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What Is Hemp and How Is It Used?

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JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 20 January 2021

What Is Hemp And How Is It Used

Many people do not know about the many uses of hemp. Hemp is an extremely versatile resource than can significantly improve the quality of our lives and the health of the planet. Read on to find out more about this non-psychoactive, fast-growing, fibrous cannabis species.

What Is Hemp?

What Is Hemp?

Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, pertains to the Cannabis sativa L. subspecies of the Cannabis sativa family. It is grown predominantly for industrial purposes to create all sorts of materials from its fibres. Many uses have been found in the hemp plant since people began to use it thousands of years ago, including paper production, cordage, construction and food.

Regulations in most countries state that industrial hemp cannot contain more than a certain percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC - usually less than 0.2-0.3%) for it to be approved. However, hemp can contain cannabidiol (CBD) in some quantities, meaning it can be used for medicinal purposes too, although in that case it makes more sense to grow cannabis that produces heavy amounts of trichomes.

Most hemp farmers cut their plantation down before it reaches full maturity as a way to keep THC levels from developing too far. After all, the reason to grow hemp is to benefit from the fibres and seeds and to grow crops that do not carry a risk.

The History Of Hemp

Hemp Was Grown Legally Before The Marijuana Tax Act

Hemp dates back a long way, with some of the first evidence appearing as far back as 8000BC in the form of a fabric. For many years, hemp was widely used and produced commercially all over the world.

In 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was introduced when hemp became associated with other psychoactive species of cannabis. This created difficulties for the hemp industry as all types of cannabis became strictly regulated. People developed a misunderstanding of hemp and it became a Schedule 1 drug. It remains illegal to grow in many countries, meaning it is often imported.

Hemp Vs Marijuana

Cannabis Sativa species

Marijuana is typically grown for recreational or medicinal purposes (for the flowers), whereas hemp is purely industrial (for seeds and stalks). As we motioned before, hemp is part of the Cannabis sativa L. family, but is a distinct strain with genetically unique characteristics. Marijuana grows differently and produces higher amounts of cannabinoids than hemp.

Related story
What Is Sativa Cannabis?

Hemp cultivation does not have a negative impact on its surroundings and in fact can do the complete opposite by nourishing and cleansing the soil. The plant requires very little maintenance and tends to be fairly resistant against pests and mold, meaning pesticides and insecticides are generally not required. Hemp has even been seen to survive sub-zero temperatures and can be found growing in colder climates such as those in northern Europe or Russia.

Hemp Cultivation

Industrial Hemp Farm

Hemp is produced as a raw material in many parts of the world and is very versatile. It grows extremely quickly and is, in fact, one of the fastest growing plants on the planet alongside bamboo.

The cannabis hemp plant enjoys plenty of water, good drainage and nutrient rich soil. It is usually planted in March-May (northern hemisphere) and harvested in June-August.

The Uses Of Hemp

Hemp Stalk Processing

Unfortunately, due to the legality of cannabis and THC, as well as the dominance held by other industries such as those cutting down trees for paper, hemp has not yet been fully adopted.

Because it grows much faster, produces more fibre and costs less to produce than trees do, hemp deserves a lot more recognition. Let's go over some of the many uses of hemp so you can see how diverse this plant really is.

Fibre

Cross Section Of A Hemp Stalk

The fibres and stalks of the hemp plant are usually the farmer's main goal. Naturally, the more hemp a farmer can grow, the higher his/her profit will be. As a renewable resource, hemp can be processed into many strong, long lasting and safe products for use in all kinds of industry and household. Today, hemp fibres can be found in numerous products, such as clothing, shoes, ropes, and many others:

  • Canvas
  • Sails
  • Rope
  • Clothes
  • Shoes
  • Bags
  • Netting
  • Paper 
  • Mulch
  • Cardboard

Construction

Hempcrete, or Hemp Concrete

Hemp concrete, also known as hemp lime or hempcrete, was developed in France in the 1980s and has proven to be highly effective at providing housing with an energy efficient form of insulation and having ideal properties as a construction material that saves a ton of money. Houses built using hempcrete have shown to produce less carbon emissions and are completely sustainable.

Bricks can be made from hemp mixed with lime, however the fibres are generally not strong enough to provide total structural stability. This means hempcrete is often used in conjunction with other materials, such as timber. The timber can be used to create a sound structure and can then be coated/insulated with hemp concrete.

Paper

Hemp Paper

Paper made from hemp is more expensive than paper produced from trees (roughly 4 times), but this is mainly because at the moment the technology for separating the necessary fibres from hemp is not as developed as that of the big corporations producing paper and cutting down all the forests.

There are many reasons why using hemp is a much more efficient and sustainable alternative to wood for producing paper. Firstly, it takes no more than a few months for hemp to fully mature, whereas a tree needs decades to grow. On top of that, hemp paper can be recycled more than double the amount of times as paper produced from trees. Also, there is no need for chemicals during the process.

Nutrition

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds provide us with a nutritious source of food and contain high amounts of protein and iron. Hemp oil can also be made from the seeds, which provides many useful organic applications in food and cosmetics.

Not only are they good for humans to eat, hemp seeds are also given to animals or birds. In fact, most of the seeds produced on hemp farms end up being used for food. Their high nutritional value makes them a particularly important part in the farming of hemp.

Nutritional Uses For Hemp Seeds:

  • Protein Powders
  • Seeds for Salads and Smoothies or Other Snacks
  • Hemp Oil
  • Flour
  • Hemp Milk
  • Animal and Bird Feed

Bioplastic

Hemp Bioplastics

Plastic polymers can be made using hemp cellulose and is often combined with other ingredients such as flax or fiberglass to create for example, door panelling for cars. Other uses could include disposables such as throw away knives and forks or straws.

As a bioplastic, hemp plastic is completely eco-friendly, biodegradable, reduces pollution, and provides efficient thermal and UV stability. It produces fewer carbon emissions and more Co2 than regular plastic. As usual, it is the giant corporations preventing industries like hemp production from advancing because their business is in fossil fuels, petroleum, gas, electric, and other sources of energy we depend on.

Biofuel

Hemp Can Be Used To Produce Biofuel

Hemp seeds and stalks can be processed into biofuel by fermenting them and filtering out the oils. Also known as hempoline, the fuel can be used to power diesel engines or gas lamps, amongst other things. Because biofuel can be produced using many other resources and the market is small, it is not a common use for hemp, although it is certainly a viable one.

Sativa-dominant plant (Dr Grinspoon - Barney's Farm) by sativa_thc from GrowDiaries.

Conclusion

There are endless uses for hemp and slowly the world is waking up to its benefits. As we continue to see our planet being infected by poisonous governments that profit off destroying nature, hemp offers a glimmer of hope. People are seeing the damage being caused through pollution and plastics, and it can only go on for so long.

If you found this article useful, please feel free to leave your thoughts regarding hemp down in the comments section. We'd love to hear your thoughts about this wonderful plant.

External References

Hemp: American History Revisited: The Plant With A Divided History. - Robert Dietch (2003)

This article was updated January 2021.






Comments

Simplybe
Simplybe

Excellent article but I suspect that hemp was outlawed more because the timber industry bought off our elected officials to stifle competition more than anyone in government caring about our health.