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Do cannabis seeds contain cbd

Cannabis sativa (Hemp) Seeds, Δ 9 -Tetrahydrocannabinol, and Potential Overdose

1 Center for Molecular Design and Preformulations, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

2 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Melissa M. Lewis

1 Center for Molecular Design and Preformulations, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

3 Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

Angelica M. Bello

1 Center for Molecular Design and Preformulations, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

2 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Ewa Wasilewski

1 Center for Molecular Design and Preformulations, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

3 Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

Hance A. Clarke

4 Department of Anaesthesia, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

5 The Pain Research Unit, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

Lakshmi P. Kotra

1 Center for Molecular Design and Preformulations, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

2 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

3 Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

1 Center for Molecular Design and Preformulations, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

2 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

3 Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

5 The Pain Research Unit, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

* Address correspondence to: Lakshmi P. Kotra, BPharm(Hons), PhD, Center for Molecular Design and Preformulations, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, #5-356, TMDT/MaRS Center, 101 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1L7, E-mail: [email protected]

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Associated Data


Introduction: Cannabis sativa (hemp) seeds are popular for their high nutrient content, and strict regulations are in place to limit the amount of potentially harmful phytocannabinoids, especially Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ 9 -THC). In Canada, this limit is 10 μg of Δ 9 -THC per gram of hemp seeds (10 ppm), and other jurisdictions in the world follow similar guidelines.

Materials and Methods: We investigated three different brands of consumer-grade hemp seeds using four different procedures to extract phytocannabinoids, and quantified total Δ 9 -THC and cannabidiol (CBD).

Discussion: We discovered that Δ 9 -THC concentrations in these hemp seeds could be as high as 1250% of the legal limit, and the amount of phytocannabinoids depended on the extraction procedure employed, Soxhlet extraction being the most efficient across all three brands of seeds. Δ 9 -THC and CBD exhibited significant variations in their estimated concentrations even from the same brand, reflecting the inhomogeneous nature of seeds and variability due to the extraction method, but almost in all cases, Δ 9 -THC concentrations were higher than the legal limit. These quantities of total Δ 9 -THC may reach as high as 3.8 mg per gram of hemp seeds, if one were consuming a 30-g daily recommended amount of hemp seeds, and is a cause for concern for potential toxicity. It is not clear if these high quantities of Δ 9 -THC are due to contamination of the seeds, or any other reason.

Conclusion: Careful consideration of the extraction method is very important for the measurement of cannabinoids in hemp seeds.

Keywords: : cannabidiol, Cannabis sativa seeds, hemp seeds, overdose, phytocannabinoid extraction, tetrahydrocannabinol


Cannabis spp. of plants produce a unique class of compounds called cannabinoids. Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. 1–3 This plant can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including food, and animal feed. C. sativa species leads to both medical cannabis and industrial hemp, and this species contains the psychoactive component Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ 9 -THC); these two plants are two distinct strains with unique phytochemical signatures. 1 Hemp has lower concentrations of Δ 9 -THC, thus limiting its psychoactive effects, and its concentration is regulated in the consumer products where hemp is legal. 4,5 The seeds of hemp are rich in unsaturated fats and protein, while containing little to no cholesterol. In fact, a 100 g serving of seeds meets up to 63% of the recommended daily value for protein. 6 Whether in the raw seed form or as a derived product such as cold-pressed seed oil, hemp seeds have become increasingly popular as both food and health supplements; in 2011, the United States alone spent more than $11 million on hemp imports for consumption. In most nutritional food stores and grocery stores, hemp seeds are a staple nowadays, in countries where it is legal.

Hemp seeds produce negligible, if any, quantities of THC endogenously. 7 While food-grade strains of hemp must contain less than 0.3% Δ 9 -THC by weight (whole plant), they may not be free of this compound entirely. During the harvesting process, hemp seeds may become contaminated by material from other parts of the plant (such as the Δ 9 -THC-rich trichomes on flowers) and thus acquire Δ 9 -THC onto their outer shells. 7 Exposure to high concentrations of Δ 9 -THC could lead to psychological events and gastrointestinal disorders, including acute toxic events such as sedation. In Switzerland, four patients suffered psychological and gastrointestinal issues due to consumption of hemp seed oil, which had higher concentrations of Δ 9 -THC, prompting public health inquiry. 8 A recent case of Δ 9 -THC poisoning was reported in a toddler who was on a prescription of hemp seed oil to strengthen the immune system. 9 The toddler exhibited symptoms such as stupor and low stimulatability, which are characteristic of Δ 9 -THC intoxication.

