Hemp, you’re probably thinking, doesn’t that stuff get you high?! The answer to that question is a resounding no, but don’t worry — you wouldn’t be the first person to confuse the hemp plant, a variety of Cannabis sativa L., with marijuana. The hemp plant, though it does produce THC, the compound in marijuana known for producing psychoactive effects, doesn’t produce enough THC to create intoxicating effects when consumed. In fact, the hemp plant actually produces many other nutrients, including cannabidiol (or CBD), in much higher concentrations.
And though the hemp plant has been around for many years, it is only recently that new studies have thrust hemp into the global spotlight as a potential source of health-boosting benefits. New research is emerging that shows hemp has multiple positive effects on the human body, especially when used to increase and strengthen immune health. In this post, we’ll review the many uses of hemp, including how you can use hemp internally to better your own health. Then we’ll delve into the multitude of benefits of the hemp plant. Finally, we’ll discuss the potential side effects of the hemp plant, so you can be sure you are safely introducing the plant into your daily vitamin and supplement routine.
What are the uses of the hemp plant?
The hemp plant has served a variety of purposes for more than 10,000 years. It can be used to make fiber (from the plant’s stems), protein (from the plant’s seeds), and oils and smokable extracts (from the plant’s leaves and flowers).
Hemp fibers can be used to make many different items, including:
- Building materials
But because this post focuses on the benefits of the hemp plant for the human body, we’ll be looking more closely at internal uses for the hemp plant.
The easiest way for humans to consume hemp is orally, through oils or tinctures. Not only is this method the most simple, it also allows you to reap the maximum amount of benefits from the nutrients in the plant. When hemp plants are processed, they inevitably lose some of those nutrients, so you want to choose a method of ingestion that doesn’t rely on overprocessing of the plant. Oils and tinctures are the recommended route.
What are the benefits of the hemp plant?
The most well-known benefit of the hemp plant has to do with the high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, that it contains. CBD became incredibly popular as a consumer product over the last decade, as research showed that CBD can have a positive effect on inflammation and support of the immune system. It also helps in sleeping better.
However, more and more is being uncovered about pure hemp oil, derived from the hemp plant, and the potential positive effects it can have on the immune system. Scientists have furthered their investigation into hemp oil to specifically focus on how the many compounds contained in hemp plants work together to benefit the immune system. This topic is particularly relevant and timely in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. People want to know if there are natural ways to fortify the body’s defenses and increase immune system support. And if they can add these supplements to their diets at home? That’s even better.
Hemp oil benefits the immune system in three key ways: by helping with immune regulation, by fighting inflammation of the immune system, and by increasing general health and wellness. Hemp oil and tinctures contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant molecules — all of which work together on a cellular level to support the immune system’s response to viral infiltration. This research tells us that hemp oil is actually better for you than CBD-isolate products due to the diverse variety of molecules contained within — molecules that support regulation, alleviate inflammation, and increase overall health.
Hemp seeds — which differ from hemp oil, as the oil is produced from hemp leaves and flowers — are also a nutrient-dense food that can have positive impacts on your health. They contain the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to healthful consumption. A study from 2008 also found that the proteins found in hemp are more easily digested by humans than common soy protein isolates used in food products.
Like fish oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, and other superfoods, hemp oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Because the body doesn’t produce all of its essential fatty acids on its own, food and supplements are an important source. According to the National Institute of Health, omega-3 intake can have a positive effect on energy levels, heart and lung function, and the endocrine and immune systems.
Omega-6, another fatty acid found in hemp oil, is a great alternative to saturated fats, according to Harvard Medical School findings. Once thought to be less important than omega-3s, the health implications of a diet that includes omega-6s are becoming more recognized. “Omega-6 fats, which we get mainly from vegetable oils, are also beneficial,” the Harvard article suggests, noting a reduction in harmful LDL cholesterol and an increase in protective HDL. “They help keep blood sugar in check by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin.”
What are the side effects of the hemp plant?
The most common side effects of taking the hemp plant by mouth are:
- Throat irritation
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
However, it is not clear exactly how common these side effects are, due to a general lack of research available on the subject. When it comes to ingesting natural supplements, it is always best to start off at a low dose and ramp up slowly from there. Be sure to listen to what your body is saying to you.
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