It seems like everyone and her sister (and grandma, and aunt and second cousin twice-removed, and . you get it) is sprinkling CBD oil in her smoothies because of claims it can help with everything from pain to anxiety. But what about CBD’s sister: hemp oil? Are hemp oil benefits legit? Proponents say it can help with sleep and anxiety, balance your hormones, make your skin glow, and protect your ticker. But here’s what you should know before you start drizzling it on top of your food or slathering it on your skin.
Yes, and no. Hemp itself is an A+plus source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, it has the 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 that research shows is optimal for health. One of those omega-6s is GLA, or gamma linolenic acid, an anti-inflammatory. That’s why hemp-based food products, like hemp hearts and hemp milk, are gaining reps as legit superfoods.
What is hemp oil—and is it different from CBD oil?
CBD is a compound called a cannabinoid, says Jordan Tishler, MD, a Harvard-trained doc who is an expert on using cannabis as medical treatment. It can be extracted from hemp or marijuana, two different plants from the Cannabis sativa L. (“cannabis”) species. The big difference between the two: Marijuana contains higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”), the compound responsible for the psychoactive properties of pot (a.k.a., the stuff that makes you high). Hemp, on the other hand, is naturally very low in THC (0.3 percent), says Tishler.
Fatty acids and GLA may also help curb the physical and emotional pain linked to PMS. Here’s why: One of the causes of PMS is a hormonal imbalance that leads to a lack of GLA in the body. Research on GLA has shown to help alleviate the symptoms of PMS by bringing hormone levels back into balance. But so far, studies haven’t found ingesting or slathering on hemp oil itself will have this effect.
Omega-3 and omega-6s have been shown to help treat conditions like atopic dermatitis (a.k.a. eczema), which can leave your skin dry and itchy. GLA in particular has been shown to improve dry skin and eczema. One 2005 study even found people who consumed hempseed oil for 20 weeks had a reduction in oil and reduced the symptoms and appearance of eczema after 20 weeks. But that research is preliminary, Tishler points out.
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.
Hemp seeds are grown in many different countries. Hemp from Canada, though, is often preferred for its taste and quality. Look for products that have been tested in the lab for purity and potency. Consult the manufacturer if you have questions.
Ask your doctor before taking hemp. Your safe dosage may be different than what is on the packaging.
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.
There are many ways to eat hemp protein, oil, and seeds, including:
Spreading hemp oil on your skin as a topical application can also reduce symptoms and provide relief for several types of skin disorders. One study showed that hemp oil can act as an effective acne treatment, though more research is needed in this area. In addition, consuming hemp seed oil was found to improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis, or eczema, due to the presence of the “good” polyunsaturated fats in the oil.
Over time, excess inflammation in your body can contribute to a variety of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and asthma. It has been suggested that gamma linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid found in hemp, acts as an anti-inflammatory. Studies have also linked the omega-3 fatty acids in hemp with reductions in inflammation.
Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Oil
The amino acid arginine is present in hempseed oil. Studies have shown that this ingredient contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system. Consuming foods with high arginine levels can help decrease the risk of heart disease.
In studies, the CBD in hemp oil has been shown to reduce seizures in rare types of childhood epilepsy that are resistant to other treatments, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Regularly taking CBD can also reduce the number of seizures brought on by tuberous sclerosis complex, a condition that causes tumors to form throughout the body.
Journal of Clinical Investigation: “Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes.”