Hemp seeds: quality and ingredients

Prof. Dr. Roland R. Theimer, Bergische University Wuppertal

Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is one of the few plant species that has been recognized by humanity for millennia as a crop and apparently also very early cultivated. Hemp has accompanied people from almost all climates from its ancient homeland of Central Asia: from the cool areas with less intense sunshine and a short growing season to the sun-rich subtropical-tropical areas. Accordingly, one finds worldwide cultivation of hemp and many hundreds of cultivars or landraces of this valuable crop, which have been selected over the centuries for their optimal adaptation to the respective locations, highest yield of each desired hemp products and other important growth characteristics.

The hemp plant is initially a valued supplier of raw materials for industry and crafts (fibers, shives) and food and pharmaceuticals (oil, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, drugs). Among them are products with high added value, so that even in growth on less suitable or e.g. soil contaminated with heavy metals can be quite rewarding, even if no maximum crop yields are achieved. This is further supported by the fact that hemp crops require virtually no pesticides and therefore save material and labor costs.

The cannabis seeds are botanically correct actually fruits, so-called einsamige nutlets, in which the seed is firmly enclosed in the hard woody fruit peel. This seed is filled with the embryo (inactive seedling), which in addition to two large storage cotyledons (cotyledons) reveals a short hypocotyl and the radicle. The cells of the cotyledons are packed with storage materials whose nutritional value for humans and animals is hard to beat: high-quality oil (30-35%), ideally composed protein (mainly the protein “edestin”), 20-30% carbohydrates and all important ones Minerals and trace elements, important vitamins, chlorophylls and some flavorings (see Table 1).

Poisons and inhibitors, as e.g. In the cotton, rapeseed or soybean seeds occur, you will not find in the hemp seeds, so that they can be eaten raw and neither oil nor press cake must be refined or heat treated before consumption. The intoxicant delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active principle in marijuana or hashish) is also absent in hemp seeds. Since THC is mainly produced in the glandular hairs on the leaves and leaves in the flower / fruit area of ​​the female plants, it may happen during semen collection that some sticky THC-containing “resin” gets stuck on the outer surface of the hemp seeds. This is so minimal for the THC-poor hemp varieties allowed in the European Union that it does not pose a problem. Even with seeds from THC-rich hemp varieties, only such small amounts of the fat-soluble THC resin pass from the hemp shells into the oil during the pressing process that highly sensitive measurement methods have to be used to detect THC in the oil. They do not cause any intoxication and do not endanger your health. A short cleaning of the cannabis seed or use of the recently available hulled hemp seeds eliminates this problem, which, as mentioned, does not even occur in the EU varieties (see Table 1).

Hemp seeds have not only served as livestock feed (especially birdseed) since time immemorial, but one knew very well the blessing of hemp seed as food, whereas the nobility dismissed hemp as peasant feed, a fatal miscalculation of the nutritional value of the ingredients of hemp seed. The ideal composition of hemp oil for the regeneration of cells in the human body and the right supply of amino acids for the biosynthesis of immunoglobulins together with the necessary trace elements to maintain and strengthen the immune system of hemp knives, thus less susceptible to the many infectious diseases, eg Plague, were. Hemp pulp or hemp butter from crushed hemp seeds contain all the necessary components. In addition, a greenish brown colored oil is obtained by cold pressing from hemp seed since its color is obtained by chlorophylls and carotenoids (e.g., carotene b = provitamin A). Hemp oil, chemically like all other oils a tricylglyceride, d. H. A glycerol molecule is esterified with three different, long-chain fatty acids, has a composition of just these fatty acids, which is ideal for human nutrition. It gives it a unique biological value among common vegetable edible oils (see Table 2).

The predominant amount of fatty acid is the diunsaturated linoleic acid followed by the triunsaturated alpha-linolenic acid. These two fatty acids are essential for human nutrition because their needs must be met by food intake. They also come, for example. in wheat germ or dyeing safflower oil. Unique to hemp oil is that it contains the two fatty acids in an optimal ratio of about 3: 1 for the metabolism. Because these unsaturated fatty acids, the body uses in particular for the production of regulatory short-lived hormones, for the maintenance and development of the immune system and in the ongoing process of cell renewal, as for the newly formed cells said two fatty acids in the right proportion, for. needed for cell membrane formation. Therefore, properly dosed consumption of hemp oil does not lead to fat storage in the body tissue as fast as e.g. saturated, hardened vegetable fats or animal fats whose fatty acids are predominantly fed into the energy balance.

