Hemp Oil: Uses, Benefits, and Review

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Despite the fact that it is almost always confused with hash oil, which is the tetrahydrocannabinol-containing oil also derived from the plant Cannabis sativa L., hemp oil is perhaps one of the healthiest oils you can ever have. Some would even say that its omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids ratio of 1:3 closely mimics the ideal needed by a healthy human being. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in olive oil is 1:9; sunflower oil at 1:71; and soybean oil at 1:8. Only canola oil is better at 1:2 and flaxseed oil at 4:1.

It is therefore not surprising that hemp oil, or hempseed oil, is highly recommended for a variety of purposes including protection of the cardiovascular system particularly the heart and blood vessels, boosting of the immune system, and slowing down the aging process.

Oil Sources

You may not believe it but hemp oil or hempseed oil is actually extracted from the seeds of a certain variety of Cannabis, the same family of plants that provide marijuana. The good thing about hemp seed oil is that it does not contain or have very low concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient found in marijuana and the one that gives it its highly addictive properties.

Hemp seed is harvested and then thoroughly dried to draw out as much moisture as possible. It is equally important that only mature seeds are harvested because immature or young ones naturally have more water content. Ideally, the moisture content of hemp seeds should not be higher than 10 percent. The batches of hemp seeds are then cold pressed to allow for the retention of the full range of chemical and health properties of hemp oil. It has been shown that using either high temperatures as in steam distilling or solvents in the extraction of the oil from hemp seeds can lead to significant degradation in the quality of the hemp oil. Additional refining are not encouraged as this can have a negative effect on the overall quality of the hemp oil. Upon cold pressing the extracted hempseed oil is immediately bottled into opaque bottles under nitrogen to help preserve the qualities of the oil. The batches of hemp seed oil are then immediately refrigerated although freezing is highly recommended if one requires long term storage.

It is quite easy to spot an unrefined hemp oil compared to those that have undergone additional processing. The unrefined, hence higher quality, hemp oil should appear off-yellow or dark green in color. The taste is nutty with a hint of bitterness. Hemp seed oil should not have tetrahydrocannabinol. If there are trace amounts, it is often the result of contamination by other residues from the Cannabis sativa L. plant.

Health Properties

Despite the current apprehension about the supposed psychoactive effects of hemp oil because of its close relationship with hash oil and its tetrahydrocannabinol content, studies now show that by choosing the highest quality of unrefined hemp oil can help provide a variety of health benefits that spring forth from the following health properties.

  • Analgesic – Reduces the sensation of pain and tenderness.
  • Antibacterial – Helps inhibit the growth and continued proliferation of certain microorganisms particularly bacteria.
  • Antifungal – Helps retard the growth of fungal species by disrupting the ability of certain fungal species to manufacture their own food.
  • Antihyperlipidemic – Hemp oil can help reduce a variety of lipids in the body particularly triglycerides, total cholesterol, and low density lipoproteins. In one particular study, it was shown that hemp oil can reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol by as much as 67 percent.
  • Anti-inflammatory – Hemp oil helps mitigate inflammatory reactions including swelling, increased secretions, redness, pain, fever, and other discomforts.
  • Antioxidant – Hemp oil helps slow down the effects of aging leading to healthier hair and skin such as reduced fine lines, age spots, and wrinkles. Also helps in the more efficient regeneration of other cells and tissues in the body.
  • Antirheumatic – The anti-inflammatory properties of hemp oil can help reduce the pain and swelling of the joints to bring much-needed comfort.
  • Antiviral – Helps break down the protective capsules or envelopes of certain viruses to expose them to the different cells of the immune system.
  • Anxiolytic – Hemp oil helps in the alleviation of anxiety as well as an adjunctive treatment in patients with insomnia, depression, and anxiety disorders.
  • Appetite enhancer – Helps improve appetite which can be useful among individuals who are recovering from an illness or even serious physical injuries.
  • Cancer preventive – May help in the prevention of certain cancers primarily because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. These have been shown to be particularly important mechanisms in the mitigation of certain risks associated with cancer formation.
  • Cardioprotective – The antihyperlipidemic profile of hemp oil is essentially what makes it a very important oil for protecting the heart. It reduces the risk of heart attacks as well as other problems of the cardiovascular system.
  • Cytophylactic – Helps enhance the overall health of cells while at the same time stimulating their continued and more efficient regeneration.
  • Sedative – One of the effects of hemp oil is that it soothes the nervous system by acting on the different receptors for certain neurotransmitters. This helps provide a more relaxed, calmer, and more peaceful rest.
  • Skin-regenerative – Helps improve the elasticity and integrity of the different structures of the skin. It is also ideal in the management of dermatitis as it helps in the healing and regeneration of skin cells.

