What Is Hemp?
Nutritional Advantages of Eating Hemp Seeds and Hempseed Oil
Lana Butner, ND, LAc, is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in New York City.
Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content.
Verywell / Anastasiia Tretiak
Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is grown for use in many different products. Hemp is made into foods, health products, fabric, rope, natural remedies, and much more. Different parts of the hemp plant are used to make different products.
Hemp seeds are edible and highly nutritious. They have a high concentration of fiber. They also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are nutrients that are important for heart and skin health.
Hemp is sometimes confused with marijuana. Hemp, however, contains only trace amounts of THC, the main chemical in the marijuana plant that makes people get “high.” Because hemp contains little THC, it is grown for non-drug use.
This article discusses some of the health benefits of hemp, its uses, and its potential side effects. It also answers some common questions about hemp and how it should be used and stored.
Also Known As
- Narrow-leaf hemp
- Bitter root
- Indian hemp
- Wild cotton
Does Hemp Offer Any Benefits?
There are three different plants in the Cannabis genus, also called the Cannabaceae family. These include Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Hemp varieties of Cannabis contain 0.3% or less THC. Marijuana varieties have more than 0.3%. Higher amounts of THC can produce a high.
The seeds are the main edible part of the hemp plant. The leaves can be used to make tea, but most of the nutrients are in the seeds. In fact, hemp seeds are over 30% fat, including essential fatty acids. The potential health benefits of hemp, therefore, come mainly from its seeds.
Hemp seeds are, as the name implies, the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp hearts are seeds that have had the shell removed.
Hemp seeds are high in soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber does not. Both types of fiber are important for digestion. Because hemp hearts lack the fibrous shell, they are lower in fiber and other nutrients than whole hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds are also rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that has been shown to have many health benefits. A 2016 study found that GLA has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Hemp seeds contain a 3-to-1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. This is considered an optimal ratio for heart and brain health.
This ratio is difficult to get in the Western diet. Western diets tend to be too heavy in omega-6 fatty acids, which can be found in foods like vegetable oil. Many Western diets don’t contain enough omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in foods like salmon and other wild-caught, cold-water fish.
Hemp seeds contain many nutrients, including protein, minerals (such as magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc), and vitamins.
Whole hemp seeds contain 20% soluble and 80% insoluble fiber. The fiber in hemp seeds may help digestion. It may also help lower bad cholesterol and improve heart health. The insoluble fiber in hemp seeds has also been linked to a lower risk of diabetes.
Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil
Hemp oil is also called hempseed oil. It is made by cold-pressing hemp seeds. Hempseed oil is different from CBD oil. CBD oil is extracted from the cannabis plant and then combined with a base oil. Examples of base oils include coconut or olive oil.
Hempseed oil comes from hemp seeds only. It is not derived from the Cannabis plant itself. Hempseed oil does not contain any psychoactive properties. You can not use it to get high. Hemp oil has unique properties and health benefits.
Hemp oil contains healthy nutrients such as:
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are important for good health
- Minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, and more
- Antioxidants like vitamin E
Hemp oil can be used as a cooking oil. Just like any other type of healthy oil, it can be added to foods such as salads, dips, and spreads.
Animal studies have suggested that hempseed oil may lower blood pressure. It may also reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. This hasn't been proven in human studies, though.
Hemp oil is often used as a hair conditioner or a skin moisturizer. Some studies found that hemp seed oil may improve dry, itchy skin and help symptoms of eczema, a common skin condition. When used for eczema symptoms, it may reduce the need for prescription medication.
Hemp oil is not the same as CBD oil. Hemp oil comes from the seed of the hemp plant. It can be used for cooking or as a hair conditioner or skin moisturizer.
Hemp protein is a powder made from the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp protein contains all nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Some studies, though, have shown that hemp protein isn’t as good a source of one amino acid, lysine, compared to soy protein.
Hemp protein is a good choice for vegetarians or vegans because it contains essential fatty acids. Whole hemp seeds contain about 25% protein. This is higher than flax or chia seeds, which contain only around 20% and 18% protein, respectively.
Other Health Benefits
There is not enough clinical research data to back up claims that hemp is a safe or effective treatment for any condition. People still use it as a remedy for many illnesses, though, including:
- Heart problems
- Urinary conditions (increasing urine flow)
- Warts (when applied to the skin)
How It Works
Hemp contains chemicals that may affect the heart and might help reduce blood pressure. Hemp also contains terpenes. Terpenes are the compounds that give plants their distinctive odors.
