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U.S. Food and Drug Administration

FDA Responds to Three GRAS Notices for Hemp Seed-Derived Ingredients for Use in Human Food

Constituent Update

December 20, 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed its evaluation of three generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notices for hemp seed-derived food ingredients. The GRAS notices were submitted by Fresh Hemp Foods, Ltd. The agency has no questions about Fresh Hemp Food’s conclusion that the following ingredients are GRAS under their intended conditions of use: hulled hemp seed (GRN765), hemp seed protein powder (GRN771), and hemp seed oil (GRN778).

Foods containing hemp seed and hemp seed-derived ingredients are currently marketed in the US. Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Although hemp is from the same species as cannabis (marijuana), the seeds themselves do not naturally contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The hemp seed-derived ingredients that are the subject of these GRAS notices contain only trace amounts of THC and CBD, which the seeds may pick up during harvesting and processing when they are in contact with other parts of the plant. Consumption of these hemp seed-derived ingredients is not capable of making consumers “high”.

The GRAS notices are for three different hemp seed-derived ingredients. The GRAS conclusions can apply to ingredients from other companies, if they are manufactured in a way that is consistent with the notices and they meet the listed specifications. Some of the intended uses for these ingredients include adding them as source of protein, carbohydrates, oil, and other nutrients to beverages (juices, smoothies, protein drinks, plant-based alternatives to dairy products), soups, dips, spreads, sauces, dressings, plant-based alternatives to meat products, desserts, baked goods, cereals, snacks and nutrition bars. Products that contain any of these hemp seed-derived ingredients must declare them by name on the ingredient list.

These GRAS conclusions do not affect the FDA’s position on the addition of CBD and THC to food. As stated on FDA and Marijuana: Questions and Answers, it is a prohibited act under section 301(ll) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to introduce into interstate commerce a food to which CBD or THC has been added.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed its evaluation of three generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notices for hemp seed-derived food ingredients.

Hemp Seeds: Are They Good for You?

In this Article

In this Article
In this Article
  • Nutrition Information
  • Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
  • Potential Risks of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a rich source of nutrients. Part of the hemp plant, these seeds are technically a nut that can be eaten raw or used to make milk, oil, cheese substitutes, or protein powder.

While related to the cannabis plant, hemp seeds have little to none of the psychoactive compound THC found in marijuana. For centuries the seeds have been used for oral and topical applications to treat and prevent certain health issues. A growing body of modern clinical research is backing up many of these claims.

Hemp seeds’ nutty flavor and versatility also make them a great substitute for the levels of protein, essential fatty acids, and other nutritional benefits found in meat and dairy products.

Hemp seeds can be:

  • Eaten raw, roasted, or cooked
  • Shelled as hemp hearts
  • Cold-pressed to produce hemp seed oil
  • Used for non-dairy hemp milk and hemp cheese

Nutrition Information

A 30 gram serving (three-tablespoons) of raw hemp seeds contains:

  • Calories: 166
  • Protein: 9.47 grams
  • Fat: 14.6 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 2.6 grams
  • Fiber: 1.2 grams
  • Sugar: 0.45 grams

Hemp seeds are also good source of:

Hemp seeds also contain high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.

Studies have shown that the ideal ratio for the fatty acids in hemp seeds is 3 to 1. At this ratio, these fatty acids help to support healthy cholesterol levels, immune system function, and may help regulate your metabolism.

Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They contain all nine essential amino acids, and research suggests that hemp’s protein content is well-absorbed by our bodies.

In addition to this protein load, hemp seeds history is tied to their potential health benefits. Many modern studies have backed up several of these claims.

Hemp seeds’ health benefits include:

Heart Health

Hemp seeds are a great source of magnesium, which helps regulate your heartbeat and is linked to the prevention of coronary heart disease. They also contain Linoleic acid, which one study found reduced participants’ cholesterol levels by 15% and may act to reduce blood pressure.

Continued

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

One of the omega-6 fatty acids in hemp seeds is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA,) which may have anti-inflammatory effects similar to drugs like ibuprofen. One study found a 75% reduction in arthritis-associated pain in participants after nine months of GLA supplementation.

Skin Conditions

Hemp oil can be used in cooking to add nutritional benefits to your meal, and it can also be applied topically to the skin. Studies have found that hemp seed oil can relieve the symptoms of eczema and improve dry or itchy skin.

Research is ongoing, but hemp seed oil’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects may also help to treat acne.

Brain Health

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in hemp seeds is the optimal level for nutritional benefit. This balance supports both heart and cognitive health and is often lacking in most diets..

Hemp seeds also contain plant compounds called terpenes. While research is ongoing, studies suggest that terpenes may help protect the brain and prevent tumor growth.

Potential Risks of Hemp Seeds

While the fat content in hemp seeds comes primarily from its healthy essential fatty acids, eat them in moderation to meet your recommended daily consumption of fat. High fat intake can also cause nausea or diarrhea.

Other things to consider before adding hemp seeds to your diet include:

Medication Interference

Hemp seeds may interact with certain medications including anticoagulants.

Studies have shown that hemp seeds reduce blood clotting, which can interact with blood-thinner prescriptions.

Pregnancy Concerns

There is not enough clinical research to show that hemp is safe either orally or topically for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so it is not recommended.

Cannabis Dependence

Hemp seed shells can contain trace amounts of THC, the active psychoactive compound in marijuana. People with a previous dependence on cannabis may consider looking for an alternative.

Digestive Problems

The fiber content in hemp seeds can cause digestive discomfort like bloating, nausea, or constipation in large amounts. Make sure to drink plenty of water when eating hemp seeds to help avoid gut problems.

Sources

Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. “Cannabis sativa (Hemp) Seeds, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and Potential Overdose.”

Biochemical Education: “The action of vitamin K and coumarin anticoagulants.”

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Evaluating the Quality of Protein From Hemp Seed (Cannabis sativa L.) Products Through the Use of the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score Method.”

Journal of Dermatological Treatment: “Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis.”

Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostatis: “Dietary hempseed reduces platelet aggregation.”

Oilseeds and fats, Crops and Lipids:“A short review on sources and health benefits of GLA, The GOOD omega-6.”

Mayo Clinic. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

Nutrients: “Dietary Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review with Emphasis in Epidemiological Studies.”

Nutrition & Metabolism: “The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed.”

Plant Science: “Terpenes in Cannabis sativa – From plant genome to humans.”

PLOS One: “The ameliorative effect of hemp seed hexane extracts on the Propionibacterium acnes-induced inflammation and lipogenesis in sebocytes.”>

The British Medical Journal (BMJ): “The importance of a balanced ω-6 to ω-3 ratio in the prevention and management of obesity.”
The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behaviour Letter: “FDA on CBD in pregnancy and breastfeeding”

USDA FoodData Central: “Seeds, hemp seed, hulled.”

Find out what the research says about hemp seeds, who should have them, and how they may affect your health.