Hemp Seed Oil

Health and Beauty Benefits

By Mary Beth Janssen

Hemp seed is considered one of the most nutritious super foods on the planet—packed with protein, hemp-seeds.jpgvitamin E, omega-3, and GLA. With such powerhouse nutrition, it’s been used during famine to treat severely malnutritioned populations. There’s even an ancient legend that Buddha survived a six-year interval of asceticism by eating nothing but one hemp seed daily. This story may hold a germ of truth, given hemp seed’s astonishing nutritional profile.

Hemp seeds have been used as food since ancient times. They have a delicious nutty taste, and are now incorporated into many food preparations from “health” bars to nut butters, bread to pasta, burgers to pizza, salad dressings to cheese, beverages including milk, lemonade, and beer, and so much more.

For edible purposes, hempseed oil is extracted by cold pressing and the first pressing is the highest quality. Because of its high, unsaturated fatty acid levels (75 percent), which can easily oxidize, it’s not suitable for frying or baking.

Hemp seeds contain 25 percent to 30 percent pure, digestible protein, with a good balance of all eight amino acids essential in the human diet, among others. It has three times the vitamin E of flax and twice the iron and magnesium (a mineral often depleted by industrial agriculture) contained in flax. The vitamin E group or tocopherols are major antioxidants in human serum. These fat-soluble vitamins are essential for human nutrition, especially the alpha-form of which hempseed oil is about 80 percent. These antioxidants as well as sterols not only help stabilize the oil, but impart their protective health and beauty benefits.

Hemp seed oil is extremely rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), mostly oleic, linoleic, alpha-linolenic, and gamma-linolenic acids. Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are the only two that must be ingested and are considered essential to human health. They serve as raw materials for cell structure and are involved in the synthesis of many of our body’s regulatory biochemicals. In hemp oil, linoleic (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic (omega-3) occur in a ratio of 3:1, considered the perfect balance in healthy human adipose tissue, and apparently unique in the universe of plant oils.

Hemp oil’s high level of gamma-linolenic acid or GLA is also significant. GLA affects vital metabolic functions ranging from control of inflammation and vascular tone to initiation of contractions during childbirth. GLA may also benefit cardiovascular, psychiatric, and immunological disorders. Aging and pathology (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) may impair GLA metabolism, making supplementation desirable for many. GLA has primarily been available as capsules of borage or evening primrose oil, but hemp is certainly an economic source, especially in food or oil form, although given its high EFA content it’s now being marketed as a dietary supplement.

EFAs and notably GLA, are of critical importance for healthy skin, making hemp oil a highly effective skin-care product. Its lipid constituents allow it to permeate through intact skin/scalp, directly nourishing skin cells while also carrying therapeutic substances with it into the skin. Products containing EFAs can alleviate inflammation of any kind (skin eruptions, infections, sunburn, insect bites), excessive epidermal water loss (dry, itchy skin/scalp) and improve scar and wound healing. GLA specifically has been shown to be beneficial for psoriasis and atopic eczema.





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