Why Hemp Can Make You Healthier, Not High

Did you know that industrial hemp not only reduces stress, anxiety and blood pressure, but also environmental waste and pollution? Here’s everything you need to know about this versatile plant.

By Debashruti Banerjee
24 Aug 2021

Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. One of the first plants to be spun for fibre, hemp is used as a nutritional supplement as well as for medicinal and industrial purposes.


Though there is some ambiguity in certain places regarding its relation to other species of cannabis, hemp is generally considered safe for commercial use because it does not trigger a high, per se. Still an area in need of further research, hemp seeds, hemp oils and its other cannabinoids have so far been found to be eco-friendly, healthy and therapeutic in recommended amounts.


Is hemp the same as marijuana?

Hyderabad-based nutritionist, Dr. Lakshmi Kilaru assures that hemp contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal cause behind the psychiatric effects of another, more well-known variety of the same plant called marijuana. A 2021 paper published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research further explains that the negligible amounts of THC present in hemp seed oils may be due to contamination between different kinds of seeds in an inflorescence (cluster of flowers).



What makes hemp so nutritious?

Available to people for millennia, hemp is a healthy source of protein, fibre, carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron, vitamins B and E, magnesium andthe list goes on. The most common part of consumption are the seeds, says Dr. Kilaru, though the leaves, sprouts and flowers can be used in juices and salads as well.

How does hemp improve your physical and mental health?

  • Reduces anxiety and improves sleep: In recent years, there have been multiple positive studies conducted on the medicinal qualities of hemp and hemp by-products and it appears that Cannabidiol (CBD), derived from hemp, has been effective in treating sleeping issues, anxiety as well as stress.

In a 2019 study published in The Permanente Journal, 79.2 percent of 72 adult patients scored reduced anxiety and 66.7 percent reported better sleeping habits-without compromising with the cognitive or conscious state.

  • Helps your heart: Hemp seed proteins are a valuable source of essential amino acids with beneficial cardiovascular properties. They are antihypertensive, which means that they can also help in reducing high blood pressure. Dr. Kilaru confirms that 50mg of hemp seems to provide 5-100 percent of the recommended daily intake of several minerals like zinc, copper and magnesium, as well as >100 percent of vitamins A, D and E.
  • Boosts your metabolism: According to Dr. Kilaru, the high levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in hemp are in the ideal ratio of 3:1. At these levels, the super-seeds boost your immunity, promote healthy cholesterol and also regulate your metabolism.
  • Environment-friendly: The extraordinary uses of hemp are not just limited to its nutritional composition. It has tremendous socio-economic influence and can be used in making biodegradable plastic, textile, clothing, paint, biofuel, paper and even construction material. Hemp grows really quickly and can reduce our carbon footprint significantly.
  • Reduces pain: Alongwith its calming properties, hemp-derived products can have therapeutic effects as well. A 2017 research by the National Academies Press suggests that cannabinoids have been found to be helpful in significantly reducing distress in adults with chronic pain. By swapping opioids (pain-relieving substances) with cannabinoids, patients have also been able to, in a way, fight overdependence on medication.
  • Manages addiction: Against the backdrop of an opioid overdose crisis, a 2019 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry concluded that Cannabidiol (CBD) “significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of salient drug cues compared with neutral cues. CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures 7 days after the final short-term (3-day) CBD exposure. In addition, CBD reduced the drug cue–induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels.”

Another study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry by Yasmine Hurd et al further tested the ability of CBD to reduce addictive cravings. The study involved 42 women and men with a history of heroin abuse trying to avoid relapse. They were divided into three groups, two of which took different amounts of CBD and one which was placebo. Then, all groups were shown videos related to nature scenes as well as drug-related cues.

It was found that “those participants who took CBD as part of the treatment reported less drug cravings than people in the placebo group after exposure to drug-related cues. Results also demonstrate reduction in anxiety as well as reduction in heart rate and cortisol which is the “stress hormone”.” Thereby, though there is still a lack of enough pre-clinical trials on humans, the potential of CBD in treating addiction should not be ruled out.

  • Controls seizures: Though marijuana and other cannabis products with high amounts of THC have been used for a long time as an anticonvulsant, Emilio Perucca says in his 2017 study in the Journal of Epilepsy Research that for the first time, “there is now class 1 evidence that adjunctive use of CBD improves seizure control in patients with specific epilepsy syndromes.”


How much hemp is safe to use?
There is still a lack of adequate research when it comes to the ideal upper limit of hemp consumption. To err on the side of caution, a paper by the European Industrial Hemp Association recommends consuming a dose of 1-2mg/kg. Furthermore, a 2021 paper published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research claims that while a blanket-ban on the legal status of a natural and THC-free product like hemp may be detrimental for consumers’ rights, “interventions aimed at guaranteeing hemp-derived food safety are compulsory.”


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