Known as one of the world’s oldest crops, hemp is more versatile than many understand. For thousands of years, this plant has been used to make paper, various textiles and hemp cord. The Columbia History of the World indicates that a piece of fabric from this plant is from around 8,000 BC.
How is hemp different from its cousin, cannabis? We’ll explore the differences and uses of this non-intoxicating plant in this guide.
So, What is Hemp?
Varieties of the Cannabaceae family containing 1% THC or less are classified as Cannabis Sativa L. Cannabis Sativa L. is the scientific name for hemp. Cannabis is also part of the Cannabaceae plant family. These plants are different in their cannabinoid profiles as cannabis plants contain far more THC and much less CBD. They way that these plants are cultivated are also a bit different.
Cannabis will get you high, unless it’s a hybrid version that is intended to be high-CBD, low-THC whereas Cannabis Sativa L. does not produce a high.
Uses for the Hemp Plant
It’s estimated that this plant has at least 25,000 uses. Several parts of the plant have multiple applications. We’ll dive into a few of them here. It’s a sustainable, renewable crop that will only grow in value now that the 2018 Farm Bill deems it an agricultural crop.
Some of the applications for this plant are categorized as nutraceuticals.
The seeds have three parts – the nut, oil and cake. The cake portion of the seed can be made into flour that is used in some animal food recipes. As this catches on, it’ll likely make its way into human food applications too.
The oil has many uses such as:
- Finishing oil
- Topical products
The nut is often used to make protein powder. It can also be used in bread, granola, salads and side dishes. It can also be used in making nut brittles.
This little seed is quite nutritious. It’s a great source of fiber and protein while containing very little sugar. It’s vitamin, mineral and nutrient rich as well. For those practicing vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, these seeds can help you have another option for protein.
A serving of hemp seeds is 3 tablespoons.
The stalks may be the most versatile part of the hemp plant. There are thousands of uses for the fibers and cellulose found in them from construction materials to biofuels and plastics.
Hempcrete is made from the hurds of the stalks. The hurds are mixed with lime and water to make a cement-like material. It’s said to be lighter and more durable than traditional cement while remaining toxin-free and breathable. How is breathable concrete safe? Hempcrete may be breathable but it’s one of the strongest materials available.
Other benefits of hempcrete include:
- Virtually fireproof
What else can the stalks be used for?
The hurd can also be used for:
- As an absorbent material
- Livestock and pet bedding
Livestock and pet bedding are already gaining popularity due to it being more absorbent than traditional options.
Within the stalks there is also bast fiber. This is what’s used to make hemp cord and rope. In war times, rope from the bast fiber was made for military use since the rope was more durable and was the fibers were more accessible. It was found that the rope could withstand being exposed to water and the elements of nature without deteriorating or reducing strength.
Other uses for the bast fiber include:
The stalk has a couple of rather important uses such as biofuel and ethanol. The stalk can also be used for filters, paper products and cardboard. While hemp paper isn’t anything new, as more of the plant is grown in the U.S., it’s likely that consumers will see lower prices for these paper products as well as a larger variety of options.
What is another benefit of hemp paper? Hemp grows far faster than trees, meaning that the increase of hemp production may reduce deforestation. More paper would be able to be produced without ruining forests and heavily wooded areas.
The clothing made from the bast fiber is durable and long-lasting. You might think that it’s a scratchy material, but it’s really not. The cloth can be just as soft, if not softer than cotton. While hemp clothing might be a little pricey, part of that is due to the durability. You won’t need to replace clothing items as often, so they do cost a little bit more.
Imported Hemp Materials
Since hemp was illegal until the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, much of the hemp materials used in the U.S. were imported. This also helped drive up the cost of these various products. It also takes much longer for the materials to arrive in the U.S. due to customs procedures and the distance that some materials had to travel.
Hemp has a positive impact on the environment. It helps detoxify soil which can help prevent erosion. It breathes CO2, which helps cleanse the air. Once the plant is done growing, whatever portions of the plant remain in the soil after harvesting breaks down and adds nutrients to the soil.
Another benefit to the environment is that hemp doesn’t require the use of pesticides. This means that fewer toxins are in the air where hemp is grown. It also uses less water to grow – especially during the end of its growth cycle.
It grows well in most climates and can be cultivated in some climates more than once a year. For farmers, it is beneficial since it is another crop to add to their rotation that can benefit their soil, add to their income and reduce production costs.
This is only a sample of what the hemp plant can do. Its high CBD content is what allows the CBD industry to continue to make CBD products for people of any lifestyle. We’ll see more of this bountiful plant growing soon as several states prepare to begin their cultivation programs. Farmers in some states, like Arizona, can begin planting on June 1, 2019.