Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Hemp Milk?

If you have a dairy allergy or choose to avoid animal products, you may be familiar with popular dairy alternatives like soy milk and almond milk. Many other milk alternatives have appeared on grocery store shelves, including coconut, cashew, oat, and hemp.

Hemp milk is a non-dairy beverage made by blending water and seeds from the hemp (Cannabis sativa) plant. It has an earthy, nutty flavor and a creamy consistency. You can use hemp milk to replace cow’s milk in coffee, tea, cereal, smoothies, and any other recipe that calls for milk. Hemp milk is an excellent option not just for those avoiding dairy, but also for those with tree nut allergies. 

There is some concern that hemp milk causes a “high,” which stems from the fact that hemp and marijuana both come from the Cannabis sativa plant. However, hemp contains lower cannabinoid concentrations than marijuana strains. Additionally, the cannabinoids reside mainly in the flowers rather than the seeds. As such, hemp seeds, and therefore hemp milk, will not cause you to get high. 

Hemp milk contains many essential nutrients and may provide several important health benefits. It contains healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. While there are potential health benefits to drinking it, there may also be some risks for certain people. 

Nutrition Information

One cup of original hemp milk contains the following nutrients:

Compared to whole cow’s milk, hemp milk has fewer calories, protein, and carbohydrates. It also has more protein and healthy fats than other plant-based milk alternatives. Unlike other non-dairy milk options, hemp milk contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. 

Most of the fat in hemp milk is unsaturated, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These acids are essential for biological functions, and you can only get them through foods since your body doesn’t produce them.

Hemp milk is also a good source of:

Some of these nutrients are added by hemp milk manufacturers. Commercially made hemp milk may also contain added sugars and thickeners, so you should always read nutrition labels carefully.

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Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Milk

Studies on hemp seeds and hemp seed oil show that the seeds may provide several important health benefits. For instance, hemp seeds contain arginine, which produces nitric acid in your body. This acid may help improve your heart health. Hemp seeds also contain a decent amount of fiber, which can aid in healthy digestion and reduce your risk of diabetes. 

The studies on hemp milk, however, are more limited. Even so, some evidence points toward hemp milk providing potential benefits to human health:

Heart Health

The nitric oxide produced by the arginine found in hemp seeds aids in blood vessel relaxation and helps you maintain healthy blood pressure. Studies also show that people who consume more arginine are less likely to have dangerous levels of the inflammatory C-reactive protein than those who consume less arginine. These factors lower your risk of developing heart disease

Skin Health

Like hemp seeds, hemp milk contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Getting balanced omegas from food can support your skin’s response to inflammation. One study found that people with eczema who took hemp seed oil daily experienced less skin dryness and itching.

Another study found that women with more omega-6 fatty acids in their diets had less dry, thinning skin than women who consumed fewer of those fatty acids. While these studies don’t cite hemp milk directly, the non-dairy beverage does contain the fatty acids. Therefore, it may provide similar benefits.

Brain Health

The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in hemp milk may boost your brain health. Some studies have found a link between these fatty acids and a reduced risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s

Strengthened Immune System

The fatty acids in hemp seeds can boost your immune system, which may help your body combat various diseases.

More research is necessary to determine if hemp milk provides these benefits.  

Potential Risks of Hemp Milk

You should consult with your doctor before consuming hemp milk or any other supplement. Consider the following risks before drinking hemp milk:

Hemp Allergies

While uncommon, hemp milk may trigger allergic reactions. Signs of an allergic reaction include skin rash, hives, and anaphylaxis

Low Potassium Levels

Some companies fortify their hemp milk with synthetic B12 (cyanocobalamin). While rare, this form of B12 may cause low potassium levels, also called hypokalemia

Stomach Aches

Hemp seeds contain both tannins and saponins. These compounds may cause mild stomach aches in some people.

Diabetes

Some brands of hemp milk have added sugars. Too many added sugars may increase your risk of diabetes. Some hemp milk also contains thickeners like carrageenan, guar gum, or xanthan gum. These gelling agents may cause stomach aches, bloating, inflammation of the digestive system, and more adverse reactions. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 06, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Current Atherosclerosis Reports: “Dietary Nitrates, Nitrites, and Cardiovascular Disease.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Hemp Milk, Original, Fortified, with Organic Hemp Seeds.”

Euphytica: “Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview.”

Frontiers in Plant Medicine: “Variability in Seed Traits in a Collection of Cannabis sativa L. Genotypes.”

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells.”

Journal of Dermatological Treatment: “Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis.”

Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine: “The Role of Essential Fatty Acids in Human Health.”

Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics: “The Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio and Dementia or Cognitive Decline: A Systematic Review on Human Studies and Biological Evidence.”

North Carolina State University: “Is Hemp the Same Thing as Marijuana?”

Nutrition: “Association between dietary arginine and C-reactive protein.”

Nutrition and Metabolism: “The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids by skin epidermal enzymes: generation of antiinflammatory and antiproliferative metabolites.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Metabolic Effects of Dietary Fiber Consumption and Prevention of Diabetes.”

University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine: “Cyanocobalamin (oral).”

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