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Hemp: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on November 09, 2020

Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, can be seen by some people as a controversial plant, but it doesn’t need to be.

The hemp plant is a variety of Cannabis sativa that has been cultivated for its fiber, not any psychoactive effects. Many strains of hemp have none of the mental effects associated with cannabis. This type of industrial hemp has been used as a fiber source, for oil, and as an important source of nutrition for thousands of years. 

When it comes to nutrition, hemp seeds are the most important part of the plant. The seeds can be eaten whole or without the hull. They can also be turned into milk that’s similar to soy milk. Hemp seed oil can be used as a cooking oil in the same way as olive oil. There are even hemp seed supplements available in case you want to enjoy some of the impressive health benefits of hemp in your diet.

Health Benefits

The vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in hemp seeds can provide some significant health benefits. For example, hemp oil is rich in vitamin E, which is useful for helping keep your immune system functioning. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping reduce free radicals that can cause cell damage in your body.

In addition, true hemp may provide health benefits like:

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Getting enough healthy fats in your diet is important for keeping your heart and cardiovascular system healthy. Hemp seeds are particularly rich in these healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fats are known for improving heart health by reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Adding hemp oil to your diet may reduce your risk of heart problems in the future. 

Reduced Symptoms of PMS

Hemp oil is also rich in gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which has been linked to reduced symptoms of PMS. It appears that GLA reduces the effect of the hormone prolactin on the body. Prolactin is often identified as a major cause of the negative symptoms of PMS, especially breast tenderness, irritability, bloating, and depression. Hemp seed oil could be an important tool to help relieve these unpleasant symptoms. 

Improved Digestion

Fiber is critical for a healthy digestive system, and whole hemp seeds are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps add bulk to your stool and may be linked to a lower risk of bowel cancer. Meanwhile, soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic and feeds the “good” bacteria that live in your intestines.

In combination, soluble and insoluble fiber from hemp seeds help keep your digestive system running smoothly and prevent a number of common conditions such as constipation, ulcers, and hemorrhoids.

May Help Reduce Eczema 

The combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in hemp is good for more than just your heart. Early studies suggest that adding hemp seed oil to your diet may help relieve symptoms of eczema. It appears the oil in hemp seeds helps balance the lipids in your blood, reducing skin dryness and itchiness. While more studies need to be done, substituting hemp seed oil for other types of oil in your diet could be a safe and easy way to reduce skin irritation. 

Healthy Source of Plant-Based Protein

Protein is critical for the health of your muscles and organs. Hemp seeds are one of just a few plant foods that are considered “complete” proteins, containing all the essential amino acids. Your body can also absorb hemp seed protein better than many other plant-based proteins. If you choose to follow a plant-based diet, adding hemp seeds to your food is a quick and easy way to get more protein. 

Amounts and Dosage

Hemp seeds are not a low-calorie food. A single 3-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds contains 166 calories. It’s important to pay attention to your caloric intake in order to maintain your weight. Eating one to two servings of hemp seeds daily can help you get the benefits of these nutritious seeds while still eating a well-rounded diet. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Britannica: “Hemp.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

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

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method.”

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

The Journal of Reproductive Medicine: “The role of essential fatty acids and prostaglandins in the premenstrual syndrome.”

National Institutes of Health: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin E.”

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

Nutrition Reviews: “Health benefits of dietary fiber.”

Reproductive Health: “Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Seeds, hemp seed, hulled.”

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