Essential fats for good health
Hemp is springing up all over. You can buy hemp oil at natural-food stores, where you will find it in an array of products, including lip balm, bubble bath, soap, shower gel, and moisturizers. Hemp oil is not only popular in bath and body-care products, but it contains compounds that can also benefit heart health, help support good mood, improve brain function, and heal serious skin disorders. It can even help protect the skin from free radical damage after excess sun exposure.
Hemp seed oil contains omega-6 (linoleic) and omega-3 (linolenic) unsaturated fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the ones that your body doesn’t manufacture, so you have to get them from food or supplements. Essential fatty acids are aptly named because they are essential to your health. Your body uses these fatty acids to lubricate skin and tissues and to cause cell membranes to function normally.
Getting ample EFAs in your diet or in a high-quality supplement can help improve some skin conditions, such as dryness, dandruff, and hair loss.
Many researchers now believe that fatty acids may be the missing link in a number of unsolved diseases. EFAs are being used by researchers and increasing numbers of health-care practitioners to treat chronic inflammatory conditions such as lupus, arthritis, and psoriasis, sometimes with dramatic results. Hemp seed oil may also help improve your blood-cholesterol profile and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Hemp seed oil is one of the healthiest oils because it is available with no solvent extraction and contains an excellent balance of linoleic and linolenic fatty acids (in a 3:1 ratio)—even better than flaxseed oil, which is 1:5.
EFAs are associated with mood and mental functioning, so hemp seed oil may help you stay cheery and keep your brain working smoothly.
Recent research shows that these fatty acids are essential for proper development and function of the brain and nervous system. Some researchers believe that the amount and type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (including EFAs) in your blood can affect both mood and behavior; so if your brain doesn’t have access to the right amount and quality of fatty acids, you might be more prone to depression and hostility.
Hemp seed oil also contains 2 to 4 percent of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), the well-known ingredient of evening primrose oil and black currant seed oil, which can also support a healthy mind. At least one study has shown that GLA supplementation improves memory and overall mental functions in patients with schizophrenia. Numerous other studies have indicated that GLA is often effective for reducing symptoms of skin ailments such as eczema and fibrocystic breast disease.
EFA balance in your body can even affect immune function, and preliminary research shows EFA imbalance might play a role in chronic fatigue syndrome in some people.
Christopher Hobbs is a fourth-generation botanist and herbalist, an Herbs for Health editorial adviser, and a licensed acupuncturist. He is the author of Stress and Natural Healing (Botanica Press, 1997) and many other books.
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