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Eating cannabis leads to five babies being hospitalized in 15 days in Nice, France

A French hospital has been inundated with babies suffering from ingesting too much cannabis. In almost all the cases, parents have claimed their child found and ate the cannabis in a park.

The head of the pediatric emergency department at a hospital in Nice, in the south of France, told French newspapers on Tuesday he was alarmed by a spate of cannabis poisoning cases in babies.

“It is important to warn parents, even if they are consumers, that leaving nuggets of cannabis around can have significant consequences, including hospitalization,” Dr. Herve Haas, Head of Service at the Lenval Hospital, told French news agency AFP.

Local daily Nice-Matin broke the story that his department had treated five children under the age of two years old since mid-August.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Cannabis – smoke it or wear it

The cannabis plant contains the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It makes people feel euphoric and relaxed and can also alleviate pain. The flowers of infertilized female plants contain particularly high amounts of THC, that’s why they are taken for producing marihuana. Some cannabis species do not contain any THC at all and are grown for fiber production.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Better than aspirin

Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) produces – you guessed it – opium. To harvest it, you simply incise the capsules and let the white latex exude and dry. Opium contains high amounts of morphine, the strongest existing pain medication. A chemical variation of morphine provides the semi-synthetic drug heroin.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Fancy a magic mushroom?

Mushrooms are chemical artists – some of them even produce psychoactive substances. Among them: this grey-coloured Pluteus salicinus. It grows on wood and contains psilocybin, which causes visual and mental hallucinations similar to LSD. Side effects are nausea and panic attacks.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Drug snack to go

Leaves of the coca plant harbour chemical compounds similar to cocaine. They alleviate pain and act as stimulants. In many countries in Latin America, chewing on raw coca leaves is quite common. It helps tourists deal better with altitude sickness, too. By fermenting and drying the leaves and processing them chemically, cocaine is produced.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Beautiful poisonous flowers

Angel’s trumpets are beautiful to look at but you should refrain from tasting them. All parts of the plant contain alkaloids – chemical compounds with strong effects on the human body. When you eat or smoke the plant, your heart rate will increase and you will start to hallucinate. As with all natural drugs, finding the right dosage is difficult. Deadly accidents occur quite often.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Bummer with thornapple

On the internet, poisonous Datura plants – also known as thornapples – are advertised as natural drugs as well. Really not a good idea: The plant induces strong hallucinations, sometimes with a complete loss of reality. People tend to hurt themselves severely under its influence.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Hawaiian Babies

Argyreia nervosa is native to Asia, even though the plant is called Hawaiian baby woodrose. The seeds of this climbing vine contain ergine, a compound similar to LSD. It causes colourful visions and euphoria but also nausea, prickling and psychoses. Overdosing can happen easily as one seed alone already has a strong effect.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Ecstasy with cactus

The peyote cactus in Mexico and Texas is full of mescaline, a hallucinogenic compound that is illegal under the international Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Mescaline alters thinking processes and one’s sense of time and self-awareness. The cactus is cut into pieces and eaten or boiled into a tea. The cactus species is now listed on the Red List as vulnerable.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Beware of nutmeg

Nutmeg in high amounts can act as a drug, since it contains the hallucinogenic compound myristicin. But don’t worry: you’ll never reach the necessary dosage if you only use nutmeg as a spice. Getting high on nutmeg seems a bad idea anyway, as side effects include headaches, nausea and diarrhea.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Psychedelic leaves?

Yes, it’s true: the evergreen kratom tree (Mitragyna speciosa), native to Southeast Asia, incorporates the opioid-like compound mitragynine into its leaves. In traditional medicine, the leaves are chewed to relieve pain, increase appetite and treat diarrhea. But they can also be used to mix drug cocktails.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

One of nature’s most dangerous killers

The tobacco plant produces poisonous and addictive chemicals, such as nicotine and other alkaloids, and harbours them inside its leaves. With this poisonous cocktail, the plant tries to ward off animals that might want to eat it. When the leaves are dried and smoked, the chemicals enter the human body – together with many cancerous substances generated by burning tabacco.

