Is hemp seed legal in the U.S.?
Hemp seeds are small seeds found in the fruits of the Cannabis sativa L. (or, hemp) plant. They were once considered a by-product of the hemp fiber industry, but C. sativa L. is now grown for its high nutritional value. It also has many potential health benefits due to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Hemp seeds contain compounds called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the hallucinogenic effects of cannabis. This is why hemp production was legally restricted in most countries worldwide.
However, in the U.S., hemp can be used for medicinal purposes, as it has low THC levels. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 or the 2018 Farm Bill enabled hemp production, making hemp and hemp seeds legal for use in most states. However, the use of hemp products is still regulated.
What is the nutritional value of hemp seed?
Hemp seeds are considered superfoods because they are rich in nutrients. They contain all nine essential amino acids — including histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that our body needs but can’t produce on its own.
Hemp seeds contain unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid and omega-6 fatty acids such as gamma-linolenic acid. These are essential for your health and overall well-being. Hemp seeds also contain antioxidants such as terpenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids.
Three tablespoons, or 30 grams, of hemp seed provide the following nutrition:
- 166 calories
- 9.48 grams of protein
- 14.6 grams of fat
- 2.6 grams of carbohydrates
- 1.2 grams of fiber
- 0.45 grams of sugar
- 21 milligrams of calcium
- 2.38 milligrams of iron
- 210 milligrams of magnesium
- 495 milligrams of phosphorus
- 360 milligrams of potassium
- 2.97 milligrams of zinc
Hemp seed also contains vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate.
What are the health benefits of hemp seed?
The potential health benefits of hemp seeds include the following:
1. Maintains blood pressure and improves heart health
Hemp seeds are rich in good fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are polyunsaturated fats that are good for heart health. They control bad cholesterol levels and improve good cholesterol levels. This lowers your risk of developing blockages in your arteries and keeping your heart healthy.
Some animal studies have shown the preventive effects of the omega fatty acids in hemp seed. They have the potential to reduce the risk of blockages and prevent heart problems like ischemic heart disease.
Hemp seed oil is a rich source of amino acids such as arginine. This amino acid is known to produce nitric oxide, which promotes blood vessel and heart health and maintains blood pressure.
2. Improves brain health
Omega-3 fatty acids can protect nerves and the brain from damage and promote healthy brain function. This helps prevent age-related problems that can affect brain health.
With age, omega-3 fatty acid levels can decrease and lead to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Having foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like hemp seed, though, can prevent the early onset of age-related brain problems.
In particular, a study in mice showed that hemp seeds have neuroprotective effects and promote brain health. Hemp seeds have natural antioxidants like terpenoids and flavonoids. These may protect brain cells or neurons from oxidative damage, reduce inflammation, and prevent the growth of cancerous cells.
3. Helps manage inflammatory conditions
For centuries, hemp seed has been used as a treatment for inflammation in traditional Korean and Chinese medicine. Clinical evidence shows that the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in Cannabis sativa L. have the power to prevent inflammation.
Eating hemp seeds can help relieve painful symptoms related to inflammation. Hemp seed, for instance, contains an omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid. Its natural anti-inflammatory effects can help manage conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
4. Helps manage skin conditions
Applying hemp seed oil to your skin can help manage skin problems. Hemp seed extract has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects that can heal and protect your skin. It also boosts the production of collagen, which is a protein that keeps skin healthy. This is why it can be used to treat conditions like acne and eczema.
5. Improves gut health
Eating hemp seeds can be good for your gut. Hemp seeds are rich in fiber and other essential nutrients that improve digestion and keep your gut clean. The fiber content also helps reduce cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and appetite. This, in turn, reduces your risk of obesity and diabetes.
6. Regulates the immune system
Hemp seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, good fats, and other plant compounds that boost immunity. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties protect your immune cells. They also prevent the production of inflammatory molecules that can increase your risk of getting ill. They ensure that your immune system functions well enough to protect you against infections and diseases.
7. Reduces stress, anxiety, and migraines
Hemp seeds are rich in magnesium, amino acids, and vitamins that act as natural stress relievers. They also contain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. Hemp seeds also have high levels of CBD, which has been proven to be useful in treating migraines, depression, and anxiety.
8. Prevents hormonal imbalances
In traditional medicine, hemp seeds have been used to treat gynecological and hormonal problems. The right amount of nutrients and protective properties of hemp seeds can help maintain and regulate hormones inside your body.
To study the effects of hemp seeds on hormone levels, a study was conducted on female rats with their ovaries removed. The research revealed that hemp seed extract relieved postmenopausal symptoms like anxiety. It also decreased hormone levels in the blood and prevented complications after the ovaries were removed. However, further research is required to understand the effects on humans.
How to include hemp seed in your diet
Add a nutty-flavored crunch to your diet with hemp seeds. You’ll need only 1 or 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds to enjoy its nutritious goodness. You can sprinkle them as toppings on almost any food, like breakfast cereal, smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, salads, casseroles, or desserts. You can also blend them in a smoothie or add them to baked goods like muffins. If you’re vegan, you can also make hemp seed milk at home.
Commercially, hemp seed protein powders, hemp milk, and hemp seed oil are available for consumption. Many packaged foods like cookies, crackers, bread, energy bars, and meat products are fortified with hemp seeds.
Ensure that you eat hemp seeds in moderation, as they can cause the following side effects:
- Throat irritation
- Digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting due to the high fiber content
- Bradycardia or slow heart rate
- Hallucination or euphoria if you’re sensitive to THC
If you have a hemp seed allergy, seek medical attention immediately to treat any reaction.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
ACS Omega: "Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Seed Phenylpropionamides Composition and Effects on Memory Dysfunction and Biomarkers of Neuroinflammation Induced by Lipopolysaccharide in Mice."
BioMed Research International: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Early Prevention of Inflammatory Neurodegenerative Disease: A Focus on Alzheimer's Disease."
Biomolecules: "Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Protein Hydrolysates Promote Anti-Inflammatory Response in Primary Human Monocytes."
Food Revolution Network: "All About Hemp Seeds — A Nutritionally Dense Superfood."
Franciscan Health: "Health Benefits Of Chia, Flax And Hemp Seeds."
JAMA Network Open: "Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety Symptoms."
Journal of Ethnopharmacology: "Hempseed oil induces reactive oxygen species- and C/EBP homologous protein-mediated apoptosis in MH7A human rheumatoid arthritis fibroblast-like synovial cells."
Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "Clinicians' Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils."
Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology: "The effects of Cannabis sativa L. seed (hempseed) in the ovariectomized rat model of menopause."
Nutrients: "Hemp Seeds in Post-Arthroplasty Rehabilitation: A Pilot Clinical Study and an In Vitro Investigation," "The Seed of Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional Quality and Potential Functionality for Human Health and Nutrition."
Nutrition and Metabolism: "The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed."
PeaceHealth: "Shelled Hemp Seeds."
PLoS One: "The ameliorative effect of hemp seed hexane extracts on the Propionibacterium acnes-induced inflammation and lipogenesis in sebocytes."
USDA: "Seeds, hemp seed, hulled," "The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018."
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