Hemp protein is extracted from the shelled seeds (hearts) of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L., and is used in some protein supplements and protein-enriched foods. Hemp and marijuana plants are closely related; however, hemp generally refers to varieties that are grown for food and industrial uses. Hemp plants are very low in the chemicals that give marijuana its intoxicating and psychoactive properties. 1
Hemp protein usually refers to a dry hemp seed meal made by removing the outer shell of the hemp seed, expelling most of the oil through cold-pressing, and removing some of the fiber through milling and sifting. Hemp protein is usually lower in protein (35–50%) and higher in fat (about 10%, mostly essential fatty acids) and carbohydrate (20–35%, mostly fiber) than other protein supplements. 2 , 3
Hemp protein is lactose-free and safe for people with allergies or sensitivities to dairy and eggs, as well as those with allergies to peanuts, soybeans, and other legumes. Vegetarians and vegans may prefer supplements with hemp protein to supplements with protein derived from dairy (such as casein and whey proteins ), eggs, or meat. Like proteins from other seeds and nuts, hemp protein is low in the essential amino acid, lysine, and is therefore not considered a complete protein. 4
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Researchers have found that the amino acids in hydrolyzed protein supplements are highly available for muscle repair after muscle fiber damaging exercise and other causes of muscle injury. Some, but not all, studies show that protein supplements may help athletes by reducing soreness and speeding recovery after exercise, and increasing muscle mass gains. Hemp protein has lower levels than soy and egg proteins of branched-chain amino acids, which are especially important for muscle growth and repair.
In one study, mice fed hemp protein had more stamina and reduced lactic acid levels after exertion than mice fed other sources of protein. Muscle soreness and fatigue tend to increase in the conditions that produce high levels of lactic acid. The effect of hemp protein on stamina and muscle function in athletes, however, has not been studied.
Researchers have found that small amino acid chains found in hydrolyzed hemp protein can act as antioxidants, and suggested that these same amino acid fragments are likely formed during normal digestion of hemp protein. These antioxidants could protect blood vessels and cell membranes from the free radical damage linked to cardiovascular disease progression.
In animal research, hemp seed meal was found to increase antioxidant activity and reduce cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract. Whether hemp protein has antioxidant and cholesterol lowering effects in humans is not yet known.
Hemp protein is high in arginine, an amino acid that keeps blood vessels healthy and can reduce high blood pressure. There is also evidence that peptides (short chains of amino acids) produced through hemp protein digestion could contribute to lowering blood pressure. In one study, the blood pressure of hypertensive rats came down after four weeks of treatment with hydrolyzed hemp protein but not after casein protein. The same study found that hydrolyzed hemp protein prevented high blood pressure from developing in young rats bred to be hypertensive. Whether hemp protein can prevent or reduce high blood pressure in humans is not known.
In an animal study, kidney health improved in kidney-diseased rats fed hemp protein or soy protein diets, but not pea protein. In addition, the soy and hemp protein-fed rats had less heart damage due to kidney disease. It is not known whether these effects would be seen in people with kidney disease.
Researchers have found that a high-protein diet might help reduce appetite and improve blood glucose control, help people lose weight and keep it off, and help preserve muscle mass during weight loss. Although most hemp protein supplements have less protein than other protein supplements, they are higher in fiber, which has also been shown to reduce appetite, improve glucose metabolism, and contribute to weight management. Whether hemp protein has real benefits or drawbacks compared to other sources of protein for people trying to lose weight is not known.
How It Works
How to Use It
Where to Find It
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
Many people experience digestive upset after taking protein supplements. Hemp protein appears to break down more easily than some other types of protein, 6 but whether this translates into fewer digestive side effects is unknown. Typical hemp protein supplements are relatively high in fiber, 7 which may add health benefits but can also cause digestive symptoms in some people.
Some people are concerned that taking hemp protein regularly could cause urine drug tests to be positive due to the presence of low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in marijuana. One study showed that people given the same amount of THC as would be found in 300 grams of shelled hemp seeds per day for 10 days did not have high enough urine THC levels to cause a positive drug test result. 8 Since THC is found in the oil of the hemp seed , hemp protein supplements have even lower amounts than shelled hemp seeds and should not cause positive drug test results.
Although rare, allergies to hemp seeds have been reported. 9
- Hemp Protein for Sports & Fitness
- Hemp Protein for Weight Control
1. Lachenmeier D, Kroener L, Musshoff F, Madea B. Determination of cannabinoids in hemp food products by use of headspace solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem 2004;378:183-9. Epub 2003 Nov 4.
2. Callaway J. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica2004;140:65–72.
3. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.
4. Tang C, Ten Z, Wang X, Yang X. Physicochemical and functional properties of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54:8945-50.
5. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.
6. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.
7. Callaway J. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica2004;140:65–72.
8. Leson G, Pless P, Grotenhermen F, et al. Evaluating the impact of hemp food consumption on workplace drug tests. J Anal Toxicol 2001;25:691-8.
9. Vidal C, Fuente R, Iglesias A, Saez A. Bronchial asthma due to Cannabis sativa seed. Allergy 1991;46:647-9.
How to Use It The ideal intake of hemp protein has not been determined, but a typical serving of hemp protein powder is 30 grams and provides about 15 grams of protein. Where to Find It Hulled hemp seeds are about 37% protein, which is high compared to other plant sources of protein. 5 The dry seed meal that is commonly…