In Canada, the Δ 9 -THC content of hemp products is tightly regulated. 5 The Industrial Hemp Regulation (IHR) Program only permits the importation, exportation, sale, and provision of hemp seeds and its derivatives that contain less than 10 μg of THC per gram of food-grade hemp seeds for consumption. 5 Products that exceed this threshold are regulated similar to medical cannabis under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, under Narcotics Control Regulations with strict monitoring. 10

We were interested in investigating various chemical procedures that one could employ to extract natural products, effect of solvents in these extraction methods, and ultimately the estimation of various compounds in the extract. In this context, we were interested in studying the extraction of hemp seeds to estimate the amount of Δ 9 -THC, and if the extraction method could influence the estimation in commercial hemp seed. In this study, we report the extractions and analyses of three food-grade hemp seeds, the potential for underestimation of the controlled substance Δ 9 -THC, and the variability one might encounter due to the differences in extraction efficiencies, and discuss the bearing of these results onto public safety.

Materials and Methods


Three brands (brand# 1, 2 and 3) of hemp seeds were purchased from local supermarkets in Toronto, Canada, and were used as such in the laboratory experiments. All experiments, including extractions and analyses, were conducted under the appropriate Controlled Drugs Substances Dealer License granted to University Health Network. For ultra performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) analysis, HPLC-grade methanol and MilliQ ® water were used for the preparation of the eluents. A Biotage ® Initiator microwave was employed for all microwave-related experiments. Sample solutions were analyzed on a Waters ® ACQUITY UPLC H-Class System equipped with Quaternary Solvent Manager, Sample Manager FTN, and Acquity UPLC ® BEH column (2.1×50 mm, C18, 1.7 μm). A Waters MS 3100 mass spectrometer was used to monitor the samples in both the positive (ES+) and negative (ES−) modes. The injection plate and column were maintained at 15°C and 40°C, respectively. Cerilliant ® standards for Δ 9 -THC, Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (Δ 9 -THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and CBD were purchased from Sigma-Aldrich ® as Certified Reference Standards in the form of 1.0 mg/mL solutions in methanol or acetonitrile.


Four extraction methods were used to extract resins from three brands of food-grade hemp seeds. Each brand of hemp seeds was subjected to each extraction procedure thrice to assess any variability that might arise from the extraction procedure itself. Yields of resin obtained are based on the reweighed seeds.

1. Microwave extraction. Hemp seeds (1 g) were macerated in a mortar using a pestle, reweighed and then transferred into a vial, and suspended in ethanol (10 mL). The vial was sealed and the suspension was heated in a microwave to 150°C with stirring at 900 rpm for 20 min. The suspension was allowed to cool to room temperature and filtered on a pad of Celite ® (2 g) and activated carbon (0.25 g). Solids were washed with additional solvent, and all fractions were concentrated to dryness under reduced pressure at 25°C to obtain a sticky resin (yield: 27–38%).

2. Sonication. Hemp seeds (1 g) were macerated, reweighed, and then transferred to a beaker. The macerated seeds were suspended in ethanol (26 mL), and the suspension was sonicated for 20 min after which the solvent was decanted. The sonication was repeated two additional times, collecting the solvent by decantation, refilling with an equivalent amount of solvent, and a 10-min break between each sonication session. All decanted solvent fractions were combined and filtered on a pad of Celite (1 g) and activated carbon (0.25 g). The solids were washed with additional solvent and concentrated to dryness under reduced pressure at 25°C to obtain a sticky resin (yield: 23–40%).

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3. Soxhlet extraction. Hemp seeds (2 or 3 g) were macerated with a mortar and pestle, reweighed, and transferred into a cellulose extraction thimble (43×123 mm; 2 mm thickness). The thimble was placed in a Soxhlet extractor (size: 55/50), and ethanol (350 mL) was added to the extractor and refluxed for 4 h. Crude extract was then cooled to rt, and concentrated to dryness under reduced pressure at 25°C to obtain an oily resin (yield: 24–38%).

