Hemp is a member of the Cannabis sativa species of plant. You may have heard this plant referred to as marijuana, but this is really a different variety of Cannabis sativa. Hemp seed oil is a clear green oil made by cold-pressing hemp seeds. It’s different from cannabidiol (CBD), which is an extract produced from hemp flowers and leaves.

Hemp seed oil typically doesn’t contain the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which provides the high associated with marijuana use.

Hemp seed oil is said to have many health benefits, among them that it protects hair from damage. Read on to find out more.

Possible benefits of hemp seed oil for hair

There isn’t much clinical research on the benefits of using hemp seed oil on your hair. Advocates of the practice suggest that research on other similar oils that benefit hair may also apply to hemp seed oil.

For example, according to a 2015 research articleTrusted Source, certain oils — such as coconut oil — can play a role in protecting hair from damage by:

  • preventing too much water from being absorbed by hair
  • helping to prevent the penetration of certain substances into hair follicles
  • prevent hair breakage by enhancing lubrication of the shaft.
  • prevent hair breakage by reducing the combing force of wet hair

Some believe these may also apply to hemp seed oil.

Omega-3, omega-6, and antioxidants for hair

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered to be good for hair when taken as an oral supplement. Hemp seed oil has plenty of both.

For example, a 2015 studyTrusted Source found improvement in the hair diameter and hair density of participants who took omega-3 and omega-6 oral supplements over the course of six months.

Researchers on the study also discovered that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in combination with antioxidants prevented hair loss in participants who took them.

What’s in hemp oil?

Hemp seed oil has 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. It also contains smaller amounts of three other polyunsaturated fatty acids: oleic acid, stearidonic acid, and gamma-linolenic acid.

A tablespoon of hemp seed oil contains 14 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 12.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat.

Hemp seed oil also includes:

Along with modest amounts of iron and zinc, hemp seed oil also contains a number of minerals, including:

The takeaway

Although there isn’t specific clinical research to support their claims, proponents of using hemp seed oil for hair, whether applied topically or taken as a supplement, suggest that the oil will

  • moisturize hair
  • stimulate hair growth
  • strengthen hair

These suggestions are based on anecdotal evidence and research on similar oils that appear to be beneficial for hair.

What are the Other health benefits of hemp?

Hemp is a plant grown in the northern hemisphere that takes about 3-4 months to mature. Hemp seeds can be consumed or used to produce a variety of food products including hemp milk, hemp oil, hemp cheese substitutes and hemp-based protein powder.

Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. Hemp milk is made from hulled hemp seeds, water, and sweetener. Hemp oil has a strong “grassy” flavor.

Hemp is commonly confused with marijuana. It belongs to the same family, but the two plants are very different. Marijuana is grown to contain high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that is responsible for its psychoactive properties. Hemp describes the edible plant seeds and only contains a trace amount of THC.

This feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of hemp and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more hemp into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming hemp.

Nutritional breakdown of hemp

Hemp leaves, powder, seeds and oil.

Hemp is available in a variety of forms, including oils and powders.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 2 tablespoon serving of hemp seeds weighing 20 grams (g) contains:

  • 111 calories
  • 6.31 g of protein
  • 9.75 g of fat
  • 1.73 g of carbohydrates (including 0.8 g of fiber and 0.3 g of sugar)
  • 14 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 1.59 mg of iron
  • 140 mg of magnesium
  • 330 mg of phosphorus
  • 240 mg of potassium
  • 1.98 mg of zinc
  • 22 micrograms (mcg) of folate

Hemp seeds also provide vitamin C, some B vitamins, and vitamins A and E.

Possible health benefits of consuming hemp

The nutritional content of hemp is linked to a number of potential health benefits.

Healthy fats

The American Heart Association recommends consuming two 3.5-ounce servings of fish, especially oily fish, each week. This is because fish is a major source of omega-3 fatty acids. If a person does not regularly consume fish, they may not be getting enough DHA or EPA.

Hemp is a plant-based source of concentrated omega-3 fatty acids. However, the fatty acids that hemp contains are alpha-linolenic acids (ALA), which are poorly converted to DHA and EPA in the body at a rate of only about 2 to 10 percent.

Despite this inefficient conversion rate, hemp is one of the richest sources of ALA, and so still represents a very good source of healthy fat, particularly for those who do not consume fish or eggs.

Hemp contains a specific omega-6 fatty acid called GLA and hemp oil contains an even higher percentage of GLA.

Hemp seeds also contain phytosterols, which help in reducing the amount of cholesterol in the body by removing fat build-up in the arteries.

Protein source

Hemp contains all 10 essential amino acids, making it a good plant-based protein source. Hemp does not contain phytates, which are found in many vegetarian protein sources and can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals.

Magnesium

Magnesium plays an important role in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, including the metabolism of food and synthesis of fatty acids and proteins. Magnesium is involved in neuromuscular transmission and activity and muscle relaxation.

Magnesium deficiency — which is especially prevalent in older populations — is linked to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, and osteoporosis. Nuts and seeds like hemp are some of the best sources of magnesium.

Research suggests that people experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may be able to alleviate symptoms such as bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain and breast tenderness by ensuring an adequate intake of magnesium. Magnesium combined with vitamin B6 appears to be most efficacious in these instances.

How to incorporate more hemp into your diet

Hemp products include hemp seeds, hemp milk, hemp oil, hemp cheese substitutes and hemp protein powder. These products can be purchased at most health food stores.

Hemp seeds.Hemp seeds are easily sprinkled on salads, oatmeal, and yogurt.

Hemp seeds should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Most hemp products need to be refrigerated after being opened.

To avoid damaging the fatty acids, shelled hemp seeds should not be heated above 350 °Fahrenheit.

Quick tips for using hemp:

  • Purchase meal bars or granola bars made with hemp seeds for a quick snack
  • Use hemp seed oil to make a salad dressing
  • Sprinkle some hemp seeds on salads, rice pilafs, oatmeal, or yogurt
  • Add hemp seeds to baked goods such as whole wheat muffins.

Try some of these healthy and delicious recipes using hemp, all developed by registered dietitians:

Hemp seeds are available for purchase online.

Precautions for hemp use

Hemp seeds are safe when consumed in moderation. Because hemp seeds are high in fat, the sudden increase in fat caused by eating large amounts of hemp may cause mild diarrhea. People with a sensitive digestive system are advised to start by eating a small amount, such as 1 teaspoon, and slowly work up to the serving size of 2 tablespoons.

Hemp seeds inhibit platelet formation and interact with anticoagulant medications, causing a higher risk of bleeding. If you have been prescribed an anticoagulant, talk to your doctor before consuming a large amount of hemp.