Hempseed oil is a product obtained by pressing the hempseeds.
Hemp is an industrial variety of Cannabis sativa grown for obtaining various products. Hempseed oil is different from cannabis oil, as it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component.
Hempseed oil is used in inks, fuels, plastics, shampoo, soaps, body creams, etc. It has a dark to light green color depending on the extent of refining. It possesses a nutty flavor. Oil with darker color has grassier flavor.
Hempseed Oil- Preparation and Key constituents
Hempseed oil is prepared by cold pressing the hemp seeds to extract the oil. Oil is clarified by decantation or filtration after the process of pressing.
Degumming is performed to remove many volatile and non-volatile impurities. Unrefined hemp oil has a slightly green color and carries a nutty/grassy taste.
Processing and refining of this crude mixture result in colorless hemp oil, which is devoid of nutrients. This is used in products like creams, soaps, shampoos, etc. only.
Hempseed oil is rich in healthy fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, stearidonic acid, etc. 1 tablespoon of hempseed oil is almost enough to meet the daily essential fatty acids requirement.
It has a lesser amount of saturated fatty acids compared to other types of edible oils.
Total polyunsaturated acids content in hempseed oil is much higher than commonly used oils such as sunflower oil and soybean oil.
This property makes hemp oil a better choice over soybean and sunflower oil because polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats with beneficial properties for the body and the brain.
It also contains many phytochemicals including monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and many other terpenoid-like substances. The major ones include α-humulene, β-caryophyllene, limonene, myrcene, α-pinene, β-pinene, terpinolene, etc.
Health Benefits of Hempseed Oil
Most of the beneficial properties of hempseed oil come from the rich reserve of healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also rich in other terpenoids, which confer it many biologically significant properties.
1. Hempseed oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid
Gamma linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid required for many functions in the body. Very few food items are rich in gamma-linolenic acid.
Hemp seed contains 30-35% oil and nearly 3-6% gamma-linolenic acid. This makes hempseed oil one of the best dietary sources of gamma-linolenic acid.
Consumption of gamma-linolenic acid in the form of oil allows its rapid absorption and utilization.
It is rapidly metabolized to other forms of fatty acids in the body including dihomo gamma linolenic acid.
Gamma linolenic acid is a precursor for dihomo gamma linolenic acid. Dihomo gamma-linolenic acid has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
This could be useful for patients with hypertension. This can be attributed to the involvement of dihomo gamma linolenic acid in the PGE1 pathways.
It has also been suggested by studies that oils rich in gamma linoleic acid can show blood pressure lowering properties by interfering with the renin-angiotensin system.
A study conducted in rats reported that gamma linolenic acid could prevent the development of hypertension. This involved the role of cyclooxygenase pathway.
Gamma linolenic acid has also been shown to reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the body.
This is beneficial as low-density lipoprotein is the harmful lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) responsible for causing arterial blockage and blood clots, which eventually result in strokes.
Atherosclerosis is the major cause many cardiovascular diseases and the deaths associated with them. It is characterized by vascular dysfunction, inflammation, etc.
It has been reported by studies conducted in animal models that dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids such as gamma-linolenic acid are capable of reducing the severity of the atherosclerotic lesion.
This can also be contributed to the involvement of gamma-linolenic acid (and other polyunsaturated fatty acids) in PGE1 pathways.
Gamma linolenic acid is capable of reducing the thickness of arterial walls. Gamma linolenic acid can consequently lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and mortality by reducing the risk of atherosclerotic plaque formation (induced by diet).
Gamma-linolenic acid has been shown to possess toxicity towards cancerous cells in many studies conducted on cell lines and in-vitro.
Gamma linolenic acid could inhibit the growth of oesophageal carcinoma cells in culture by up to 70%. In experimental models of cancer, gamma-linolenic acid has been shown to reduce metastasis as well.
Gamma linolenic acid given to cancer patients along with tamoxifen showed that GLA acted synergistically with the drug and reduces the expression of estrogen receptors in tumor cells.
GLA enhances the effect of the standard drug and the patients showed faster and better response to treatment.
Gamma linolenic acid is also capable of modulating the immune response. It might help in reducing allergic response and strengthen the immune response of the gut.
GLA can also reduce the release of many inflammatory mediators in the body. The effect of GLA on the immune system can make it useful for patients with autoimmune diseases.
GLA is instrumental in treatment/prevention of many diseases including osteoporosis, diabetes, etc. GLA was shown to improve the disease condition in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
In a study conducted with 60 patients with a skin condition called atopic dermatitis, it was reported that GLA led to an improvement in the symptoms of the disease such as pruritus, erythema, oozing, etc.
There were side effects associated with the use of gamma linolenic acid in these patients.
Hempseed oil is a good source of gamma-linolenic acid. GLA has been found to possess many beneficial properties.
It exhibits anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous, anti-atherosclerotic properties. It plays a preventive and therapeutic role in many disorders.
2. Hempseed oil has the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
It has been found by studies that maintaining the correct ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the foods we consume is very important.
Most western food items have been found to contain excess omega-6 fatty acid and a deficit of omega-3 fatty acid.
Lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 has been linked to lower risk of breast cancer and obesity as well. Omega-3 supplements have been found to help reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.
A distorted ratio of omega-3/omega-6 can result in the pathogenesis of many diseases including heart disorder, inflammatory diseases, etc.
The optimum ratio of the two varies with diseases but a higher concentration of omega-3 is generally preferable as it reduces the risk of many common chronic diseases.
A ratio of 3:1 (omega-6/omega-3) has been found to suppress the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Hempseed oil is known to have a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid. This makes it a great choice for replacing other oils with distorted ratios.
