Hemp Seed benefits – A fish oil alternative?

Main talking points

  • Why does hemp oil contain so little CBD? – There are clear differences in oil derived from plant matter vs hemp seed.
  • What are the potential benefits of hemp seed? (short answer: zero psychoactivity, healthy ratio of omega 3 & 6 [which help reduce LDL ‘the bad cholesterol’], anti-inflammatory & 3rd best source of protein )
Fun fact  Hemp seed is not a seed at all. It is technically an 'achene', a tiny nut covered by a hard shell.

Hemp oil is not CBD oilThe company Amazon has a selling clause stating “products containing any CBD are prohibited”. Even if it is legal, Amazon has the right to restrict whatever they want. What you will find on Amazon is hemp seed edibles, extract, & oil.¹
If you are searching for cannabinoid-rich therapy, you should not buy hemp seed or hemp oil. Hemp oil contains very little CBD and other cannabinoids. However, many products still contain them, because they do not properly wash the seed prior to the processing step. “While being void of cannabinoids in the inside, seeds can be contaminated on the outer surface by the sticky resin oil secreted by the numerous glandular trichomes present on the bracts (Ross et al., 2000). As a result, the surface of the seed will be “dirty”…it has been recently suggested that some commercial hemp seed oils can carry a total THC concentration above 10 ppm and total CBD over 1000 ppm.”²Crack your hemp nut open and you will find…

Hemp seed is composed of:

  1. Protein (20-25%)
  2. Carbohydrate (20-30%)
  3. Oil (25-35%)
  4. Insoluble fiber (10-15%).³
Personal opinion - Overall best protein: whey > soy > hemp 
(3rd place is still good) based on absorption & digestibility

Is hemp seed actually fish oil in disguise? Both have beneficial omega fatty acids. Though, Hemp seed holds a 3:1 ratio (omega-6 : omega-3).³The importance of this 3:1 ratio… Diets of Western societies contain too much omega-6 (20:1 ω-6 to ω-3), instead of the traditional (historic) range of 1-2:1 on which human beings evolved. This is thought to be closely associated with chronic diseases like coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders and cancer.⁴ Here are two links if you are interested in learning more (link 1 & link 2)
There is an example of hemp seed being used on a fish farm to correct copper-induced toxicity in carp. The omega-3/omega-6 (ω-3/ω-6) ratios were corrected. The authors concluded, “the addition of hemp seed to a fish’s diet may enhance the essential fatty acid contents of fish, which in turn can have a positive impact on consumer health.”⁵

In addition to having a healthy fatty acid profile, virgin hemp seed oil contains ~4,000-6,500 mg/kg of phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, which has been linked to decreased cholesterol levels. Clinical trials demonstrate that 0.8 g of plant sterols or stanols lower LDL cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol absorption and helping clear circulating levels.³
Hemp seed may lower blood pressure through the RAAS pathway. In vitro and in vivo animal studies have shown that peptides from hemp seed powder inhibited angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) [ a substance that narrows blood vessels]. The RAAS pathway is a target of many popular blood pressure medications (ex: Lisinopril & Valsartan).³
A study on rats found a chemical in hempseed extract, phenylpropionamides (TPA), to be neuroprotective. (Molecular biochemistry: the proposed mechanism of action is by inhibiting the NF-κB signaling pathway. With TPA treatment, there were increased brain levels of IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α in the LPS-induced mice. Furthermore, TPA attenuated LPS-induced hippocampal neuronal damage in mice.)⁶

Author’s note: I took it upon myself to convert the rat TPA dose used in this study ➟ An equivalent human dose would be 0.08 mg/kg.⁷       (A higher dose, 0.16 mg/kg, was found inferior to the lower dose)  
Keep in mind, TPA measurements are not typically reported on consumer product labels.   

How to use your hemp seeds: Eaten raw, cooked, or roasted. Hemp is consumed in many forms, including ground into protein powder, flour, or meal. Because hemp products don’t contain gluten, these flours are a good alternative to wheat products. It can be used as plant-based milk or oil, providing a nutty taste. Raw or roasted hemp seeds can be sprinkled on salads or used in dressing for added texture and nutrients. Because of their relatively soft texture, raw hemp seeds also can be added to smoothies.³
Final Thoughts:

  • THC or CBD isn’t found in properly washed hemp seeds.
  • Hemp seed products have many potential health benefits including providing a variety of minerals and antioxidants, beneficial fatty acids (ω-3/ω-6), plant sterols, fiber, and protein.

Author note:

  • Cardiovascular health is a serious subject. Personally, I’d only recommend hemp seed to patients that refuse to incorporate more fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) & nuts into their diet.
  • For overall general health, I see potential. I predict a high increase in hemp containing consumer goods, such as granola bars & trail mix.

Fish & Cardiovascular health = BIG benefit

  • Cardiac arrest risk decreased by ½ : Population-based studies found that people who eat fatty fish are half (½) as likely as people who don’t eat fish to experience cardiac arrest (when an irregular heart rhythm causes the heart to suddenly stop beating).⁸
  • Coronary artery disease risk decreased by 22%. [coronary artery disease = clogged arteries in the heart].⁸
  • Seafood is beneficial, as long as they’re not deep-fried.⁸

Author: David Katz |


1. Drugs & drug paraphernalia – Amazon Seller Central. Accessed April 6, 2020.

2. Citti C, Linciano P, Panseri S, et al. Cannabinoid Profiling of Hemp Seed Oil by Liquid Chromatography Coupled to High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry. Front Plant Sci. 2019;10. doi:10.3389/fpls.2019.00120

3. CPE Monthly: Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Accessed April 6, 2020.

4. Rodriguez-Leyva D, Pierce GN. The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010;7:32. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-32

5. Afridi AJ, Zuberi A, Yousafzai AM, Maria null, Kamran M, Ullah S. Hemp (Marijuana) reverted Copper-induced toxic effects on the essential fatty acid profile of Labeo rohita and Cirrhinus mrigala. Mol Biol Rep. 2019;46(1):391-401. doi:10.1007/s11033-018-4483-2

6. Zhou Y, Wang S, Ji J, Lou H, Fan P. Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Seed Phenylpropionamides Composition and Effects on Memory Dysfunction and Biomarkers of Neuroinflammation Induced by Lipopolysaccharide in Mice. ACS Omega. 2018;3(11):15988-15995. doi:10.1021/acsomega.8b02250

7. Shin J-W, Seol I-C, Son C-G. Interpretation of Animal Dose and Human Equivalent Dose for Drug Development. JKOM. 2010;31(3):1-7

8. Publishing HH. Seafood suggestions for heart health. Harvard Health. Accessed April 6, 2020.

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