Health Benefits

The foregoing health properties of hemp oil are what brings about the following health benefits.

  • Lowers Cholesterol Levels – Studies show that hemp oil can effectively reduce the levels of low density lipoprotein cholesterol by as much as 67 percent. It is also very useful in the reduction of total cholesterol levels as well as triglyceride levels. While there is only modest increases in high density lipoproteins, the overall changes in the lipid profile suggests of an excellent cardioprotective functioning.
  • Protects the Heart – One of the well-studied benefits of hemp oil is its excellent omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio which is the ideal ratio for the body. This simply means that there is a greater chance that you won’t have to worry about the formation of fatty clumps inside the walls of your major arteries especially those leading to the heart’s muscle itself. This helps prevent the development of myocardial infarction or heart attack. It can also help minimize the risk of developing stroke and kidney failure because of blockage of the blood vessels leading to the brain and the kidneys, respectively.
  • Facilitates Skin Health and Regeneration – The essential fatty acid composition of hemp oil has been shown to be effective in the healing and regeneration of skin cells. Its effectiveness in the management of atopic dermatitis, other forms of eczema, and psoriasis has been well-documented. The ability of hemp seed oil to improve the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the different structures of the skin help ensure that the skin maintains its adequate hydration and nutrition. This allows it to grow healthier and, in cases where it has undergone inflammatory changes such as those found in psoriasis and eczema, regenerate a lot faster. Additionally, hemp oil’s essential fatty acids help provide the luster and natural elasticity of the skin.
  • Boosts Immunity – The superb omega-3 and omega-6 profile of hemp oil make it an ideal substance in the enhancement of the immune system. This includes the strengthening of the intestinal flora as well as the regulation of the production of certain anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Fights the Effects of Aging – Its antioxidant effects are superb especially in terms of maintaining a clearer and fairer skin. It minimizes wrinkles, age spots, fine lines, and heavy pigmentation to give your skin a much better glow. It also helps enhance the different physiologic processes of the body to make them more efficient and less stagnant. This leads to more vibrant and more youthful feeling.
  • Improves Nervous System Functioning – The effects of hemp oil on the central nervous system is attributed to its essential fatty acids. These help maintain the integrity of the neuronal structures particularly the myelin sheath the covers the axons of nerve cells. These sheaths have open portions where electrical impulses are generated. This saltatory conduction allows electrical impulses to travel at lightning speeds. If the myelin sheath is damaged or destroyed, then electrical impulses will be generated and transmitted at a much slower pace. Hemp oil makes sure that the health of the nervous system is maintained.

Studies

One of the most remarkable features of hemp oil is its excellent omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio. According to Callaway, who performed an analysis of the Cannabis sativa L. seeds in 2004, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids for hempseed oil is 1:2 to 1:3 which is, according to the American Heart Association is just exactly what the body needs. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be highly beneficial in the maintenance of a healthier heart by reducing total cholesterol levels including low density lipoprotein cholesterols and triglycerides. Studies show that a reduction in these lipids can help prevent the abnormal development or buildup of fatty deposits, known as atherosclerotic plaques, in the inner walls of large blood vessels particularly those that are found in the heart muscle itself. This helps prevent the narrowing of the blood vessel to allow blood to be pumped through the arteries and reach their intended destination. Additionally, this same principle can be applied to other major or vital organs of the body such as the brain and the kidneys. Ensuring healthier blood vessels thus helps prevent myocardial infarction or heart attack, stroke, and reduced renal function leading to kidney failure.

