This remarkable little plant has seen a recent surge in popularity as more and more people discover the remarkable health benefits of hemp.
The use of hemp seeds and hemp seed oil is far from new. Both have been used since ancient times as natural remedies. The Chinese have been successfully using hemp seed oil in their medicines for at least three thousand years. Hemp seeds, on the other hand, are a very versatile food that has astonishing health benefits, and can be enjoyed raw, cooked, or toasted.
Science is starting to back up what primordial tradition has known for some time: hemp is a little bit magic. Due to some remarkable properties contained in the small seeds of the plant, and the oil that can be made from them, hemp is gaining a unique position in the health industry. With studies showing benefits for everything from Cancer to heart disease, and PMS to menopause, the medicinal benefits of hemp are starting to look a little legendary.
Hemp has quickly outshone the existing darlings of the health industry, including cod liver oil, primrose oil, flaxseed, and chia seeds. Here’s why…
PMS and menopause
As a woman there are certain facts of life that can’t be avoided, and certain biological imperatives that (for most women) can be physically and emotionally quite traumatic. Around 80% of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during their reproductive years with symptoms ranging from painful cramps to unpredictable outbursts of emotion.
But while your reproductive years can be emotional roller-coaster punctuated by pain and the inability to stop crying, it’s nothing compared to the equally emotional and even greater physical upheaval that occurs when your fertility comes to an end.
The menopause greets us all at a certain age, armed with yet more unpredictable hormonal changes, and the horrors of hot flushes, night sweats, and a sudden loss of libido.
It can often feel like nature played the mother of all practical jokes on women, and anything that can ease the side effects of that prank is welcome.
Many of the symptoms of PMS are caused by our sensitivity to prolactin, a hormone. The gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which occurs naturally in hemp seeds produces prostaglandin E1. This has been shown to reduce the negative effects of prolactin on our fragile systems during our menstrual cycle.
A study of women suffering from PMS demonstrated that taking just one gram of essential fatty acids per day, which included 210mg of GLA, resulted in a considerable reduction in symptoms. Additional studies confirm this, indicating that primrose oil – a rich source of GLA – is extremely effective for relieving PMS symptoms that have proven resistant to standard treatments and therapies. As another, potentially greater natural source of GLA, hemp seeds are a simple and easy way to introduce a potent (and tasty!) source of GLA into your diet, and decrease the depression, irritability, tenderness, and fluid retention that often come with PMS.
Even better news is that this GLA rich food is equally beneficial for reducing symptoms of the menopause. Although further studies and human trials are needed, the existing scientific evidence is very promising. Given the limited range of treatment options for the menopause, and the fact the main form of treatment – hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – has been linked to the development of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, blood clots, and stroke, hemp offers a viable, natural alternative with no discernible downsides. Hurray!
Clinical researcher and Bioriginal Food and Science Corp education coordinator Karlene Karst says…
“Hemp seed oil is a popular source of the omega-3 ALA as well as the omega-6 fatty acids, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Many women use hemp seed oil to help with menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and depression, as well as for improving the natural beauty and glow of the skin.”
Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are the new darlings of nutrition. Despite the name, hemp seeds are actually a nut and not only have a deliciously mild and nutty flavour, they are incredibly nutritious.
While hemp seeds contain over thirty percent fat, it is the coveted ‘good fat’ that comes from being exceptionally rich in two fatty acids:
- linoleic acid, or omega-6; and
- alpha-linolenic acid, or omega-3.
Not only are hemp seeds a fabulous source of essential fatty acids, they are also perfectly balanced. The proportions of their nutrients provide you with the optimum balance of oils, making them a far superior source than the previous go-to in this area, cod liver oil.
To date, hemp seeds are the only known food to possess this flawless 3:1 balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3.
In addition to their healthy fatty acids, a full twenty-five percent of the calories in hemp seeds are protein based. That’s a lot more than similar foods like flaxseeds and chia seeds, which are both highly prized as a source of plant-based protein, but only contain sixteen to eighteen percent.
The final feather in the hemp seed cap of nutritional value is the wealth of vitamin E, and vital minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, sulfur, iron, and zinc, which they contain in abundance.
“Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are a fab source of plant-based protein and l’m a big fan of increasing our plant-based nutrition. They are a complete protein source, which means they contain all the essential amino acids. They are also a good source of essential fatty acids and high in magnesium and other minerals. I add mine to smoothies, sprinkle them on salads, and even stir them into porridge. Be sure to buy ‘shelled hempseeds’ – hempseed shells are incredibly difficult to digest and are very likely to cause bloating and discomfort.”
The world over, the number one cause of death is heart disease. Among the many benefits of hemp seeds is their potential to actively reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Hemp seeds are not magic bullets, and should never be treated as such, but science is on the side of hemp in this case, and there is strong evidence to support the benefits of hemp seeds for the prevention of heart disease. So much so they are often called hemp seed hearts.
Hemp seeds contain very high concentrations of the amino acid arginine, which the body uses to produce nitric oxide. This is a gas molecule which relaxes and dilates your blood vessels, lowering your blood pressure and, as a result, reducing your chances of developing heart disease.
An of over thirteen thousand individuals who were actively increasing their intake of arginine further indicated that there is a direct link between increased levels of the amino acid, and the decrease of C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. This makes hemp seeds a double hitter where heart disease is concerned, as CRP is a dangerous inflammatory marker, which is linked to heart disease.
Not content with this rather impressive line-up, hemp seeds score a hat-trick in the heart disease front, as they contain gamma-linolenic, which has also been shown to reduce the inflammation that can cause heart disease. There are positive indications that both hemp seeds and hemp seed oil may well be able to reduce blood pressure and the risk of blood clots, all of which aid the body in recovering in the event of a heart attack. At present these studies have only been carried out on animals, so we must wait for human trials to be sure, but it’s certainly another very positive sign!
Skin and immunity
The perfectly balanced fatty acids found in hemp seeds have been seen to strengthen the body’s immune responses. Studies conducted into people suffering from eczema have demonstrated that the use of hemp seed oil raises the levels of these essential fatty acids, and in so doing improves the skin. Hemp seed oil used topically can relieve dry and irritable skin, soothe itchiness, and thus reduce the need for harsher, chemically-based skin medications.
Skincare expert Precious Jason, of Etie’no Skincare says…
“Hemp oil is a fantastic hydrator. It’s versatile on all hair types and has the ability to nourish the hair shaft and promote healthy hair growth. I love it in our fantastic shampoo bar which easily replaces the need for conventional, toxic shampoos or silicone-based hair products. It is a wonder ingredient!”
While there is still some work to be done in the scientific community to fully explore the full benefits of hemp seeds, the existing evidence is overwhelming. We may not yet understand precisely why, but this little plant appears to be a powerhouse of nutritional and medicinal benefits. Given that it’s also a tasty addition to many great recipes, can be made into a delicious, plant-based milk, and forms a luxurious oil that augments all manner of cosmetic products, it’s safe to say hemp-based products are going to be a firm favourite in the health industry for years to come.