Hemp Protein

Last Updated: September 28, 2022

Hemp is a food product derived from the same plant of which Marijuana originates from, but without intoxicating components; the protein fragment appears to be a popular meal replacement supplement but is not yet linked to unique properties (relative to other Protein supplements).

Hemp Protein is most often used for.

Don't miss out on the latest research


Sources and Composition



Hemp is the common name for the plant Cannabis sativa, which has a history of being a multipurpose crop for fiber, food, and medicinal products; farming of Hemp was banned around 1930 due to the psychoactives in Marijuana and was repermitted in 1998 (Canadian data but appears to extend to Australia, Austria, China, Great Britain, France and Spain but not the US[1]) due to Hemp being bred to contain less than 0.3% of the main main marijuana psychoactive (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).[2] All hemp products sold as food products (legally) abide by this and appear to contain less than 0.3% THC (in reference to total product weight).[3][4]

Hemp can be cultivated for the oil component or the fiber component with the latter being more popular economically, and has some roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine where the seed kernel is referred to as Huo Ma Ren[5] for the treatment of constipation, gastrointestinal disease, and aging.[6] Hempseeds are also referred to as Fructus cannabis (fruits of cannabis).[6]



The seeds of Hemp tend to contain Around 2200kJ (525kcal) per 100g 30.4+/-2.7% and 24.0+/-2.1% fatty acids and proteins respectively, with an ash (4.8+/-0.7%) and nondigestible fiber (22.2%) content. Other bioactives found somewhat exclusively in hempseeds include:[7]

  • Cannabidiolic acid[8] and its parent molecule, Cannabidiol (both nonintoxicating)
  • Cannabisin B[9] at 66mg/g (6.6%) of a 60% methanolic extract[5]
  • N-trans-Caffeoyltyramine at 33mg/g (3.3%) of a 60% methanolic extract[5]


With compounds not seen as unique to hemp including:

  • Vitamin E (90mg/100g)[7]
  • Thiamin (0.4mg/100g)[7]
  • Riboflavin (0.1mg/100g)[7]
  • Phosphorus (1160mg/100g)[7]
  • Potassium (859mg/100g)[7]
  • Magnesium (483mg/100g)[7]
  • Calcium (145mg/100g)[7]
  • Iron (14mg/100g)[7]
  • Sodium (12mg/100g)[7]
  • Manganese and Zinc (7mg/100g)[7]
  • Copper (2mg/100g)[7]

Much hemp oil can be extracted from the seeds via cold-processing and sold as its own nutritional supplement,[7] the product after cold-processing is known as seed cake or seed meal and is approximately 10% fatty acids (oil) by weight with a comparably high protein content (30-50%).[10][11][7]

When looking at the fatty acid composition overall, it appears to contain:

  • Linoleic acid as omega-6 (56%)
  • Alpha-linoleic acid as omega-3 (22%)
  • Oleic acid (9%)
  • Palmitic acid (5%)
  • Gamma-linoleic acid (4%)
  • Stearic acid (2%)
  • Stearidonic acid (2%), an omega-3 fatty acid with the designation 18:4

The omega-6 and omega-3 ratio appears to be between 3:1 and 2:1,[7] and Hemp is one of the few sources of Stearidonic acid (the other common source being blackcurrant oil).

Hemp seeds are fairly balanced in their macronutrient profile, and extraction of fatty acids to produce hemp oil leads a seed meal as byproduct; this seed meal is higher in protein (30-50%) and used as 'hemp protein'. The seeds are surprisingly low in sodium, and have a somewhat balanced omega fatty acid profile; like many plants, they may have a few unique polyphenolics or bioactives in them (these are cannabinoid compounds, although the psychoactive THC in Marijuana is not present in high amounts in commerical hemp anymore)

The composition of the seed meal appears to be:

  • Around 1700kJ (406kcal) per 100g[7]
  • 40.7+/-8.8% protein content
  • 10.2+/-2.2% fatty acid content
  • 6.7+/-1% ash content
  • 26.3% nondigestible fiber[7]

When looking at the amino acid composition of the protein fragment, Hemp appears to contain:[2][12]

