Nutrition tip: hemp and its "intoxicating" nutrients
Nutrition tip: hemp and its
Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is one of mankind’s oldest cultivated plants. Hemp has many different uses and is very versatile. Thousands of years ago, it was used as a remedy or to make rope and textiles. Hemp is probably known as a narcotic drug first and foremost, but the plant has a lot to offer nutritionally, so much so that one could call it a domestic superfood. In this article you can learn about which “heady” nutrients hemp seeds provide and why they should be incorporated into your daily diet.(Photo: ©Shutterstock/kostrez)

Cultivation of Hemp

First off, commercial hemp is regulated by law in the EU and in Austria. The THC content (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) must be less than 0.2%, so that the cultivation is not subject to the Narcotics Act, and thus is unsuitable for the use of hashish. This industrial hemp comprises all varieties of hemp grown for commercial use (and it should be noted at this point that this article deals exclusively with hemp for food production). Hemp prefers a temperate climate: the seeds germinate at a soil temperature of +2 °C and higher.

Hemp and its medicinal purposes

The hemp plant contains around 60 different cannabinoids. Everyone talks about THC, which causes an intoxicating effect. You may also have heard of another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), which causes no intoxication, but is preferred in medicine. CBD is said to protect the nerve cells, have an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effect. It is also used by patients suffering from various forms of pain. For all these properties, however, scientifically substantiated evidence is lacking. Therefore, use for medical purposes is controversial.

"Intoxicating" nutritional value of the hemp plant

Botanically, hemp is seen as part of the nut family and is one of the highest quality oil crops. The seeds consist of about 30% fat, especially from unsaturated fatty acids. The essential fatty acids, which are vital for the body, linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) occur in the ideal ratio of 3:1. Omega 3 has a positive effect on cardiovascular health and has an anti-inflammatory effect. It is significant for our health, but is unfortunately under-consumed. In addition, hemp is one of the few foods containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA lowers both blood cholesterol and bad LDL levels. It also plays an important role in maintaining the barrier function of the skin and is therefore used in atopic dermatitis.

The table below provides an overview of fatty acid patterns of hemp oil and hemp seeds compared to other vegetable oils. The lower the n6:n3 ratio (ratio of omega 6 to omega 3) the better, since these two fatty acids compete for incorporation into the cell membrane, and thus more and more omega 3 can be used for the production of anti-inflammatory substances.

Typ of oil Saturated Fatty acid palmitic acid (%) Omega 9 Oleic acid (%) Omega 6 Linoleic acid (%) Omega 3 α-Linolenic acid (%) GLA (%) n6:n3 Ratio
Hemp oil 5 9 56 22 4 2,5
Hemp seeds 8 11 55 21 1 2,7
Linseed oil 6 15 15 61 0 0,2
Sunflower oil 5 22 63 <1 0 >100
Rapeseed oil 4 60 23 13 0 1,8
Soybean oil 10 23 55 8 0 6,9
Olive oil 15 76 8 <1 0 >100
Modified to Callaway, 2004.

Another benefit of the hemp plant is its protein content. Hemp seeds provide about 35% protein and contain all 8 essential amino acids. Hemp seeds also score high in fibre, in B vitamins (especially B1, B2 and B3), vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.

Hulled hemp seeds are peeled gently to fully preserve all nutrients. The taste is very nutty. Hulled hemp seeds contain most of the aforementioned nutrients.
Unhulled hemp seeds are crispy thanks to their solid shell. Although they are not so easy to consume, they contain a lot of fibre to help support bowel function. For better digestibility, it is recommended that the seeds are left to soften for a few hours in water.

Hemp and its medicinal purposes

To incorporate hemp into your daily diet is not a big problem. Hemp seeds can be used for a number of different things. For example, they can be sprinkled over salad or muesli, or used as a soup topping. Among other things, hemp flour can also be used for baked goods. The high-quality hemp oil is particularly suitable for salad dressings and hemp protein powder can also be used for smoothies or shakes.
The combination of high nutritional-physiological quality, especially the desirable fatty acid pattern, pleasantly nutty taste and versatility make hemp seeds and hemp oil a superfood.

More information about the topic you can find on the following link:

Used literature: Callaway J.C. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica 2004;140:65-72.

Do you have any other questions? Please wrote an e-mail to

Carmen und Jasmin Klammer
Nutrition scientist and dietician

Facebook comments

Close Recommend

Required fields