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Hemp Seeds: Are They Good for You?

In this Article

In this Article
In this Article
  • Nutrition Information
  • Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
  • Potential Risks of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a rich source of nutrients. Part of the hemp plant, these seeds are technically a nut that can be eaten raw or used to make milk, oil, cheese substitutes, or protein powder.В

While related to the cannabis plant, hemp seeds have little to none of the psychoactive compound THC found in marijuana. For centuries the seeds have been used for oral and topical applications to treat and prevent certain health issues. A growing body of modern clinical research is backing up many of these claims.В

Hemp seeds’ nutty flavor and versatility also make them a great substitute for the levels of protein, essential fatty acids, and other nutritional benefits found in meat and dairy products.

Hemp seeds can be:

  • Eaten raw, roasted, or cooked
  • Shelled as hemp hearts
  • Cold-pressed to produce hemp seed oil
  • Used for non-dairy hemp milk and hemp cheese

Nutrition Information

A 30 gram serving (three-tablespoons) of raw hemp seeds contains:

  • Calories: 166
  • Protein: 9.47 grams
  • Fat: 14.6 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 2.6 grams
  • Fiber: 1.2 grams
  • Sugar: 0.45 grams

Hemp seeds are also good source of:В

Hemp seeds also contain high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.В

Studies have shown that the ideal ratio for the fatty acids in hemp seeds is 3 to 1. At this ratio, these fatty acids help to support healthy cholesterol levels, immune system function, and may help regulate your metabolism.

Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They contain all nine essential amino acids, and research suggests that hemp’s protein content is well-absorbed by our bodies.

In addition to this protein load, hemp seeds history is tied to their potential health benefits. Many modern studies have backed up several of these claims.В

Hemp seeds’ health benefits include:В

Heart Health

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.

Continued

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

One of the omega-6 fatty acids in hemp seeds is 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 nine months of GLA supplementation.

Skin Conditions

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 also help to treat acne.

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

Potential Risks of Hemp Seeds

While the fat content in hemp seeds comes primarily from its healthy essential fatty acids, eat them in moderation to meet your recommended daily consumption of fat. High fat intake can also cause nausea or diarrhea. В

Other things to consider before adding hemp seeds to your diet include:В

Medication Interference

Hemp seeds may interact with certain medications including anticoagulants.В

Studies have shown that hemp seeds reduce blood clotting, which can interact with blood-thinner prescriptions.

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 is not recommended.В

Cannabis Dependence

Hemp seed shells can contain trace amounts of THC, the active psychoactive compound in marijuana. People with a previous dependence on cannabis may consider looking for an alternative.В

Digestive Problems

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

Sources

Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. “Cannabis sativa (Hemp) Seeds, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and Potential Overdose.”

Biochemical Education: “The action of vitamin K and coumarin anticoagulants.”

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.”

Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostatis: “Dietary hempseed reduces platelet aggregation.”

Oilseeds and fats, Crops and Lipids:“A short review on sources and health benefits of GLA, The GOOD omega-6.”

Mayo Clinic. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

Nutrients: “Dietary Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review with Emphasis in Epidemiological Studies.”

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

Plant Science: “Terpenes in Cannabis sativa – From plant genome to humans.”В

PLOS One: “The ameliorative effect of hemp seed hexane extracts on the Propionibacterium acnes-induced inflammation and lipogenesis in sebocytes.”>

The British Medical Journal (BMJ): “The importance of a balanced ω-6 to ω-3 ratio in the prevention and management of obesity.”
The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behaviour Letter: “FDA on CBD in pregnancy and breastfeeding”

USDA FoodData Central: “Seeds, hemp seed, hulled.”

Find out what the research says about hemp seeds, who should have them, and how they may affect your health.

6 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

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Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa.

They are from the same species as cannabis (marijuana) but a different variety.

However, they contain only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Hemp seeds are exceptionally nutritious and rich in healthy fats, protein and various minerals.

Here are 6 health benefits of hemp seeds that are backed up by science.

Technically a nut, hemp seeds are very nutritious. They have a mild, nutty flavor and are often referred to as hemp hearts.