4. Supercritical fluid extraction (SFE). Hemp seeds (1 or 2 g) were macerated with a mortar and pestle, reweighed, and transferred to an extraction vessel. The extraction was performed using supercritical CO2 as solvent A and ethanol as solvent B. The photodiode array detector was used to monitor the extract, with the range set to 200–600 nm. The back-pressure regulator was set to 12 MPa for the SFE, and other conditions include the following: flow rate=10 mL/min for both CO2 and slave pumps, and 1 mL/min for the make-up pump; temperature=40°C; and gradient: 0–25 min: solvent A, 100%→50%, and solvent B, 0%→50%; 25–26 min: solvent B, 100%; and 26–30 min: solvent A, 100%. The acquisition time was 30 min and the total run time was 30.2 min. All fractions were combined and concentrated to dryness under reduced pressure at 25°C to obtain the extract as a resin (yield: 31–37%).

Extracts in the form of concentrated resins were used as such for the analysis and quantification of cannabinoids. A 10 mg/mL stock solution of the resin was prepared with a 70:30 methanol:water solution with 0.1% formic acid. A 100 μL aliquot of the stock solution was then diluted with 100 μL of mobile phase (70% MeOH in water, with 0.1% formic acid) and filtered to obtain a 5 mg/mL sample solution for analysis.


Sample injection volume was 10 μL, at a mobile phase flow rate of 0.6 mL/min for a total run time of 6 min. Two mobile phases, water/0.1% formic acid (phase A), and methanol/0.1% formic acid (phase B), were used and gradient conditions were used for elution: 0–4.5 min: 30%→0% phase A and 70%→100% phase B, 4.5→5 min: 100% phase B, and 5→6 min: 30% phase A and 70% phase B. Internal standard was benzophenone (10 μg/mL solution in MeOH), and each sample was spiked with 9.6 μL of internal standard before analysis. Each sample was analyzed in triplicate.


Chromatograms were obtained from the 315 ES+ and 357 ES− single ion recordings (SIRs). Signals on the chromatograms at retention times of 2.73 min (Δ 9 -THC) and 1.83 min (CBD) in the ES+ mode as well as 3.48 min (Δ 9 -THCA) and 1.95 min (CBDA) in the ES− mode were integrated to determine the areas-under-the-curves (AUCs) for each phytocannabinoid. In addition, AUC of the internal standard was obtained from the signal at 0.55 min in the 183 ES+ SIR and used in the analyses.


All extracts were analyzed for the concentrations of Δ 9 -THC, Δ 9 -THCA, CBDA, and CBD. Thus, concentration standard curves for Δ 9 -THC, CBD, Δ 9 -THCA, and CBDA were generated using the respective cannabinoid standards of various concentrations and internal standard (Supplementary Fig. S1). These standard curves were used to estimate the concentrations of the above analytes in the extracts. Lower limits of detection for Δ 9 -THC, Δ 9 -THCA, CBD, and CBDA are 1.0, 1.0, 2.5, and 1.0 ng/mL, respectively, and the lower limits of quantitation are 2.5, 2.5, 5.0, and 2.5 ng/mL, respectively.

Results and Discussion

Commercial hemp seeds are marketed for their high nutritional values, but due to their relationship to Cannabis spp. of plants, there is a potential for the presence of phytocannabinoids in these seeds. By regulation, total amount of Δ 9 -THC (whether in its acid form, Δ 9 -THCA, or as neutral Δ 9 -THC) must be less than 10 μg/g of hemp seeds (10 ppm) in Canada, and similar regulations exist in other countries where hemp seeds are legal. Hemp seeds from three brands in local supermarkets were purchased and brought to the laboratory. Each brand of hemp seeds was subjected to four different extraction protocols, and each protocol was repeated thrice to account for any variability due to the extraction procedures and associated errors. In total, 36 extracts were obtained from the three brands and analyzed using UPLC-mass spectrometry to quantify the two major phytocannabinoids, Δ 9 -THC and CBD. We expected the quantity of Δ 9 -THC to be within the regulation limits and CBD to be in relatively higher quantities, as one would expect in hemp seeds. As it is common in the Cannabis spp. plants, majority of phytocannabinoids such as Δ 9 -THC and CBD exist in their carboxylic acid precursor forms, Δ 9 -THCA and CBDA ( Fig. 1 ). Subjecting the extract or resin to high degree of temperature converts these acid precursors into decarboxylated forms, Δ 9 -THC and CBD. However, we calculated the total Δ 9 -THC equivalency (including Δ 9 -THCA and Δ 9 -THC found in each extract) to assess the total concentrations; similar procedure was used for the total concentration of CBD.

