How I Accidentally Alleviated my Arthritis with Hempseed

Osteoarthritis A painful surprise diagnosis and a painless surprise solution have changed the way I eat, and what I know about hempseed. This personal column covers arthritis, drug goats, and why I #EatSeedEveryDay.


Sometime in the middle of 2013, I thought I’d sprained my thumbs. I’d reflexively caught a small child as it was falling off a chair, grabbing it under the armpits with my hands spread open. The small child was surprisingly heavy. My thumbs went further back than I was anticipating. However, there was no real harm done and the child didn’t faceplant into the floor so I thought no more of it.

Pain and stiffness

That is, until my best friend came to visit from England and remarked upon me absent-mindedly rubbing my finger and thumb joints in a (by now habitual) attempt to relieve the pain and stiffness. As I was explaining the potential dangers of catching deceptively sturdy small children in mid-air, I suddenly realized this had happened over ten months previously. Whatever was causing the pain in my hands, it was not a sprain. Could I have RSI from years of rolling joints?

My GP referred me to the best hand clinic in Europe, which was purely a matter of luck since it happens to be in Amsterdam. My hands were examined, x-rayed, and gently manipulated as I answered questions about my medical history. It only took half an hour for the diagnosis – osteoarthritis, in both hands.

How I Accidentally Alleviated my Arthritis with Hempseed

Degeneration of cartilage

“Aren’t I a bit young to have arthritis?”, I protested in dismay. The doctor agreed, but this didn’t change his diagnosis. The joints were inflamed and tender. The x-rays showed degeneration of the cartilage at the base of my thumbs, and the growth of osteophytes. These are small, smooth ‘spurs’ of bone, the growth of which is caused by the bone trying to mend itself. I had the classic symptoms:  “With osteoarthritis that is located at the base of the thumb, there is often a deep, aching pain. You may have trouble gripping or pinching things with any kind of strength, or opening lids or turning keys.” Or typing, I mentally added, with the kind of disbelief and fear that is reserved for receiving news of an irreversible physical condition. Or typing. I’m a writer. Couldn’t I have got it in some less crucial joint?

I was fitted with plastic hand splints that covered my thumbs and went across the backs and palms of my hands. They limited the range of movement of my thumbs and fingers, and protected the inflamed and painful joints. I was instructed to wear them every day, and especially for typing. The lack of dexterity was annoying, the exoskeletal protection a relief; by this time, if I bumped or knocked my hands anywhere between the tip of my thumb and my wrist, the pain was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

The analgesic effects of hash on arthritis

Having been a dedicated, daily hash smoker for many years, I did wonder if the arthritis had been present for far longer than I had realised, tempered and concealed by the analgesic effects of Morocco’s finest. The doctor said it was possible, but he didn’t know enough about cannabis to be sure. He also advised me to use paracetamol and ibuprofen, on a daily basis if need be, to manage the pain.

As much as I like drugs, that didn’t sit well with me. Ibuprofen every day? My stomach lining would be shredded, not to mention the increased risks of strokes, heart attacks and renal failure. I accepted that there would simply be a constant, painful, background ache in my hands from now on, and stuck with the hash, the hand splints, and the stoic nature that comes from growing up in Yorkshire to get me through the days when the pain was particularly bad.

Cold, damp weather made my hands stiffer and more painful. Amsterdam in the winter is practically the textbook definition of “places to make your arthritis worse”. By the time Xmas rolled around, I was having to ask colleagues to open packets of crisps for me (it’s a quite specific grip and pull that had become almost impossible). I hacked into the Sensi Seeds employee Xmas package with gusto and, for the first time, a pair of scissors.

Xmas drug goats

The Sensi Xmas package has varied from year to year, depending on who is taking care of ordering them, but there is usually a healthy and/or ethical theme. (Some years ago there was an option to donate part of the cost of the package to a program somewhere in Africa which would use the money to provide wells, goats and other beneficial items to impoverished villages. A lot of the staff went for that one, only to have the company get in touch with us and admit they wouldn’t take our money because one of the things they did was anti-drug education. We gave the money to Doctors Without Borders instead, who were happy to receive it. “We don’t need no stinkin’ drug goats” is still an office in-joke.)

