Nature’s Forgotten Nutraceutical

by Darrell L. Tanelian, M.D., Ph.D.

That the Hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) is used as a food source initially surprises and confuses most people. The public misinformation system has largely restricted knowledge of “Hemp” as it being Marijuana … which is actually derived from the Cannabis Indica plant (same family .. different plant – like broccoli and cauliflower, same family, different plant), with its leaf content of the psychoactive substance delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Oil, Shelled Seed, Flour, Hemp Cake, paint and more are made from the seed, while rope and cloth is made from the Fibre of the Cannabis Sativa plant and paper from the plant stalk.

Both the oldest Chinese agricultural treatise, the Xia Xiao Zheng, written in the 16th century BC and other Chinese records discuss Hemp as one of the major grain crops grown in ancient China.

Besides its propagation in China, the cultivation and use of Hemp has, since the beginnings of recorded history, also been documented by many other great civilizations, including: India, Sumeria, Babylonia, Persia, Egypt and other nations of the Near East and the Aztec and Mayan civilizations of South America; as well as by native cultures in North America and Europe. Indeed, it might be said that over these thousands of years, Hemp has always followed humankind throughout the world, or vice versa. Nutritionally, the key point about Hemp is that its edible portion – the meat of the shelled seed – resembles the seeds of other cultivated grains including wheat and rye and does not contain THC. Moreover, the strains of Hemp plant used for food have been naturally selected so as to produce little or no THC, generally. These nutritional varieties of Hemp plant grow in temperate climates to heights of 14 feet and as with many agricultural grains, their seeds can be harvested in a conventional manner with a combine. Since the most modern handling and shelling of the seed minimize its contact with leaf resins, the shelled seed itself and the oil, nut butter and other foods prepared from the seed have been made with THC concentrations as low as 1 ucg/g (ppm) to non-detectible. These modern Hemp products, when consumed in normally recommended amounts, should all but eliminate positive urine tests for THC.

Studies conducted on older versions of Hemp seed oil found some to contain THC concentrations that resulted in positive urine tests

Nutrients in Hemp Seed

The most basic Hemp seed product is the shelled seed, sometimes referred to as the “Hemp Nut.” The other major Hemp food products are Hemp seed nut butter – which resembles peanut- and other nut butters – cold-pressed Hemp seed oil and Hemp seed flour. These basic products can be consumed alone or used along with or instead of other grains, seeds, nuts and oils in any appropriate recipe. In terms of its nutrient content, shelled Hemp seed is 34.6% protein, 46.5% fat and 11.6% carbohydrate.

The most important feature of Hemp seed is that it provides both of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) needed in the human diet – GLA, Linoleic and Alpha-Linolenic acid -as well as a complete and balanced complement of all essential amino acids.

Fats in Hemp

As compared with most nuts and seeds, the 46.5% fat content of shelled Hemp seed is relatively low and Hemp food products have a low cholesterol content and high content of the natural phytosterols that reduce cholesterol levels. Hemp Seed Oil has on average the highest mono- and poly-unsaturated fat content of all oils, taken collectively, of between 80% and 89%.

The polyunsaturated Linoleic acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid, is present in Hemp seed oil in a content of 55.6g/100g and Alpha-Linolenic acid, a polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acid, is present at 17.2 g/100 g. The ratio of the two EFAs is 3.38, closely approximating the 4.0 average ratio recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), Sweden and Japan for the human diet.

Conveniently, Hemp Seed Oil is also one of the only food oils to contain the direct metabolites of Linoleic and Alpha-Linolenic acid – Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA) and Stearidonic acid (SDA), respectively. Because of this, it can circumvent the impaired EFA metabolism and physical compromise that can result from genetic factors, intake of other fats, aging and lifestyle patterns.

By contrast with unsaturated fat, only 6.6% of the total calories in shelled Hemp seed come from saturated fat – a percentage that contrasts sharply with the 13 to 14% of saturated fat calories in the modern western diet.

This gives Hemp seed oil a polyunsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio of 9.7, in comparison to the current ratio of 0.44 in the western diet, 6 and indicates that consuming even a small portion of Hemp seed oil daily can contribute strongly to bringing this dietary imbalance back toward the World Heath Organisation recommended goal of 1.0.

