Everything You Need to Know About Hemp Seed Oil
There is plenty more to cannabis-inspired wellness than simply CBD oil - especially for those of us who are trying to eat well and support our wellbeing through a healthy diet. As this article will explore, hemp seed oil is a versatile and rich nutritional supplement that may potentially help to boost our health and vitality.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a unique subspecies (or ‘strain’) of cannabis Sativa that originated in Asia. Its stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds carry potent botanical extracts that may provide nutritious and potentially health-boosting benefits.
If you’ll pardon the pun, hemp grows like a weed - shooting up more rapidly than almost any other plant on the planet. If you’re curious to know what inspires leading researchers like Dr Ethan Russo to call hemp ‘the single most useful herbal remedy on earth’, keep reading.
A Brief History of Hemp
Hemp is one of the earliest crops to be farmed in human history - with evidence of cultivation dating back as far as 8000 BC.
Originally native to China, indigenous communities utilised hemp as a robust and decorative plant material that could be woven and manipulated to create textiles, shoes, and many other things. It didn’t spread West to Europe and beyond until the Iron Age; a time when people were more mobilised and curious to acquire goods from other countries.
From the year 800 AD, hemp crops were a popular choice for farmers in Middle Age Britain. Historical records suggest that early societies had a particular interest in the naval uses of hemp fibres: using them to make sturdy sails, ropes and netting for ships.
Hemp served as an accessible food source, as well as a folk therapy. According to Scottish researcher Dr Brian Moffat, hemp was praised in the halls of Medieval Christian hospitals and in the pages of religious plant books written by nuns.
Can Hemp Get You “High”?
The crucial difference between hemp and other strains of cannabis lies in its THC content. Growers who desire to yield a crop that stimulates a recreational “high” usually opt for varieties of the cannabis plant that are naturally high in THC and low in CBD.
According to the UK Home Office, hemp is a variety of cannabis Sativa that can be grown ‘with a THC content not exceeding 0.2%’. THC levels of 0.2% or more would render the plant an illegal substance subject to relevant laws. So far, there is no evidence to suggest that hemp with 0.2% THC content is intoxicating in any way.
Environmental Benefits of Hemp
As the current climate crisis rages on, it has become vital for us to make sustainable consumer choices whenever we can. While terms like ‘eco-friendly’ have become trendy in the modern marketplace, some popular products that claim to improve our wellbeing can do so at the expense of the planet. Did you know that coconut oil damages biodiversity and ‘may be worse than palm oil for the environment’, despite its plethora of alleged health benefits?
Thankfully, hemp is a rare example of a crop that yields nutritious oil, and is also excellent for the ecosystem. In some cases, it can even improve the condition of the soil it grows in.
Hemp is often referred to as an agricultural miracle due to its:
- Space efficiency
- Low-maintenance growing style
- Natural immunity to pests
- Lack of pesticides and herbicides while growing
- Transfer of vital nutrients into the soil
- Ability to purify polluted ground
Hemp Seed: Small But Mighty
Officially classified as a nut, hemp seed is a food that has been consumed all over the world since time immemorial. Farmers growing hemp crops for the CBDindustry preserve their flowers and leaves by removing all the ‘male’ hemp plants in the vicinity, to prevent pollination. However, when hemp is grown for nutrition and wellbeing, pollination is the goal, and hemp seeds are the product.
Hemp seeds are tiny and grow in clusters around the flowers of the hemp plant. Similar to quinoa, hemp seed has a gentle, nutty flavour that some people compare to pine nut. It is an environmentally-friendly and nutrient-rich food source that can come whole or shelled. You can enjoy hemp seeds as they are, or consume them through supplements like protein powders and nourishing hemp seed oil.
Nutritional Properties of Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds have been a traditional and fundamental food source across a wide range of countries - including places like Russia, Spain, Brazil, and China. Naturopaths and nutritionists supporting a ‘food is medicine’ philosophy often credit hemp seeds as a dietary hole-in-one. Hemp seeds contain a whole host of natural ingredients that can help support optimal health. We’ve provided a simple breakdown below.
The fibre within the hemp plant has been used industrially for thousands of years, so it stands to reason that hemp seeds can provide our bodies with a reliable source of dietary fibre. Not surprisingly, hemp seeds are very high in fibre - which can aid digestion and improve water absorption. For a fibre boost, it is best to choose whole hemp seeds, rather than shelled ones.
As the macronutrient responsible for growth and repair in our bodies, protein is vital for us to function correctly. Hemp seeds are a source of complete protein, and ideal for those who maintain a plant-based diet. Research suggests that hemp protein is very straightforward to digest. In some cases, the quality of the protein in hemp seed seems to be superior to the proteins found in other popular nuts and grains.