A kilo of hempseed for Xmas

How I Accidentally Alleviated my Arthritis with Hempseed

The box I cut my way into was that year’s healthy option. It contained a rather wonderful selection of hemp goodies, many of which are sold at our new neighbours Hempstory, if you’re in the area. At the time I had a 10 km commute by bike so I left the heavier items, including a large bottle of hemp oil and a kilo of shelled hemp seeds, in the office. Over the course of the next couple of months I slowly ate them – a handful on fruit and/or soy yogurt in the morning, a generous few spoonfuls mixed through salad or sprinkled on a sandwich for lunch. Despite knowing that hempseed is generally good for health, I wasn’t expecting any major changes in my wellbeing. Maybe stronger fingernails or shiner hair. Nothing drastic.

About two months after Xmas, I stopped wearing the hand splints. The pain and stiffness had seriously diminished to the point where I was forgetting to put them on in the morning. My dexterity had improved and the inflammation was negligible. At first I didn’t make the connection. I thought perhaps the slowly thawing weather had something to do with it. The doctor had said that in many people, osteoarthritis reaches a certain point and then plateaus, sometimes for years. Maybe I had just ‘got used’ to the pain and wasn’t registering it in the same way.

Then I ran out of hempseed. Less than ten days later, the pain, inflammation and lack of mobility were back.

“Interesting”, I thought. And “ow. This really bloody hurts.” I bought more hempseed and made a conscious effort to eat it every weekday. After a couple of weeks, my hands improved again. I ran out of hempseed again, and in the interests of science, I delayed buying more until I was sure that the same deterioration was repeating itself. It was. I bought more hempseed, and increased my consumption. My hands once again improved.

For science!

How I Accidentally Alleviated my Arthritis with Hempseed

I started researching the nutritional science behind the very real results I was experiencing. There are a lot of websites that say “hempseed is good for you!” but don’t delve deeply enough into the why and the how to satisfy me. During the course of writing ’10 reasons why hempseed is the best protein source’ I learned more about the perfect balance of omega 6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids, the approximately 2.5 : 1 ratio that appears almost uniquely in hempseed and hempseed oil. This detailed research paper on (among other things) the anti-inflammatory benefits of hempseed is particularly good, and specifically refers to arthritis. The more I find out, the more excited I am. Best of all, a diet rich in hempseed enables me to write about it without pain.

#EatSeedEveryDay

BUY HERE ›› 

At the time of writing, I have just eaten Thai red coconut curry for lunch, with a couple of spoonsful of hempseed mixed through it. We always have hempseed and hemp oil in the office kitchen, and I eat it every weekday. Those of you who follow me on twitter may have noticed I share pictures of my lunch on a regular basis, with the hashtag #EatSeedEveryDay – if you want to join in, use this hashtag and inspire me and others with your own recipes (I’m stretching the definition of ‘recipe’ here to include ‘food I just added hempseed to’).

I ensure that I don’t run out of it at home either. I add it to everything: baked beans, peanut butter, mashed potato, soup, biscuits, fry-ups. I still have twinges of pain in the joints at the base of my thumbs, but they are not debilitating; nowhere near as bad as toothache or earache, for example. Compared to the point I was at when I first visited my doctor, I barely notice it. And I can open packets of crisps again.

More to come on the power of hempseed

Given that this is a topic close to my heart, and there is much to explore within it, you can look forward to more articles on hemp nutrition from my newly nimble-fingered hands. In the meantime, eat seed every day – you never know what a difference it could make to your quality of life.

Comment Section

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Erick Baze

Good story. I'm suffering from joint pain in my fingers and will give hempseed a try. Been feeding them to my parrot for almost a year now and he loves them.

25/05/2016

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Erick,

Thank you for your comment and I'm glad you liked the article! I hope you experience similar results to mine. Eating some hempseed every day seems to work better than eating a lot only twice a week, and not expecting instant results, but keeping up with it for at least six weeks. I'd be really interested to hear how it works out for you, please let me know :) Also, you must have a very happy healthy parrot! Lovely.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

26/05/2016

Houndoodle

I live in the United States. Pot is illegal in Wyoming. Are the seeds illegal like the plant? Where do I order them? And are they sold by the pound. I have hemp oil sent to me. I am a soap maker. However, I have RA and I suffer terribly. If you can help me get my hands on the seeds. That would be great.