Hemp Protein

Besides providing the human EFAs and having a favorable unsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio, Hemp seed is an excellent dietary source of easily digestible, gluten-free protein. Its overall protein content of 34.6 g/100 g is comparable to that of soy beans and better than that found in nuts, other seeds, dairy products, meat, fish, or poultry. Hemp protein provides a well-balanced array of the 10 essential amino acids for humans. An important aspect of Hemp seed protein is a high content of arginine (123 mg/g protein) and histidine (27 mg/g protein), both of which are important for growth during childhood and of the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine (23 mg/g protein) and cysteine (16 mg/g protein), which are needed for proper enzyme formation. Hemp protein also contains relatively high levels of the branched-chain amino acids that are important for the metabolism of exercising muscle.

Other Hemp Nutrients

The carbohydrate content of shelled Hemp seed is 11.5% and its sugar content is 2%. Of the shelled Hemp seed carbohydrate, 6% is in the form of fiber. The fiber content of Hemp seed flour is 40%, which is the highest of all commercial flour grains. In addition to containing the basic human nutrient groups, Hemp foods have a high content of antioxidants (92.1 mg/100g) in the form of alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol. Additionally, Hemp seed contains a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals.

Hemp in Health and Disease Prevention

The high content of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids and the relatively high phytosterol content of Hemp foods and oils, make them beneficial to cardiovascular health. Numerous human and animal studies have shown that substitution of polyunsaturated for saturated fats can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and fatal cardiac arrhythmia, as well as reducing blood cholesterol levels and decreasing the cellular proliferation associated with atherosclerosis.

A high polyunsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio, especially when it includes Linoleic acid, has also been positively associated with reduced arterial thrombosis.

Additionally, phytosterols, of which Hemp seed contains 438 mg/100g, have been shown to reduce total serum cholesterol by an average of 10% and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by an average of 13%.

Poly-unsaturated fatty acids and especially GLA, have also been found beneficial in treating various human cancers, 13-17 and studies have shown that phytosterols may offer protection against colon, breast and prostate cancers.

Besides the importance of a proper dietary ratio of Linoleic to Alpha-Linolenic acid in maintaining the polyunsaturated fatty acid composition of neuronal and glial membranes, membrane loss of polyunsaturated fatty acids has been found in such neurodegenerative disorders as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and it has been suggested that a diet with a proper balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids may help delay or reduce the neurologic effects of these diseases. A fatty acid preparation with a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids of 4, which is practically identical to that in Hemp oil, has been shown to improve the quality of life of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Additionally, GLA has been found effective for treating rheumatoid arthritis and active synovitis and the GLA and vitamin D content of Hemp foods may make them beneficial in preventing and treating osteoporosis.

Moreover, supplementation with products containing EFAs has been found capable of reversing scaly skin disorder, inflammation, excessive epidermal water loss, itch and poor wound healing caused by EFA deficiency and GLA has been shown to be beneficial for atopic eczema and psoriasis.

Hemp in Cosmetics and Processed Food Products

The critical importance of EFAs and especially GLA, for healthy skin makes Hemp seed oil a highly effective skin care and cosmetic product. Its lipid constituents allow it to permeate through intact skin and to thereby nourish skin cells directly while also carrying therapeutic substances with it into the skin. These properties have led to a multitude of soaps, shampoos, skin lotions, lip balms, conditioners and other skin-care products containing Hemp seed oil.

Among food products made from Hemp seed, oil and flour are beer, pasta, cheese, cookies, waffles, granola, candy, ice cream and others, with new products now being regularly developed.

In short, Hemp can constitute an important element in nutrition, health and cosmetics, with the prospect of playing a major role in preventing disease and reducing health care expenditures.



1.      Yu Y. Agricultural history over seven thousand years in China, In: Feeding a Billion: Frontiers of Chinese Agriculture, ed. S Witter, 1987.

2.      Li H. “The Origin and Use of Cannabis in Eastern Asia: Their Linguistic Cultural Implications,” in Cannabis and Culture, ed. V Rubin, The Hague: Mouton, 1975.