  • Threonine 2.66+/-0.67%
  • Aspartate 1.35+/-0.23%
  • Glutamine 1.73+/-0.32%
  • Serine 6.03+/-1.24%
  • Glycine 1.59+/-0.32%
  • Proline 1.66+/-0.35%
  • Alanine 1.61+/-0.32%
  • Arginine 94−128 mg/g
  • Cysteine 0.70+/-0.15%
  • Valine 1.91+/-0.30%
  • Methionine 0.88+/-0.25%
  • Isoleucine 1.45+/-0.23%
  • Leucine 2.35+/-0.45%
  • Tyrosine 1.15+/-0.28%
  • Phenylalanine 1.62+/-0.30%

When comparing the amino acid profile against other sources, Hemp is comparatively high in Arginine and Tyrosine (greater than all other common sources tested) and is high in Alanine and Aspartic acid alongside Soy (both being greater than other sources).[7]

The protein of hemp appears to be incomplete as, although it contains all essential amino acids, some are in insufficient quantity to provide the bare minimum of essential human nutrition; The limiting amino acids in Hemp appear to usually be Lysine, with Leucine and L-Tryptophan being the second and third limiting amino acids.[2] This makes it, from a complementary protein perspective, having comparable insufficiencies as grain products.[2]

In assessing the digestability of the protein from 30 samples of hemp (hempseed either hulled or dehulled as well as seedmeal) using a rat bioassay and rating the score via PDCAAS noted a digestability of approximately 86.7% (the reference protein, casein, scored 97.6%) when looking at the seed meal.[2] It appears that using dehulled seeds, prior to extraction of the oil, had a comparable absorption to casein (94.9+/-3.5%)[2] and according to PDCAAS (reference of casein at 100) Hemp scored between 50 and 60, comparable to lentils, due to the deficient quantity of Lysine.[2]

Hemp protein appears to be an incomplete amino acid source, but has decent protein absorption rates. Comparatively high in Arginine and Tyrosine and low in Lysine and Leucine



Hemp protein may be hydrolyzed via simulated gastric digestion, and some bioactives peptides appear to have antioxidative properties in in vitro oxidative assays (metal chelation, DPPH).[13]




Cannabinergic Neurotransmission

The two main cannabinoids in Hemp as a food product, Cannabidiol and its metabolite Cannabidiolic acid, are not agonists of the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2)[14] although cannabidiol may be able to act as an inverse agonist at 1µM[15] and impair the actions of other agonists at lower concentrations.[15] As mentioned earlier, legally produced hemp must contain less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC by weight and is unlikely to confer the psychoactive properties of this molecule (which are causative of the known effects of Marijuana).

Due to depletion of THC, there are not any major intoxicating effects of hemp protein which would mostly be due to the THC content. Cannabidiol retains the potential to impair the activity of other agonists at the CB1 receptor


Memory and Learning

Hempseed extract, in vitro, appears to activate calcineurin in a concentration dependent manner with maximal activity at 10mg/mL increasing activity by 35+/-5%.[6]

Oral ingestion of 200-800mg/kg hempseeds to mice for 7 days, where anti-memory agents (sodium nitrate, high acute dose of alcohol, and scopolamine) were introduced on days 8-10 during cognitive tested noted that preloading with all doses appeared to have anti-amnesiac effects (the best dose seemed to vary widely depending on test).[6]

May have minor pro-cognitive effects at higher doses, bioactive mediating these effects is not yet known (if a cannabinoid, then it may be novel to hemp protein supplementation; if due to an amino acid, this may apply to protein in general)



A rat study using ovariectomized rats (research model of menopause) using 1%, 5%, or 10% hempseed in the diet appeared to reduce menopause-related anxiety at all groups in a dose-dependent manner relative to control; the increase in serum cholesterol (including HDL) and calcium seen in ovariectomized control was similarly reduced with hempseed ingestion.[16]

At least one study suggests benefit to menopausal rats, active component not known


Cardiovascular Health


Lipoproteins and Cholesterol

Hempseed has been investigated for its cardiovascular effects, particularly the fatty acid fragment.[1] Dietary inclusion of hempseed at 5-10% expectedly gives rise to plasma omega-6 and omega-3 concentrations in animals and may reduced platelet aggregation secondary to that;[17][18] an effect attributed to omega fatty acids in general.[19]

The oil from hempseed given to otherwise healthy persons at 30mL on top of a regular diet for 4 weeks noted a reduction in triglycerides (1.23+/-0.64mmol/L to 1.03+/-0.44mmol/L) which was also observed with the other group given flaxseed; there was no observable change of HDL-C nor LDL-C with either treatment,[20] and this lack of efficacy on LDL-C and HDL-C was replicated elsewhere with 12 weeks of hempseed oil ingestion at 2g daily (although this study also noted a lack of effect on triglycerides).[21]