27/05/2016

Scarlet Palmer

Hello Houndoodle, thank you for your comment.

Hemp seeds are legal to buy as a food source in the US, just not legal to grow, so most are imported from Canada or China. The same goes for hemp oil; the oil you are getting for soap is probably not food grade, as there is a difference in the processing standards for oil that is for consumption and oil for other (non-food) purposes.

I found this site with information about where you may be able to buy or order hemp seeds in Wyoming. There is also a company called Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods which apparently you can find in Costco and Whole Foods, and in a shop called Natural Grocers in Casper (I don't know if Casper is near you or not). As a last resort, you can order it from Amazon.

I hope it helps with your RA! Please do let me know how it works out.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

27/05/2016

Eddie

Do you still have RA? Hounddoodle?

18/09/2017

Eamon Adams

Thanks for the article. Very interesting. I was surfing the web for information on the exact topic you wrote about.....and more importantly on how to alleviate joint pains in the hand and fingers. In my case the pain is only very recent so here goes with the hemp seed! Will have to see how it works out..... Thanks so much for the tip.

02/08/2016

lisa

I've just came across this. I live in ireland and have recently been experiencing terrible pain In my fingers, especially when i try to sleep. Where could i get these hemp seeds. I'd do anything at this stage to get relief.

08/07/2017

Miguel

Hi. So is it safe to eat straight the seeds that come with the pot? Just raw?

07/12/2016

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Miguel,

Thanks for your comment. If you have seeds that you have found in buds, they are safe to eat as long as you know for sure that the buds they came from have not been sprayed with anything. If you don't know, I would recommend you don't risk it. Also, the shells of the seeds are very crunchy and are not really digested, so in order to get the benefit of eating the seeds, you would have to carefully chew every single one.

However, you should be able to find shelled hemp seeds for food use in good health food shops and even some supermarkets, which is what I'm referring to in this article. They can seem quite expensive, especially the organic ones, but a little goes a long way so I think they are worth the investment.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

08/12/2016

Kristina Frise

I have arthritis in my hips. How much weight in hemp seeds should I take each day.

18/12/2016

Ni

My friend rubs hemp seed oil on his hand for arthritis n drink 1tsp daily or every other day n he has no more pain.

31/01/2018

Diane Burrell

I found your article bacause I came to the same conclusion (and tested it the same way you did - by not taking it for a while). My results where the same which led me to your article as I was trying to find out if anyone else knew about this. I stuggled with all my jounts and spine. I have also found that an equal mixture of shelled hemp seeds and poppy seeds are much more beneficial.
Love
Diane x

05/01/2017

susan

i saw roasted ones at amazon. does roasting affect the outcome?

27/04/2017

Tina

I have the same kind of arthritis just in my knees. I'm gonna give this a try. If it takes alittle of the pain away I will be happy. Ty

07/05/2017

Jemin Joseph

Surely I will try this remedy. When I read some article of Superbeing, its says Ayurveda has effective treatment for Arthritis. Do you have any advice of Ayurvedic treatment for Arthritis?

23/06/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Jemin,

Thank you for your comment, I am happy to hear that you are going to try it, and I really hope it works for you! I'm afraid I don't have any information about Ayurveda though. Please let us know how you get on :)

With best wishes,

Scarlet

07/07/2017

Mhodge100

Thanks for the great article! I just bought the hemp oil. How much should I take every day to help with arthritis in my hips? Do I need to eat the seeds too?