3.      Leson G, Pless P, Grotenherman F, Kalant H, ElSohly MA. Food products from Hemp seeds: Could their consumption interfere with workplace drug testing J Anal Toxicol, Accepted, 2000

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10.  Fan YY, Ramos KS, Chapkin RS. Modulation of atherosclerosis by dietary gamma-linolenic acid. Adv Exp Med Biol 469:485-91, 1999.

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13.  Vartek S, Robbins ME, Spector AA. Polyunsaturated fatty acids increase the sensitivity of 36B10 rat astrocytoma cells to radiation-induced cell kill. Br J Cancer 77:1612-20, 1998.

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27.  Horrobin DF. Essential fatty acid metabolism and its modification in atopic eczema. J Am Clin Nutr 71:367S-72S, 2000.


Hemp Tofu

As a vegan, it’s easy to eat A LOT of soy. Actually, these days, it’s easy to eat a lot of soy even if you’re an omnivore. It’s in so many things.


A popular source of protein for vegans and vegetarians is, of course, tofu. And while I love tofu and all varieties of it, I am trying to be very conscious of the amount of soy I take in. I know the topic of the health and environmental impacts of soy is controversial and people stand on opposite sides of the issue (and a lot depends on the form of soy in question). But I don’t like to overdo anything and I say, “better safe than sorry.” Plus, I love a culinary challenge and welcome as many ways to take in my protein as possible.

I have become kind of obsessed with hemp seeds lately. They contain all essential amino acids and fatty acids and are therefore a complete source of protein. In addition, hemp is not a common allergen, like soy or nuts. And, most importantly, they are delicious. They have a nutty, creamy taste. I put spoonful’s on my coconut yogurt in the morning. I make fresh hemp milk. So, I figured, why not make some hemp tofu? Hey, the Italians already do it commercially!


I got inspiration for this recipe from a few sources, mainly from a forum member on Post Punk Kitchen, named “vegimator” who makes tofu out of pumpkin and hemp seeds and from a Finnish blog named Mammi who calls the finished product “hefu.” I took their advice, combined it with my knowledge of tofu-making and started experimenting.

This recipe yields a more crumbly tofu than soy tofu. Soy tofu is usually made after straining liquid from the pulp (or okara). I tried this technique with hemp and not enough solids were left in the strained out liquid to coagulate. Using the milk as is, straight from the blender, did work (and a Vitamix helps create a very smooth milk). Hemp tofu is great seared, for a scramble, or a stir-fry, if you don’t mind having rustic, non-cube chunks. Or do what I did: simply drizzle with some sweet soy sauce (equal parts soy sauce and sugar, simmered until thickened) and sprinkle with nori strips. The sweet soy sauce and nori goes great with the creaminess and earthiness of the hemp!

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: a few blocks, depending on size of tofu mould



2 cups shelled hemp seeds

4 cups water

1 1/2 Teaspoons powdered nigari, which will be dissolved in 1 additional cup of water (Note: I have seen recipes for hemp tofu where a coagulant is not even used, so feel free to skip this part. Although, you may get a more crumbly result.)




Blend hemp seeds with water for one minute at high speed (I used a Vitamix) to make hemp milk.

Put hemp milk in a pot and, partially cover it and bring to a boil. You’ll start to seeing curds forming.







When it reaches a low boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and boil the milk for four minutes, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.








Meanwhile, dissolve the nigari in a cup of warm water.








Remove the pot from the stove, wait until the temperature reaches 155F. Add half the nigari solution and stir briskly for a few seconds. Wait until the liquid stops moving. Then add the rest of the nigari solution and gently stir a few times. Let sit 15 minutes.








curd-ball-newPlace a cheesecloth over a colander and strain the curds out.

Take an amount of curd that will fit in your press (this recipe makes a good bit of curd), place in another piece of cheesecloth and twist to get ALL of the liquid out. If it’s too hot to squeeze, you can try squeezing with tongs.

Place the ball of curd, still in the cloth, into a tofu press/mould and press the curd down. Stack a few bottles or cans on top as a weight. [I bought a cheap wooden press for four dollars at Daiso in Japantown, but I think I’m going to invest in a TofuXpress so that I don’t have to worry about stacking cans on the press.]


Let the press stay for 30 minutes.






Then unmould the hemp tofu and enjoy!








