Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on January 10, 2024
6 min read

Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp (Cannabis sativa) plant. Technically, the industrial hemp plant is the same as the cannabis (marijuana) plant. But despite being the same genus and species, hemp doesn’t have the same narcotic effects as cannabis, but it still shares a similar history.

Hemp was traditionally grown to make cloth and rope, with the seeds used mainly for animal feed. The seeds were also used to treat and prevent certain health issues. Hemp cultivation declined with the rise of synthetic textiles and the use of some types of cannabis as drugs.

In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act made hemp production illegal throughout the United States. In the 1970s, it was classified along with cannabis as a Schedule 1 federally controlled substance. It wasn’t until the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that industrial hemp became legal again. It’s a versatile plant that many people use to make fabrics, plastic and paper bag alternatives, pet bedding, biofuel, and food. 

In the last few decades,  people have gotten interested in the nutritional value of hemp seeds. They can be eaten raw or used to make milk, oil, cheese substitutes, or protein powder. The FDA lists them as a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) food. 

While related to the cannabis plant, the seeds have little to none of the psychoactive compound THC found in marijuana. The seeds also have only trace amounts of the medicinal compound CBD.

Hemp hearts vs. hemp seeds

Hemp hearts are the inner part of hemp seeds. They are softer than hemp seeds and have almost the same nutritional value except for lacking fiber. Some people prefer to eat the hearts rather than the seeds.

Hemp seeds are a highly nutritious food. They’re over 30% fat and are rich in two essential fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6), which help reduce the risk of heart disease. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is typically 2:1 or 3:1 in hemp seeds. 

In addition to the essential fatty acids, hemp seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, which makes up approximately 25% of their calories. The seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, and research suggests that hemp’s protein content is well-absorbed by our bodies.


These small seeds provide many important health benefits, including:

Healthy digestion

Hemp seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber. They contain soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are necessary for healthy digestion. Healthy digestion is important for avoiding issues such as constipation. Getting enough fiber in your diet is also linked to a lower risk of developing certain health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer

Improves heart health

Fiber plays a role in lowering your cholesterol levels, which is important for a healthy heart. Hemp seeds also contain other nutrients that can aid in the health of this vital organ, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as the amino acid arginine

Arginine produces nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide helps blood vessels to relax, which lowers your blood pressure and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. Arginine may also help to reduce C-reactive protein levels, which further helps your heart. 

Hemp seeds are a great source of magnesium, which helps regulate your heartbeat and is linked to the prevention of coronary heart disease. They also contain linoleic acid, which one study found reduced participants’ cholesterol levels by 15% and may act to reduce blood pressure.

Reduces inflammation

In addition to alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, hemp seeds contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which may have anti-inflammatory effects similar to drugs like ibuprofen. One study found a 75% reduction in arthritis-associated pain in participants after 9 months of GLA supplementation. Reducing inflammation may help to lower your risk of developing many conditions, such as:

Aids in skin health

Inflammation can contribute to skin conditions such as acne and atopic dermatitis. Acne may also occur as a result of too little omega-3s in your diet. Some research suggests that increasing your omega-3 intake can help to reduce the symptoms of skin conditions and improve your skin’s health. 

Hemp oil can be used in cooking to add nutritional benefits to your meal, and it can also be applied topically to the skin. Studies have found that hemp seed oil can relieve the symptoms of eczema and improve dry or itchy skin.

Research is ongoing, but hemp seed oil’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects may help to treat acne.

May help with PMS and menopause symptoms

The gamma-linolenic acid in hemp seeds produces prostaglandin E1, which helps reduce the effects of prolactin, particularly those causing the side effects of premenstrual syndrome. GLA may assist in reducing breast tenderness, irritability, and water retention. 

The fatty acid could help reduce symptoms of menopause. Studies show that GLA may help with the hormone imbalances that occur during menopause, as well as inflammation.  

May aid brain health

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in hemp seeds is the optimal level for nutritional benefit. This balance supports both heart and cognitive health and is often lacking in most diets.

Hemp seeds contain plant compounds called terpenes. While research is ongoing, studies suggest that terpenes may help protect the brain and prevent tumor growth.

Hemp seeds are a highly nutritious food. They contain many important nutrients, such as:

Nutrients per serving

In 3 tablespoons hemp seeds, you’ll find:

  • Calories: 166
  • Protein: 10 grams
  • Fat: 15 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 1.2 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram


While hemp seeds are a healthy addition to your diet, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, they are high in calories and fat. Eating the seeds in moderation can be beneficial, but eating too many may lead to high caloric and fat intake. Here are some other things to watch out for:

Medication interference

Hemp seeds may interact with certain medications including anticoagulants. Studies have shown that hemp seeds reduce blood clotting, which can interact with prescription blood thinners.

The seeds may also interfere with cardiac glycosides (heart drugs) such as digoxin. These medications help to maintain a healthy heart rate, and hemp can do the same. Combining the two may lead to bradycardia, a slower-than-normal heart rate.

Hemp seeds may enhance the effects of certain diuretics, drugs that get rid of excess fluids in your body. They can trigger your body to flush out too much potassium, which can lead to dangerously low potassium levels.

Pregnancy concerns

There is not enough clinical research to show that hemp is safe either orally or topically for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so it's not recommended. 

Cannabis dependence

Hemp seed shells can contain trace amounts of THC, the active psychoactive compound in marijuana. If you had a previous dependence on cannabis, consider looking for an alternative. 

Digestive problems

The fiber content in hemp seeds can cause digestive discomfort like bloating, nausea, or constipation if you eat them in large amounts. Make sure to drink plenty of water when eating hemp seeds to help avoid gut problems. 

You can find hemp seeds for sale in most grocery and health food stores, and you can use them in different ways. Some of the most popular ways include:

  • Eating the seeds raw, roasted, or cooked
  • Blending them into smoothies
  • Topping salads or yogurt
  • Baking hemp seeds into muffins
  • Making homemade hemp milk or hemp cheese
  • Shelling for hemp hearts
  • Cold-pressing to produce hemp seed oil

Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant, but they contain no THC or CBD. They're full of nutrition and can be eaten raw or used to make milk, oil, cheese substitutes, or protein powder. Hemp seeds may make some medications less effective, so let your doctor know if you're using them.

Is it OK to eat hemp seeds every day?

It's probably not a good idea because they're high in fat and calories.

Do you get CBD from eating hemp seeds?

Unlike the hemp plant, hemp seeds have little to no CBD.

Who should not take hemp seeds?

People who take anticoagulants or other types of heart medications should speak to their doctor before taking hemp seeds. So should people with gastric problems. There's little research on using hemp seeds while pregnant or breastfeeding, so it's best to avoid them if you are.