25/06/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi there,

Thank you for your great feedback, I'm really glad you enjoyed the article. From what I know, taking two to three tablespoons of hempseed oil per day should begin to help after a few weeks. However, I really recommend eating the seeds more than just taking the oil, as it's the seeds that make a real difference to me. Hempseeds contain a bigger range of nutrients than the oil, and are also an excellent source of essential fatty acids and protein. Adding three tablespoons of hempseeds per day to your diet for two months should make a big difference to how you feel. For an easy way to up your hempseed intake, have a look at this article on how I make Hempeanut Butter, and please do comment again to let us know how you get on.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

28/06/2017

Kimmy

Very interested, would love more info or links to know where to begin
My interest is going as I have been fighting loads of pharma yet still no relief, only continued illness as well as terrible side effects from all the toxic medicines I have taken for 8 years with no improvement
Thank you for this informative information

05/07/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Kimmy,

Thank you for your comment. Depending on where you live, you can buy shelled hempseed and hempseed oil from good health food shops, or order it online, whichever is easier for you. Based on my experience, the seeds are more beneficial in relieving the pain and stiffness than the hempseed oil alone. Try adding three tablespoons per day, every day, to your regular diet and hopefully you should see some improvement within three months. As stated in the article, please consult your medical practitioner if you are taking any kind of blood thinners or have any problems with your blood not clotting before you begin to eat this amount of hempseed. As you are currently taking medication, I strongly advise you to consult your doctor first anyway, just to make sure that there are no counter-indications. As Sensi Seeds is not a medical practice, we cannot give any medicinal advice. I hope this helps and that you find some relief!

With best wishes,

Scarlet

06/07/2017

Jf Tait

I have already used hemp oil for arthritis and pain relief and it gave me good result. Being working all the time was also got me into anxiety. But when I started using for pain relief, it disappeared all the worries and provided me to be in good mood all the time. Hemp seed would be better but hemp oil is also good as I have personally experienced it.

08/07/2017

Nancy Cleckler

I have just today gotten hempseed to eat to see if it helps any with this RA I have had for over 35 years. May God bless you and kineep you safe in all steps of life.

25/07/2017

BHARAT DHAR

Hi, my mother is suffering from arthritis as well. As joint pain, if you could please tell me how to consume hemp seeds and also how to apply hemp seed oil.??

28/07/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Bharat,

Thank you for your comment. Basically, the best way of consuming both the seeds and the oil is to add them to things you already eat, and aim to eat at least a couple of tablespoonfuls of seeds every day. The seeds and oil should not be heated to above 180 degrees centigrade (so don't use the oil for frying!) just add them afterwards. You can find seven easy hempseed recipes here, and this is a guide to making hemp peanut butter which uses the seeds and the oil, and is very simple to make.

Don't expect to see results overnight, but hopefully your mother should notice some improvement after a couple of months of eating hempseed every day. I hope this helps :)

With best wishes,

Scarlet

14/08/2017

Nancy Cleckler

I have had RA sence 20 and am 58 now. Read your article and went to GNC and got a bag of hemp seeds. Been eating a tablespoon 3 times a day for a week only..will have to wait and see

02/08/2017

Dianne Dance

Very informative and interesting article.
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010 and have struggled to manage it.
I had heard about hemp and am definitely going to include it in my diet.
Thank you

23/08/2017

Patricia

Hi...
Can u rub the hemp oil directly on my hands to relieve pain...?
Can u recommend a good quality hemp oil, I live in Orlando fl
Thanks!

14/09/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Patricia,

If you mean hempseed oil, rubbing it on your hands won't help arthritis, you really need to eat it, and the seeds as well to obtain maximum benefit. A salve or oil with CBD in it may help pain and inflammation. Unfortunately we don't ship to Canada so I am not able to recommend a brand; hempseed oil and shelled hempseed should be available at good health food shops, buy organic if you can!

Sorry I can't help further,

With best wishes,

Scarlet

15/09/2017

Charlotte

I have RA in my hips and thumbs. I have been suffering since early in 2017. I am quite a freak about natural food products, and have bowls of nuts etc on my counter daily for snacks and salad toppings. I googled "hemp for arthritis" today, as I have been having one tablespoon diligently for three weeks and my pain has almost diminished. I am also in disbelief and thereby googled this to see if anyone else has experienced anything like this with hemp before, or if it could be something else that I am eating that is making my RA go away.
Now that I have read your blog here, I am convinced that it is the hemp seed.
I live in Canada so the seed is readily available at Costco.
I add it into my keifer shake in the morning, put it in my yogurt, put it on my salads, add it to my soups, sprinkle it onto icing etc. It is so delicious.
Nonetheless. Hope this helps other people. It sure has helped me.

