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Why Hemp Seed Oil Should Be a Daily Staple
Written by: Ernesta Stripeikaite
Health & Wellbeing writer
Little, but highly nutritious hemp seeds may be a novelty in the Western countries, but they have been cultivated and enjoyed by many cultures for thousands of years. Like with most superfoods, hemp has a long history, but it took a while for the industrialized world to discover the many health benefits of these tiny titans.
Hemp may be more commonly associated with marijuana (that says something about our culture!), and even though edible health promoting hemp belongs to the same family as cannabis, it’s not chemically active to have any psychotropic properties. A compound called THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) makes cannabis illegal in many countries. Hemp seeds contain only a trace amount of this substance in its inactive form, so no reason to worry about ‘getting high’ from a dash of hemp seed oil in your salad.
Historically, the hemp plant has been used for clothing, textiles, construction, paper, and other industries, but we are interested in the highly nutritious oil extracted from hemp seeds. About 44% of the hemp seed is oil, made up of about 80% essential fatty acids (EFAs). It is a versatile ‘good’ fat, beneficial to us internally and externally. When choosing a hemp seed oil, always opt for the cold pressed unrefined versions, as the processed oils lose their health benefits. A high quality hemp seed oil will have a green tint due to chlorophyll content, yummy nutty flavour, and will contain a number of nutrients, including calcium and magnesium.
How to Get the Right Balance
Hemp seed oil deserves the title ‘nature’s most perfectly balanced oil’. No other oils have such a perfect essential fatty acid balance.
There are two essential fatty acids, called omega 3 and omega 6. The reason they are called ‘essential’ is that our bodies do not have the enzymes necessary to manufacture them, so these fatty acids have to come from food, in the right amounts and ratios. If you have a generally healthy diet, consume plenty of veggies, oily fish and lots of seeds and stay away from processed foods, your essential fatty acids may look pretty good. However, many people do not include enough good fats in their diets (thanks to low-fat diet craze), or even worse – consume plenty of hydrogenated trans fatty acids in the form of processed foods, which increases the demand for essential fats even further.
While both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are essential, the balance between them is even more important. The processed oils are generally made from corn, soy, or canola, and they tend to be the omega 6 variety. The overabundance of omega 6 and a lack of omega 3 fats is getting recognised as a factor in chronic disease development. Ideally the ratio of EFAs should be 3:1 omega 6 to omega 3, which is exactly what hemp seed oil contains. It has the perfect balance of essential fats needed for health maintenance.
However if your fatty acids are out of whack (ratios such as 20:1 instead of 3:1 are commonly seen), you should consume an omega 3 rich oil to restore the balance first. Flax seed oil, for example, would be a great one to start with to increase omega 3s. It is not recommended to take flax oil for long periods of time as the balance might tip the other way, so after the fatty acids are balanced, hemp seed oil is the perfect choice for long term health maintenance.
Powerful Essential Fats
The signs and symptoms of omega 3 deficiency/ fatty acid imbalance can be wide reaching. Inflammation, for instance, is a very common symptom as the fatty acids are used to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that carry signals in the body. They play an important role in inflammation, and because they are directly made from essential fatty acids, the right balance of good fats can have a profound effect on inflammation.
Inflammation plays a major role in many degenerative chronic illnesses such as heart and cardiovascular problems, so getting inflammation under control can greatly improve health and wellbeing. There is a lot of hype over hemp and cancer treatment too. While nothing can be said for certain, it makes perfect sense that natural whole foods like hemp oil, high in beneficial anti-inflammatory fats and nutrients, promote health and play a role in disease management.
Additionally, the essential fats are crucial for the brain health. Most of the brain is fatty tissue made of omega fatty acids, so consuming healthy oils like hemp seed oil can directly improve brain health, memory and concentration. This could also be important for prevention of chronic degenerative brain diseases.
Omega 3 and 6 fats are also essential for normal human growth and development, for gut flora maintenance and regulating the immunity responses. Omega 3 is a component of cellular membranes, which is important not only for internal health, but also has many benefits when applied externally.
Great for Skin and Hair
Hemp seed oil is a great moisturizer, very beneficial for many skin conditions. Whether you suffer with dry skin, eczema, psoriasis or acne, hemp oil nourishes the skin and can provide relief when used regularly. The anti-inflammatory effects of essential fats can soothe inflamed irritated skin.
Additionally, the healthful properties of EFAs can boost your anti-ageing skin care routine due to a high content of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene. Many known and unknown phytonutrients also play a role in skin rejuvenation. If applied regularly, hemp seed oil can nourish the skin and smooth wrinkles.
EFAs are a part of cellular membranes and make them more fluid, helping nutrients to get into the cells. This could be one of the mechanisms how it relieves extremely dry skin conditions such as eczema. The fatty acids also have immune regulating properties, and eczema and psoriasis are associated with over-sensitized immune systems.
- For skin health, massage the oil into affected areas in circular motion daily. Perform this straight after the shower while the skin is still slightly damp to improve the absorption. It’s also great for babies, especially helpful for cradle cap and nappy rash.
- You can also add a drop or two into your moisturizer to boost its effectiveness.
- Hemp seed oil is brilliant for dry hair and can make it smooth and shiny. Massage the oil into the roots to increase circulation in the scalp and promote hair growth. The nutrients in the oil are also very helpful for dandruff sufferers.
How to include Hemp Seed into your daily diet.
A pleasant nutty flavour makes it easy to include hemp seed oil into our daily routines and make it a part of our eating habits.
Due to a high content of omega fatty acids, hemp seed oil is very heat sensitive, so never heat it or use it for cooking/frying. This oil is delicious drizzled on salads, mixed into salad dressings or dips (try it instead of olive oil), or you can even make your own healthy mayonnaise!
For therapeutic health properties, consume a tablespoon a day for at least a few months.
Hero Hemp Mayonnaise Recipe
You will need:
> 4 egg yolks at room temperature
> 1 tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
> 1 tsp mustard
> ⅔ cup hemp seed oil
> ⅔ cup coconut oil (warm) or other healthy oil (macadamia works well)
> Salt and pepper
How to make it:
- 1. Put egg yolks into blender or bowl and whisk/blend until smooth
- 2. Add lemon juice or vinegar, mustard and spices and blend until mixed
- 3. SLOWLY add oil while blending or whisking at low speed, starting with hemp seed oil. Start with a drop at a time until it starts to emulsify and then keep adding slowly until all oil is incorporated.
- 4. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.