Author: Brigitte Osterath

One of the children was admitted to the emergency department in a deep coma and had to be placed in intensive care, he said. All of them recovered.

“The cases of cannabis intoxication are unfortunately fairly regular, but it is remarkable to have five in less than fifteen days,” Haas was quoted as saying. In four out of the five cases, parents claimed that their baby had found and ingested cannabis in a park.

The mother of one of the affected children claimed she had discovered her son “completely motionless in his bed” shortly after returning from a trip to the park, Nice-Matin reported.

“When ingested, cannabinoids rise directly to the brain with major effects,” Haas was quoted as saying by Nice-Matin. “And in babies, the impact is 100 times greater than in adults.”

The five babies reportedly displayed symptoms of drunkenness and severe drowsiness. The presence of cannabis in their system was confirmed by blood or urine tests.

Haas told AFP that their is little that doctors can do beyond placing them on a drip and waiting for the intoxication to pass.

How Cannabis Coevolved With Humanity, And Could Save It Now

For Homo sapiens , like most species, surviving life on Earth isn’t exactly easy. But thankfully, and importantly, we’re not in it alone.

For thousands of years, modern humans have been developing mutually beneficial relationships with other species, from dogs and cats to bacteria and breadfruit. These interactions have allowed our different life forms to evolve and flourish together, and even cross the globe. These relationships are examples of ‘mutualistic’ coevolution , which happens when multiple species affect each other’s progress for the better over time.

They’re also a key part of what physician, medical geographer, and AIMS Institute co-founder Dr. Sunil K. Aggarwal calls humankind’s “evolutionary garden” — the collection of plants, fungi, and animal secretions that people have cultivated since prehistory, and carried around the world, because of their particular usefulness for human health and survival as food, medicine, clothing, or other vital supplies.

Most are still embraced today, from honey and grains to caffeine and aspirin . In the past century, however, some cultures have decided it’s a good idea to cordon off certain areas of that garden, despite a long evolutionary history — and current scientific data — saying otherwise.

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These blacklisted species include plants and fungi that humans have carefully administered for millennia to treat some of our worst sicknesses and pain, of both body and mind : distilled opium plants for physical agony, for example, or psilocybin tea for processing some of life’s most difficult moments. Many are powerful, and can even be dangerous (in classic or modern forms) without supervision. Some have multiple uses, but never caught on in certain cultures.

According to Aggarwal, however, and to a growing number of experts on history and biology, one forbidden species stands out as our biggest loss, and for likely being the single most useful plant that humans have ever gotten to know (which may even have made us ‘more human’).

That plant, of course, is cannabis.

Humans & Cannabis 101: From early life to the Himalayas

Current research indicates that humans have been cultivating cannabis for tens of thousands of years, but aspects of our biology suggest that the relationship reaches back much further.

As a medical geographer, Aggarwal has studied the path of numerous natural medicines in different cultures and around the globe, based on anthropological and archaeological evidence. One of the oldest on record is cannabis, he says: it’s been evolving across this planet for tens of millions of years, stemming from its sturdy ancestors in Central Asia. In fact, early cannabis seems to trace back to when the world’s tallest mountain range, the Himalayas, were forming.

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“Sixty million years ago, those mountains were formed by the Indian subcontinent hitting the Asian plate,” Aggarwal explained in a phone interview. “All life there had to adapt or die.”

“It created a unique opportunity for this ancestral plant, which appeared 40 to 50 million years ago, to become very active in production,” he said. “There was less oxygen, and increased UV radiation, so the plant had to develop quite a bit of hardiness.”

In the millions of years since, cannabis has shown it’s able to survive in a fairly wide variety of climates, and thrive in many of them (from scrub-like Cannabis ruderalis to tall-growing Cannabis sativa and bush-like Cannabis indica , which produces most of our cannabis flower and low-THC hemp today, typically in hybrid form).