Chemical structures of (A) Δ 9 -THC, (B) CBD, (C) Δ 9 -THCA, and (D) CBDA. THCA, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid.

Extraction methods employed in this investigation utilize somewhat different principles to extract the phytocannabinoids from the hemp seeds into the solvent. Microwave-based extraction method used ethanol as the solvent, but at temperatures up to 150°C with stirring; majority of the acid forms, Δ 9 -THCA and CBDA, would be converted into the corresponding neutral forms, Δ 9 -THC and CBD, due to exposure to high temperature. This extraction process is also expected to offer high solubility to the phytocannabinoids due to heating to higher temperatures. Sonication was conducted at an ambient temperature using ethanol as the solvent, and is expected to help release compounds from the plant materials. SFE was conducted using a mixture of supercritical CO2 and ethanol as solvent, at high pressures, but temperature was maintained at 40°C; thus, the extraction efficiency depended on the solubility of phytocannabinoids in supercritical CO2 and ethanol mixture. Most exhaustive extraction, due to high temperature and long extraction time, is likely to be Soxhlet extraction, which was performed at the reflux temperatures in ethanol and for up to 4 h. Among these four methods, one would anticipate the highest yield of phytocannabinoids from Soxhlet extraction. Since ethanol was used in all these extraction methods, differences in extracted quantities of phytocannabinoids can be attributed to the extraction methods themselves.

The concentrations of Δ 9 -THC, Δ 9 -THCA, CBD, and CBDA, along with total Δ 9 -THC (i.e., Δ 9 -THC + Δ 9 -THCA) and total CBD (CBDA + CBD) from each brand of hemp seeds, using each of the four extraction procedures, are shown in Table 1 , and are plotted in Figure 2 . The discussion and interpretations henceforth are in the context of total Δ 9 -THC and total CBD.

Total Δ 9 -THC (green bars) and CBD (blue bars) content (μg/g of hemp seed) in the consumer-grade hemp seeds, in brand# 1 (A), brand# 2 (B), and brand# 3 (C). Legal limit of Δ 9 -THC per gram of hemp seeds (as per Health Canada) is shown as a horizontal red line. CBD, cannabidiol; THC, tetrahydrocannabinol.

Table 1.

Estimated Concentrations of Δ 9 -Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol in the Hemp Seeds (in μg/g of Hemp Seeds)

Brand# Extraction method Δ 9 -THC Δ 9 -THCA Total Δ 9 -THC CBD CBDA Total CBD
1 Microwave 95±44 20±11 115±55 224±109 3±3 227±111
Sonication 54±14 16±12 70±26 27±9 197±44 224±51
Soxhlet 66±28 13±4 79±32 60±34 157±68 217±102
SFE 97±33 29±24 126±57 49±13 174±93 223±106
2 Microwave 16±13 1±1 17±14 2±4 1±0 3±4
Sonication 63±96 5±5 68±101 18±27 71±99 89±126
Soxhlet 37±5 17±8 54±13 16±2 69±19 85±21
SFE 63±7 12±5 75±12 13±4 159±27 172±31
3 Microwave 10±4 1±0 11±4 6±9 1±0 7±9
Sonication 13±5 2±1 15±6 8±6 12±8 20±14
Soxhlet 44±7 47±21 91±28 54±36 36±15 90±51
SFE 19±3 4±1 23±4 9±7 13±2 21±9

Total THC and total CBD are the total observed weights of THC and THCA, and CBD and CBDA.

CBD, cannabidiol; CBDA, cannabidiolic acid; THC, tetrahydrocannabinol; THCA, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid.

