Hemp oil’s already extensive repertoire might have just gotten a little longer. The oil has long been hailed as a cosmetic panacea, purportedly aiding with everything from dry skin to cracked nails. It even apparently makes a great hair conditioner. Research also suggests it could clear up more serious conditions, like dermatitis.
Researchers are increasingly suggesting hemp oil might not only make you look good; it’s possible it might be able to make you feel good too. The basic idea is that hemp oil contains a kind of essential fatty acid that might lower levels of depression and anxiety. Contrary to the claims of some hemp enthusiasts, the science isn’t rock solid for now. But, there is good evidence to suggest hemp oil could one day be medically recognized as a way to decrease stress.
What is hemp oil and how is it different from hash oil?
Before we get into the details, though, it’s worth clearing up a little confusion. Hemp oil is not the same as cannabis oil, or its cousin, hash oil. All three oils are quite different.
Cannabis and hash oil contain large amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive constituent found in the cannabis plant. In other words, it’s the stuff that gets you high. For anyone interested, hash has the potential to have the highest concentrations of THC, hitting up to 90 percent. Cannabis products high in THC are quickly becoming accepted options for treating everything from high stress to depression, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Cannabis oil is great for cooking and a low-fat alternative to regular cooking oils.
On the other hand, hemp oil contains only trace elements of THC (at the most). Yet emerging research suggests hemp oil may also be able to reduce stress, even without THC. The secret lies in hemp oil’s nutritional value.
Omega-3s: natural anti-depressants?
Hemp oil is recognized as a great source of essential fatty acids, including omega-6s and omega-3s. The concentrations of both these fatty acids in hemp oil are enormous. Almost 85 percent of hemp oil is made up of essential fatty acids. Add in that balance between omega-6 and omega-3, and you have possibly one of the best natural sources of essential fatty acids ever found.
However, it gets better, with hemp oil also boasting a perfect balance of omega-6s and omega-3s. Unbalanced intake of either of these two essential fatty acids can contribute to a host of health issues in their own right. This isn’t much of a problem when it comes to hemp oil, though. According to Finnish researcher Dr. Jace Callaway, “[The ratio] in hempseed oil is normally between 2:1 and 3:1, which is considered to be optimal for human health.”
Why is a balance of fatty acids ideal?
At this point, you’re probably asking why any of this is a big deal. The short answer: in 2015, Chinese researchers found evidence suggesting omega-3 consumption can “reduce the risk of depression.” Meanwhile, a similar study in 2005 found “omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the prevention of some disorders including depression, as well as in dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.”
There’s also some suggestion that omega-3s could help with other mental health problems, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Though as the 2005 study noted, no clear evidence has yet been found for this.
Don’t get too excited yet. It’s worth pointing out both the above-mentioned studies focused on the consumption of fish (which is also high in omega-3s). It’s entirely possible the findings don’t apply to other rich sources of omega-3s, such as hemp oil. Yet the research is promising. It’s no surprise many people suffering from high levels of stress are already giving hemp oil a try.
How to consume hemp oil
There are a few different ways you can consume hemp oil, depending on whether you’re using the refined or unrefined product. Unrefined hemp oil is much more nutrient rich than its more heavily processed counterpart but has a much shorter shelf life. Like cannabis oil, it’s not suitable for high-heat cooking and should never be used for deep frying. The problem is that those unsaturated fats can be converted to saturated fats under high temperatures, thus eliminating the best reason to consume hemp oil. Another problem is it tends to smoke a lot.
Hemp oil is, therefore, best used as an alternative to olive oil, in either dressings or dips. The nutty flavor really shines when hemp oil is drizzled over a fresh salad, or simply eaten with bread. It is possible to use the oil in sautéed dishes or for some light frying, but keep an eye on the temperature!
Refined hemp oil is much more versatile, but lacks the distinct flavor of the unrefined stuff. Whichever option you go for, it’s worth experimenting a little and seeing what works best for you.
Have you tried hemp oil? Share your experiences in the comments below!
— Tamara Pearson