Hemp seeds contain over 30% fat. They are exceptionally rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).

They also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which has been linked to several health benefits (1).

Hemp seeds are a great protein source, as more than 25% of their total calories are from high-quality protein.

That is considerably more than similar foods like chia seeds and flaxseeds, whose calories are 16–18% protein.

Hemp seeds are also a great source of vitamin E and minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc (1, 2 ).

Hemp seeds can be consumed raw, cooked or roasted. Hemp seed oil is also very healthy and has been used as a food and medicine in China for at least 3,000 years (1).

Summary Hemp seeds are rich in healthy fats and essential fatty acids. They are also a great protein source and contain high amounts of vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide ( 3 ).

Interestingly, eating hemp seeds may reduce your risk of heart disease.

The seeds contain high amounts of the amino acid arginine, which produces nitric oxide in your body ( 4 ).

Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that makes your blood vessels dilate and relax, leading to lowered blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease ( 5 ).

In a large study in over 13,000 people, increased arginine intake corresponded with decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker. High levels of CRP are linked to heart disease ( 6 , 7 ).

The gamma-linolenic acid found in hemp seeds has also been linked to reduced inflammation, which may decrease your risk of diseases like heart disease ( 8 , 9 ).

Additionally, animal studies have shown that hemp seeds or hemp seed oil may reduce blood pressure, decrease the risk of blood clot formation and help the heart recover after a heart attack ( 10 , 11 , 12 ).

Summary Hemp seeds are a great source of arginine and gamma-linolenic acid, which have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Fatty acids may affect immune responses in your body ( 13 , 14 , 15 ).

Studies suggest that your immune system depends on the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Hemp seeds are a good source of polyunsaturated and essential fatty acids. They have about a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which is considered in the optimal range.

Studies have shown that giving hemp seed oil to people with eczema may improve blood levels of essential fatty acids.

The oil may also relieve dry skin, improve itchiness and reduce the need for skin medication ( 16 , 17 ).

Summary Hemp seeds are rich in healthy fats. They have a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which may benefit skin diseases and provide relief from eczema and its uncomfortable symptoms.

About 25% of calories in hemp seeds come from protein, which is relatively high.

In fact, by weight, hemp seeds provide similar amounts of protein as beef and lamb — 30 grams of hemp seeds, or 2–3 tablespoons, provide about 11 grams of protein (1).

They are considered a complete protein source, which means that they provide all the essential amino acids. Your body cannot produce essential amino acids and must obtain them from your diet.

Complete protein sources are very rare in the plant kingdom, as plants often lack the amino acid lysine. Quinoa is another example of a complete, plant-based protein source.

Hemp seeds contain significant amounts of the amino acids methionine and cysteine, as well as very high levels of arginine and glutamic acid (18).

The digestibility of hemp protein is also very good — better than protein from many grains, nuts and legumes ( 19 ).

Summary About 25% of the calories in hemp seeds come from protein. What’s more, they contain all the essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source.

Up to 80% of women of reproductive age may suffer from physical or emotional symptoms caused by premenstrual syndrome (PMS) ( 20 ).

These symptoms are very likely caused by sensitivity to the hormone prolactin ( 21 ).

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in hemp seeds, produces prostaglandin E1, which reduces the effects of prolactin ( 22 , 23 , 24 ).

In a study in women with PMS, taking 1 gram of essential fatty acids — including 210 mg of GLA — per day resulted in a significant decrease in symptoms ( 22 ).

Other studies have shown that primrose oil, which is rich in GLA as well, may be highly effective in reducing symptoms for women who have failed other PMS therapies.

It decreased breast pain and tenderness, depression, irritability and fluid retention associated with PMS ( 25 ).

Because hemp seeds are high in GLA, several studies have indicated that they may help reduce symptoms of menopause, too.

The exact process is unknown, but the GLA in hemp seeds may regulate the hormone imbalances and inflammation associated with menopause ( 26 , 27 , 28 ).

Summary Hemp seeds may reduce symptoms associated with PMS and menopause, thanks to its high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

This is a detailed article about hemp seeds and their health benefits. Here are 6 ways that consuming hemp seeds can improve your health.