We observed large standard deviations associated with each extraction of the same brand of seeds. Each extraction was performed thrice to be able to assess the experimental variability during extraction, and based on this large standard deviation, it appears that the extracts could show reasonable variability in the assessed phytocannabinoids, and this deviation may also be due to the nonhomogenous hemp seed bulk material. Either way, these variations warrant the analysis of multiple samples of hemp seed from different parts of the bulk material to assess total amount of phytocannabinoids, as accurately as possible. For brand# 1, all four extraction methods yielded approximately similar phytocannabinoids concentrations, that is, total Δ 9 -THC and CBD ( Fig. 2A ). Total CBD concentration ranged from 217±102 to 227±111 μg/g, and all four methods of extraction viz. microwave-based extraction, sonication, SFE, and Soxhlet extraction yielded similar results. Total CBD is expected to be relatively higher in concentration in hemp seeds and is reflected in these measurements. Total Δ 9 -THC has shown some variation based on the extraction method: sonication and Soxhlet extractions showed the amount of total Δ 9 -THC to be 70±26 and 79±32 μg/g, whereas microwave and SFE extracts showed 115±55 and 126±57 μg/g, respectively ( Table 1 ). At the outset, all four quantities are several fold higher than the regulatory limits on Δ 9 -THC quantities in hemp seeds in Canada (red line in Fig. 2A ), and depending on the method employed for extraction, the estimation of Δ 9 -THC would be 7- to 12-fold higher than the legal limit (10 μg/g of hemp seeds in Canada).

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Extractions of brand# 2 hemp seeds exhibited more variance, where total Δ 9 -THC amounts were estimated to be 68±101, 54±13, and 75±12 μg/g of hemp seeds using sonication, Soxhlet, and SFE extractions respectively, all of which are fivefold to sevenfold higher than the permitted limit ( Fig. 2B ), whereas microwave extraction estimated the total Δ 9 -THC content to be 17±14 μg/g only. Variations on the CBD estimates are even more significant, where the variation ranged from 3±4 μg/g (using microwave technology) to 172±31 μg/g (SFE) of hemp seeds. It is interesting to note that a different brand led to a completely different profile in the phytocannabinoid variations (brand# 1 vs. 2), and the results based on the extraction method employed are different as well.

For brand# 3, three extraction methods concurred with the estimation of the phytocannabinoids, viz. microwave extraction, sonication, and SFE estimated the CBD in the rage of 7±9 μg/g to 21±9 μg/g, and total Δ 9 -THC content in the range of 11±4 to 23±4 μg/g hemp seeds ( Fig. 2C ). However, Soxhlet extraction indicated that the amount of CBD and total Δ 9 -THC in brand# 3 hemp seeds to be 90±51 and 91±28 μg/g of hemp seeds, respectively. While the former estimations indicate that total Δ 9 -THC is closer to the legal limit in hemp seeds, the latter method indicated it to be up to nine folds higher than the legal limit, and this is a significant difference. Overall, none of the brands using any of the methods could convincingly be confirmed that the total Δ 9 -THC content is within the legal limits of 10 μg/g of hemp seeds. It is also noted that the phytocannabinoid content exhibited a significant variation even among batches from the same brand, reflecting both the inhomogeneous nature of seeds as well as the variations in quantification based on the extraction process.

According to Health Canada’s Industrial Hemp Technical Manual, the current approved procedure of Δ 9 -THC quantification in hemp involves the sonication of 3 g of dried leaf powder in hexanes followed by analysis by gas chromatography. 11 There is no mention of testing procedures for any other parts of the hemp plant, including its seeds. Using a similar hexane-sonication procedure, quantification conducted by Ross et al., obtained Δ 9 -THC concentrations of 0–12 μg/g for fiber-type cannabis seeds. 7 In this study, ethanolic extraction using sonication exhibited significant variation from 17% to 92% of the maximum yield across the three brands of hemp seeds. This inconsistency could be attributed to the higher oil content within hemp seeds compared to the rest of plant. Due to hydrophobicity of the Δ 9 -THC molecule, it is expected to partition more strongly into the seed material, leading to the gross underestimation of Δ 9 -THC content by sonication.

In an earlier study, Ross et al. conducted an investigation to determine Δ 9 -THC content in drug- and fiber-type (hemp) cannabis seeds. 7 Hemp seeds in this study were found to contain 0–12 μg Δ 9 -THC per 1 g of seeds, but Δ 9 -THC in drug-type cannabis seeds was in much higher levels (35.6–124 μg/g). It was found that majority of Δ 9 -THC was located on the surface of the seeds, and a wash with chloroform removed upto 90% of Δ 9 -THC. It was suggested that fluctuations in the Δ 9 -THC content of different replicates of the same type of seeds could be the result of the degree of contamination on the outside of the seeds. In this study of consumer-grade hemp seeds acquired from the grocery stores, highly variable, but above the legal limit of, Δ 9 -THC may suggest either contamination by drug-type cannabis seeds or improper washing of the seeds.