Reblogged from :

Blueberry Hemp Shake

 BlueberrySmoothieServes 1

1 Cup Frozen Blueberries

3 Heaped Tbsp Hemp Seeds

2 Tbsp Hemp Protein Powder

1 Cup Hemp Milk

2 Pitted Dates

1 Cup Spinach

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tsp Maca*

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender. Add more almond milk if the texture is too thick. Enjoy!

*Maca is an herbaceous plant native to the high Andean Mountains of Bolivia and Peru. It is one of the only food plants in the world able to thrive at such a high altitude. Maca, and more specifically the root of the plant, has a long history as a superfood. The maca root was prized throughout the Incan empire for its adaptogenic-like qualities that enable it to nourish and balance the body’s delicate endocrine system, and to help cope with stress. It also energizes naturally, without the jitters and crashes of caffeine, and it can aid in reproductive function, helping to balance hormones and increase fertility. 

Hemp Foods

Hemp SeedHemp foods are made from hemp seeds and are incredibly nutritious.

They offer a wide variety of important health attributes. They boosts the immune system, provides fiber to care for the digestive tract, are a great source of protein, and contain healthy omega-3 fats. Regular intake of hemp foods can help to improve overall health and may even stave off some diseases.

The majority of all hemp foods are made from Canadian grown and processed hemp seeds.

Many people think of Hemp is Marijuana – not realising that – as Broccoli and Cauliflower are from the same family, but not the same plant – so Hemp and Marijuana are from the same family, but is not the same plant.

Hemp does not have the same chemical make-up as Marijuana (it does contains some of the same cannabinoids – but, it’s THC content is normally lower than 0.03% as opposed to Marijuana that can be as high as 29%).

Types of Hemp Foods

Hemp products are available in different forms and can be easily added to everyone’s daily diet. There are many forms of hemp foods that can be used alone or used in several recipes. There are different ways that hemp foods can be used alone or in recipes. Some of the most popular forms of hemp foods include:

  • Whole Hemp Seeds
  • Shelled Hemp Seed (hemp hearts / hulled hemp seeds)
  • Hemp Seed Oil
  • Hemp Protein
  • Hemp Milk
  • Hemp Butter

Whole hemp seeds are really versatile. They can be added to almost any recipe to increase fiber, protein and/or healthy oil intake. Shelled hemp seeds, also called hemp hearts or hulled hemp seeds have a taste similar to pine nuts and can be eaten in a similar way.

Hemp Seed Oil is best to use as a finishing oil such as salad dressing or drizzled over your veggies just before eating. Hemp protein is among the most nutritious and can help the body cleanse the intestinal tract. It can be used just like whey or soy protein without the nasty side effects (some people experience the side effects of lactose intolerance with Whey proteins – and soy contains chemicals that actually inhibit the human body from absorbing the protein it contains – so it has to be processed before the proteins are available – this is not the case with Hemp). Hemp Milk is similar to almond or soy milk and can be substituted for dairy milk in recipes. Hemp Butter is similar to Almond and/or Peanut butter – but as Hemp is not a nut, is safe (and a yummy alternative) for people who have nut allergies.

Hemp Foods

 HulledSeedShelled Hemp Seed can be used alone or in almost any recipe. In the form of shelled seeds (“hemp hearts”) it can be sprinkled onto cereal or added to a fruit smoothie to boost protein intake for breakfast. For lunch, hemp hearts are a tasty addition to a salad or can be tossed onto vegetables for added protein and healthy fats. For dinner place a handful of hemp seeds on top of pasta or stir fry. As a snack or dessert, mix in some hemp seeds with yogurt.

hemp-seed-oilGHemp Seed Oil can be used in baking and light cooking. However, hemp seed oil has a low flash point, which means it will start to smoke at fairly low temperatures. You should never cook with hemp seed oil as heat destroys the goodness in the oil. Therefore, it’s best to use hemp seed oil as a “finishing oil” which means that it should be consumed raw. Use as a salad dressing, either as vinegar and oil, or as a prepared dressing such as ranch. You can use hemp seed oil as a substitute for other fats, such as butter on a baked potato or rice. Some prefer to simply use hemp seed oil as a supplement – consume 1-2 Tablespoons per day as needed.