It also appears to have been distinctly chemically compatible with the brains of animals such as humans for much of that time.

In response to its new, harsher environs near the Himalayas, Aggarwal said, the plant seemingly began to produce a wide range of terpenes and cannabinoid chemicals, which the human body — with its balance-keeping endocannabinoid system, which relies on cannabinoid neuroreceptors throughout the body, and can be found in all vertebrate species — is especially suited to process.

Some cannabinoid producers are better than others

The endocannabinoid system is key to our overall health and wellness because it has a crucial role in regulating some of our major biological functions. At all times, our bodies are trying to maintain a narrow operative balance, known as “homeostasis,” and cannabinoid compounds can trigger the endocannabinoid system to regain this important equilibrium throughout the body as needed.

Despite their name, cannabinoid chemicals aren’t unique to cannabis. Chemicals that stimulate the endocannabinoid system can be found in many other plants , like echinacea, turmeric, and kava, to name a few, and may even have structural similarities to the compound type CBG, from which all phytocannabinoid compounds are derived (i.e. the ones that aren’t formed inside an animal’s body, including CBD, THCA, CBC, and many more).

But cannabis “robustly produces tons of them,” Aggarwal said. As a result, “People living near the Tibetan Plateau domesticated the plant early on and found a great number of uses. That includes good old nutrition, and fibers for cordage, as well as the neurological side, which is very interesting .”

“It affects our neurological circuits and has a very important role in protecting the brain from injury, and promoting feelings of relaxation,” Aggarwal explained. “Physical and psychological trauma can disturb the brain, and suboptimize it; the endocannabinoid system, and phytocannabinoids if need be, can set the brain on the path toward regeneration.”

In short, Aggarwal said, “This cannabis ancestor happened to make these compounds that bind to receptors in the human system which tap into an even older evolutionarily evolved biological system, which goes back 600 million years: a magnitude older in terms of stages of the formation of life.”

Specifically, those receptor types — known as CB1 and CB2 today — trace to “when multicellular organisms were becoming multicellular, and were trying to figure out how to send communication and modulate action,” Aggarwal said. “In biogenetic mapping, when you look at different species and map how old they are, you find cannabinoid receptors going back, and through today. In Homo sapiens, it’s a really integrated system for cell communication.”

On the cellular level, cannabinoids are also particularly useful for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, throughout the body as well as the brain. These aspects help the body to maintain optimal performance across its systems from the intercellular level on up, like other natural supplements that ease the way for the body to do its job.

“In terms of their antioxidant properties and neuroprotective properties, cannabinoids are certainly not the only game in town,” Aggarwal said. “But they’re pretty high up there.”

History’s “useful” plant goes global, shaping culture and religion

Aside from archaeological and biological evidence, humankind’s relationship with cannabis can be seen in thousands of years of documentation on the plant, and oral histories that reach back even further. As Aggarwal wrote in 2013 , “Cannabis’s very name belies its longstanding relationship with humanity, as it was pragmatically given the species name ‘Sativa’ in 1542 by German physician-botanist Leonhart Fuchs, meaning ‘cultivated’ or ‘useful’ in Latin.”

Researcher Robert C. Clarke, who’s written or co-authored numerous texts on cannabis’ history and biology, said in a phone interview that, simply put, cannabis seems to be the most useful plant that humans have ever come across. “Plenty of plants are used for one purpose, and I can name a number of plants that are used for two purposes,” he said. “But I can’t think of another one that’s used for three.”

For example, “Palms provide us with food, and with fibers for clothing or shelter; bamboo is the same,” he said. Others provide us with “both food and drugs,” such as numerous fruits, roots, and grains that people have long eaten but also fermented into alcohol.

But cannabis has all three, Clarke said: “Food, fiber, and drugs.” Meaning that, from just one kind of crop, humans can get an important source of protein and essential fatty acids, fiber for building and crafting, and medical or cultural tools for our minds and bodies.

