With Spring having just arrived, most of us have looked forward to the prospect of warmer days and the opportunity to ditch those heavy winter layers. However, for many of us, the change in season often heralds a more unwelcome time of year. People with inflammatory conditions like eczema, acne, dermatitis and psoriasis can experience flare-ups with the seasonal change and seasonal pollens – leading to itching, sensitive and irritated skin. And while these conditions are typically managed with topical creams and by avoiding known triggers, there are other, more natural alternatives that can help.
It has long been known that essential fatty acids such as omega-3s can alleviate symptoms associated with inflammatory skin disorders. They are found in high quantities in foods such as fatty fish, seafood, walnuts and certain seed and plant oils. In addition to reducing the severity of skin disorders, fatty acids have also been shown to protect against sun damage, fight depression and lower the risk for heart disease.
For those with inflammatory skin conditions looking to ramp up their omega-3 intake, you may want to consider a dietary supplement. Fish oil is commonly recommended, however, if you eat a plant-based diet or can’t stomach the taste or smell of fish, you may want to consider hemp oil. Maybe you’re neither of these people, but are keen to try this emerging superfood everyone is talking about.
Hemp oil, I hear you say? Isn’t that the same as, you know, cannabis?
Yes and no. Hemp is made from the cannabis sativa plant but contains next to no Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – that is, the ingredient that gets you ‘high’. Because hemp oil is made by compressing hemp seeds only, and not the leaves or flowers, it does not contain Cannabidiol, or CBD-based oils, and will not show up in drug tests.
Hemp seeds, on the other hand, are high in vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc and all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), all of which are essential to good skin health.
What hemp oil does have, however, is an abundance of unsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6) such as linoleic acid, γ-linolenic acid, and α-linolenic acid. These fatty acids can help boost the skin’s ability to retain moisture by influencing the fluidity of cell membranes and the transport of electrolytes, improving its structure.
Most importantly, hemp oil is renowned for its anti-inflammatory effects. The potent mixture of fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants can reduce the symptoms associated with psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis, such as itching, pain and dryness. It also contains compounds that reduce oxidative stress – the process that occurs when free radicals damage the skin – reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time.
So what’s the best way to take hemp oil?
You can take it orally, apply it topically, and even use it in your dishes and cooking. Hemp oil has a delicious, nutty flavour, so you can consume 1-2 teaspoons daily or incorporate it into smoothies, salads, cooking and soups. It can also be applied directly to the skin, particularly on dry, irritated patches, or you can mix it with other skin-boosting oils such as coconut, almond, lavender or rosemary to enhance its effects.
Australian companies such as 13 Seeds offer both hemp oil and capsule products made from 100% Tasmanian grown hemp seeds. By cold-pressing the seeds, the products retain as much nutritional value as possible (and no nasty fishy aftertaste), and are GMO-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, low sodium, low GI, with no artificial colours and flavours.
From an environmental perspective, hemp seeds also offer a more sustainable alternative to fish oil, which is derived from finite resources, extracted at high temperatures and could contain mercury and other toxins.
Hemp oil can be used for most skin types as a daily moisturiser, hydrating the skin without clogging the pores. Daily use can even balance out oily skin by regulating the skin’s oil production, which helps reduce acne. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce redness and irritation whilst simultaneously encouraging new cell generation and skin growth.
By Ben Semmens, Head of Nutrition at 13 Seeds
Ben is a registered nutritionist and Head of Nutrition at 13 Seeds, an Australian-based company with 100 per cent Tasmanian hemp seeds as its key ingredient. After feeling miserable from eating a bad diet, lack of exercise and too much partying, Ben made the decision eight years ago to change his life and prioritise his health. This involved him eating better, exercising and making better lifestyle choices – which led to his decision to study nutrition. Since graduating, Ben has provided consultancy to help educate people on the benefits nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices has on our mental state and wellbeing.