Until recently, most of the discussion about the potential therapeutic benefits from Cannabis sativa has focused on cannabinoids. Largely unknown, yet increasingly popular, are other cannabis products which provide nutritional and possibly therapeutic benefits, i.e., hemp seeds and hemp seed oil–the oil pressed from hemp seeds. Historical accounts name hemp seed oil as a cure for numerous diseases: as an analgesic; for sores and skin diseases; and for coughs, jaundice, and colic. However, these accounts did often not distinguish between effects from the seeds and the cannabinoids contained in the flowers, respectively.
Hemp seeds, the by-product of hemp grown for fiber, were primarily used for food. Hemp seed oil also was processed into paints, varnishes, and soap and products like hair oil. Along with the demise of hemp fiber during the last century, hemp seeds also lost their significance. In countries such as China, the largest producer of hemp seeds in the world, the toasted whole seeds are also used as snacks.
Modern medical and nutritional research and the expanding knowledge of the composition of hemp seeds and hemp seed oil now suggest that particularly its fatty acid spectrum renders hemp oil a balanced and tasty source of essential and other rare fatty acids for human consumption. Hemp seeds, which are now offered as hulled seeds or “hemp nuts” in Europe and the United States, also supply essential amino acids, vitamin E, and other relevant nutrients. The composition of hemp seeds and hemp seed oil and their potential nutritional and therapeutic properties.