Researchers are still exploring why cannabis has come to produce different chemicals, including THCA, which turns into THC over time or with heat, and can get us high. The prevailing theories are that THCA is produced as a protective measure, either to deter insects or other predators, as an antimicrobial agent to guard plants from disease, or as a human attractant, assuring its spread worldwide.

Clarke said that humans were probably “really first looking for food” when they approached cannabis. “The value of that fiber would be apparent, too, whether it’s easy to work with or not,” he said.

“But as soon as you got those sticky resins all over your fingers, I’m sure the psychoactive experience wasn’t far behind.” In fact, he said, “I reckon it coevolved with us most profoundly on the psychoactive level. Almost every society has used it and many have involved it in their religious practices.”

In India, for example, in the Vedic tradition it’s been considered one of five sacred plants for thousands of years , and used in spiritual contexts for pleasure, mental liberation, and to honor gods, among other things. In ancient China and Central Asia, Taoist records note the plant’s hallucinogenic properties, and its ability to help mentally approach the divine. It’s also played a role in the spiritual or cultural practices of groups across the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and South America, among other places.

For now, Clarke said, it’s unclear whether residents of ancient Japan were “dosing” cannabis or just using it for general nutrition as indicated by archaeological seed remains. “But when you look at examples of really intricate Jomon pottery, you wonder what drugs they were on.”

It even seems possible that cannabis helped to kickstart our evolution into the big-brained, culture-prone critical thinkers that we are today, according to some researchers. This could have occurred for practical, nutritional, or psychoactive reasons, or (like the plant itself) as a mixture, but we may never know exactly how things changed when humans started using cannabis and other entheogens, or just how they did it.

“We can only speculate how people first discovered cannabis’ psychoactive aspects,” said Martin Lee, co-founder and director of Project CBD and the author of several books on cannabis, in a phone interview. “It’s hard to imagine it happened [through] eating, but for various reasons you can imagine that they inhaled smoke accidentally.”

Regarding humans’ neurological development and nutrition, Lee said, “Agriculture is really a turning point as the beginning of hoarding and carbohydrate farming , which was different from earlier diets.” He continued, “It’s possible that cannabis is the first agricultural plant; it’s certainly one of the very, very early ones, and cannabis is unique because it’s so versatile.”

Cannabis uplifts the downtrodden, makes money, and gets banned anyway

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Like other drugs tied to spiritual and cultural practices, cannabis has often been used in different cultures in a social context, but also a solo or one-on-one basis. Sometimes it’s used for celebration and relaxation, and other times for guided introspection, and even dealing with some of life’s hardest moments and realities , from young adulthood and depression to mortality.

Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, a Massachusetts-based physician and advocate whose practice includes cannabis medicine, commented to Leafly in 2019, “I’m originally from India, where it’s considered a divine gift from the gods with a sacred angel that lives in it” — one which helps people cope with fear and anxiety, and find joy.

On a biological level, stimulating the endocannabinoid system is part of our bodies’ toolkit for social navigation and balance. Experimental studies have shown that when you boost the body’s endocannabinoid system, people feel the emotional impacts of rejection less, Aggarwal said.

Lee explained that plants, like humans, have ways of dealing with stressors, and expressing that stress physically. “Cannabis plants do it through chemical signals, odors, things like that, and plants under stress — if they’re being eaten by insects or whatever — have evolved to communicate with their environment to deal with those stressors.”

“They might have a smell that attracts a predator of the thing attacking the plant, or that will keep potential predators away,” Lee said. “And it so happens that these same smells, the same molecules that [cannabis] uses to deal with stress, are very helpful to the human brain in dealing with stress.”

March 9, 2020 – Kevin Hart, front left, co-owner of Pure Oasis recreational marijuana shop, . [+] completes a sale of cannabis products to the stores first customer Niambe McIntosh, front right, moments after the store opened for the first time on Monday, March 9, 2020, in Boston. Pure Oasis is Boston’s first recreational marijuana shop, and the state’s first black-owned one. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

In the past few centuries, in fact, it’s continued to serve this role for many groups facing some of the worst-possible human suffering under slavery and other forms of violent exploitation and oppression.

