Hemp oil is a marginally confusing term, for it can mean either hemp seed oil or the cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Hemp seed oil, as evident from the name, is cold-pressed from the seeds of the hemp plant. CBD oil, on the other hand, is derived from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant.
There are edible and non-edible versions of both types of oil. The hemp oil benefits of both these types are somewhat similar. For this article, hemp oil refers to hemp seed oil, not CBD oil. Unrefined, hemp seed oil looks dark green, as in the photograph below.
When refined, or after the thicker darker part of the oil settles down, it looks a lighter green. The hemp seed oil has a nutty taste with a grassy flavor, which is stronger in the darker version of the oil.
Hemp seed oil is not to be confused with cannabis oil/marijuana oil/hash oil. These are oils derived from the narcotic cannabis plant, also known as marijuana. Hemp or industrial hemp belongs to the same plant family, Cannabis Sativa L, but is significantly different in its chemical composition.
The most important difference between the two plants is in the comparative concentration of the compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both plants have a high concentration of CBD, which has a number of medicinal benefits. But there is a sharp difference in the THC concentration of cannabis and hemp.
Cannabis has as high as 7.5-10% THC concentration and at times even higher. In contrast, the THC concentration in hemp is not above 0.3%. This variation is the reason behind cannabis being a drug while the hemp is not.
THC is the psychoactive chemical that gives people a “high”. Its low concentration in hemp makes hemp lack the mind-altering capacity of its narcotic cousin marijuana. The same difference exists between oils derived from the two plants also.
Nutritional Value of Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is suitable for use as a dietary supplement, as well as for topical applications on hair and skin. It is a versatile oil that lends itself to different forms of consumption. But it is not suitable for deep frying.
Cold-pressed oil derived from organically grown hemp seeds have nutrients exceptionally beneficial for human beings. Hulled or whole hemp seeds have a high oil content: 48.75% is oil in 100 grams of hemp seeds that have not been shelled.
An article published in the Journal of Nutraceuticals Functional & Medical Foods reports on the nutritional content of hemp seed oil and enumerates a number of hemp oil benefits. The authors got their results through biochemical analyses like GC-MS and LC-MS. GC-MS stands for gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and LC-MS stands for liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
Essential Fatty Acids in Hemp Seed Oil
The authors confirm that hemp oil benefits include wholesome health as this oil is a complete source of nutrition as it contains all the essential amino acids and fatty acids. An incredible fact about hemp seed oil is that it contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the exact ratio that is optimally beneficial for the human body.
According to experts, a 1:3 ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids is ideal for human health. The hemp seed oil contains these two essential fatty acids in these precise proportions. This characteristic makes hemp seed oil excel over other nutritious seed oils such as olive and soy. Three to five teaspoons of hemp seed oil per day takes care of the total intake need for essential fatty acids.
The advantage of consuming hemp seed oil for the essential fatty acids is that it comes without the harmful trans-fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids come with a hazardous impact on our cardiovascular health.
Fish and eggs constitute the other natural sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that the human body needs. Since vegans would not consume either, the hemp seed oil is particularly beneficial for them.
Health Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
Both omega 3 and omega 6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with several health benefits. Health experts believe that omega 3 PUFA can arrest the growth of tumors and cancer. It also helps regulate blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Another advantage of omega 3 fatty acids is that it improves the overall metabolic rate. Experiments have revealed that its anti-inflammatory properties are good for arthritis. It has a special benefit for diabetics as it can reduce insulin dependence.
Omega 6 PUFAs are necessary for our cells to function properly. One of the components of omega 6 is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which has beneficial effects on rheumatoid arthritis. Conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) is another omega 6 fatty acid that has a positive impact on the human body fat mass (BFM).
A paper based on an experiment in the Nottingham City Hospital, UK, with voluntary participants of breast cancer, reports findings of relevance here. Conducted on 38 women with different stages of breast cancer, this experiment revealed that the treatment is more effective when GLA is combined with the cancer drug.
However, one word of caution is necessary here. The average western diet has an excess of omega 6 fatty acids. Too much of these PUFAs can be detrimental to health.
Protein Content Powering Massive Hemp Oil Benefits
Hemp seed oil is a source of complete plant-based protein as it contains all the 10 essential amino acids. Studies reveal that celebrated vegetable oils like quinoa and soy have nine essential amino acids. Hemp seed oil protein is more healthy, therefore.
Another advantage of the protein content of hemp seed oil is that there is no phytate content. Phytates contain phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of essential minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, and zinc. Many plant-based protein sources contain phytic acid. Corn and soy are two typical examples.
The protein in hemp seed oil contains no phytates at all. It is thus a complete vegetarian protein source that does not adversely affect the mineral absorption capacity in humans.
Other Nutrients in Hemp Seed Oil
Along with the essential fatty acids and protein, hemp seed oil also contains several other natural ingredients with different health benefits. While the cannabidiol (CBD) content is much higher in the plant body of hemp, small traces of CBD are present in hemp seed oil also.
CBD comes with an entire range of health benefits, ranging from brain health to heart and joint health. The hemp seed oil also contains myrcene, which is good for cell permeability. There is beta-caryophyllene in hemp seed oil also, which has a beneficial impact on brain health and chronic health.
Another natural ingredient found in hemp seed oil is beta-sitosterol, which helps regulate the cholesterol level. It also has a special advantage for males as it binds to the prostate and reduces inflammation.
There are two types of tocopherol in hemp seed oil: a-tocopherol and y-tocopherol. Both of these are rich in vitamin E, which has special benefits for skin health. Finally, hemp seed oil contains methyl salicylate, which has pain-relieving properties.
The article that reports on the advantages of hemp seed oil on the basis of biochemical analyses asserts one very important fact. The analyses used did not find any negative effects of consuming hemp seed oil.
The authors also mention that there was no report available anywhere about any possible toxic effect of hemp seed oil. That could well be because of the ideal combination of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in hemp seed oil.