Some studies suggest that terpenes may have health benefits. These benefits may include:
- Neuroprotective or brain-protective benefits
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
- Anti-tumor properties
Hemp contains more protein than seeds like chia and flaxseed. It also contains other substances that may have health effects. Some people claim it can help with certain illnesses, though this has not been proven through clinical research.
Possible Side Effects of Hemp Seed
Taking whole hemp seed by mouth can cause many side effects, including:
- Throat irritation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bradycardia, or slow heart rate
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure
There is not enough clinical research data to prove that hemp is safe for use in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. There is also not enough research to show it is safe to use topically on the skin.
Eating hemp seeds is not considered as unsafe as is eating hemp leaves or other parts of the plant. But because of the high fat content, the seeds can cause mild diarrhea.
Interaction with Medications
Do not ingest hemp when taking cardiac glycosides or diuretics.
Cardiac glycosides, such as Lanoxin (digoxin), help the heart beat strongly and can slow down the heart rate. They are used for treating heart failure (in which the heart can’t pump blood well enough to meet the body’s needs) and irregular heartbeats.
Hemp is also known to slow the heart rate. Taking hemp with cardiac glycosides could slow the heart rate too much. Ask your doctor before taking hemp with Lanoxin.
Diuretics are drugs that increase the amount of urine. They are used to reduce the amount of fluid in the body and lower blood pressure. Diuretics include:
- Diuril (chlorothiazide)
- Thalitone (chlorthalidone)
- Lasix (furosemide)
- Microzide (hydrochlorothiazide)
An increase in the amount of urine may lead to a loss of potassium. Hemp can also decrease potassium. Taking diuretics and hemp together may result in dangerously low potassium levels. This might cause problems with heart function.
Selection, Preparation, and Storage of Hemp Seed
Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, or cooked with other foods. In China, hemp seed oil has been used as food or made into medicine for thousands of years.
There are many ways to eat hemp protein, oil, and seeds, including:
- In a smoothie
- On oatmeal or cereal
- Sprinkled over salads
- As a nut butter
- As a form of milk called hemp milk
- On yogurt
- In meal bars or granola bars
- In salad dressing
- On casserole dishes
- Added to baked goods
- In recipes
- As a cooking oil
Hemp seeds need to be stored properly. The healthy fats in hemp seeds can degrade if they are exposed to air for long periods. Storing hemp seeds at high temperatures can have a similar effect. Hemp seeds stored this way could contain unhealthy trans fats, a type of fat especially linked to heart disease.
Store hemp seeds and hemp oil in an airtight container. Keep these products in a cool, dark place. It is best to refrigerate hemp products after opening.
Many hemp products come in different forms, including:
- Hemp oil
- Hemp milk
- Hemp protein powder
Many of these products can be purchased in health food stores or online.
Cooking hemp seeds or heating the oil to temperatures above 350 degrees F can destroy the healthy fatty acids. Hemp seeds and oil are best eaten raw. If cooking with hemp oil, use low heat.
The dosage of any herbal or natural supplement, including hemp, depends on several factors. Age and health condition are two important considerations. Never take more than the recommended dosage on the package insert.
Always ask your doctor before taking hemp or any other herb. The recommended dosage may not be right for you.
If you are going to eat hemp seeds, experts suggest starting slow. This is especially true if you have digestive problems. Start with 1 teaspoon and work up to more as tolerated.
Ask your doctor before taking hemp. Your safe dosage may be different than what is on the packaging.
Hemp seeds are grown in many different countries. Some people prefer hemp from Canada for its taste and the strict government restrictions aimed to improve quality. Look for products that have been tested in the lab for purity and potency. Consult the manufacturer if you have questions.
Regulations on hemp grown in U.S., Europe, and Canada are stricter than in other countries, such as China.
Are hemp seed hearts the same as hemp seed?
No. Hemp hearts have had the fibrous shell removed. This makes them lower in fiber and other nutrients than whole hemp seeds. Hemp hearts are not as nutritious as whole hemp seeds. However, hemp hearts are very high in healthy polyunsaturated fats.
Are hemp seeds legal to ingest in the U.S.?
Yes, hemp seeds are legal in the United States. Hemp seeds in the U.S. must contain a minimal amount of THC. THC is the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant.
According to the FDA, some hemp products are safe for food, including:
- Hemp seeds
- Hemp seed protein powder
- Hempseed oil
Can eating hemp cause a person to fail a drug test?
