What Is Hemp And What Can It Do?
Everyone has heard of hemp but what is it actually? How does it differ from other plants? What can it do for you? These are questions we’re often asked and the answers are different for everyone based on their individual needs. There is so much information out there so I went on a mission to find out all I could and brought it back for you!
“Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated crops known to man. It has been used for paper, textiles, and cordage for thousands of years. In fact, the Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a scrap of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC. There are many different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp — also called industrial hemp — refers to the non-psychoactive (less than 1% THC) varieties of Cannabis sativa L.” (Full article can be found at: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/hemp-101-what-is-hemp-whats-it-used-for-and-why-is-it-illegal)
What can we get from hemp:
The possibilities are truly endless but we’ll cover as much as possible! Starting with the most popular and well known parts of the hemp plant, the seeds and the stalk. While there is more to the plant than these two things, we’ll start here.
The seed is mainly used in dietary products. Hemp seeds are typically hulled and use in variety of ways. The nut can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, made into milk, and is even used to make protein powder. You can use them in bread, granola, cereal, milk or dairy products. The oil can be used for fuel, lubricants, ink, varnish, paint, salad dressing, margarine, body products and cosmetics. Canada is the biggest producer of hemp seeds with over 84,000 acres licensed for cultivation in 2015. Most of the hemp strains grown in Canada are called Finola. Finola is known for producing the most amount of seeds, but they are very short so can’t be used for their stalk. (Full article can be found at: https://ministryofhemp.com/hemp/)
When you slice a hemp stalk in half, you’ll see, nestled in a snug hollow tube, a long, string-like band running the length inside. This is hemp’s famous bast fiber. When harvested correctly, the fiber is actually stronger than steel. The hurd can be used in animal bedding, mulch, as a chemical absorbent, in fiberboard, insulation and concrete. The bast fiber can be used to make cord or rope, netting, canvas, carpets, biocomposites, non-wovens, clothes, shoes and bags. The stalk can be used to make fuel, paper products, cardboard and fillers. Historically, so many different applications have been found for hemp’s stalk. In a 1938 Popular Mechanics article, hemp was stated to be the next ‘billion dollar crop’, as it praised its bafflingly strong fibers. The magazine found there to be more than 25,000 industrial uses for hemp. Applications of hemp stalk include apparel, bags, rope, netting, canvas, and carpet. China is the world’s biggest producer of hemp stalks, with the government claiming the hemp industry to be over $200M. (Full article can be found at: https://ministryofhemp.com/hemp/)
What are some of the benefits to using hemp?
Hemp Seed Benefits:
Hemp seeds contain almost as much protein as soybeans. In every 30 grams (g) of seeds, or about a tablespoon, there are 9.46 g of protein.These seeds are a complete source of protein, meaning that they provide all nine essential amino acids.Amino acids are the building blocks for all proteins. The body cannot produce nine of these acids, so a person must absorb them through the diet.Relatively few plant-based foods are complete sources of protein, making hemp seeds a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.Hemp seeds are especially rich in an amino acid called arginine, which has benefits for heart health.
The health benefits of polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are becoming increasingly well known. Hemp seeds are a great source of essential fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3. The body cannot produce essential fatty acids, and the body must absorb them from the diet. They are crucial for long-term health.
But all health benefits aside. The plant itself is easy to grow and actually HELPS the environment as it goes which should make it an obvious choice as a replacement to so many other products that take away from our environment every day.
“The hemp plant obviates the need for most pesticides (it is naturally resistant to most pests), herbicides, fungicides and thriving on less water than most crops. Because of its resiliency, it has also been flagged as a natural way to clean up soil pollution. Using a process called phyto-remediation, hemp was used at Chernobyl to harmlessly extract toxins and pollutants from the soil and groundwater. Hemp actually absorbs CO2 while it grows through natural photosynthesis, making it carbon-negative from the get-go.” (Full article can be found at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/03/hemp-sustainable-crop_n_5243351.html)
This makes it an obvious choice in replacing other plants that take more time, energy and water. Trees and cotton should be the first on the list of replacements!
“Hemp pulp has been used to create paper for at least 2,000 years, including a draft of the Declaration of Independence, but it is currently significantly pricier to process than wood pulp. If processing costs come down, however, hemp pulp could conceivably replace wood pulp, creating a more durable, sustainable and recyclable paper. Moreover, hemp’s low lignin content and naturally light color mean that fewer chemicals and less bleach would be needed to pulp and color hemp paper.
Hemp has been used as a fabric since time immemorial. As a textile, hemp is durable, comes in a variety of natural colors based on how it is processed from the plant, and has “a wonderful drape, comparable to linen,” according to Patagonia. Plus, it needs approximately half as much land and half as much water as cotton does to thrive.” (Full article can be found at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/03/hemp-sustainable-crop_n_5243351.html)
What other things can hemp replace? Honestly the possibilities are endless but how about fuel, concrete for building and plastic products? All three of these things take a huge toll on our planet and could be easily swapped for a more sustainable hemp product. Huffington Post has more information on all three in their in depth article.
“A 2009 study from the University of Connecticut’s Biofuel Consortium found that hemp seed oil made a “viable and even attractive“ feedstock for producing biodiesel. Hemp biodiesel proved to be high efficiency (97 percent of the hemp oil was converted to biodiesel) and could even be used at lower temperatures than other biodiesels.
Lovingly called “hempcrete,” hemp fiber can be mixed with lime to create carbon-neutral building supplies, including insulation, pressboard, flooring and wall construction. Hempcrete is energy-efficient, non-toxic and resistant to mold, insects and fire. Moreover, it is easier to work with than concrete and just as strong.
Henry Ford famously built a car out of hemp & soy plastic in the early 1940s, and Lotus recently did the same. In 2008, the Lotus Eco Elise used hemp in its composite body panels and spoiler, and many car manufacturers have since switched to hemp composites for door panels, columns, seat backs, boot linings, floor consoles and instrument panels. Hemp composites are stronger, lighter and cheaper than fiber glass and carbon fiber — plus, they’re recyclable!” (Full article can be found at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/03/hemp-sustainable-crop_n_5243351.html)
But how about how hemp can help our economy?
In 2017 The Guardian reported that “ America already safely consumes $580m worth of products made from imported hemp every year – from milk to T-shirts to soaps. Yet because it has been illegal to import or cultivate seeds, the farming, processing and manufacturing jobs associated with hemp belong to the 30 countries growing it, from Canada to France to China.”(Full article can be found at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/04/hemp-plant-that-could-boost-americas-economy) Thankfully this year the Hemp Farming Act that was put into the Agriculture bill of 2018 was signed which will hopefully pave the way for industrial hemp in the United States! This will mean that instead of having to go to outside sources for that $580 million worth of products soon we’ll be able to keep that money within our own country! This is a huge step for the hemp industry and the farmers of America!
The bottom line is that hemp is a sustainable, multi-use plant that could benefit the economy, environment and the general wellness of consumers. It’s easy to grow, easy to put to use and the benefits far outweigh any cons. Thankfully we should be seeing some amazing changes regarding the hemp industry here in the United States. We expect to see wonderful things come of it and can’t wait to be a part of the growth!
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