Hempseed oil is also one of the few vegetarian items with this ratio, therefore, it is a great option for vegetarians/vegans.
This ratio also ensures that there is no over accumulation of metabolites which can interfere with fatty acid metabolism.
Hempseed oil contains the 3:1 ratio of omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid. This ratio of omega fatty acids is known to possess many beneficial properties and prevent the onset of many chronic diseases including cancer, obesity, etc.
3. Hemp essential oils possess antibacterial properties
A study analyzed the antibacterial property of hemp essential oil obtained from three different hemp varieties.
The oil was extracted and incubated with bacterial cultures. It was observed that all three essential oil exhibited potent antibacterial property.
They were found to be effective in suppressing the growth of many gram-positive bacteria including Clostridium species and Enterococcus species.
This property was attributed to the presence of various terpenoid like substances in the oils such as alpha-humulene, alpha-pinene, myrcene, etc.
Hemp essential oils were shown to possess potent antibacterial property. This could help reduce the risk of infections from opportunistic and pathogenic microbes in the users of hemp oil.
4. Hemp oil is a good source of omega fatty acids
Hemp oil is found to be significantly rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids including omega-3 (up to 70%) and omega-6 (up to 20%) fatty acids.
Moreover, the optimum ratio (3:1) of these fatty acids is present in hemp oil.
These fatty acids not only play an important role in their own natural forms but also allow the synthesis of many other important biological components on metabolism, which are required for many biochemical pathways.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. They also lower blood pressure and the level of bad cholesterol in the body.
It is also essential for the optimum metabolism of fat in the body. It also helps maintain membrane integrity and regeneration by providing precursors for membrane synthesis.
Omega-3 fatty acids also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. They have been shown to reduce the insulin dependence in diabetics. Its also helps alleviate depression in those patients in which it is mediated by dietary deficiencies.
Omega fatty acids are required for synthesis of many hormones and other mediators in the body. They are used for the production of prostaglandins, which play a role in inflammation, immune response, blood clotting, etc.
They also give rise to prostanoids and leukotrienes, which are known to possess anti-thrombotic, anti-vasoconstrictive, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Deficiency of these fatty acids can lead to dry and scaly skin along with the increased loss of water from the epidermis. Omega fatty acids are essential for the optimum functioning of the brain.
Omega-3 is converted to DHA and EPA (docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid) in the body on metabolism.
They are essential for the development of brain and vision in growing infants. Lower levels of DHA have been associated with attention disorders, Alzheimer’s, etc.
Hemp oil is a good source of important omega fatty acids. Their deficiency has been linked to several diseases. They are required for growth, production of hormones, immune function, development of brain, vision, etc.
5. Hemp oil contains tocopherols
Hempseed oil is rich in tocopherols. Tocopherols have been proven to exhibit potent anti-oxidant properties.
Hemp oil has higher levels of gamma tocopherols. It is known to protect from coronary heart diseases.
Gamma-tocopherol helps in preventing DNA damage by protecting it from reactive nitrogen species.
Therefore it also acts as an anti-cancerous agent. It inhibits the formation of any reactive and damaging oxidative species.
Tocopherols are compounds with anti-oxidant properties. Hemp oil contains both alpha and gamma tocopherols. Therefore it possesses anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
One to two tablespoons of hempseed oil can be consumed every day. This is nearly 15-30ml of hemp oil.
It provided as much as 5grams of omega-3 fatty acids and 10-15 grams of omega-6 fatty acids.
The oil bottle also contains some information on dosage. Nutritionist/ doctor can be consulted prior to hemp oil use. This helps in determining the optimum dosage based on the health condition and overall diet of the user.
There are no major side effects associated with the use of hempseed oil.
Some people might experience gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramps etc. on using hempseed oil for cooking and other purposes. Some users can also experience faintness, drowsiness, etc.
Cooking of hempseed oil at high temperatures should be avoided as it can lead to the generation of peroxides, which can cause a lot of harm to the body.
It can be added to recipes as flavor enhances, dressing, etc.
Excess hemp oil can lead to obesity, as it is rich in omega fatty acids. People sensitive to THC can experience some unease including chest tightness, nasal congestion, etc. on using hemp oil.
This is due to a very low concentration of cannabinoids present in hemp oil.
Some people might experience allergic reaction as well. Although uncommon, the allergic reactions are characterized by swelling, redness of the eye, itchiness, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, hives, etc. In such cases, the use should be immediately stopped.
It can interfere with blood clot formation and therefore people taking medications with anti-coagulant properties should be aware and report it to their doctor to avoid excessive thinning of blood and risk of bleeding.
The pregnant and lactating mother should not consume hempseed oil without consultation/recommendation from a doctor as it can have adverse effects on the fetus/infant.
Only high quality and pure product should be used in order to avoid harmful and toxic additives/ contaminants.
Hempseed oil is obtained by pressing and processing of hempseeds. They are rich in healthy fatty acids including gamma linolenic acid, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids.
Hemp oil has several beneficial properties due to its unique fatty acid profile. It is helpful in the prevention of many major disorders. It acts as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It also reduces the risk of heart diseases.
It also exhibits anti-cancerous properties. The fatty acids are also essential for optimal growth of the body and brain, the functioning of the immune system, cardiovascular system, etc.
Hemp oil is a good option for the vegetarians to ensure the intake of essential fatty acids, which is usually lacking in other vegetarian food options.
Hemp oil should not be heated as that can lead to the generation of peroxides. It can be added to enhance the flavor of the food or as a dressing. It is easily available in the market.
It can show some interactions with anticoagulant medication and therefore consultation with the doctor is important before adding it to the diet. Only high-quality oil should be used to ensure maximum benefits.