No. Eating moderate amounts of hempseed oil, protein powder made of hemp, or hemp seeds will not cause you to fail a drug test. Hemp contains only trace amounts of THC. Unless you are using other varieties of the Cannabis plant, such as marijuana, or you are eating large amounts of hemp, you are unlikely to fail a drug test.
Hemp hearts do not contain any THC. The shells of whole hemp seed do have trace amounts below 0.3% THC. If you are recovering from cannabis addiction or just want to avoid exposure to THC in any amount, avoid eating whole hemp seeds.
What does hemp taste like?
Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. They are similar to unsalted sunflower seeds, but the texture is not as hard.
Hemp seeds are a good source of protein and fiber. Hemp seeds may also have other health benefits, though there is not enough clinical research to say for sure. Because hemp may interact with some drugs and cause certain side effects, it is a good idea to consult your doctor before adding hemp seeds to your diet.
ADHD Treatment: Exploring the Latest Options for Kids and Adults
Finding the right ADHD treatment, including medication (both stimulant and non stimulant options), therapy, and alternative treatments, is crucial to managing ADHD.
Concerned about ADHD?
Take our 2-minute Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.
ADHD Treatment Strategies
For parents hearing that their child has ADHD, the diagnosis can be especially stressful. “Sometimes parents don’t know what ADHD is or what it means, which can lead to a lot of misconceptions and fears,” says Gayani DeSilva, MD, child & adolescent psychiatrist and author of A Psychiatrist’s Guide: Helping Parents Reach Their Depressed Tween.
While ADHD can’t be “cured,” people of all ages often respond well to common treatment options. For children, whose brains are still developing, how they respond to treatment will be different from adults. But the good news is that with the right supports in place at an early stage (by school-age), most children’s development progresses at about the same pace as their peers who don’t have an ADHD diagnosis.
What Is the Best Treatment for ADHD?
Treatment for ADHD for people of all ages should be comprehensive. For kids, this often requires combining pharmacological treatments and occupational therapy, DeSilva says. Adults may benefit from a combination of medication and behavioral therapy and/or assistance with organization or structure. Both kids and adults may also sometimes try alternative treatments, as well, to help manage symptoms.
Is It Safe to Give ADHD Medications to Kids?
Parents are often concerned about giving medication to their young children, yet Dr. DeSilva points out that although it may sound counterintuitive, the latest best practices reveal that not giving medication is a bigger danger than actually giving them for many kids with ADHD.
“When children are five or six years old, they typically learn how to focus, how to learn, and how to be successful,” Dr. DeSilva explains. Yet kids with ADHD may be challenged because their symptoms can interfere with these typical developmental stages. That makes getting treatment as early as possible particularly important for kids with ADHD. Dr. DeSilva points out that the right treatment can help relieve some of the distractions and allow normal brain development to progress.
Drugs That Help with ADHD Symptoms
There are several basic categories of medications used today for ADHD.
Go Deep Into ADHD Medication
There’s no cure for ADHD, but there are a multitude of medications approved to treat the condition. Learn more about what ADHD medication may be right for you or your child.
Stimulant Medication: How Stimulants Work for ADHD
Stimulants are the most common medications used to treat ADHD. Stimulants target dopamine, which is a chemical in the brain that helps control motivation, movement, and emotional responses. Since kids with ADHD are often hyperactive or overstimulated, it may be confusing to think of giving a child with ADHD a stimulant. But experts explain that by giving a child a stimulant, he or she won’t need to seek outside stimulation and will be able to focus and learn. This is important, according to Dr. DeSilva, since this enables kids with ADHD to learn age-appropriate skills and to build important pathways in the brain.
Types of Stimulant Medication for ADHD
There are a variety of stimulants that are used on children. The easiest to tolerate and most effective option for children and adolescents is methylphenidate (which goes by different brand names, including Concerta, Ritalin, Daytrana, Aptensio XR, Metadate CD, Methylin, Quillivant XR), according to a study published online in Lancet Psychiatry in August 2018.
Other common options include Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine (such as Adderall, Adderall XR), Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, ProCentra, Zenzedi), and Dexmethylphendiate (Focalin). These short-term drugs can last for about three to six hours and may need to be taken a few times a day.
