Hemp looks similar to marijuana, and in some ways it is.

They are related, but hemp doesn’t make you high.

Hemp, however, does have its own uplifting qualities, and a new study at the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals is testing one out.

"People are more intrigued, it's ok to do hemp now more so than it might have been a decade ago," said Peter Jones, the director at Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba.

The plant is grown and processed into many different health foods in Manitoba, including hemp protein.

The study lead, PhD student Maryam Samsamikor is looking into hemp protein’s effects on people with elevated blood pressure.

"Their blood pressure should be within 130 to 160," said Samsamikor.

What makes hemp protein special, Samsamikpor explained, is it contains an amino acid called arginine that is known to help lower blood pressure.

"This amino acid is used by the body to make nitric oxide which is a molecule used to relax the body's cells," she said. 

The study is also taking a further step to try exposing some participants to as much arginine as possible.

"We put a special enzyme in that is like a little Pacman and it goes in and takes that long strand of protein and essentially like a pair of scissors just snips it into what we call a polypeptide," said Jones.

He is expecting a range of responses, and so they are also interested to see if there is a genetic component playing a role.

"People may be able to replace their dependency on drugs and move to a dietary approach to managing their high blood pressure," he said.

The study is looking for participants, non-smoking men and women between the ages of 18-75 with elevated blood pressure.

For more information call 204-474-9989 or email hempproteinstudy@umanitoba.ca

The Government of Canada estimates hypertension affects more than 1 in 5 Canadians.