02/12/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Charlotte,

Thank you for commenting, and I'm really glad that the hempseed seems to be helping you! It certainly sounds like it is. I don't know if you saw this post, but it's our top recipes that feature hempseed, maybe there is something that appeals to you!

With best wishes,

Scarlet

04/12/2017

Mary Beth

I had the same thing happen to me — the hemp seed powder helped my hand arthritis tremendously. When I ran out the pain came back. Got more and pain gone again. More people need to know about this. Thanks for sharing.

27/12/2017

James Clark

Had severe osteoarthritis in my hands. Medical Marijuana is legal where I live so I gave it a try. I quit smoking after over 40 years so didn't want to "smoke" anything. After about 6 weeks of using CBD oil, my hands were totally free of pain. It's been 4 years now, and because of the buildup in my system, I only need 4-5 drops/day. I know many sufferers don't have access to medical marijuana, so a good, high concentration Hemp Oil might do the trick. And, it's LEGAL.

02/03/2018

Allison

Thank you! My father had osteo and my mother had rheumatoid arthritis, so I alway dreaded the possible onset of arthritis. My sister just got it and I hoped hemp would help, so you have answered a very important family question! Thanks again! I will advise her not to run out.

30/03/2018

Jane

I'm convinced! Do I buy whole seeds or shelled seeds? Thanks!

05/05/2018

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Jane,

I'm glad to hear that you're going to give it a try! I would advise shelled hempseed, simply because the whole seeds are very crunchy if you're adding them to salads and shakes and that kind of thing. I hope that it helps you :) Depending on where you live, you may be able to order Sensi Seeds shelled hempseed here. If that's not possible, try good health food shops, which should carry it.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

14/05/2018

Sanjay

Hello Scarlet,

Thank you so much for a very well written and informational article. I have a number of autoimmune disorders that cause severe joint pain, as well as MS. I stumbled across your article a few weeks ago, and immediately went and bought hempseed hearts. I have to share that after years of using the creams, opioids, and OTC pain relievers I have finally, with hempseed hearts, found relief that not only helps my body nutritionally, but does so without the harmful effects of the opioids and OTC pain relievers. Since you and others have reported scientifically learning that lack of hemp seed means no pain relief, I won’t go that route.

I do have a couple of questions that I hope you might be able to answer. The first is regarding storage. Is there a recommendation on how to store the seeds. Refrigerated, in a glass container or plastic? My second question is, would it be better to spread the 3 tablespoons out throughout the day, or will eating the seeds in one dose be just as effective? I actually like the seeds on their own, and have been eating them in the morning as an appetizer before breakfast.

Again, thank you for sharing your story. I really have to wonder why the good doctors don’t recommend this. The governor of the state I live in made it law that no more than seven days worth of opioids can be prescribed at one time , except for certain conditions. I am going to pay attention to the frequency of other pain, such as headaches and injuries. It would be interesting to know whether or not this kind of treatment is effective for all forms of pain. It could mean the end of the opioid crisis we are experiencing in the US.

28/06/2018

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Sanjay,

Thank you for your comment and your positive feedback! I'm very glad to hear that you have found effective relief like this. Regarding your questions, hempseed does keep better when refrigerated, especially once the packet has been opened. I store mine in a glass jar, but I have never heard any evidence either way for one type of storage container being better than another. I would think that spreading the consumption of seeds out during the day would be more effective than eating them in one go, based on this being the case with most nutritional supplements. If you haven't seen it already, this post on hempseed recipes might be of interest to you.

With best wishes, and keep eating the hempseed!

Scarlet

02/07/2018

lh

I have to give this a try. After decades of steering with my left hand (thumb stabilizing the hand) I have now developed full blown basal arthritis in my left hand, with it just starting in my right hand. Splint works okay but bengay failed and now my left thumb tip is numb?? Great... Anyways, thank you - excellent post, I'll give hempseeds a chance ?

24/07/2018

Jennifer

Superior hemp oil Helps me with my arthritis, and my insomnia. It works as good as any other expensive product I've got. Taste is neutral, so it is easy to take under the tongue. I'll be using only this Superior hemp oil from now on!!

06/10/2019

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