As one of the oldest crops known to man, hemp has proven itself to be more than useful over the years. From rope to textiles to biofuel, the versatile plant can be made into a large variety of products—including, to the surprise of many, milk.
What Is Hemp Milk?
Hemp milk is made by blending water with the seeds of the hemp plant, also known as Cannabis sativa.
If that name makes you pause, you’re not alone. Many people assume that hemp, which is closely related to marijuana, has psychoactive effects. However, that’s not the case, explains Dr. Ceppie Merry, a practicing M.D. based in Ireland.
“Hemp milk is made from the edible part of the Cannabis sativa or marijuana plant. Luckily, it does not contain any of the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the psychoactive part of marijuana,” she says. “After all, hemp milk would not be of much use in your morning coffee if it made you high!”
Furthermore, varieties of Cannabis sativa grown by industrial hemp producers are specially bred to contain minimal amounts of THC (1). No parts of these plants—not even the portions that typically contain THC—produce psychoactive effects.
5 Benefits of Hemp Milk
So, why give hemp milk a shot? Because it offers some unique health benefits not offered by dairy or other plant-based milks.
Hemp Milk is Lactose-Free and Vegan Friendly
Whether you avoid dairy for health or ethical reasons, hemp milk could be the answer for your next smoothie.
“Plant-based milks are a great option for people who choose to avoid animal products, as well as those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies,” says Valerie Sullivan, a registered dietitian based in Pennsylvania.
In addition to being lactose-free, hemp milk is considered appropriate for those with a number of common allergies and intolerances. “Hemp seeds are safe for people with tree nut, soy, or dairy allergies that prohibit them from consuming other milks,” says Sullivan.
Hemp Milk is Rich in Healthy Fats
Technically speaking, hemp milk is high in fat—but it’s the type of healthy, unsaturated fat your body needs.
“Hemp milks are slightly higher in fat than other plant milks, ranging from about 5-8 grams per cup. This is comparable to a glass of 2 percent or whole dairy milk,” says Sullivan. “But unlike the saturated fats in dairy, the fats in hemp milk are heart-healthy and include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are essential to health.”
Omega fatty acids play an important role in supporting whole-body health (2). Studies have shown they can reduce the risk of heart disease and chronic illness (3), improve cognitive function (4), and decrease the likelihood of some types of cancers (5).
It Tastes Great
Healthy food is all well and good. But if it doesn’t taste delicious—we’re looking at you, wheatgrass—few people will reap the benefits.
The good news is that hemp milk’s rich consistency and nutty taste transcend the health food aisle. In fact, Dr. Merry even recommends substituting it into your favorite ice cream recipe. “It is pretty yummy, as it has a creamy texture,” she says.
Hemp Milk is Protein-Packed
Giving up dairy doesn’t mean giving up protein.
“Hemp milk has around 5 grams of protein per cup, and contains all essential amino acids,” says Ysabel Montemayor, the lead registered dietitian at meal delivery service Fresh n’ Lean. “A cup typically contains more calcium than cow’s milk, but varies depending on brand.”
Hemp milk is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids. While most plants and plant-based milks are missing certain pieces of the amino acid puzzle, hemp’s protein is ready to be digested and used by the body, a 2010 study found (6).
Hemp is Sustainable
While milk can be good for your body, it takes a toll on the environment, according to research by the National Resources Defense Council (7). Dairy production requires large amounts of animal feed, which is comprised largely of resource-intensive soy and corn. Additionally, cows emit large amounts of methane gas, a climate change culprit more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Hemp, on the other hand, is prized as a hardy, sustainable crop (8), requiring relatively low amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and water. (Not all plant milks, it should be noted, are environmentally friendly. Almond milk, in particular, has made headlines for the large amount of water required to produce the in-demand nut.)
Ways to Use Hemp Milk
Hemp milk can be enjoyed straight from the glass or in your favorite recipes. Generally speaking, it can be used in place of dairy or other milks.
“Hemp milk can be used in ways similar to other plant-based milks, such as in cereal, beverages, and baked goods,” says Montemayor.
Because of hemp milk’s earthy flavor, many people prefer to use unsweetened and unflavored varieties in savory dishes. With a thick, creamy texture, hemp milk works particularly well as a substitute for dairy in casseroles.
Flavored hemp milks, such as vanilla varieties, are ideal for smoothies, coffee, and desserts.
Hemp Milk Recipe
Although there are many premade varieties on the market, you can whip up your own blend at home with this simple hemp milk recipe.
- 1 cup shelled hemp seeds
- 3-4 cups water, depending on desired consistency
- Pinch of sea salt
- Optional add-ins: 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons cacao powder, or 1 pint fresh, sliced strawberries
Combine the hemp seeds, water, salt, and any desired add-ins in your blender. Process on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the seeds are thoroughly pulverized.
Strain the milk using cheesecloth or a nut milk bag. Store your hemp milk in a sealed, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Serve cold, shake well, and enjoy!
How to Choose a Hemp Milk
If you choose to buy a premade hemp milk, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
First and foremost, keep an eye on any added sugars.
“When choosing any plant milks, including hemp milks, I advise consumers to watch out for added sugars, which can be quite high,” says Sullivan. “Choose unsweetened versions for regular use, and save the sweet ones for a rare treat.”
Keep in mind that not all hemp milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals. While this is fine for many consumers, says Sullivan, others should be conscious of the missing nutrients. “If replacing dairy in the diet, a hemp milk fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 is preferable,” she says.
Finally, some controversy exists over the safety of carrageenan, a seaweed-derived additive used as a thickener in many foods, including plant milks.
“Though credible scientists have argued its safety for continued use in foods (9), many manufacturers have voluntarily eliminated the additive,” says Sullivan. “Concerned consumers may wish to choose brands that do not contain it.”
Where to Buy Hemp Milk
Hemp milks are available at specialty and health food stores, as well as at many traditional grocery stores. You can get hemp milk right here at LuckyVitamin, where we hand-pick natural products we believe in.
Here’s what LuckyVitamin customers are saying in hemp milk reviews:
“My son loves this. It’s the only form of milk he drinks, and the omegas are great for his developing brain.” – Demetria, CA
Product: Tempt Hempmilk Original
“Creamy and full-bodied, just sweet enough. Love it with cereal, oatmeal and smoothies!” – Therese, MI
Product: Tempt Hempmilk Vanilla
“Best chocolate ‘milk’ I ever had!” – Rachel, PA
Product: Tempt Hempmilk Chocolate