What is Hemp Seed? Big Nutrition in A Small Package

Hemp seeds are the small, edible seeds of the non-psychoactive, industrial variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. They will not cause any kind of intoxication upon consumption. However, they will infuse your diet with a rich source of nutrition. The only thing marijuana and hemp seeds have in common is their shared history of ridiculous legislation.

Hemp Seed Has A Lot of Nutrition

Hemp seeds are so nutritious, one study found that a diet consisting only of hemp seed and bitter vegetables is a sustainable way to prevent the chronic diseases that plague Western society. The 2018 study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, fed separate diets to two groups of aged mice. One group received a diet of hemp seed and bitter greens, while the other was fed a “Western” diet. The mice who ate the hemp seed and vegetable diet had longer life spans, improved cognitive function, and seemed to be less vulnerable to age-related metabolic syndrome, fatty liver, gut dysbiosis, and chronic inflammation when compared to the Western diet-fed mice.      

Hemp seeds are a complete protein, or a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids to fulfill our dietary needs. Additionally, they contain all of the essential fatty acids we need. While our bodies can synthesize most healthy fats, they cannot synthesize linoleic or alpha-linolenic. We must get these two fatty acids from external sources. Hemp seeds are one of the few plant-based sources that contain both of them.

Hemp is a good addition to your dietTwo servings of hemp seeds will give you about ten grams of protein, a very high amount for a plant food. Unshelled hemp seeds are high in fiber as well, an important nutrient that promotes bowel regularity. Hemp seeds contain an array of important vitamins including A, C, E, B-6, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, phosphorous, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and beta-carotene. Finally, hemp seeds are known anti-oxidants, a feature that makes them preventative against some cancers and neurodegenerative disease.

Hemp seeds are good for your heart

Hemp seeds are good for cardiovascular healthHypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the major preventable causes of cardiovascular disease. ACE inhibitor drugs, the conventional treatment for hypertension, can be both costly and risky. Some of the side effects of ACE inhibitory drugs include low blood pressure, elevated potassium levels, kidney problems, respiratory problems, rashes, swelling of the skin, and birth defects. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded that hemp seeds contain significant amounts of hypotensive peptides, short chains of amino acids that decrease blood pressure.      

Hemp seeds are anti-neurodegenerative

A 2017 study published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry found that grossamide, a chemical compound contained in hemp seed, exhibits anti-inflammatory properties that may make it a possible alternative therapy for neuroinflammation accompanying neurodegenerative diseases.

Hemp seed consumption might have preventative effects against the progression of multiple sclerosis

Inflammation, oxidative stress, and liver dysfunction have all been implicated in the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative disease leading to blurred vision, numbness, weakness, fatigue, speech impairment, and muscle pain and dysfunction. A double-blind, randomized trial published in a 2015 edition of Complementary Therapies in Medicine concluded that patients suffering from relapsing-remitting MS, the most common progression of the disease in which the expression of symptoms are interrupted by periods of remission, could benefit from including anti-oxidant foods like hemp seed and evening primrose oils into their diets.

Hemp is Not Marijuana, but It Is Cannabis. 

Hemp is non-psychoactiveThe terms hemp, cannabis, and marijuana have become interchangeable, though they do not mean the same thing. While marijuana and hemp are both cannabis, hemp is not marijuana. Like the medicinal and recreational cannabis sold in dispensaries around the country, hemp is Cannabis sativa. However, hemp is a non-psychoactive variation with a longer history in North America than marijuana.

Hemp was cultivated in North American colonies because of its array of industrial uses. Hemp can be used in building material, as fuel, in medicine, in animal and human nutrition, in textiles, and more. However, it does not have the same chemical makeup as cannabis purchased for recreational use. It contains trace amounts of THC, certainly not enough to cause any psychoactive effects. In fact, in order to be classified as hemp, the strain in question must have less than 0.3 percent of THC. On the other hand, there are significant levels of CBD in hemp, which is why some manufacturers derive CBD oil from hemp plants. 

Oddly enough (but unsurprisingly given the quagmire that is cannabis legislation), hemp was made illegal along with recreational varieties of the cannabis plant. The import, possession, and sale of all varieties of cannabis became subject to large fines under the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. In 1970, when Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act into law, hemp remained categorized as a narcotic simply because its official name is cannabis.

It’s Federally Illegal to Cultivate Hemp, but Legal to Purchase it in Grocery Stores

There are so many uses for hempIt wasn’t until former President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law that the federal government began to acknowledge the utter foolishness of its hemp laws. Because of the ban, American farmers have been deprived of the economic opportunity of cultivating a crop that can legally be imported from other nations. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes states and universities to grow industrial hemp if they follow two conditions:

“(1) the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural academic research; and

(2) the growing or cultivating of industrial hemp is allowed under the laws of the state in which such institutions of higher education or state department of agriculture is located and such research occurs.”


Since the passage of that law, more than half of the country’s states have launched the cultivation of industrial hemp. 

How to Use Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are available in several forms. You can purchase them whole, shelled, as a powder, or oil-pressed. Whole hemp seeds contain the most nutritional value and can be added to dishes that call for nuts (desserts, salads, granola, cereals, or by themselves.)

Shelled hemp seeds are known as hemp hearts and they can be added into just about any dish. They can even be used to make milk or ice creams. They retain most of the nutritional value of whole hemp seeds, but they do not contain nearly as much fiber.

Hemp powder is a great addition to smoothies and other drinks. The powders are nutritious, but most do not have the same fiber content.

Like hemp powder, hemp oils are also extremely versatile. The oil contains the same nutrition of hemp hearts, but like the hearts is low in fiber.

What is Hemp Seed? Big Nutrition in A Small Package was last modified: by
Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.