There may be minor heart protective effects secondary to reducing clotting potential, but these are attributed to the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid content (up to 10% in hempseed protein) and not solely unique to this product. Linoleic and Alpha-Linonelic acid are common fatty acids in nature


Inflammation and Immunology



Cannabidiolic acid appears to be a selective COX-2 inhibitor, although fairly weak with an IC50 of 2mM on COX-2 and 9.1-fold selectivity for COX-2 over COX-1.[22]

Unlikely to be biologically relevant due to the high concentration required paired with the low oral intake of cannabidiolic acid in hempseed meal


Interactions with Cancer Metabolism



Cannabidiolic acid and its parent molecule Cannabidiol appear to have anti-migration properties on invasive MDA-MB-231 cells, with 5μM ; this appeared to be independent of COX2 inhibition (noted with these molecules), and appears to be due to activation of RhoA due to inhibiting its phosphorylation (possibly downstream of PKA inhibition).[8]


Interactions with Aesthetics



Oral ingestion of 30mL hempseed oil over 8 weeks relative to placebo (olive oil) in persons with atopic dermatitis noted that there was a trend to reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) in persons using hempseed from 12.2+/-5.3 at baseline to 9.6+/-3.7, although this failed to reach statistical significnace; the decrease in subjective skin dryness and itchiness did reach significance in the hempseed oil group.[23]

Possible benefits against atopic dermatitis associated with the fatty acid fragment of hempseed oil, may not be unique to hempseed

