The Happy, Healthy Benefits of Hemp

Green big hemp sprouts

Hemp products abound on the market right now. This trendy plant product can be found in many forms: oil, seeds, granola and cereal, non-dairy milk, in makeup and hair products, ground into a powder or flour, and as a clothing fiber or building material. Hemp is in fact an ancient domesticated crop with a complicated recent history. A cousin of the marijuana plant, which is consumed medicinally and recreationally, hemp is a different type of product completely. With federal limits on how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be in a hemp product (currently 0.3%), this product cannot be used to achieve psychoactive effects. Read on to learn about the difference between psychoactive cannabis products and hemp in food and for industrial use.

Hemp Seeds and Oil

Hemp oil n a glass jar

Hemp seeds are used for in a huge variety of ways. The seed nut can be found in common grocery stores ground into protein powders, used whole in granola and cereal, and made into liquid milk. The external cake of the seed can be used in animal foods and ground into flour. Hemp seed oil can be used for body products like lotion, hair oil and cosmetics because of its balance of unsaturated fatty acids that absorb well into the skin. The oil is also used industrially as a base for paint, varnish, ink, fuel, and lubricants.

Hemp Fibers

Hemp fibers aren’t consumed but rather used in a variety of industrial products such as mulch, fiberboard, insulation, concrete, netting, canvas, carpet, clothing, shoes, and bags. It is known as an environmentally friendly product, requiring less water and pesticides than some other crops to grow. It is also much lighter than some traditional building materials so is more cost effective to ship.


Hemp is currently grown legally in the U.S. and Canada but that hasn’t always been the case. Though it is believed that the U.S. Declaration of Independence was drafted on paper made from hemp fibers, the 1937 U.S. Marijuana Tax Act regulated the cultivation and sale of all cannabis varieties and the last commercial hemp fields were planted in Wisconsin in 1957. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis including hemp as a Schedule I drug (illegal to grow in the U.S.). In 2014, the Federal Farm Bill with hemp amendment was signed allowing states with hemp legislation to grow hemp for research purposes. Today, hemp is grown in the US under regulations. It is also grown around the world and China remains the largest producer of this crop.

Nutrition in Hemp

Hemp seed, oil, milk and powder can be incorporated into any part of the diet. It is a wonderful alternative for food allergies including nuts and gluten. The oil is stable at high heat and a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS). Hemp oil contains antioxidants including carotenoids and tocopherols.  Consuming hemp seeds has been linked to health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure in human studies.

Where to Get It and How to Use it

Purchase hemp seeds, milk, protein powder and oil at your local grocery or natural foods store. Manitoba Harvest sells oil, powder and seeds at stores across the U.S.  Look for cereal and granola that includes hemp seeds. Buy them raw to sprinkle on yogurt for added healthy fats and protein. Use hemp milk as a dairy alternative. Try hemp powder as an alternative to your typical protein powder.

Hemp products including protein, seeds, flours, milks, and oils can be included in the diet without fear of any psychoactive results. A sustainable crop, you’ll likely be seeing more and more of these food and industrial products in the future. Enjoy and let us know if you have any other favorite ways to include hemp in your diet.


Oomah BD, Busson M, Godfrey DV, Drover JC. Characteristics of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) seed oil. Food Chemistry. 2002;76(1):33-43.

Yan X, Tang J, dos Santos Passos C, Nurisso A, Simões-Pires CA, Ji M, Lou H, Fan P. Characterization of lignanamides from hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) seed and their antioxidant and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2015;63(49):10611-9.

Cherney JH, Small E. Industrial Hemp in North America: Production, Politics and Potential. Agronomy. 2016;6(4):58.

About Ginger Hultin, MS RDN CSO

Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, CSO, LDN, is a health writer and owner of Champagne Nutrition specializing in integrative health and whole food-based nutrition. She serves as Immediate Past President for the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chair-Elect of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and is a Media Representative for the Illinois Academy. Read Ginger's blog, Champagne Nutrition, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Ginger Hultin MS RD CSO LDN | @GingerHultinRD Chair-Elect, Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group  
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