Herb of the Month: a Different Look at Hemp

​With all the hype around CBD lately, it might be worthwhile taking a look at the nearby humble hemp seed. From time to time, clients ask me about hemp seeds as a protein alternative.

But hemp seeds should be thought of more as a fatty acid supplement and fiber source to give a laxative effect, rather than taking up a full status on the plate as a food protein. One reason is that the protein is super hard for the body to absorb. Even after a short glance into the scientific articles on its absorbability as a protein source, you will clearly indicate it has enough antinutritive to make its digestibility difficult that can tax an already-weak Agni (digestive fire). Most of us have a slightly weakened digestive fire, so that should always be a consideration. On whether Hemp contains enough anti-nutrients to rule it out as an effective protein source, it seems the jury is still out, with some studies pointing towards yes, and many more no.

The oil of hemp seed is more interesting. Hemp Seed oil seems to hit that magic 3:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, which is ideal for healthy fat tissue, and unique among the plant oils (Russo, R. and Reggiani, R. (2015)). But the standard of so many plant-substances applies: it is the precursor to the biologically active form your body can make use of, and so it remains the strength of your Agni to be able to convert it into that usable form. That’s why digestion capacity is such a big emphasis in Ayurveda!

hemp herb

Indications of Hemp

Hemp may be useful when it comes to bowel lubrication. You need to observe for yourself whether the oily quality outweighs some of the properties of saponins that reduce motility. Chances are if your bowel symptoms are caused by the DRY quality of Vata, hemp oil (or any oil, for that matter) will give relief. You can think of it similar to a bulk laxative like flaxseed. Any dry Vata situation where the warm, oily properties of hemp could be considered. A big word of caution whenever you’re considering if a food is hard to digest: When Vata is aggravated, the digestion is low, so you need to make add it in slowly and do things that also improve the digestive fire!

What you need to know about yourself to use this herb ayurvedically?

  • Your constitution
  • Your vikruti – current state of Vata, Pitta, Kapha
  • Which of the 20 qualities are out of balance
  • You don’t have any contraindications.

What you need to know about hemp to use it ayurvedically?

  • Qualities: warm, damp. Seeds are oily
  • Taste: sweet
  • Dosha: reduces V

How to take hemp seed and hemp seed oil:

You have to be careful to keep it refrigerated, and super discerning if it has gone off. If hemp seed tastes bitter, it has gone rancid, even if you’ve just bought it from the store, because it has to have special refrigeration from harvest, to storage & transport, to your refrigerator. That’s why it’s important to eat raw. Sprinkle the seeds or oil over salads, and experiment with a tablespoon of the seeds to see whether the oiliness and bulk effect gives you the laxative action you need.

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