Hemp Oil Benefits

hemp seed oil benefits

Hemp oil, or hempseed oil, is an increasingly popular healthy oil available in bottles for use in the kitchen, or in capsules for health benefits. Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds of non-marijuana strains of Cannabis sativa plants, which are known as industrial hemp. Hemp seed oil provides nutritional benefits in the form of its unique blend of essential fatty acids.

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Hemp seed oil nutritional balance

A recent analysis of vegetable oils found that hemp seed oil provides around 63% polyunsaturated fats, 28% monounsaturated fats and just 9% saturated fats.  Most sources describe hemp seed oil as consisting of around 55% omega 6 (linoleic acid) and 16% omega 3 (alpha-linolenic) essential fatty acids, providing a ratio of just over 3 to 1.

Hempseed oil is often suggested as an alternative source of omega-3 fatty acids for those unable or unwilling to take omega-3 rich fish oils. However a recent analysis of cold-pressed hemp seed oil found that almost all the  polyunsaturates were present as omega-6s (99%) with very few in the form of omega-3s (1%). This surprising result suggests that different strains of commercially grown hemp plants produce a different balance of hemp seed oil.

Normally, I would not recommend a vegetable oil with a high content of omega-6 as these are converted to inflammatory substances (eicosanoids) in the body can make inflammatory conditions worse. However, some of the omega-6 in hemp seed oil is in the form of  gamma-linolenic acid which has an anti-inflammatory action and, in fact, hempseed oil has been used for centuries in Chinese and Korean medicine to treat inflammatory conditions such as eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you are looking for a nutritionally balanced hemp oil that provides a good amount of omega-3s, check labels and only buy a product that provides a breakdown of its fatty acid balance. Flaxseed oil is an excellent vegetarian source of omega-3s.

Hemp oil health benefits

Hemp seed oil has similar uses to evening primrose and flaxseed oils. It is used to correct hormone imbalances, improve skin quality, to strengthen brittle nails and to improve hair thickness and gloss. Hemp seed oil also contains useful levels of vitamin E. While whole hemp seeds are an excellent source of fibre, magnesium, iron and zinc, these are not present in pure hemp seed oil.

Hemp seed oil and eczema

Hempseed oil is traditionally used to treat eczema due to its anti-inflammatory effects. A small study involving 20 people with atopic dermatitis found that taking hempseed oil at a dose of 30ml per day, for 8 weeks, significantly improved symptoms of skin itching and dryness, and reduced the need for emollient creams compared with a similar period in which they took olive oil.

Hemp seed oil products are an excellent intensive moisturiser for any dry skin condition, including cracked skin, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and rosacea.

Hemp seed oil and rheumatoid arthritis

Preclinical research suggests that the traditional use of hemp seed oil to treat rheumatoid arthritis was based on sound effects. The effects of hempseed oil were tested on synovial cells obtained from people with rheumatoid arthritis and helps to damp down some of the abnormal immune effects of anti-rheumatoid factor.

Hemp seed oil and cholesterol

Hemp oil contains a high level of plant sterols such as beta-sitosterol and campesterol which block the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. Preclinical studies suggest that hempseed oil helps to prevent increased blood stickiness caused by a high cholesterol diet, and is thought to result from increased levels of gammalinolenic acid (GLA).

Hemp seed oil and MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) has been associated with an imbalance between unsaturated and saturated fatty acids in cell membranes. In traditional Iranian medicine, MS is treated with dietary changes known as a Hot Nature diet, designed to damp down inflammation and abnormal immune reactions. This diet includes a lot of spices such as turmeric, and vegetables from the cabbage and turnip family, plus some permitted nuts, beans, fish, meat and dairy foods. In a study involving 100 people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, one group took olive oil supplements at a dose of around 20g per day, another group took a combination of 9 parts hemp seed oil to 1 part evening primrose oil (20g per day) while a third group took the hemp seed oil blend and also followed the Hot Nature diet, for 6 months. At the end of this time, there were significant improvements in immune function and decreased symptom severity and relapse rates in those taking the hempseed oil blend, while there was a worsening in those using the olive oil. The best results were seen in those combining the hemp seed oil blend with the Hot Nature diet.

Cannabidiol and medical marijuana also have beneficial effects in people with multiple sclerosis, and in the UK a prescription only treatment, Sativex Oromucusoal Spray (which contains a blend of THC and CBD extracted from the leaves and flowers of drug-strains of the Cannabis plant) can be prescribed to help relax moderate to severe limb stiffness when other MS treatments have not worked.

Hemp oil dose

The usual dose of health benefits is 10ml to 30 ml a day, best taken with food. Hempseed oil can also be used in the kitchen for cooking.

Where possible, select an organically grown, cold-pressed hemp seed oil product for maximum nutritional value, and low levels of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals.

Hemp oil versus CBD oil

Hemp oil and CBD oil are both derived from non-drug strains of Cannabis plants known as industrial hemp. Hemp oil is pressed from hemp seeds, while cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from the leaves, flowers and stems of the same plants. The extracted CBD is then mixed with an oil (usually hemp oil, olive oil or coconut oil) to produce cannabidiol or CBD oil which is used to improve relaxation, anxiety, pain and sleep. CBD oil has a high level of cannabidiol, but contains very little of the psychoactive substance (THC) that is present in marijuana. In theory, hemp seed oil also has very low levels of THC, but this is not always the case as described below.

NB Some products describe themselves as ‘full-spectrum hemp oil’. These are not hemp seed oils, but are an oil (which may well be hemp seed oil) which is blended with cannabinoids such as CBD extracted from the leaves and stems of the same hemp plants. This can get confusing!

Cannabinoids in hemp oil

While hemp seed oil contains significantly lower levels of cannabinoids than the flowers, leaves and stems of industrial hemp, they do contain a low level. Some studies have shown that levels of the psychoactive substance, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in Canadian hemp seed oil products is below the level that would cause a positive result on urine drug tests. However, a study in the US detected THC in all 8 hemp seed oil products tested (some bottled oils, some capsules) at concentrations ranging from 11.5 mg/g to 117.5 mg/g. Some THC was also found in the urine of volunteers taking 15ml doses of these oils, with urinary concentrations ranging from 1ng/ml to 49 ng/ml. Drug test screening for THC typically use a cut off of 50 ng/ml for a positive result, so consumption of large amounts of hempseed oil could raise urine levels above this range. Positive tests have been reported with use of hempseed oil products.  If you are subject to random urine drug tests, you may prefer to avoid hemp seed oil altogether, or to only use hemp oils that have been tested and state they have very low THC levels. Some oils are labelled as having undetectable amounts of THC (below 3 parts per million).

Click here to see my recommended hemp oil supplements on Amazon.

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About Dr Sarah Brewer

QUORA EXPERT - TOP WRITER 2018 Dr Sarah Brewer MSc (Nutr Med), MA (Cantab), MB, BChir, RNutr, MBANT, CNHC Cert IoD qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master's degree in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey. Sarah is a registered Medical Doctor, a registered Nutritionist and a registered Nutritional Therapist. She is an award winning author of over 70 popular self-help books and a columnist for Prima magazine.

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