What is hemp?
Cannabis sativa L, otherwise known as hemp, is an ancient plant that has been cultivated for thousands of years. This versatile, sustainable crop has a wide variety of applications and is used in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, textiles, and paper, but can also be used for soil revitalization. This plant is truly fascinating and it is estimated that over 25,000 products can be made from hemp. Making it even more appealing is the fact that every part of the hemp plant can be utilized in some way, so it’s the ideal environment-friendly crop.
There are three main applications for hemp:
- Fiber and textile
This article focuses on the types of hemp products available and their potential nutritional and medicinal applications.
What are hempseeds?
Hempseeds are the edible fruit of C. sativa L and can be deshelled to produce seeds for human or animal consumption and/or cold-pressed to create hempseed oil and hempseed meal to be used in food and supplements, animal feed, and/or cosmetics.
What is cannabidiol (CBD)?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the C. sativa L plant. It is extracted from the flower of the plant and can be used to create a variety of products with potentially therapeutic properties. Some examples include:
- Pure CBD oil which is added to foods and beverages, but also can be taken sublingually (under the tongue).
- CBD tinctures which are combined with a carrying agent like an alcohol or flavored oil and then taken sublingually. CBD tinctures can also be made into spray form or packaged into pump bottles.
- Topical CBD which comes in the form of lotions, lip balms, and salves to be applied directly to the skin.
- CBD pills which are a powdered form of CBD taken orally.
- CBD edibles which includes CBD added to food items like gummies, candies, and pastries.
In addition to human application, CBD can be used for pets in similar ways.
Can hempseeds and CBD make you high?
While confusion still exists, hempseed oil and CBD do not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component of the C. sativa L plant. However, during processing, there can be some contamination from other parts of the hemp plant, so it’s possible for hempseeds and CBD to contain minute amounts of THC, usually less than 0.3%. Hempseeds and CBD do not have a psychoactive effect.
What are the potential health applications of hempseeds?
Hempseeds are 20 to 25 percent protein and unlike most plant-based sources, hempseeds contain all the essential amino acids needed by humans. Hemp protein is the mostly easily digestible plant-based protein, making it a great option for those with digestive disorders or food allergies and sensitivities.
In addition to being a great source of protein, hempseeds are about 25 to 35% fat including a perfectly balanced fatty acid profile for humans. The right ratio of omega-3, 6, and 9 fats helps with controlling inflammation in the body to prevent chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are required in order for the body to make its own endocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG), that act on the CB1 and CB2 receptors to help maintain balance in the body.
Hempseeds are also 20 to 30% carbohydrate and include a great amount of gut-friendly insoluble fiber to help fuel the gut microbiome. The health of the gut microbiome affects every aspect of overall health, most notably how well the brain functions, the strength and function of the immune system, weight status, and the prevention of chronic diseases.
In addition to the major nutrients listed above, hempseeds contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, natural antioxidants, bioactive peptides, phenolic compounds, tocopherols, carotenoids, and phytosterols, all of which have important health-promoting functions in the body.
One product that can be made from hempseeds includes cold-pressed hempseed oil, which contains more total phytosterol content than the whole, unprocessed seeds. The most important phytosterol in hempseed oil is β-sitosterol, which has been shown in humans to reduce high cholesterol and have beneficial effects when it comes to colon cancer. In addition, this phytosterol is an antiviral, antifungal, and an anti-inflammatory.
The bioactive peptides contained in hempseeds have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, they can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and protect brain function.
Cold-pressed hempseed oil also contains a variety of phenolic compounds like flavonoids that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties important for regulating the brain-immune response thus providing a neuroprotective effect. In animal models, treatment with hempseed extract for three weeks reduced inflammatory cytokines and improved learning, memory, and cognitive function.
As reported in Nutrients, cold-pressed hempseed oil seems to be a viable source of antioxidants to help prevent oxidative damage in the body and support good health. However, more human research trials are needed.
What are the potential health applications of CBD?
As previously stated, CBD is a non-psychoactive component of the C.sativa L plant. The body has its own endocannabinoid system (ECS) and produces the endogenous cannabinoids (AEA and 2-AG) to help regulate sleep, appetite, pain, and immunity. CBD is the most studied of the phytocannabinoids and has potential therapeutic effects with regard to seizures, pain, inflammatory conditions, vomiting, anxiety, depression, addiction, skin disorders, and brain function related to its ability to interact with the ECS.
While more human studies are needed, as reported in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the evidence for the use of cannabinoids for pain in inflammatory and neuropathic disorders is tremendous. In addition, CBD may be beneficial in the treatment of addiction disorders and has been shown to decrease heroin-seeking behavior. CBD has a great safety profile and the abuse of CBD is unlikely.
In a large retrospective case series where CBD was used as an adjunct to usual psychiatric treatment for anxiety and sleep complaints, CBD use was associated with improved outcomes. Specifically, anxiety decreased by 79.2 percent and sleep scores improved 66.7 percent in the group using the CBD.
While the research is on-going, there is much excitement about the potential role CBD can play as an adjunct to traditional treatment in numerous health conditions.
Are there any side effects with hempseed and CBD use?
Hempseeds are very safe, but due to their high fat content, excessive ingestion could cause diarrhea in some sensitive individuals.
CBD has very few reported side effects. It can interact with some medications, so it’s best to check with your doctor before adding a CBD supplement if you take prescription medication.
***The information contained above is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat a medical condition***
- Farinon B, Molinari R, Costantini L, Merendino N. The seed of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional Quality and Potential Functionality for Human Health and Nutrition. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):1935. Published 2020 Jun 29. doi:10.3390/nu12071935
- Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019; 23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
- VanDolah, H., Bauer, B., & Mauck, K. Clinician’s Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2019; 94 (9); 1840-1851. Published 2019 Sept. 1 doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003