1.^Rodriguez-Leyva D, Pierce GNThe cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseedNutr Metab (Lond).(2010 Apr 21)
3.^Ross SA, Mehmedic Z, Murphy TP, Elsohly MAGC-MS analysis of the total delta9-THC content of both drug- and fiber-type cannabis seedsJ Anal Toxicol.(2000 Nov-Dec)
4.^Holler JM, Bosy TZ, Dunkley CS, Levine B, Past MR, Jacobs ADelta9-tetrahydrocannabinol content of commercially available hemp productsJ Anal Toxicol.(2008 Jul-Aug)
8.^Takeda S, Okajima S, Miyoshi H, Yoshida K, Okamoto Y, Okada T, Amamoto T, Watanabe K, Omiecinski CJ, Aramaki HCannabidiolic acid, a major cannabinoid in fiber-type cannabis, is an inhibitor of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell migrationToxicol Lett.(2012 Nov 15)
11.^Silversides FG, Lefrançois MRThe effect of feeding hemp seed meal to laying hensBr Poult Sci.(2005 Apr)
14.^Bisogno T, Hanus L, De Petrocellis L, Tchilibon S, Ponde DE, Brandi I, Moriello AS, Davis JB, Mechoulam R, Di Marzo VMolecular targets for cannabidiol and its synthetic analogues: effect on vanilloid VR1 receptors and on the cellular uptake and enzymatic hydrolysis of anandamideBr J Pharmacol.(2001 Oct)
15.^Thomas A, Baillie GL, Phillips AM, Razdan RK, Ross RA, Pertwee RGCannabidiol displays unexpectedly high potency as an antagonist of CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists in vitroBr J Pharmacol.(2007 Mar)
16.^Saberivand A, Karimi I, Becker LA, Moghaddam A, Azizi-Mahmoodjigh S, Yousefi M, Zavareh SThe effects of Cannabis sativa L. seed (hempseed) in the ovariectomized rat model of menopauseMethods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol.(2010 Sep)
17.^Prociuk MA, Edel AL, Richard MN, Gavel NT, Ander BP, Dupasquier CM, Pierce GNCholesterol-induced stimulation of platelet aggregation is prevented by a hempseed-enriched dietCan J Physiol Pharmacol.(2008 Apr)
18.^Richard MN, Ganguly R, Steigerwald SN, Al-Khalifa A, Pierce GNDietary hempseed reduces platelet aggregationJ Thromb Haemost.(2007 Feb)
20.^Schwab US, Callaway JC, Erkkilä AT, Gynther J, Uusitupa MI, Järvinen TEffects of hempseed and flaxseed oils on the profile of serum lipids, serum total and lipoprotein lipid concentrations and haemostatic factorsEur J Nutr.(2006 Dec)
21.^Kaul N, Kreml R, Austria JA, Richard MN, Edel AL, Dibrov E, Hirono S, Zettler ME, Pierce GNA comparison of fish oil, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil supplementation on selected parameters of cardiovascular health in healthy volunteersJ Am Coll Nutr.(2008 Feb)
22.^Takeda S, Misawa K, Yamamoto I, Watanabe KCannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabisDrug Metab Dispos.(2008 Sep)
23.^Callaway J, Schwab U, Harvima I, Halonen P, Mykkänen O, Hyvönen P, Järvinen TEfficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitisJ Dermatolog Treat.(2005 Apr)
24.^C Verdich, A Flint, J P Gutzwiller, E Näslund, C Beglinger, P M Hellström, S J Long, L M Morgan, J J Holst, A AstrupA meta-analysis of the effect of glucagon-like peptide-1 (7-36) amide on ad libitum energy intake in humansJ Clin Endocrinol Metab.(2001 Sep)
25.^M S Westerterp-Plantenga, A Nieuwenhuizen, D Tomé, S Soenen, K R WesterterpDietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenanceAnnu Rev Nutr.(2009)
28.^Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, Wycherley TP, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Woods SC, Mattes RDThe role of protein in weight loss and maintenanceAm J Clin Nutr.(2015 Jun)
31.^Leo Treyzon, Steve Chen, Kurt Hong, Eric Yan, Catherine L Carpenter, Gail Thames, Susan Bowerman, He-Jing Wang, Robert Elashoff, Zhaoping LiA controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body massNutr J.(2008 Aug 27)
32.^Ellen M Evans, Mina C Mojtahedi, Matthew P Thorpe, Rudy J Valentine, Penny M Kris-Etherton, Donald K LaymanEffects of protein intake and gender on body composition changes: a randomized clinical weight loss trialNutr Metab (Lond).(2012 Jun 12)
33.^Idoia Labayen, Nieves Díez, Alvaro González, Dolores Parra, J Alfredo MartínezEffects of protein vs. carbohydrate-rich diets on fuel utilisation in obese women during weight lossForum Nutr.(2003)
36.^Melanie J Bopp, Denise K Houston, Leon Lenchik, Linda Easter, Stephen B Kritchevsky, Barbara J NicklasLean mass loss is associated with low protein intake during dietary-induced weight loss in postmenopausal womenJ Am Diet Assoc.(2008 Jul)
37.^M M Gordon, M J Bopp, L Easter, G D Miller, M F Lyles, D K Houston, B J Nicklas, S B KritchevskyEffects of dietary protein on the composition of weight loss in post-menopausal womenJ Nutr Health Aging.(2008 Oct)
38.^Mojtahedi MC, Thorpe MP, Karampinos DC, Johnson CL, Layman DK, Georgiadis JG, Evans EMThe effects of a higher protein intake during energy restriction on changes in body composition and physical function in older womenJ Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci.(2011 Nov)
39.^Jeremy P Loenneke, Jacob M Wilson, Anssi H Manninen, Mandy E Wray, Jeremy T Barnes, Thomas J PujolQuality protein intake is inversely related with abdominal fatNutr Metab (Lond).(2012 Jan 27)