Δ 9 -THC primarily undergoes liver metabolism through CYP3A4 and CYP2C9. 16 Due to the polymorphic nature of P450 enzymes, 17,18 people consuming hemp seeds may gradually accumulate Δ 9 -THC due to its slow metabolism or relatively long half-life in the body, leading to potentially higher concentrations. In the report by Chinello et al., Δ 9 -THC concentration in the prescribed hemp seed oil was 0.06%, that is, 0.6 mg of total Δ 9 -THC in 1 g of hemp seed oil, and the child was administered two teaspoons (∼10 mL or 9.2 g) a day for 3 weeks before the incidence of neurological symptoms. 19 This amounts to 5.52 mg total Δ 9 -THC per day, when one consumes 10 mL above hemp seed oil. If one were to compare these total Δ 9 -THC levels, a similar quantity of total Δ 9 -THC (5.52 mg) is contained in ∼44.2 g of hemp seeds (brand# 1, total Δ 9 -THC estimate based on SFE extraction), and this is certainly a normal quantity that consumers may consume as part of their daily food consumption. In people with liver impairment or patients consuming other drugs such as ketoconazole (an inhibitor of CYP3A4) or sulfaphenazole (an inhibitor of CYP2C9), one would expect the metabolism of Δ 9 -THC to be slower, and would be at risk for adverse effects upon the consumption of hemp seeds with higher concentrations of total Δ 9 -THC. 16,20,21 However, we note that the bioavailability of Δ 9 -THC is only 10−20% and could vary if consumed along with fatty food, and such factors would influence the plasma levels of Δ 9 -THC. 22–24

The other major phytocannabinoid in hemp, CBD, is an antagonist of CB1 and CB2 with relatively weak binding affinities. 12 While CBD is not known to exhibit psychoactive properties, CBD can be cyclized into Δ 9 -THC when incubated with artificial gastric juice at 37°C. 25 Given that CBD was present in generally higher amounts than Δ 9 -THC, the conversion of CBD into Δ 9 -THC in the stomach after consumption may further contribute to the psychoactivity of hemp seeds.


In comparison, Soxhlet extraction provided consistently higher yields of Δ 9 -THC, although it takes longer time than other methods for extraction. This suggests the importance of heating and prolonged solvent cycling in extracting phytocannabinoids from lipid-rich materials such as hemp seeds. Δ 9 -THC concentrations of up to 125 μg/g of hemp seed were found in food-grade hemp seeds, and all evaluated brands contained higher amounts than the legal threshold of 10 μg Δ 9 -THC per gram of hemp seeds. Exposure to higher amounts of Δ 9 -THC may cause neurological symptoms especially for poor metabolizers of cannabinoids. It would be presumptuous to conclude the source of this excessive Δ 9 -THC in the consumer-grade hemp seeds, but could be either contamination during harvesting/processing of the seeds or higher levels of biosynthesis, which is unlikely. Current methods for validating Δ 9 -THC content in hemp may be providing lower and/or inconsistent yields for hemp seeds and could lead to the underestimation of Δ 9 -THC content. A more robust extraction methodology such as Soxhlet extraction may be more appropriate for the testing of hemp seed products. One may also consider employing washing of hemp seeds with ethanol or other similar solvents, to remove any contamination to the seeds before packaging; but such change from current practice and new processes must be thoroughly investigated before implementation for consumer marketing. Based on the above findings, it is also recommended that the hemp seeds be analyzed specifically for phytocannabinoid content before release into consumer markets.

FDA Responds to Three GRAS Notices for Hemp Seed-Derived Ingredients for Use in Human Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed its evaluation of three generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notices for hemp seed-derived food ingredients. The GRAS notices were submitted by Fresh Hemp Foods, Ltd. The agency has no questions about Fresh Hemp Food’s conclusion that the following ingredients are GRAS under their intended conditions of use: hulled hemp seed (GRN765), hemp seed protein powder (GRN771), and hemp seed oil (GRN778).