The excellent omega-3 profile of hemp seed oil is also excellent in the reduction of inflammatory disorders such as those found in Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and other inflammatory conditions of the muscles and bones as well as other internal organs. For example, a study by Callaway, Schwab, Harvina, Halonen, Mykkanen, Hyrvonen, and Jarvinen in 2005 revealed that hempseed oil can help regulate the levels of plasma fatty acids particularly linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, and gamma-linolenic acid which resulted in the improvement of dryness and itchiness of the skin of patients with atopic dermatitis. The introduction of hemp oil as an adjunct to the therapy for atopic dermatitis also helped lower the required doses of dermatological medications. Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that is largely considered of genetic origin. However, the use of hemp oil as therapeutic adjunct meant that people who undergo dermatologic treatments do not require larger doses of the medicine. At the very least, this is a welcome news as people don’t have to expose themselves to unnecessary risks associated with medication side effects.

The anti-inflammatory properties of hemp oil was also exhibited in the study of Grigoriev in 2008 when he attempted to determine the effects of hemp oil therapeutic adjunct in the management of problems of the ears, nose, and throat including otitis externa, pharyngitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, and tonsillitis. The study revealed that when hempseed oil was added to the standard treatment regimen, the total length of time needed to resolve the health problem was reduced by 8 days. While the research did not show just exactly how hemp oil was able to hasten the speed of treatment response, it did provide enough evidence for future researchers to try and understand a lot better the mechanism of action of this particular essential oil. One of the mechanisms being entertained is its anti-inflammatory effects which could help explain why the ear, nose, and throat conditions – all inflammatory in nature – were resolved much quicker than when only standard therapy was implemented. This has excellent implications in the management of burn injuries as well as traumatic injuries.

One of the more controversial uses of hemp oil is its ability to help in maintaining the integrity of the central nervous system. Proponents of fish oil point out that the human brain is essentially made up of long-chain fatty acids and as such, the best source of polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs are those from fish and not from plant life. However, studies reveal that long-chain fatty acids need to be thoroughly emulsified first – or processed by bile – before it can be absorbed into the blood for it to be useful. If the individual has a problem in his or her liver, then these PUFAs will not be readily absorbed. On the other hand, short- and medium- chain PUFAs, like the ones found in hemp oil and flaxseed oil, are readily absorbed into the bloodstream making them more readily available.

Hemp oil is also rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). While this is not really an essential fatty acids simply because the body can synthesize it from parent compounds, it is nevertheless important among individuals who may have problems with delta-6-desaturase. This enzyme is needed to breakdown parent molecules into GLA. There are several studies that show this could very well be beneficial among the elderly population, those with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic neuropathy, and those individuals who have high cholesterol levels in their blood, zinc deficiency, and viral infections. It has also been thoroughly investigated for its benefits in the management of atopic dermatitis, mastalgia or breast tenderness, and psoriasis as well as drying and flaking of skin.

Uses

The superb health benefits that emanate from hemp oil’s chemical characteristics and health properties allow it to be used in a variety of applications. While many of its intended uses are not yet fully backed by scientific evidence, it’s only a matter of time before the medical community can start recognizing the many health benefits of such oils as hemp seed oil. Nevertheless, hemp oil is often indicated in the following health conditions.

