I am often asked whether hemp is safe to eat so I thought I’d give you a little run down on hemp seed nutrition and health benefits, history and some hints and tips on how best to enjoy this wonderful food….. dare I say, superfood.
The cultivation of both hemp and psychoactive cannabis dates back to 4000 BC in ancient China, when they were first noted for their industrial and medicinal use (1).
Hemp has been banned for consumption in Australia since the 1920s when it was deemed that cannabis use had become ‘problematic’ (2). This occurred even though hemp has no psychoactive properties! Hemp seeds began appearing back on health food store shelves in 2009 however, packets were labelled ‘not for internal use’, which caused some confusion. That all changed in November 2017 when amendments to the Food Standards Code meant it could legally be sold as a food source once again. So now that it’s readily available… what is it, and how can you use it?
So what exactly is hemp?
Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa (L.) plant that has been one of the largest sustainable, agricultural crops and also one of the most important industries throughout history (3). It is predominantly grown for it’s extremely strong fibre (great for clothing, paper etc.) and its use as a food. We will focus on the latter here.
When buying edible hemp, you will see it as hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts), hemp oil or hemp protein. The seeds are of course the seed of the plant and the oil is made by pressing the hemp seeds.
Will I get high from consuming hemp foods?
In short, no, you won’t. This variety of the Cannabis sativa (L.) plant contains very low concentrations of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the compound known to cause psychoactivity in cannabis. Edible hemp products were found to have <0.3% THC content in contrast to other varieties of the plant that can have up to 20% THC content and will cause someone to ‘get high’ (3).
What nutrients do hemp seeds contain?
Hemp seeds and hemp oil are nutritional powerhouses given they are particularly rich in essential fatty acids and other polyunsaturated fatty acids like gamma linolenic acid (GLA). They are also rich in Vitamin E and several minerals including magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and zinc to name a few. Hemp seeds have more protein than quinoa, chia and flaxseeds and are a good source of soluble and insoluble fibre too (3).
What are the health benefits of consuming hemp?
The nutrients found in hemp products make them excellent for supporting conditions such as:
- Constipation, due to fibre content
- Arthritis, inflammation and joint pain
- Cardiovascular health – as a result of the excellent balance of omega 3, 6 and 9
- Eczema and psoriasis
- Hemp may also help to improve hair and nail quality along with helping to reduce symptoms of PMS given the GLA content (3,4,5)
How do I use hemp products and what do they taste like?
Sprinkle the seeds on salads, throw them in a smoothie or even add them to your baking and desserts. They have a wonderfully nutty flavour that’s not unlike pistachios.
Hemp seed oil has a strong flavour and is best used unheated given its low smoke point. I like to drizzle it on cooked veg or mix it up into a vinaigrette for salads…. and I have my recipe for that below for you.
There are just SO many ways these versatile products can be used.
Where do I buy hemp products?
Hemp seeds, hemp protein and hemp seed oil can be purchased in health food stores and some pharmacies throughout Australia.
Fennel and blood orange salad with hemp oil dressing
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 1 small fennel bulb, sliced thinly
- 1/2 an avocado, sliced
- 1 blood orange, sliced thinly
- 1.5 Tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 Tbsp of hemp seed oil
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or 2 if you don’t have the next ingredient)
- 2 Tbsp of liquid left in the bottom of your kimchi or sauerkraut
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- Salt & pepper
- Arrange baby spinach in a bowl along with the sliced fennel, avocado and blood orange
- Place the hemp seed oil, apple cider vinegar, kimchi or sauerkraut juice (if using), Dijon mustard and salt and pepper in a jar. Put the lid on and give it a very good shake
- Pour over salad and then sprinkle with hemp seeds. You can also have this as a meal rather than a side if you prefer. Just add your protein of choice such as chicken, pan-fried tempeh or even halloumi to bulk it up. Enjoy!
1. Warf, B 2014, ‘High Points: An Historical Geography of Cannabis’, Geographical review, vol. 104, issue 4, pp.414-438, viewed 1 July 2018
2. State Library of NSW 2016, ‘History of drug laws’, Drugs and the law, viewed 4 July 2018
3. Rodriguez-Levya, D & Pierce, G 2010, ‘The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed’, Nutrition and Metabolism, vol 7, pp.1-9, viewed 2 July 2018
4. Jeong, M, Cho, J, Shin, JI, Jeon, YJ, Kim, JH, Lee, SJ, Kim, ES & Lee, K, 2014, ‘Hempseed oil induces reactive oxygen species and C/EBP homologous protein-mediated apoptosis in MH7A human rheumatoid arthritis fibroblast-like synovial cells’, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol.3, issue 154, pp.745-752, viewed 4 July 2018
5. Callaway, J, Schwab U, Harvima, I, Halonen, P, Mykkänen, O, & Hyvönen P, 2005, ‘Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis’, Journal of Dermatological Treatment, vol. 16, issue 2, pp.87-94, viewed 2 July 2018