There are also longer-lasting options (referred to as “intermediate”) that work for about 8 to 12 hours, such as Amphetamine sulfate (brand name Evekeo), Methylphenidate (this includes Ritalin SR, Metadate ER, Methylin ER), and Adzenys XR-ODT. Then there are even longer-term options that can work for 12 to 16 hours or longer, including Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin XR), Dextroamphetamine (Adderall XR), Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), Methylphenidate (such as Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate CD, Quillivant XR, Quillichew ER, Ritalin LA).
“Keep in mind that the pharma companies say the medications act for a certain (long) length of time, the actual length of action may be shorter by several hours,” Dr. DeSilva explains. “Parents may rely on the provider’s experience with these medications for guidance on the length of actual action.”
New Overnight ADHD Stimulant Medication Option
While most stimulants are given in the morning, a new option of methylphenidate hydrochloride (called HLD200) for kids and adults was also recently approved by the FDA. This new medication is unique because it is given at bedtime for results throughout the following day. Although the premise holds much promise in terms of helping make mornings easier for kids with ADHD, parents should wait until any new medication has been on the market for at least a year before having their children use it, cautions Edward (Ned) Hallowell, MD, president of the Hallowell Centers, with locations in Boston, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. Dr. Hallowell is also the author of a number of books including Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction, Super Parenting for ADD, and most recently, ADHD 2.0.
Stimulant Medication Side Effects
While stimulants can be very effective in children, they also cause some concerns for parents, both doctors Hallowell and DeSilva agree. For instance, stimulants can be an appetite suppressant which can result in weigh loss for adults and can affect the growth of children. So parents should plan ahead to be sure their children are eating enough around the dosing schedule. Dr. DeSilva recommends making sure kids eat a healthy breakfast that includes protein, such as eggs, before they take their stimulant. During the day while they are on the medication, she suggests providing small snacks and then serving a large dinner.
Other side effects that can occur with stimulants include elevated heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, and personality changes. Dr. Hallowell points out that if your child has any of these negative effects, it’s okay to just stop using it. Gradually weaning your child down is not necessary since these medications are short-acting, and the side effects are temporary. The side effects will cease when the dose wears off.
ADHD Medication Abuse: Addiction and Other Concerns
Dr. DeSilva also points out that some parents worry that stimulants can be addictive but points out that the potency of stimulants is 1/10,000 of the potency of recreational drugs. “Nonetheless, college students and others do sometimes abuse stimulants; but actually, children with ADHD who are treated are less likely to abuse drugs than kids with untreated ADHD,” she stresses. To prevent all kids and teens from abusing drugs, she recommends parents keep the medication in a lockbox and dole out the dose on a daily basis.
Non Stimulant ADHD Medication
While stimulants are the “gold standard” for ADHD, according to Dr. Hallowell, non-stimulant medications are an alternative option for children and adults with ADHD for whom stimulants just aren’t a good fit. Non-stimulant medications help to increase a neurotransmitter in the brain called norepinephrine, which can help control attention. Some choices include Atomoxetine (Strattera), Guanfacine XR (Intuniv and Tenex), and Clonidine XR (Kapvay). Many of these come in short- and longer-term versions. They can lower blood pressure and may cause some sedation in some children, Dr. DeSilva notes. However, she says that the side effects are generally quite mild.
Occasionally, physicians may prescribe hypertension medication (typically used for high blood pressure) to treat ADHD, or antidepressants (commonly used for mood disorders). Both of these approaches can be worth discussing with your child’s psychiatrist or pediatrician when more common approaches don’t work.
ADHD Medications for Adults: Are They Different?
Adults typically take the same medication as children and adolescents. Short-term, intermediate, and longer-acting forms of methylphenidates are commonly used. The right medication for adults is usually determined based on how long symptoms need to be controlled and any side effects the user experiences.
Treating ADHD Without Medication: Exploring Other Options
When exploring ADHD treatments for your child, a combination of options will likely have the most benefit, according to Dr. Hallowell.
Occupational Therapy (OT) for ADHD
“Occupational therapy for children really focuses on neurodevelopment, and managing the connection between their environment and their own reflexes and what is going on in the brain and beyond,” Dr. DeSilva says. OT for kids with ADHD includes activities to strengthen fine motor skills (such as holding a pencil, picking up and releasing blocks, and cutting with child-safe scissors), activities to develop gross motor skills (such as throwing a ball), and activities to regulate sensory processing (such as spinning and swinging). “Most OT workshops will look like a big gym with climbing walls, zipline, swings, a mini trampoline, a ball pit, and much more.”
