- Hemp oil comes from seeds that grow on Cannabis sativa, the same plant species that yield marijuana.
- Hemp oil has a healthy balance of fatty acids that may help boost skin and heart health.
- One tbsp of hemp oil offers over twice your daily value of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.
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Hemp oil comes from the same species of Cannabis sativa plants that yield marijuana and CBD oil, but it’s a decidedly different product.
Hemp oil, aka hemp seed oil, is produced by cold-pressing the seeds from hemp plants, similar to how olive oil is made by pressing olives.
However, hemp seeds have little to no THC or CBD, says Jeffrey Chen, MD, co-founder and CEO of Radicle Science, a health-tech company that offers research and validation services for CBD products.
CBD oil — sometimes referred to as hemp CBD oil — which is a thick, oily resin extracted from the flowers, leaves, and stems of cannabis plants. Moreover, hemp seed oil won’t get you high, like marijuana, says Chen.
Instead, many of hemp oil’s purported health benefits come down to its nutrients: Hemp oil is a rich source of minerals and healthy omega fatty acids, which may help with skin, hair, and nail health among other things. However, research is still in the early stages.
One tablespoon of hemp oil contains roughly 125 calories and 14 grams of fat (18% DV). In addition, hemp seeds are a rich source of other nutrients, including:
- Polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In particular, hemp oil contains alpha-linolenic and gamma-linolenic fatty acids, which help fight inflammation. That’s important since persistent inflammation can lead to chronic health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- Protein: Hemp seeds are a complete protein because they contain all the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own.
- Minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus. Minerals play an important role in heart, brain, and muscle function.
- Vitamins A, C, E, and B vitamins, which are essential for immunity and disease prevention.
- Dietary fiber, which keeps your digestive system working smoothly.
Researchers attribute most of hemp oil’s benefits to its healthy balance of fatty acids. Below are some of the science-backed benefits of hemp oil.
Helps treat skin conditions like acne and eczema
Studies suggest that the omega fatty acids in hemp oil can help improve inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis, says Chen. Here’s what some of the research has found so far:
- A small 2005 study that included 20 participants with eczema noted significant improvements in their skin upon taking two tablespoons of hemp oil for eight weeks. The participants reported less skin dryness and itching, and some found that they no longer needed as much medication to manage their condition.
- According to a 2014 review, the omega fatty acids in hemp oil strengthen cell membranes, making the skin more resistant to viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. The review also notes that applying crushed hemp leaves to your skin can help treat a skin condition known as scabies.
- There is also anecdotal evidence that consuming hemp oil daily can help strengthen your skin, hair, and nails, by fortifying your cell membranes; however, further research is required to substantiate these claims.
May improve heart health
Hemp oil doesn’t just have an abundance of healthy omega fatty acids — it contains them in the “perfect” balance. Chen says hemp oil has a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is potentially an optimal ratio for improved cholesterol levels and heart health.
By comparison, other oils such as vegetable oils, have more omega-6 and fewer omega-3 fatty acids, which could contribute to inflammation and heart disease.
However, it’s important to note that while hemp oil contains the fatty acids associated with improved heart health, Chen says there isn’t sufficient evidence yet to prove that hemp oil, specifically, can prevent or improve. Studies conducted in insects and animals show promise, but further research is required in humans.
Other benefits include pain relief and improved brain health
Some other potential benefits of hemp seed oil include:
- Pain relief, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Reduced muscle tension. Some full-spectrum hemp oils can contain enough CBD to help relieve muscle soreness and tension. But it’s the CBD, not the hemp, that is likely responsible for this.
- Benefits for pregnant people, as omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for fetal development.
- Improved brain health and prevention of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, since omega-3 acids support healthy brain function.
Like with heart disease, Chen says there are theoretical benefits of hemp oil for these conditions due to its omega-3 fatty acid content, but he says there are virtually no human clinical trials that have directly investigated the benefits of hemp oil for these conditions.
Hemp oil side effects
“There are generally very few side effects associated with hemp oil. It does contain a lot of fat, and thus may cause diarrhea if consumed in excess,” says Chen.
Hemp seeds cannot technically get you high, says Chen, because unlike other parts of the cannabis plant, hemp seeds contain negligible amounts of cannabinoid compounds like THC, if any.
Hemp oil is therefore legal and has fewer regulatory restrictions than marijuana and CBD oil, says Chen. The FDA requires that cannabis products like hemp and CBD oils have a THC content lower than 0.3%.
That said, a 2019 study notes that many hemp and CBD oil products are in violation of FDA guidelines because they have a significantly higher THC percentage than legally permitted.
While there isn’t a recommended dosage for hemp oil, Chen says a few grams or tablespoons of hemp oil a day is the dosage typically used in clinical trials for conditions like skin disorders. This dosage is sufficient to fulfill your daily omega-3 requirement, says Chen.
One tablespoon of hemp seed oil provides more than double — a little over 3 grams — of your daily requirement of alpha linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid.
hemp seeds. Hemp seeds contain omega-3 acids, and unlike hemp seed oil, they also contain protein and fiber, says Chen. You can sprinkle hemp seeds over yogurt, salad, or oatmeal. They have a mild, nutty flavor and add a crunchy texture to your meal.
Hemp seed oil contains nutrients like healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and nutrients likethat may help keep your heart, skin, and brain healthy. However, more human trials are needed to determine how effective it is for everyone.