Hemp Seed Oil is high in Essential Fatty Acids – and the Omega 6 and Omega 3 is in the optimal balanced ratio of 3:1 – making it the best vegetable based Omega supplement for long term use.

hemp-protein-powderHemp Protein is generally available in four different varieties with varying levels of protein: 34%, 50%, 60% and 70%. Hemp protein is made from milling the seed cake into flour that is left over from pressing whole hemp seed into oil. Further processing of sifting out the fiber is performed to increase protein and decrease fiber content.

Hemp Protein contains all 20 Amino Acids. Including the 9 Essential Amino Acids.

The 70% hemp protein is a concentrate which is water soluble. This means it will dissolve into water or other liquids. No matter which variety you choose, hemp protein is usually used as a source of protein in fruit smoothies.

There are hundreds of ways to use hemp in almost all of your recipes — you can be creative and find new and innovative ways to include them in your diet. Add them to your family’s diet every day to enjoy the many health benefits of hemp.

To-Die-For Rosemary & Thyme Cracker Recipe (Gluten-Free)

These delicious little treats are my latest obsession.

They’re a cinch to put together and taste absolutely divine.

I often have a few as a midday snack, and also serve them at cocktail parties with olive tapenade or organic goat cheese.

Hemp flour is a great gluten-free alternative to regular flour. You can also use Almond Flour. I like to remind people that eating a few tablespoons of it is just like eating handful of seeds or almonds; a small serving goes a long way to filling you up.



Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Makes about 20 crackers


1 1/2 cups hemp flour or blanched almond flour

2 tablespoons shelled hemp seed

1 tablespoons fresh rosemary + 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped (or any other combination of herbs)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon hemp seed oil

1 egg (preferably free-range + local and/or organic)

2 teaspoons purified water


Preheat the oven to 180C. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the oil, egg and water to combine. In a larger bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients into a uniform dry mixture.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Once the dough comes together, use your clean hands to mix well and ensure a uniform mixture.

Place the dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and place the bottom sheet with dough onto baking sheet.

Cut into 2-inch squares and bake 12-15 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Store in the refrigerator for up to one week, or at room temperature up to two days.

Cook’s notes:

If you live in a more humid climate, you may not need to add the 2 teaspoons of water – experiment.

Thin dough (1/8 inch) makes crispier crackers; thicker dough (1/4 inch) makes softer, more chewy crackers.

I used rosemary and thyme here, but two tablespoons of any combination of fresh finely chopped herbs can be used.

The need-a-spoon-consistency Green Smoothie

This one has garnered a bit of attention of late – it was the lucky winner of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition’s photo of the week last week and I was a very happy camper when I found out about that!  Given its popularity I thought I’d post the recipe and share the love. I appreciate this may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it is (clearly) very green and thick and it is full of salady ingredients combined with sweet ingredients that may prove an acquired taste for some. In any case it makes for a great breakfast or lunch if you’re flagging, running late, can’t be bothered to chop or all of the above. So here goes:


I made this in a standard blender.


Appx. 130g hemp milk (or other choice of milk)

1 scoop of pure hemp protein powder

2 big handfuls of english or baby spinach

A few sprigs of parsley

1/4 avocado

1 dessert spoon chia seeds (softened)

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon hemp seed oil

1 heaped teaspoon maca powder (optional)

1 heaped tablespoon natural yoghurt

½ teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

¼ teaspoon dried turmeric

Raw honey to taste


Throw all ingredients in the blender and blend until really smooth. Pour (or scoop!) into a glass or cup and sprinkle with whatever your heart desires. Mine is sprinkled with shelled hemp & pumpkin seeds and goji berries.

Now go grab a spoon and enjoy!

Chocolate Walnut Brownie Smoothie

Dieting? Craving Sugar and Chocolate?

Here is a healthier alternative to help fight the cravings, while still getting in all the good stuff!
















1/2 an avocado

1 cup hemp milk (or greek yoghurt)

2 tablespoons chia seeds (soak before)

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

2 tablespoons barley malt syrup or raw honey

1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon shelled hemp seed

Handful of ice cubes


  • Place a few walnuts and the cacao nibs aside
  • Blend all other ingredients together until smooth
  • Sprinkle the cacao nibs & the rest of the walnuts on top of the smoothie