While OT is not necessary for adults, other forms of behavioral health therapy or strategies can be an important component of the treatment equation.
Holistic Approaches to Treating ADHD
There are many alternative or holistic approaches that can be used for children and adults with ADHD.
This includes weighted blankets (one type sold specifically for kids and adults with ADHD is called SensaCalm). The product looks like a blanket but is filled with items like rice, millet, or beads. This provides deep-touch pressure stimulation that helps users with ADHD (including those with related sensory issues) to focus better when they are using it. Children with ADHD may also wear a weighted vest or clothing in the classroom. Another way to achieve a similar effect is by weighting backpacks with cans or heavy books that can help provide that beneficial input that helps children with ADHD to focus better.
Music therapy or sound therapy (such as HUSO) is another way to help people with ADHD. In the simplest terms, the organization inherent in a piece of music provides structure for kids who have trouble regulating their brain pathways. Music also increases chemicals in the brain that help with regulation, memory, and motivation.
Nutritional Supplements And CBD Oil
Dr. Hallowell says that many people try various nutrients, supplements, vitamins, and herbs. “It’s important to experiment and see what works for you,” he points out. “I often suggest patients take fish oil for Omega 3s and Vitamin D,” he adds. “Both are good supplements for everyone,” he says.
“I also recommend ‘the other Vitamin C,’ which is positive human connection and interaction,” Dr. Hallowell says, as well as physical exercise, which can also be helpful.
In addition, some people also try CBD oil to treat ADHD, but Dr. DeSilva does not recommend it. “When parents or adult patients ask me about it, I suggest that they talk to their primary care doctors and neurologists to do their own research to understand the pros and cons, but I advise against this. I see too many kids who get panic attacks from using cannabis because such treatments work differently in kids than adults since their brain development is different,” she says. The key for both kids and adults is working with a psychiatrist you trust to guide you on how best to manage your symptoms and monitor your progress.
Living with ADHD
“There is a lot more to treating ADHD than medication,” Dr. Hallowell reminds people. In order to help your child thrive, parents should educate themselves on the condition and their options and how to help your child access the best options for his or her needs. This also requires working closely with your child’s doctors and not being afraid to try something new, or stopping when something you tried isn’t working. He says that parents can also keep the diagnosis in perspective, since ADHD may sound overwhelming, but he stresses that it isn’t necessarily a negative.
“It’s important not to think about what is wrong with your child, but rather, what’s right with him or her,” he stresses. People with ADHD have a number of gifts, such as creativity, intuition, and drive. Living with ADHD means being constantly reminded about your challenges. Learning to recognize these unique assets helps people living with ADHD see their strengths.
- HelpGuide. ADHD/ADD Medications: Are ADHD Drugs Right for You or Your Child? Available at: www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/medication-for-attention-deficit-disorder-adhd.htm. Accessed May 13, 2019.
- National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Available at: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml Accessed May 13, 2019.
- Carrer LR. Music and Sound in Time Processing of Children with ADHD. Front Psychiatry. 2015;6:127. Published 2015 Sep 28. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00127MLACarrer, Luiz Rogério Jorgensen. “Music and Sound in Time Processing of Children with ADHD.” Frontiers in psychiatry vol. 6 127. 28 Sep. 2015, doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00127APACarrer L. R. (2015).
- Carrer LR. Music and Sound in Time Processing of Children with ADHD. Front Psychiatry. 2015;6:127. Published 2015 Sep 28. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00127
- CHADD. The National Resource on ADHD. Managing Medication for Adults with ADHD. Available at: www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/For-Adults/Treatment/Medication-Management.aspx Accessed May 13, 2019/
- DeSilva, Gayani, MD, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Phone interview Oct. 1, 2018. More information available at: http://lagunafamily.com/ Accessed May 13, 2019.
- Hallowell, Edward Ned, MD, President, Hallowell Centers, Phone interview Sept. 26, 2018. More information available at: www.drhallowell.com . Accessed May 13, 2019.
- Understood.org . Types of ADHD Medications. Available at: www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/medications/types-of-adhd-medications. Accessed May 13, 2019.
- American Psychiatric Association. What Is ADHD? Warning Signs of Mental Illness. Available at: www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd Accessed May 13, 2019.
- ChildrensMD. Why Do Stimulants Work for Treatment of ADHD? Available at https://childrensmd.org/browse-by-age-group/why-do-stimulants-work-for-treatment-of-adhd/ Accessed May 13, 2019
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