Hemp seeds are a versatile Chinese herb that can be used both medicinally and culinarily. Initially recorded in the Shennong Bencao Jing (Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic), hemp seed is called Huo Ma Ren and classified as one of the superior medicinals there, which means that this herb is totally safe to be consumed while providing a lot of health benefits and nutrition. Recent studies have found that it is also one of edible food that can prevent and treat various diseases, and thus let people live a long healthy and happy life. In fact hemp used in healing has a long history in China and almost all ancient books on herbal medicine consider it as an ideal natural tonic laxative. And now modern research also shows that it is rich in fat, protein, minerals and vitamins. As you can see, hemp seed oil has strong effect in moistening dryness to lubricate intestines, which is also the reason why it is frequently used for the treatment of constipation, especially those caused by depletion of body fluids and blood deficiency. Of course, what it is capable of is more than just to make you high and cure constipation. So, what are hemp seeds good for? What is their nutritional value? How to eat to maximize their benefits? Please explore the magic of this herb with us now if you want to find the answers.
What are hemp seeds?
It refers to the dried ripe fruits of Cannabis sativa L., a plant in the family Moraceae. Therefore, other names include Fructus Cannabis, Semen Cannabis Sativae, shelled hemp seed, and so on. It is cultivated all over China, but mainly produced in Shandong, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Jiangsu and other places. Usually it is collected during autumn when the fruits are ripe. And then get rid of the impurities, dry in the sun, and use raw and smashed.
Cannabis sativa is an annual herb, 1 to 3 meters. Sturdy stems are erect, densely pubescent, and with longitudinal grooves. Palmate compound leaf is alternate or opposite in the lower part. Flowers bloom in summer, arrange into long and sparse panicles that are acrogenous or axillary. Achenes are flat and oval, 4 to 5.5mm in length, 2.5 to 4mm in diameter, gray-brown, with fine reticular pattern, wrapped in the brown persistent bracts. Peel is thin, brittle, and easily broken. Seed coat is green, and with 2 white, oil-rich cotyledons. It has slightly odor and taste.
Main chemical constituents are trigonelline, L(d)-isoleucine Betaine, 30% fatty oil, and zeatin. In addition, it contains almost all the essential amino acids and fatty acids required to keep healthy human life. And its oil contains 59.7% to 62.9% linoleic acid, 14.7% to 17.4% linolenic acid, and 8.4% to 14.8% oleic acid.
Benefits of hemp seeds
The elderly tend to suffer from constipation due to the exhaustion of both blood and body fluid. Failing to poop smoothly is quite miserable, in particular when this condition lasts for even a few days. When this happens, the use of strong laxative may lead to diarrhea and the recurred constipation. Apparently common purgatives are not a good idea. Anyway that is where the hemp seeds come in thanks to its mild laxation. No wonder it is frequently found in most Chinese patent medicine for deficiency-induced constipation, such as Ma Zi Ren Wan (Cannabis Fruit Pill), Ma Ren Run Chang Wan (Cannabis Fruit Demulcent Pill), Ma Ren Zi Pi Wan (Semen Cannabis Sativae Spleen-tonifying Pills), Ma Ren Ruan Jiao Nang (Hemp Seed Oil Capsules), etc. Besides, it contains abundant fatty oils that are very beneficial to the human body, including large amounts of linoleic acid, linolenic acid and other unsaturated fatty acids. And today, it is also widely used in bodybuilding, inflammation, eczema, weight loss, cancer, joint pain, etc. Or even it can also give you an extra energy boost when you need it the most. And its pharmacology can tell more truth about its nutrition facts and mechanism.
Modern pharmacological actions of hemp seed
1. It can stimulate the intestinal mucosa, thus increase the secretion, speed up the motility and reduce the absorbed water in large intestine. In other words, it has purgative action;
2. It can lower blood pressure in anesthetized cats, normal rats, and hypertensive patients;
3. Experiments showed that it can significantly prevent the rising of serum cholesterol.
Selected hemp seed recipes in herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica says that it is sweet in flavor and neutral in medicinal properties and goes to three channels like spleen, stomach, and large intestine. Key hemp seeds effects and functions are moistening dryness and laxation, alleviating water retention to cure stranguria, and invigorating the circulation of blood. Basic uses and indications include constipation due to intestinal dryness, wandering arthritis, wasting thirsting disorder, wind-induced edema, heat strangury, dysentery, menstruation, sores and ringworm, and erysipelas. Recommended hemp seeds dosage is from 10 to 15 grams in decoction, teapills, or powder.
1. Ma Zi Ren Wan. From Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage), this formula is usually used for intestinal dry constipation in the elderly, women during pregnancy, frail people, and those suffering from deficiency of blood and body fluid. Other herbal ingredients include Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Zhi Shi (Citrus Aurantium), Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), Da Huang (Rhubarb), and Xing Ren (Apricot Seed).
2. Ma Zi Su Zi Zhou. From Ben Shi Fang (Effective Prescriptions), this prescription combines it with Su Zi (Purple Perilla Fruit) to make congee for the treatment of postpartum light-headedness, hidrosis, and constipation.
3. Da Ma Zi Jiu. From Qie Zhong Fang (Prescriptions in Small Suitcase), this recipe uses it with rice wine for bone pain from the attack of wind pathogen.
4. Ma Zi Jiu. From Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Pieces of Gold Formulae), it soaks this herb with wine to cure postpartum blood stasis.
5. Er Wu Tang. This formula uses it with Cong Bai (Spring Onion) for the treatment of metal-inflicted wound that causes blood stasis in abdomen.
Hemp seeds side effects and contraindications
Thanks to hemp seeds’ mild medicinal properties, it is less likely to lead to toxic and side effect if used properly. But it is incompatible to Mu Li (Oyster Shell), Bai Wei (Radix Cynanchi Atrati), Fu Ling (Poria), etc. Otherwise, it may reduce the efficacy. The usual dose should be between 9 to 30 grams. What calls for special attention is that the dose of 60 to 120 grams can result in poisoning. There are clinical reports that overdose of hemp seed can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tingling extremities, restlessness, confusion, dancing, rapid pulse, mydriasis, drowsiness, coma, and other poisoning symptoms. Therefore, keep it in mind to control the dose when taking it.