The Many Uses of Hemp
Hemp is a variation of the Cannabis sativa plant - a natural fiber product that is used for many industrial purposes over thousands of years. Not only does hemp provide manufacturers with alternatives to less environmentally-friendly products, hemp can used in food, jewelry, clothing, fuels, among many other goods. Hemp is the most useful plant known to man kind, as well as the longest and strongest natural fiber. This weed grows rapidly in very diverse soil conditions. For nearly 12,000 years, industrial hemp was used as a primary fiber to manufacture rope, paper, canvas, and clothing until other forms of textiles were developed for these purposes. Truly an amazing plant species, hemp has the potential to produce “green” products of all types.
For over 5,000 years, hemp has been cultivated and used in over 25,000 products worldwide. During the last 70 years, the plant has become deemed illegal and eradicated in the United States. Although the hemp plant is considered one of the most medicinally beneficial and environmentally-friendly plants of all time, its use as a recreational drug has led to its contraband status in many countries. The controversy over the legalization of hemp has fueled a great debate, as well as many sources of misinformation. While some sources claim hemp is a form of marijuana, this is simply not true. Industrial hemp has been cultivated to obtain extremely low amounts of THC. Neither the flowers of the plant, nor the leaves produce a drug that could be considered mind altering or dangerous. Hemp was once a mandated crop in many areas of colonial America. Today, it is illegal to grow hemp in the United States without a license, regardless of its THC levels. The hemp products that we see sold in the United States today are produced outside of the country.
- Facts about Hemp
- Hemp History Week: What is Hemp?
- Industrial Hemp in the U.S.
- Industrial Hemp: For a Better Tomorrow * Hemp and Marijuana: Myths & Realities
While growing hemp in the United States is illegal, possessing and selling it is not. There are many strains of hemp that may produce little or no hemp, while others contain large amounts. The strains of Cannabis Sativa that contain high levels of THC are considered marijuana, which is in fact illegal. Industrial hemp is grown differently and is made from different parts of the plant, making them genetically completely different plants. Hemp is also known as an “anti-marijuana” plant as it contains cannabinoid, or CBD, which actually blocks the marijuana high. Over 30 industrialized democracies distinguish marijuana from hemp and allow for the importation of hemp, according to the NAFTA.
Hemp is produced in many countries all around the world, including Canada, China, and France. More hemp is transported to the United States then any other country, as the U.S. does not consistently distinguish the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. For commercial purposes, hemp is used in a wide range of products and sold to consumers. These include fabrics, biodegradable industrial products, biomass fuel, body care products, detergents, paper, wood products, food products, and pet food.
Hemp has been used for fabrics, such as clothing, hats, shoes, and accessories, for decades. This is because the natural fibers are more durable, absorbent, warmer, and softer then cotton and many other types of fabrics used today. An additional benefit of using hemp for fabrics is that it can be grown in regions where cotton cannot thrive. Hemp is weather resistant, mold resistant, and cost-effective. Its versatile nature allows other types of fibers to be blended together, such as cotton and silk.
Natural hemp is able to ‘breathe’ and is considered biodegradable. As a renewable resource, hemp grows quickly and easily, making it extremely cost effective. Since hemp is rich in cellulose, the production of biodegradable plastic products using hemp has become popular. Recycled plastic mixed with hemp can be used for injection-molded products, as well as resins from hemp oil. Hemp fibers are currently being used in many industries as a substitute for fiberglass. The advantage that hemp has over fiberglass is that it’s lighter, stronger, biodegradable, and cheaper to produce.
With the ongoing concern over the high price of oil, many eco-friendly activists are pushing towards alternative fuel options. Many “green” vehicles today run on a variety of fuels, such as corn oil. Hemp fuel can be used as a green alterative to gasoline, as it burns clean and produces methanol. The hydrocarbons found in hemp can be used as a renewable resource, resulting in the non-pollution of our atmosphere. It is also great at producing alterative fuel types, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Both the fibers and seeds can be used as a less damaging form of biomass fuel.
Hemp can be used in a variety of beauty products and cosmetics, such as shampoos, conditioners, massage oils, skin crèmes, salves, sunscreens, lip balms, soaps, lotions, and personal hygiene products. Not only is hemp less likely to cause an allergic reaction, it’s also been known to cure dermatitis and other serious skin conditions. Those who use hemp also have the certainty that they are utilizing a green product that is free of harsh chemicals and toxins that can harm the skin.
The oil found in industrial hemp is used in many products, such as laundry detergent. Hemp oil biodegrades naturally when entering our water systems. Many industries worldwide have incorporated hemp oil commercially due to its beneficial qualities. Germany now manufactures and sells a popular brand of laundry detergent that is primarily based on hemp oil to provide softer, stronger, and more effective clothing.
Electronic books are not the only way to prevent the cutting down of trees. Hemp can be used to produce the highest quality paper that is resistant to decomposition and does not yellow as it ages. Hemp paper is acid-free and can be recycled many more times than wood-based paper. Over a period of 20 years, 2.5 acres of hemp can produce as much paper as 9.9 acres of forest. Hemp’s color eliminates the need for chlorine bleach and can instead, be colored under a more gentle solution such as hydrogen peroxide.
Hemp offers many environmentally-friendly options to current wood products. It’s able to yield between three and eight tons of fiber per acre, which is four times that of the average forest. Unlike many types of wood, hemp is low in lignin, meaning that it contains much fewer chemicals. Many types of wood used for construction can be developed from hemp, such as studs, beams, posts, and medium density fiberboard. It’s twice as strong as other wood-based fiberboards.
A large variety of foods has been incorporated with hemp to provide nutritional value. Hemp seeds are second to soybeans and are a great source of vegetable protein. However, they are more digestible and longer lasting then soybeans. Hemp does not have to be cooked or fermented to be eaten and tastes good and is good for you. You can find products that contain hemp at your local organic grocers, such as hemp peanut butter, cheese, flour, crackers, and cake mixes.
Hemp provides healthy proteins that can be incorporated into many types of organic pet foods. This includes household animals, such as dogs and cats, as well as cows, horses, chickens, and various species of birds. Hemp can give these animals a shiny and rich looking coat. It is easily digestible, unlike many commercial brand pet foods on the market today. It also contains Vitamin A and essential proteins that are good for your pet.
The industrial hemp plant is one of the oldest plants, tracing back to 8000 BC in China and the Middle East. Hemp has a history of being extremely versatile and useful in the production of thousands of products all over the world.
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