Foods containing hemp seed and hemp seed-derived ingredients are currently marketed in the US. Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Although hemp is from the same species as cannabis (marijuana), the seeds themselves do not naturally contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The hemp seed-derived ingredients that are the subject of these GRAS notices contain only trace amounts of THC and CBD, which the seeds may pick up during harvesting and processing when they are in contact with other parts of the plant. Consumption of these hemp seed-derived ingredients is not capable of making consumers “high”.

The GRAS notices are for three different hemp seed-derived ingredients. The GRAS conclusions can apply to ingredients from other companies, if they are manufactured in a way that is consistent with the notices and they meet the listed specifications. Some of the intended uses for these ingredients include adding them as source of protein, carbohydrates, oil, and other nutrients to beverages (juices, smoothies, protein drinks, plant-based alternatives to dairy products), soups, dips, spreads, sauces, dressings, plant-based alternatives to meat products, desserts, baked goods, cereals, snacks and nutrition bars. Products that contain any of these hemp seed-derived ingredients must declare them by name on the ingredient list.

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These GRAS conclusions do not affect the FDA’s position on the addition of CBD and THC to food. As stated on FDA and Marijuana: Questions and Answers, it is a prohibited act under section 301(ll) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to introduce into interstate commerce a food to which CBD or THC has been added.

Do Hemp Seeds Contain CBD?

Many people mistakenly believe that CBD is all the same, whether the source of it is hemp or marijuana. There is also a lot of confusion surrounding hemp and marijuana and the various uses there are for them. Many more so because people still understand less about the difference between hemp seed oil and CBD oil. At best, the information is confusing; at worst, it’s just plain misleading. Finally, one thing they also ask themselves is: do hemp seeds contain CBD or not. Let’s look at the answers to all of those questions.

Is There A Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

The short answer is yes; however, there are also different varieties of hemp and marijuana with are different percentages of THC and CBD. It’s important to understand that hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same cannabis plant. Generally, hemp classifies as cannabis Sativa, and marijuana is cannabis Indica. The biggest difference between the two, however, is the THC content in each one. Marijuana may contain as much as 30% or more of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. Whereas hemp must, to be legally considered hemp proper, have 0.3% THC or less.

THC is what gives you the psychoactive high you experience when consuming marijuana. Hemp, on the other hand, has so few traces of THC in it that it is not possible for it to get you remotely high. In fact, the actual legal difference between the two of them comes down to the THC content inside of the plants. If the THC content ever gets over the 0.3% limit, the plant is legally considered marijuana. Otherwise, it remains hemp.

The plants are so visually alike that many people can’t tell the difference between the two when they are side by side. This has caused many illegal arrests to take place. Unable to tell the difference between the two plants, law enforcement agents can mistake hemp for marijuana. The fact of that being aware of the distinction between hemp and marijuana is important from more than just a consumer’s standpoint. It could save you much trouble. Law enforcement recently began submitting samples of plants lifted as evidence in possession cases to verify if it is indeed marijuana. That’s a step forward.

What Are Hemp Seeds Good For?

Many people choose to use hemp seeds in their diets, and with good reason, there are many great health benefits to eating hemp seeds.

Hemp Seeds as A Superfood

Hemp seeds are actually a superfood, with many enthusiasts online vouching over its supposed effectiveness. There are quite a few different ways they claim hemp seeds can make you healthier.

For once, hemp seeds are full of protein. When compared in even amounts to protein content in soybeans, they are nearly equal. While few vegan foods can offer everything in one plant, hemp seeds have plenty of protein for a person to survive.

Hemp seeds also offer great Omega 3 fatty acids. These unsaturated fats help to lower cholesterol while containing zero trans fats. Trans fats might clog arteries leading to strokes and heart attacks. Eating hemp seed, thus, might reduce arrhythmia and keeps the cardiovascular system healthy. They also contain many amino acids and which enables them to help lower the blood pressure of those ingesting them.

Hemp seeds are an excellent source of fiber to the diet. Again, anyone who is vegan or vegetarian will appreciate that they can get a healthy dose of fiber in the outer layer of the hemp seed. It’s good to buy these with the outer hull still intact to ensure the best possible fiber in the diet.