In many ways, this part of the human-cannabis relationship explains the plant’s history and status in the US, and in other Euro-colonized zones around the world, according to Aggarwal and his peers — in short, cannabis “helped with the social rejection of being a slave.”

By the early 1600s, the British empire and others in Europe were all on board for hemp as a valuable industrial commodity; in the coming centuries, they and their colonies (such as the US) would increasingly embrace cannabis medicine, too (leading to Eli Lilly’s early 20th-century cannabis tonics, for example, and the U.S. government ’s late 20th-century patents on cannabis as an anti-oxidant and neuroprotectant — but hang onto that thought for now).

During the same timeframe, the European slave trade was booming, with hemp among the top crops that millions of trafficked and enslaved people of African, Central and South American, and North American Indigenous origin were being forced to grow. In the 1600s, Aggarwal said, cannabis as a cultural and spiritual drug probably first appeared in what is now the Americas among these enslaved populations.

“It’s interesting to see how it was brought [here] by slaves and indentured servants,” he noted. “It tells you an important aspect of how the plant has always been used: by downtrodden groups, as a way of dealing with difficult living conditions and psychological stress, as from being an indentured servant for your whole life.”

Imperial cultures took longer to get the memo on cannabis vs. hemp, however. As it was being imported to Europe through occupied India, Aggarwal said, “It was picked up by elite medical professionals and military figures in the history of medicine, which really brought attention to cannabis as a medicine in the West.”

By the 1920s, the socially and emotionally helpful plant had been included in any number of reputable Western pharmacopeia. Cannabis as a cultural substance also became an integral part of the US jazz scene, and was arriving state-side tucked into refrigerated barges, research suggests — hence the name “reefer,” Aggarwal said.

By that time, however, most US states and municipalities had also chosen to outlaw the plant despite its medical history here, and (as we know today) due to governments’ as well as private businesses’ racist, fearful, criminalizing stance toward its use in Black and Brown communities. In 1930, the US deemed the plant federally illegal.

In the era’s most oppressed communities, it continued to offer social relief, as well as a budding source of financial independence, which ties directly to today’s “underground” market.

In his article ” Workers’ Weed ,” researcher Nick Johnson noted: “During the first half of the twentieth century in the American West, Mexican and Mexican American farm workers grew and used Cannabis [to] help navigate the physical, mental, and economic struggles they faced as exploited itinerant laborers . [and] while the capitalist framework of the agricultural landscape kept workers pinned to the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, the landscape itself provided spaces where they could use traditional knowledge of Cannabis to climb that ladder, albeit illegally.”

During the 1960s and ‘70s, Aggarwal said, cannabis once again emerged as a source of social, emotional, and even spiritual relief for a troubled generation — this time, including many white folks. “It was used by a large group of people who were looking violent death in the eye,” he said. “Communism vs. capitalism also created another existential crisis, and cannabis helped deal with that reality, and with the stress and fear of going to war.”

“It says a lot about our brains, and our evolutionary relationship to cannabis,” he said.

In the era of COVID-19-related shutdowns, layoffs, illness, and death, cannabis has again emerged as an important factor in Americans’ health and well-being, as well as their potential livelihoods and national economy going forward.

On one hand, most legal and medicinal cannabis dispensaries and delivery services in the US saw a spike in sales this spring as patients and adult users stocked up ahead of uncertain times, whether for medical, mental health, or relaxation purposes.

In a time when whole industries are being leveled (either without warning, or at long last) by the many-fold impacts of today’s pandemic, cannabis and hemp remain hugely promising as both in-demand products and significant sources of new employment.

On the other hand, many cannabis businesses are struggling to staff and finance their operations, often without ‘essential’ designation or equal access to relief funds.