High protein foods achieve ‘complete protein’ status when they naturally contain all of the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) that we require. Hemp seed is a complete protein that provides the nine core amino acids that our bodies cannot produce independently.
Despite what unhealthy diet-culture may try to convince you, not all fats are bad. Fat is an essential part of the human diet, and failing to consume it in the proper forms and quantities can result in serious health consequences. ‘Good’ fats‘ - including essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 - form one-third of the hemp seed. These fatty acids can help your cells to work as intended. There is an ongoing discussion as to whether they can potentially benefit organs like the brain and heart in particular.
Minerals and Vitamins
Hemp seeds are full of essential minerals and vitamins that may assist your body in performing at its best, as part of a healthy diet. They are exceptionally high in potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin E. These substances are known to be good for your skin, hair, and general wellbeing.
Is Hemp Seed a Superfood?
When foods stand out from the rest in terms of their nutritional value, we sometimes call them ‘superfoods’. According to many doctors and nutritionists, hemp seed qualifies as a great addition to any diet, because it contains very high amounts of diverse and essential substances that help our bodies thrive.
Hemp Seed Products
As a product of the hemp plant, hemp seed has become increasingly popular due to its positive environmental impact and potential health benefits. It is available for consumption in a variety of products offering different textures and experiences.
Whole or Shelled Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds can be purchased whole (cased in a natural fibrous shell) or shelled depending on your preference. You can roast them, boil them, or eat them raw for a crunchier texture. Typically, they can be prone to going rancid quickly when exposed to light or left at room temperature. Thus, it’s best to store them in the fridge.
Hemp Seed Protein Powder
If you enjoy blending smoothies, hemp seed protein powder is an ideal substitute for artificial protein powder. It is created by crushing hemp seeds into small granules that are slightly grainier and more pronounced than other supplement powders. Hemp seed powder brings all the core nutritional benefits of hemp seed, but some people find its texture hard to get past.
Hemp Seed Milk
Like many other plant-based milk alternatives, hemp seed milk combines a plant source (in this case, hemp seed) with water. In the process, it does flush away most of the fibre contained in the seeds. However, hemp seed milk translates the nutritional qualities of hemp seed into a drink that is high in protein and healthy fat.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is often considered the holy grail of hemp seed products. With a premium quality crop, up to half of the mass of the hemp seed can be extracted as oil. According to National Agriculture databases, hemp seed oil contains more unsaturated (‘good’) fats and less saturated (‘bad’) fats than any other plant oil. Suitable for edible use and direct skin application, it is bursting with goodness and offers some potential health benefits that are impossible to ignore.
What is Hemp Seed Oil?
When pressed, hemp seeds release a green-tinged natural oil with a delicate flavour. This product is known as hemp seed oil (sometimes referred to as ‘hemp oil’). Hemp seed oil can be adapted to suit a wide range of purposes from nutrition, to soaps, painting products, and even biofuel.
When developed as a food oil or supplement capsule, hemp seed oil is usually ‘unrefined’ - processed at low temperatures, and with minimal interference. These factors help to preserve the natural tone, fragrance, or properties of the oil. We will be focussing on dietary hemp seed oil in this article.
How is Hemp Seed Oil Made?
A lot of thought goes into making hemp seed oil - perhaps more than you’d think. Firstly, the seeds have to be stored in optimal conditions to ensure that they have the right moisture levels. Too much water will trap the oil, while too little will require more heat for them to be pressed effectively. Timing is also crucial, as the ripeness of the seed influences the standard of the extracted oil.
Pressing the Oil
Traditionally, a universal oilseed press machine crushes the hemp seeds and collects the oil while discarding the pulp. However, this method can create a lot of friction, and involves external heat that may compromise the quality of the oil.
The Cold-Press Method
The cold-press method relies on physical pressure to extract oil from hemp seeds without letting the process temperature exceed 50 degrees celsius. As a result, it yields less product when compared to heat-assisted processes. However, this temperature control also means that the nutritional content, taste, and scent of the hemp seed oil are preserved; rather than suffering unnecessary damage.
Hemp Seed Oil vs CBD Oil
Alongside Hemp seed oil, CBD Oil is a wildly popular cannabis-inspired wellness product. While both come from the cannabis sativa plant, they are very different in several ways.
CBD, the potentially relaxation-promoting cannabis compound, is chemically extracted in a complex lab process which involves the leaves and flowers of hemp plants. It is then combined with a plant-based carrier oil to create CBD oil. Due to its processing methods, it may also contain THC - a restricted substance which produces psychedelic effects.