Hemp Seeds as Anti-inflammatory

The hemp seeds also work to help reduce inflammation. Something that is more than convenient for patients who are suffering from arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Anecdotal evidence so far indicates it might reduce inflammation caused due to sports injuries and accidents as well.

Acne, atopic dermatitis, or eczema can also benefit from the consumption of hemp seeds. The hemp seeds work to reduce inflammation, which is a key part of said conditions.

Finally, autoimmune conditions are conditions wherein the body’s immune system begins to attack itself. Hemp seeds also help ease their symptoms by reducing inflammation and soothing some of the kin reactions accompanying it.

Hemp Seeds as Supplements

For those who are seeking to add more:

  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B
  • Zinc

Hemp seeds have them in spades.

Hemp Seeds as Antioxidants

They’re also full of wonder that may help to protect the brain from such conditions like:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s
  • Seizures
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Doctors also prescribe hemp seed derivatives to children struggling with epilepsy to help reduce or alleviate seizures.

Hemp Seeds as Sugar Lowering Agents

Hemp seeds also appear to help foster a favorable environment to lower blood sugars in diabetics when part of a proper diet. Diabetics trying hemp seeds as a way to reduce their insulin use is actually a trend currently on the rise. Yet, it’s important to note that no medications should see discontinued use without the prior approval of your medical doctor.

How To Use Hemp Seeds

Besides eating them on their own, you can add hemp seeds to smoothies or stir them into hot cereals. You can also add them to salads to add some extra crunch or bake them into breads like a breakfast bread. Stirring hemp seeds into casseroles, sprinkle them on meats or vegetables while they’re cooking or after they’re done is also an alternative.

As a superfood becoming rapidly popular, hemp seeds also have the advantage that you can eat them however you like. They deliver a delicious nutty taste and have a crunch that you will recognize if you ever put some seeds on your meals. Hemp seeds will add the benefit of more fiber and more nutrition to your meals than most other seeds do.

Does Hemp Contain Any CBD?

The question “Do hemp seeds contain CBD?” remains, and the answer is rather simple. Many parts of the hemp plant do contain CBD, yet, CBD is not in the seeds themselves. However, you can find it in great abundance in other parts of the hemp plant like the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the plant. You can find high concentrations of CBD in these parts of the plant.

Many products will state that they derived from hemp CBD. This is entirely possible; however, it’s worthy of note that there is no way that a CBD product came from the hemp seed itself. It’s far more likely that the hemp CBD came from the stalk, flowers, or in the leaves of the hemp plant.

Clearly, there is much confusion as to hemp and marijuana and CBD. Many mistakenly believe that all forms of CBD are the same regardless of where they came from. The truth is that it is entirely possible for some forms of CBD to have higher levels of THC than your legal hemp-derived variety. Thus, it’s important to find out where the CBD sourced from. Put your detective hat on and find out if the CBD product your intent to buy actually comes from hemp.

If the CBD comes from marijuana plants, it is very likely that it will retain higher levels of THC. In fact, it’s entirely possible for some products to contain as much as 30% THC or higher.

Keep in mind that when ingesting any CBD products, it can take up to 1 hour to feel the effects of the CBD. During this time, the CBD is working its way through your digestive system and breaking down so that your body will be able to use it.

CBD’s Legal Status

Today, thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018, CBD is legal in all 50 states; however, marijuana status is much consistent. Some states allow marijuana fully, some only medically, and some plain ban it completely. Thus, it’s important to go to a reliable dispensary to purchase CBD products derived from hemp to know what you are getting. Not manufacturers nor all CBD products are the same, and you want a standardized that’s compliant with legal regulations.

If a label ever tells you, the CBD actually came from hemp seeds, that is already a red flag. As stated before, you can’t find any CBD in the hemp seeds themselves. While the CBD product may come from other parts of the hemp plant, it’s definitely not from the seeds. There are many great CBD products on the market today. If you’re looking for the benefits of a CBD product, without the high, most CBD products from high-quality manufacturers will do.

Do Hemp Seeds Contain CBD? – The Takeaway

The answer to our question, “Do Hemp Seeds Contain CBD?” is a short answer, with a very long explanation. Once you understand the differences, it becomes easier to understand why. Different parts of the plant can have CBD. However, there is absolutely no CBD to find in hemp seeds.