As a particularly valuable component, the hemp oil also contains the triunsaturated gamma-linolenic acid in the metabolically effective amount of 1.5-6%, depending on the hemp variety that otherwise otherwise not readily available in the agricultural plants borage (Borago officinalis L.), evening primrose ( Oenothera biennis L.) or blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum L.). Gamma-linoleic acid and the recently discovered in hemp oil omega-3-stearidonic serve as important precursors for the biosynthesis of hormone-like prostaglandins that perform a variety of tasks in the body such. in the hormone balance, in the function of nerves and muscles and the control of blood pressure. Although prostaglandins can normally be produced by the body from the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, stress, the wrong diet or hereditary defects can lead to an undersupply and ..(Passage may not be reproduced here for competentions reasons).


Another important aspect of the above-average proportion of more than 70% of polyunsaturated fatty acids in hemp oil is their utilization in human metabolism. Fat and oils with saturated fatty acids are predominantly degraded to recover energy and used in excess to build up new storage materials (e.g., endogenous fat in the fat storage cells). By contrast, the polyunsaturated fatty acids predominant in hemp oil are used by the body for the production of short-lived, regulative hormones (eg prostaglandins, see above), for the preservation of the immune system and for building new cell structures (in particular cell membranes), for the constant transformation processes and the ongoing rebuilding of cells to allow. The well-dosed uptake of hemp oil therefore does not lead so quickly to the formation of lipid deposits (arteriosclerosis) or “fat pads” as many unsaturated animal and vegetable z. hardened fats.


The farmers in the Middle Ages already knew about the blessing of hemp seed as food. They ate hemp seed in the form of hemp pulp or hemp butter. The nobility dismissed hemp as a “peasant’s diet” and did not realize the health benefits of dieting with hemp. The protein of hemp seed strengthens the human immune system, since it is chemically very similar to the immunoglobulins … (Passage may not be reproduced here for competition law reasons). Also, the oil contained in the hemp seed is health-preserving due to its unsaturated fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acid. The hemp seed protein consists to about 65% of the globulin “Edestin” and some albumins, which are very similar to those in human blood plasma.

The amino acid composition of the hemp proteins also comes very close to that of the human protein and is therefore of nutritional value, although further studies on the bioavailability are necessary. However, the hemp seed protein not only provides all the essential amino acids that the human body needs to absorb in the diet. They are also in the right relationship to each other. They are currently biologically readily available for the development of the body’s own protein. e.g. of immunoglobulins, … (Passage may not be reproduced here for competition law reasons).

Because of this above-average nutritional value hemp seed protein is ideal as an additive to baked goods, soups and other foods and is actually undervalued as livestock and bird food. The protein is obtained by crushing or grinding the hemp fruits or after pressing off the oil by grinding the pressing residue (press cake, which still contains about 10% oil, the hard fruit peel and the other components of the seed). After suitable sifting to remove coarse fruit peel pieces, a gray-green, protein-rich flour is obtained.

With the rediscovery of the benefits of the hemp plant, new food technologies for the processing of hemp seed have been and are still being developed. Suitable peeling processes remove the hard peel before processing. The extraction and enrichment of the protein allows e.g. in the US, the production of a quark-like hemp tofu or hemp yoghurt and similar products. The split Hanffruchtschalen u. a. used as cattle feed or for the production of cushion filling materials. In addition, no THC can be detected in husked hemp, because the seeds are THC-free and found in oil or protein intact hemp seed very low, physiologically non-active residual amounts of THC of impurities with THC, which stick to the hard fruit wall during threshing.

In summary, it can be said that the resumption of hemp seed in our diet is not only a significant, verifiable progress to healthy, wholesome nutrition, but also brings a tasty variety in our kitchen plan. With the increased cultivation of THC-free and extremely THC-poor hemp varieties, the number of tasty, healthy foods based on hemp will certainly increase in the coming years. Such a non-toxic diet with all the necessary amino and fatty acids, free of cholesterol, BSE agents, fattening hormones and harmful antibiotics is the best argument for remembering the millennia-old tradition of hemp cultivation with modern breeding and plant physiological resources and throw the utopian fear of the drug monster hemp overboard.