health benefits of hemp can be obtained from the seeds and the oil of Cannabis sativa.
The strains grown for food contain only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives the high from marijuana
Hemp seeds (or hemp hearts, as they’re sometimes called) are extremely nutritious. They are technically a nut, and therefore have a delicious, nutty flavour.
They can be eaten raw or cooked.
Essential fatty acids
Hemp seeds contain more than 30% fat, including high levels of the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). These fatty acids are the same ones that are responsible for the health benefits of fish and flaxseed oils.
Hemp seeds also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which is associated with several health benefits.
Protein and amino acids
More than 25% of hemps seeds’ total calories come from high-quality protein. This is good news for anyone looking for plant-based protein sources. Hemp seeds provide similar amounts by weight of protein as meat sources such as beef and lamb, making them an excellent choice for vegans and vegetarians.
Even better, they are a complete protein source – meaning they contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs which must come from food.
Complete plant proteins are unusual, as plants rarely contain the amino acid lysine.
Vitamins and minerals
Hemp seeds are also a good source of vitamin E and several minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron and zinc.
2. Heart health
Eating hemp seeds may reduce the risk of heart disease – which is the number one worldwide cause of death.
They contain high amounts of the amino acid arginine, which produces the gas molecule nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels to relax and widen, lowering blood pressure and strain on the heart.
A study published in 2005 looked at the arginine intakes of 13,000 people. The researchers found higher arginine intake corresponded with lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker that is associated with heart disease. The authors concluded that people may be able to lower their risk for cardiovascular disease by eating more arginine-rich foods.
The gamma-linolenic acid in hemp seeds also has anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce the risk of heart disease.
A 2010 study notes that hemp seeds could positively impact various issues affecting the heart, such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and cholesterol levels.
The oil from hemp seeds may also be good for the heart.
A 2014 review concluded that increasing dietary alpha-linolenic acid – one of the fatty acids in hemp oil – seems to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Brain Health
Who doesn’t want a healthy brain? With dementia now the leading cause of death for Australian women, and third-highest for men, keeping the brain in peak condition has never been more important
The fatty acids found in hemp seed oil that are good for the heart may also be good for the brain. It needs large amounts of healthy fats to work optimally.
Hemp seed oil is also rich in many other compounds that may help protect the brain.
A 2018 study found that a hemp seed extract containing these active compounds could help protect the brain against inflammation in mice. The authors note that hemp seed oil contains polyphenols, which may also have a protective effect on the brain.
4. Healthy Skin
The oils and fatty acids in hemp seeds can be particularly helpful for the skin.
They make hemp oil an ideal choice for nourishing the skin and protecting it against damaging inflammation and oxidation.In a 2014 review, the study authors note that applying hemp seed oil onto the skin strengthens it and boosts its ability to resist infection.
They add that hemp seed oil may be a useful treatment for various skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, acne rosacea, and lichen planus (an inflammatory skin condition).
Hemp seed oil’s fatty acids may also help to reduce the inflammation that can lead to acne. The addition of CBD from Cannabis sativa plant matter may also help to clear up acne.
A study published in 2014 found that CBD may affect the sebum (oil) glands in people with chronic acne, leading to reduced sebum production. This could potentially help to clear or prevent breakouts.
The oil may help to relieve skin dryness and itching and reduce the need for some skin medications.
5. Pain and muscle tension
Hemp oil for pain relief
When plant matter is included in the oil produced from hemp, it is known as ‘full-spectrum’ hemp oil. The full-spectrum oil contains additional compounds, such as CBD.
Hemp seeds contain small amounts of these compounds. However, stronger concentrations may have extra benefits.
For example, hemp or CBD oil can be used as a natural form of pain relief, especially in cases where the pain is caused by inflammation. High-quality hemp oil may be an alternative to pharmaceutical pain medications.
In a 2018 review, the authors note that CBD and other cannabinoids show promise for helping to manage many types of pain.
Relieving muscle tension
CBD has an anti-inflammatory effect. It may help to stimulate recovery after exercise and relieve the tension that many people experience from stress, poor posture and extended periods sitting at a desk.
When rubbed over tight muscles, full-spectrum hemp oil culd help to ease tension and promote muscle relaxation.
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the use of medicinal cannabis for some pain and muscular conditions, including cancer pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity from neurological conditions.
However, it is only available under very strict conditions.
6. Hemp for healthy digestion
Everybody knows that fibre is essential for healthy digestion. What you might not know is that whole hemp seeds are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibres.
Soluble fibre combines with water to create a gel-like material in the gut. It helps to regulate cholesterol, may reduce peaks in blood sugar and is a source of nutrients for your gut’s ‘good’ bacteria.
Insoluble fibre is the type that helps to relieve constipation and aid bowel motions by bulking up the stool. Insoluble fibre has also been linked to a lower risk of developing diabetes.
To get the benefits, you need to eat the whole seeds. De-hulled or shelled seeds have had the fibre-rich shell removed, and therefore contain little fibre.
7. Hemp for women’s health
Many women experience symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome, and hemp seeds may be able to help. These symptoms are believed to be related to sensitivity to the hormone prolactin.
Hemp seeds contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which produces prostaglandin E1 in the body. This prostaglandin reduces the effects of prolactin.
A 2011 study of women with PMS showed that taking one gram of essential fatty acids – including 210 mg of GLA – per day led to a significant improvement in symptoms. There was greater improvement when a two gram dose was used.
The GLA in hemp seeds might also help with managing the symptoms of menopause.
While the process isn’t fully understood, it seems that the GLA in hemp seeds may help to reduce the hormone imbalances and inflammation frequently associated with menopause symptoms.eason to do business with you.
A brief history of hemp
The term hemp has historically referred to as many as 22 different types of plants used to make fibre. Usually, this will be a species of Cannabis sativa.
Hemp is thought to have originated in the Himalayan highlands, from where it spread to other parts of the world.
Hemp has been farmed and used for its fibre in China from as far back as 8000 BC. Being less expensive than silk, hemp was a key textile for making clothes.
Here’s some interesting facts about hemp:
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