Hemp seeds, or hempseed, have drawn more attention in recent years from researchers and health advocates alike.
Hempseed is considered a ‘superfood’ for many reasons. And while its link to the cannabis plant remains a barrier, scientists are continuing to discover new benefits of the seed and its derivatives.
But while research may still be evolving, it turns out that hempseed has had a long history as a health food. Here are 9 of the most notable and surprising health benefits that hemp seeds may offer.
1. Used as food and medicine for 3000 years
Humans have made use of the hemp plant — and its nutritional benefits — since the beginning of written history. The Ancient Chinese relied on hempseed and hempseed oil as both a food and medicine. In fact, evidence suggests the seed was used in prehistory as well.
Though hempseed is only starting to gain popularity in the West, it remains an important grain in traditional Asiatic food and medicines.
2. Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals
Hempseed has high levels of fiber and vitamins A, C, and E. It is also rich in minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, and has modest levels of iron and zinc.
3. Rich in antioxidants
Hempseed contains high levels of vitamin E, which is one of the most important antioxidants. It also contains tocopherol, which is known to have benefits in Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis, and phytol, which has both anticancer and antioxidant properties.
4. Fights bad cholesterol
5. Improves skin conditions
Dietary hempseed oil has also been shown to improve clinical symptoms of atopic dermatitis. A study published in 2005 concluded that its cholesterol and skin benefits were both due to “the balanced and abundant supply of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) in this hempseed oil.”
6. Contains perfect balance of fatty acids
Hempseed oil contains a 3:1 ratio of the two essential fats: omega-6 and omega-3. This is the ideal ratio recommended by WHO and Health Canada for cardiovascular health. No other nut or vegetable oil contains this ratio.
7. Prevents heart disease
Hempseed’s fat profile is believed to help prevent a variety of heart conditions.
A study published in 2007 concluded hempseed can prevent blood clotting, which “may be of benefit in the protection against clot-induced strokes and myocardial infarctions.” Another study concluded that hempseed may offer significant protection against stroke.
Finally, the American Chemical Society analysis concluded that the high levels of α-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fat) in hempseed “may have favorable nutritional implications and beneficial physiological effects on the prevention of coronary heart disease and cancer.”
8. Beneficial in degenerative diseases
The same analysis concluded that the level of γ-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fat) in hempseed “provides it with a high pharmaceutical value for degenerative chronic diseases.” According to the authors, these may include atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or certain types of cancer.