40.^Jeremy P Loenneke, Abhishek Balapur, Austin D Thrower, Georganne Syler, Maureen Timlin, Thomas J PujolShort report: Relationship between quality protein, lean mass and bone healthAnn Nutr Metab.(2010)
41.^Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, Aragon AA, Devries MC, Banfield L, Krieger JW, Phillips SMA systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adultsBr J Sports Med.(2018 Mar)
42.^Bauer J, Biolo G, Cederholm T, Cesari M, Cruz-Jentoft AJ, Morley JE, Phillips S, Sieber C, Stehle P, Teta D, Visvanathan R, Volpi E, Boirie YEvidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study GroupJ Am Med Dir Assoc.(2013 Aug)
43.^Silva Ton WT, das Graças de Almeida C, de Morais Cardoso L, Marvila Girondoli Y, Feliciano Pereira P, Viana Gomes Schitini JK, Galvão Cândido F, Marques Arbex P, de Cássia Gonçalves Alfenas REffect of different protein types on second meal postprandial glycaemia in normal weight and normoglycemic subjects.Nutr Hosp.(2014-Mar-01)
44.^Mary C Gannon, Frank Q Nuttall, Asad Saeed, Kelly Jordan, Heidi HooverAn increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetesAm J Clin Nutr.(2003 Oct)
45.^Mads J Skytte, Amirsalar Samkani, Amy D Petersen, Mads N Thomsen, Arne Astrup, Elizaveta Chabanova, Jan Frystyk, Jens J Holst, Henrik S Thomsen, Sten Madsbad, Thomas M Larsen, Steen B Haugaard, Thure KrarupA carbohydrate-reduced high-protein diet improves HbA 1c and liver fat content in weight stable participants with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trialDiabetologia.(2019 Nov)
46.^Buclin T, Cosma M, Appenzeller M, Jacquet AF, Décosterd LA, Biollaz J, Burckhardt PDiet acids and alkalis influence calcium retention in boneOsteoporos Int.(2001)
48.^Fenton TR, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Hanley DAMeta-analysis of the effect of the acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis on calcium balanceJ Bone Miner Res.(2009 Nov)
49.^Hunt JR, Johnson LK, Fariba Roughead ZKDietary protein and calcium interact to influence calcium retention: a controlled feeding studyAm J Clin Nutr.(2009 May)
50.^Kerstetter JE, O'Brien KO, Caseria DM, Wall DE, Insogna KLThe impact of dietary protein on calcium absorption and kinetic measures of bone turnover in womenJ Clin Endocrinol Metab.(2005 Jan)
52.^Darling AL, Millward DJ, Torgerson DJ, Hewitt CE, Lanham-New SADietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Am J Clin Nutr.(2009-Dec)
55.^Inge Groenendijk, Laura den Boeft, Luc J C van Loon, Lisette C P G M de GrootHigh Versus low Dietary Protein Intake and Bone Health in Older Adults: a Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisComput Struct Biotechnol J.(2019 Jul 22)
56.^Shams-White MM, Chung M, Du M, Fu Z, Insogna KL, Karlsen MC, LeBoff MS, Shapses SA, Sackey J, Wallace TC, Weaver CMDietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis FoundationAm J Clin Nutr.(2017 Jun)
57.^Hannan MT, Tucker KL, Dawson-Hughes B, Cupples LA, Felson DT, Kiel DPEffect of dietary protein on bone loss in elderly men and women: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.J Bone Miner Res.(2000-Dec)
58.^Xingqiong Meng, Kun Zhu, Amanda Devine, Deborah A Kerr, Colin W Binns, Richard L PrinceA 5-year cohort study of the effects of high protein intake on lean mass and BMC in elderly postmenopausal womenJ Bone Miner Res.(2009 Nov)
62.^Rebholz CM, Friedman EE, Powers LJ, Arroyave WD, He J, Kelly TNDietary protein intake and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsAm J Epidemiol.(2012 Oct 1)
63.^Martin WF, Armstrong LE, Rodriguez NRDietary protein intake and renal function.Nutr Metab (Lond).(2005-Sep-20)
65.^Cortinovis M, Perico N, Ruggenenti P, Remuzzi A, Remuzzi GGlomerular hyperfiltration.Nat Rev Nephrol.(2022-07)
66.^Regazzoni BM, Genton N, Pelet J, Drukker A, Guignard JPLong-term followup of renal functional reserve capacity after unilateral nephrectomy in childhood.J Urol.(1998-Sep)
67.^Higashihara E, Horie S, Takeuchi T, Nutahara K, Aso YLong-term consequence of nephrectomy.J Urol.(1990-Feb)
68.^Goldfarb DA, Matin SF, Braun WE, Schreiber MJ, Mastroianni B, Papajcik D, Rolin HA, Flechner S, Goormastic M, Novick ACRenal outcome 25 years after donor nephrectomy.J Urol.(2001-Dec)
69.^Ikizler TA, Burrowes JD, Byham-Gray LD, Campbell KL, Carrero JJ, Chan W, Fouque D, Friedman AN, Ghaddar S, Goldstein-Fuchs DJ, Kaysen GA, Kopple JD, Teta D, Yee-Moon Wang A, Cuppari LKDOQI Clinical Practice Guideline for Nutrition in CKD: 2020 Update.Am J Kidney Dis.(2020-09)
70.^Macfarlane GT, Macfarlane SBacteria, colonic fermentation, and gastrointestinal healthJ AOAC Int.(2012 Jan-Feb)
72.^Joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert ConsultationProtein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human NutritionWorld Health Organ Tech Rep Ser.(2007)
74.^Stefan H M Gorissen, Julie J R Crombag, Joan M G Senden, W A Huub Waterval, Jörgen Bierau, Lex B Verdijk, Luc J C van LoonProtein Content and Amino Acid Composition of Commercially Available Plant-Based Protein IsolatesAmino Acids.(2018 Dec)