Hemp protein

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Dehulled hemp seeds (food) containing about 10g of hemp protein per 30g serving

Hemp protein is a plant-derived protein from the cannabis plant and is isolated from hemp seeds (a type of nut).[1][2]

Protein content[edit]

The protein content of whole hemp seeds can vary between 20 and 25% depending on variety and environmental factors.[3][2] Processing methods such as dehulling or oil fraction removal can increase the protein concentration in products like dehulled seed or hemp seed meal to over 50%.[3][4]

Hemp seeds are comparable with soybeans in terms of nutrition.[4] They are high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and rich in dietary fiber and unsaturated fatty acids. After the oil is extracted from the hemp seeds, the residual mass is a protein-rich material useful for food processing.[3][4]

The protein in hemp seeds is made up of the two highly digestible globular types of proteins, edestin (60–80%) and 2S albumin,[5] with edestin also being rich in the essential amino acids.[2][6][7][8]

Amino acid profile[edit]

Hemp protein is rich in essential amino acids, containing, in sufficient quantities, all essential amino acids required by humans except lysine, which appears at lower than recommended levels for infants aged up to five years old according to Food and agricultural organization (FOA) standards; still, the overall nutritive value of hemp protein remains relatively good, as sulfur-containing amino acids are higher than in casein or soy, while other non-essential amino acids present in hemp protein, such as arginine, provide additional health benefits including cardiovascular support, immune function optimization, and muscle repair.[3]

Hemp protein has unique properties that are useful in food processing. Its cysteine-rich amino acid composition and high sulfhydryl (-SH)/disulfide (S-S) ratio offer a glimpse of its distinctive features.[9][4] These features can facilitate the development of new food materials.[4]


Hemp protein
A package of unflavored hemp protein

Hemp protein, when untreated, is more digestible compared to soy protein. Heat pre-treatment at temperatures above 80°C may improve the digestibility of both hemp and soy protein, but in untreated (unheated) form hemp protein is more readily digested than the soy one.[3]

Dehulled hemp seeds (also known as hemp nuts, hemp kernels or hemp hearts) have a protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of 0.66, with lysine being the limiting amino acid (digestibility of 92.1%).[3][10]

With its gluten content as low as 4.78 ppm, hemp is attracting attention as a gluten-free (<20 ppm) food material.[4][9]

Hemp protein is sold in bulk as a powder, in various forms, such as hempseed meal, hemp protein concentrates, and hemp protein isolates. It generally has greenish hue due to the natural pigments in the hemp plant, but the color can vary depending on the specific processing methods used. Unflavored hemp protein powder is commonly available, that is, no additionall flavoring is added to the hemp protein, which is usually described as earthy or nutty.[11][12][9][13][14]

Functional features[edit]

Observations of limiting enzymatic hydrolysis elicited by trypsin in a controlled environment have shown an increase in hemp protein isolate (HSI) solubility at various pH and a notable decrease in the recorded emulsifying activity index.[3][15]

Environment benefit[edit]

Hemp protein is gaining attention in the context of its environment benefit. Hemp is reevaluated as a promising crop in the era of sustainable development goals (SDG) due to its sustainable growth characteristics and versatile industrial usability.[4][9]

The entire hemp plant—its leaves, stalks, roots, and seeds—can be used, reducing waste. The stalk is used for fiber production, the leaves/roots for medicine, and seeds for oil and protein.[9][4] Hemp has a short cropping period and requires less pesticide or water compared to cotton, a representative fiber material and food plant, that makes hemp a sustainable choice for cultivation.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Callaway JC (1 January 2004). "Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview". Euphytica. 140 (1): 65–72. doi:10.1007/s10681-004-4811-6. ISSN 1573-5060. S2CID 43988645. Archived from the original on 1 April 2024. Retrieved 5 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Sun X, Sun Y, Li Y, et al. (2021). "Identification and Characterization of the Seed Storage Proteins and Related Genes of Cannabis sativa L". Front Nutr. 8: 678421. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.678421. PMC 8215128. PMID 34164425.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Farinon B, Molinari R, Costantini L, et al. (June 2020). "The seed of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional Quality and Potential Functionality for Human Health and Nutrition". Nutrients. 12 (7): 1935. doi:10.3390/nu12071935. PMC 7400098. PMID 32610691. This article incorporates text from this source, which is available under the CC BY 4.0 license.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Yano H, Fu W (February 2023). "Hemp: A Sustainable Plant with High Industrial Value in Food Processing". Foods. 12 (3): 651. doi:10.3390/foods12030651. PMC 9913960. PMID 36766179. This article incorporates text from this source, which is available under the CC BY 4.0 license.
  5. ^ Galasso I (2016), "Variability in Seed Traits in a Collection of Cannabis sativa L. Genotypes", Frontiers in Plant Science, 7: 688, doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00688, PMC 4873519, PMID 27242881 This article incorporates text from this source, which is available under the CC BY 4.0 license.
  6. ^ Callaway J (2004). "Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview" (PDF). Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Kuopio, Finland. 1: 65–72. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  7. ^ Docimo T (2014). "Molecular characterization of edestin gene family in Cannabis sativa L.". Plant Physiology and Biochemistry. 84: 142–148. doi:10.1016/j.plaphy.2014.09.011. PMID 25280223.
  8. ^ Cattaneo C, Givonetti A, Cavaletto M (February 2023). "Protein Mass Fingerprinting and Antioxidant Power of Hemp Seeds in Relation to Plant Cultivar and Environment". Plants (Basel). 12 (4): 782. doi:10.3390/plants12040782. PMC 9966504. PMID 36840130.
  9. ^ a b c d e El-Sohaimy SA, Androsova NV, Toshev AD, et al. (October 2022). "Nutritional Quality, Chemical, and Functional Characteristics of Hemp (Cannabis sativa ssp. sativa) Protein Isolate". Plants (Basel). 11 (21): 2825. doi:10.3390/plants11212825. PMC 9656340. PMID 36365277. This article incorporates text from this source, which is available under the CC BY 4.0 license.
  10. ^ House J (2010). "Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method" (PDF). J. Agric. Food Chem. 58 (22): 11801–7. doi:10.1021/jf102636b. PMID 20977230. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  11. ^ Cerino P, Buonerba C, Cannazza G, et al. (2021). "A Review of Hemp as Food and Nutritional Supplement". Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 6 (1): 19–27. doi:10.1089/can.2020.0001. PMC 7891210. PMID 33614949.
  12. ^ Wang Q, Xiong YL (2019). "Processing, Nutrition, and Functionality of Hempseed Protein: A Review". Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 18 (4): 936–952. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12450. PMID 33336999.
  13. ^ Shen P, Gao Z, Fang B, et al. (2021). "Ferreting out the secrets of industrial hemp protein as emerging functional food ingredients". Trends in Food Science & Technology. 112: 1–15. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2021.03.022.
  14. ^ Potin F, Saurel R (2020). "Hemp Seed as a Source of Food Proteins". Sustainable Agriculture Reviews 42. Vol. 42. pp. 265–294. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-41384-2_9. ISBN 978-3-030-41383-5.
  15. ^ Yin SW, Tang CH, Cao JS, et al. (1 February 2008). "Effects of limited enzymatic hydrolysis with trypsin on the functional properties of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate". Food Chemistry. 106 (3): 1004–1013. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.07.030. ISSN 0308-8146. Archived from the original on 1 April 2024. Retrieved 18 May 2022.