Hemp seed oil differs from CBD oil because it is:
- Extracted from hemp seeds, rather than leaves and flowers
- Free from CBD and the intoxicating compound THC
- Sourced directly from the hemp plant
A Quick Note on Hash Oil
Hemp seed oil is also not to be confused with hash oil: a waxy, resin-based oil with a THC concentration of up to 80%. Hash oil is an illegal substance in the UK. As we’ve learned so far, hemp seed oil does not produce a “high”, or contain any mood-stimulating active ingredients.
Hemp Seed Oil Benefits
Now that we’ve established what hemp seed oil is (and isn’t), it’s about time we examine some of its potential health benefits. As a valuable source of bioactive compounds, essential fatty acids, and nutrients, hemp seed oil is a must-have supplement.
In terms of wellbeing, studies suggest that hemp seed oil may potentially help to support:
- Brain function
- Heart health
- Symptoms of pain
- Healthy hair
- Balance your skin
Hemp Seed Oil and the Brain
The results of a recent study involving rodents indicate that hemp seed oil may have the potential to reduce brain-related inflammation. Due to its high concentration of healthy fatty acids, there may be a strong reason to suggest that hemp seed oil may also support the optimal functioning of the brain.
In particular, omega-3 fats may help build cell membranes in the brain, and may reduce age-related brain deterioration; while omega-6 fats may improve cognitive functioning. Current metrics suggest that hemp seed oil contains 50-70% omega-6 and 15-25% omega-3: a perfectly balanced ratio that complements the needs of the body.
Taking Hemp to Heart
Heart disease claims more lives each year than any other illness, so it makes sense to take the initiative when it comes to protecting your heart health. Some studies suggest that the natural ingredients in hemp seed oil may promote better heart health.
Arginine, an amino acid present in hemp seed oil, has shown potential in relaxing the arteries, enhancing blood flow, and possibly minimising the risk of heart disease. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), also found in hemp seed oil, may reduce inflammation within the body.
Hemp Seed Oil and Pain
There is a chance that pain triggered by inflammation may potentially be relieved by consuming hemp seed oil. Alongside the GLA mentioned above, the unique balance of vital unsaturated fats and omegas found in hemp seed oil has attracted considerable scientific interest.
A recent study exploring how hemp may potentially help chronic pain sufferers suggests that consuming hemp seed oil may be connected to reduced inflammation and improved pain symptoms. Another study focussing on the inflammation disorder multiple sclerosis produced similar findings.
Skin and Hemp Seed Oil
Limited available research indicates that hemp seed oil has the potential to enrich the skin on multiple levels - potentially alleviating the dryness that can exacerbate skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, as well as normal skin ageing.
Hemp seed oil is rich in vitamin E, a staple antioxidant that helps protect your skin. Its omega-3 content may also be linked to possible improvements in digestion, since omega-3 reacts with the ‘eicosanoid’ compounds that regulate intestinal fluids in your body. Thus, there is a possibility that hemp seed oil can support a healthy gut and help clear any digestion-related flare-ups in your skin.
Hair and Hemp Seed Oil
Many of the potential skin benefits of hemp seed oil detailed above may also apply to hair. A diet lacking in calories and core nutrients, such as essential fatty acids, can negatively impact the hair.
Studies have shown that the daily intake of dietary supplements containing omega-3, omega-6, and antioxidants like vitamin E, may prevent and even reverse diet-related hair loss. Since hemp seed oil naturally contains all of these ingredients, it may be a convenient and ideal choice for a variety of hair-related issues.
Possible Side Effects
Although hemp seed oil is a safe supplement, it is a good idea to consult your doctor before you start using it. It may not be suitable for pregnant women.
Taking daily hemp seed oil capsules, or adding up to a teaspoon of hemp seed kitchen oil to your food is an excellent way to control doses and avoid the possibility of potential side effects, such as:
- Digestive troubles caused by increased oil intake
- Thickening of the blood
Hemp Seed Oil Summary
In a nutshell (or, more appropriately, a hemp seed shell), hemp seed oil is an eco-friendly, popular, and nutritious product from the hemp strain of the cannabis Sativa plant. While hemp seeds are available in a wide variety of forms, cold-pressed hemp seed oil offers more concentrated amounts of the vital fatty acids and antioxidants that nutritionists deem essential for our bodies to function well.
Our CBII Capsule Collection
As the evidence and popularity grows, it would take a whole book to summarise the amazing uses and impressive potential health benefits of hemp seed oil. Thankfully, our CBII Hemp Seed Oil capsule collection delivers feel-good hemp in a way that’s quick and easy to swallow.
Featuring the best cold-pressed hemp seed oil, and with added vitamins and minerals, these popular supplements come in capsule form for your convenience. They are gluten-free, THC-free, and all-natural; potentially a great way to start enjoying hemp seed oil today.