  • Psoriasis and Eczema – Hemp oil’s essential fatty acids help nourish the damaged skin and assist in its faster regeneration. It helps in the reduction of inflammatory changes that occur with such skin conditions.
  • Glaucoma – Hemp oil has been shown to be particularly effective in the reduction of intraocular pressures to help relieve glaucoma. It also helps prevent macular degeneration for optimum eye health.
  • Migraines, Headaches, and Pain Syndromes – The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of hemp oil make it one of the best natural remedies for migraines and other forms of headaches as well as other types of bodily pain.
  • Insomnia – Hemp oil promotes central nervous system relaxation as well as smooth muscle relaxation to help in the induction of rest and sleep. This is particularly beneficial among individuals who may have problems sleeping.
  • Anxiety – The anxiolytic effects of hemp oil can help provide better control of anxiety to make you feel more relaxed and calm. This also helps improve clarity of mind, concentration, and focus to make cognitive processes more efficient.
  • Loss of Appetite – For individuals who are recuperating from an illness or who may have lost their appetite because of some other physiologic process, hemp oil can help stimulate the brain to increase the body’s food intake.
  • Cardiovascular Risk – Hemp oil lowers cholesterol and lipid levels which can help in the prevention of the formation of fatty deposits inside the walls of major arteries. This helps prevent heart attacks which may lead to cardiac failure. Additionally, this can also help in the prevention of stroke and kidney failure.

Nutritional Information

Hemp oil is rich in the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3 with the ideal ratio of 3:1, respectively. Additionally, it is also rich in gamma-linolenic acid as well as stearidonic acid. It also contains palmitic acid, eicosanoic acid, eicosenoic acid, cannabidiol (which is different from tetrahydrocannabinol), myrcene, sitosterol, gamma-tocopherol, and caryophyllene. Closer analysis also reveal hemp seed oil to be an excellent source of complete protein which can provide the body the amino acids it needs for a variety of physiologic and biochemical processes. Hemp oil also contains potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus as well as trace amounts of strontium, chromium, thorium, and arsenic.

Side Effects

Help seed oil is generally considered to be safe whether it is taken internally or applied as a topical treatment. The maximum recommended dose is 2 tablespoons every day and it is strongly advised not to take hemp oil greater than the maximum dosage. There have been reports of individuals who failed to report their intake of hemp oil prior to surgery. This has led to unusually longer bleeding times. As such, if you are scheduled for surgery, make sure to stop taking hemp seed oil at least 2 weeks before the surgical procedure. Otherwise, your doctor may have to give you a hemostatic agent.

Additionally, hemp oil is not generally recommended for frying. However, it can be used as a salad dressing as well as in other types of cooking where minimal heat is applied.

References

1.Callaway, J. C. (2004). Hempseed as a nutritional resource: an overview. Euphytica. 140(1): 65-72.
2.Callaway, J. C., Schwab, U. S., Harvina, I., Halonen, P., and Mykkanen, O., et al (2005). Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic   dermatitis. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 16(2): 87-94.
3. Deferne, J. and D. W. Pate (1996). Hemp seed oil: a source of valuable essential fatty acids. Journal of the International Hemp Association. 3(1): 1, 4-7.
4. Grigorev, O. V. (2002). Application of hempseed (Cannabis sativa L.) oil in the treatment of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) disorders. Journal of Industrial Hemp. 7(2): 5-15.
5.Horrobin, D. F. (1997). Essential fatty acids in the management of impaired nerve function in diabetes. Diabetes. 46(S2): S90-S93.
6.Innvista. (2005). Innvista. WayBack Machine Internet Archive.
7. Oomah, B. D., Busson, M., Godfrey, D. V., and J. C. G. Drover (2002). Characteristics of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) seed oil. Food Chemistry. 76(1): 33-43.
8. Schwab, U. S., Callaway, J. C., Erkkila, A. T., Gynther, J., Uusitupa, M. I., and T. Jarvinen (2006). Effects of hempseed and flaxseed oils on the profile of serum lipids, serum total and lipoprotein lipid concentrations and haemostatic factors. European Journal of Nutrition. 45(8): 470-477.

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Hemp Oil
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