Expensive, dangerous, and demonstrably racially biased arrests of Black and Brown people for minor cannabis offenses also continue, and farmers around the country are being forced to dump not only dairy and other perishable products, but also tons of sustainable, soil-improving hemp that could otherwise feed, clothe , warm, or house us.

Will evolutionary history shape our future choices?

In 2020, many Americans’ daily lives may not seem all that intertwined with nature — especially when it comes to the advanced medicines and supplements we put in and on our bodies, and in the context of ‘stay-at-home’ orders and growing cityscapes.

But warnings from a growing number of medical experts, environmental researchers, and social advocates seem to suggest that we are over-complicating important aspects of human life, in a way — as by putting extra stress on our bodies and minds, our environment and resources, and (among other top concerns of US residents) on how we practice and pay for human health.

As Aggarwal put it: “We’re in a situation where, due to the industrial revolution, the development of the chemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry in the West, and our desire to conquer nature rather than cohabitate with it — and to how we’ve developed medicine and health as a for-profit enterprise, and not made [legal] restrictions on the ability to privatize nature and natural plants — the result is that people have deemphasized a whole slew of plants and [other natural] substances that have value in terms of our neurological and psychological well-being.”

Lee echoed that point, and said that, as a society, we’ve turned away from the plants, fungi, and animal secretions that chemically beckoned our ancestors. The same goes for “natural” or plant-based lifestyles in general, which could probably help most of us be healthier to begin with, and less in need of riskier, more expensive and/or cutting-edge solutions.

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“We’re not just talking about cannabis, we’re talking about a whole tapestry of botanical opportunities … It has to do with how we interact with the environment: what we eat, how we eat,” Lee said.

For example, aside from natural medicines, our diets are often lacking in the kinds of plants and other items we’ve evolved to eat and metabolize into energy. “The way we metabolize plants vs. other things [commonly eaten today] is causing a lot of problems,” he said.

“Cannabis goes back a long way as a plant ally to humankind, along with many other allies, so it stands for that, too,” he continued. “What else are we pretending not to see in addition to how powerful and useful cannabis is? What are its natural handmaidens that are also being neglected?”

Despite the systemic hurdles that exist today, Lee said, people are continuously finding new ways to use the plant — whether as a form of food, medicine, cosmetics, astringent, industrial or artisanal fabric, building materials, fuel, or many other things — as well as ways to better understand and appreciate its psychoactive effects.

From sturdy hempcrete and luxury skin cream to sky-high shatter and medicinal drinks, these innovations are just some of the latest blooms in a powerful, long-standing relationship between cannabis and humans that has consistently benefited our species (if not all members equally).

And when faced with a particularly uncertain future, such as today, it seems more critical than ever for members and leaders of human society to recognize not only the mistakes we’ve made in the past but also who and what our strongest allies have been on this planet, and to act accordingly ASAP.

WHY YOU CAN BELIEVE THE HYPE ABOUT HEMP

The many properties of hemp have long been known. Now it’s going mainstream the time is definitely right to enjoy the plant’s amazing versatility and health-giving benefits.

Read on and you’ll learn:

• How hemp and hemp seed oil will benefit your health
• Why hemp is not the same as marijuana
• The heart and skin health benefits of hemp products
• How to use hemp best when cooking

There’s no doubt about it, hemp is the hot ingredient of 2019.

It’s in dozens of new food products; it’s popping up in everything from burgers to smoothies, as well as protein powder and hemp hearts, and in its more natural form as hemp seed oil.

The commercial growing of hemp is starting to increase around the world as many countries change their rules and regulations, allowing it to be legally grown. It’s predicted the global hemp-based food market will be worth over US$4 billion by 2026.

Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant. It’s been cultivated for thousands of years for its fiber, edible seeds, edible oil, lubricant, and for use as a fuel.

But it’s that mention of Cannabis that sometimes makes people nervous – even though nothing we eat made from hemp will get us high. Hemp is quite different from the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing marijuana. It’s harvested from a non-psychoactive variant of the Cannabis plant.

Hemp is quite different from the tetrahydrocannabinol-containing marijuana… Nothing we eat made from hemp will get us high

So hemp-based food products shouldn’t be confused with CBD-based products, which do have psychoactive properties. Some CBD-based foods are also marketed with the term hemp in their names, which can be frustrating for consumers. It’s important to scrutinize the labels on anything labeled ‘hemp’, just to be sure you’re getting what you think you are.

Promoters of hemp call it a wonder plant. It can feed, clothe and house us all at once, they say, because it can be used to make textiles, building material, medicines and food. It’s a highly sustainable crop as it is ‘low input’, requiring no fertilizer, pesticides or water.

You’ll also hear talk of hemp’s health benefits.

Hemp seeds (sometimes called hemp hearts) are high in health-promoting omega-3 and have a good balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats fight inflammation and have heart health benefits, and because of hemp seeds’ particularly healthy fat profile, research into hemp’s health benefits looks promising. Several animal studies have found hemp seeds or hemp seed oil may reduce blood pressure , decrease the risk of blood clot formation and improve heart health .

It’s important to note that the omega-3 in hemp – like all plants – is different to the omega-3 we get from oily fish. It may be more difficult for our bodies to process and absorb this type of omega-3, and we need more of it to get equivalent benefit compared with fish oils. But if you’re not into fish, or are vegetarian or vegan, hemp seed oil could be a useful way to get omega-3 into your diet.

Hemp seeds are gut-friendly – they’re a low-FODMAP food and a good option for anyone prone to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There’s also some interesting research looking at the effect of hemp seed oil, when consumed, on skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema , that’s found a positive effect here too.

However, the oil is not suitable for cooking with – it has a low smoke point – so it’s best used for dressings or finishing. It also has a fairly strong, nutty flavor, which you may find is an acquired taste – so dressings using other strong flavors such as balsamic vinegar will balance that out.

Hemp seeds are especially high in protein compared to other seeds. This is why they’re often made into protein powders. Hemp is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. This is fairly rare among plants (quinoa is another example) and makes it useful for anyone not getting much protein from animal sources.

If you’re looking for a plant-based post-workout protein powder, hemp is a little lower in protein than other plant proteins like pea or soy, but it is quite a bit higher in fiber, which is a useful bonus.

It’s in the area of fiber, in fact, that hemp might be particularly good for us. The whole, unhulled seeds are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which have proven gut and heart health benefits. Hulled seeds (hearts) have less fiber, but are easier to eat.

Most of us could use more fiber in our diets to get to 30 grams a day, the level where serious health benefits kick in. The fiber content in the seeds available for sale seems to vary a bit, which may depend on how much they’ve been processed. If you’re thinking of trying hemp seeds, compare labels and go for unhulled, higher-fiber types.

As with other seeds, hemp seeds can be added to all sorts of dishes: try them in cereal, salads, smoothies and baking.

If you’re prone to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it’s worth knowing that hemp seeds are gut-friendly – they’re a low- FODMAP food so shouldn’t aggravate a grumbly tummy.

When it comes to hemp-based treats, it’s worth being circumspect. Hemp chocolate, bliss balls and sweets are probably not health foods. As with anything else we see promoted as ‘super food’, eating hemp in a product that also contains tons of sugar and saturated fat tends to counteract any possible benefit.

But in its whole and oil forms, hemp is an ancient food that’s well worth getting to know again.

Niki Bezzant is a New Zealand-based food writer, editor and commentator. She is the founding editor (now editor-at-large) of Healthy Food Guide magazine, and is currently president of Food Writers New Zealand and a proud ambassador for the Garden to Table program which helps children learn how to grow, cook and share food. She is a member of the Council of Directors for the True Health Initiative , a global coalition of health professionals dedicated to sharing a science-based message of what we know for sure about lifestyle and health.

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