The Uses of Industrial Hemp
Hemp comes from taller versions of the notorious cannabis plant. Today, hemp is cultivated in different parts of the world for industrial purposes alone and is acknowledged to be a wonder crop whose uses are plentiful.
When you flip back the pages of history, you will find that hemp was one of the first crops to be cultivated by the human race. Archaeological evidence points out that the use of hemp was a reality in Neolithic China, even around 5B.C. Then, around 480 B.C, Herodotus – a Greek historian of his time – notes that the inhabitants of Scythia inhaled the smoke of hemp as a pleasure activity. From there on, you can see the use of hemp across the globe and across civilizations.
Today, over 33 countries grow hemp for industrial purposes, with China being the leading producer. However, strict regulations on growing hemp are found in most countries. In the United States, for example, the cultivation of hemp without a license is illegal and an offense under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. This is because of hemp’s close association with marijuana.
Unlike the shorter version of the cannabis plant that is used to extract marijuana, hemp is low on psychoactive drug compounds especially the Tetrahydrocannabinol and also cannabidiol and other cannabinoids. Which is why, countries who manufacture hemp make it a point to use hemp plants that have the least of these components.
Hemp’s uses are many and you will probably come across the usage of hemp in the making of products that use in your day-to-day life. Here are some of the most popular uses of industrial hemp.
Food & Beverages
Many parts of the hemp plant makes for nutritious food. For example, the seed of the hemp plant are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids that can serve as an excellent dietary supplement. The seeds can be consumed raw or even sprouted to add to a salad. Hemp seeds can also be used to make milk and is a lot like soy milk. It can also be seen in tofu, cereals, butter, alcoholic beverages, ice creams, cakes and even as cooking oil. The leaves of the hemp plant can be added fresh to salads.
One of the first uses of industrial hemp was in clothing. Studies show that the Chinese started using hemp in the manufacture of clothing around 8,000 B.C. In its purest form, hemp has a texture that resembles linen. Its fibers are used, today, in the making of silk lingerie. However, hemp, due to its durability, is used mostly in items that are meant for long-time wear and tear like jeans, shoes and sportswear.
Around 200 years before paper making began, the Western Han Dynasty was already making coarse paper made from hemp. An acre of hemp can produce as much paper as two to three acres of trees. Moreover, paper made from hemp lasts for a really long time and can also be recycled with greater frequency and better ease than tree paper. Still, due to outdated technology that renders hemp pulp making as an expensive process, hemp paper makes up for just 0.05% of the entire paper-making industry.
In construction, hemp can be used to manufacture a wide range of building materials. The strength and durable nature of hemp fibers is often used to replace wood and construct sturdy homes. Then there is, also, ‘hempcrete’ which is a stronger and a more environmentally sustainable type of concrete.
Other uses of hemp include using it is as an internal plaster that makes for good insulation. It can also be used in the making of press boards, fiber boards and, even, panels.
In the 1940s, the car manufacturer, Ford, built a prototype of a car whose exterior was made with soy and hemp. In a widely-circulated photo, Henry Ford is seen hacking at the prototype with an axe, to demonstrate hemp’s strength and the lack of any real damage to the car due to it. While this plan didn’t take wings, hemp is now a regular part of car manufacturing in the 21st century. Star market holders like BMW, Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen all use hemp at their plants.
In the recent years, hemp has also been used in the creation of shower curtain liners, cases for CDs and DVDs and other plastic knickknacks.
Hemp can be a reliable source of bio-fuel. When you process hemp oil it can be easily converted into bio-diesel. Sometimes known as hempoline, bio-diesel from hemp can be extracted from stalks, seeds, and other leftover bits. And the process will only become easier as cellulosic ethanol technology advances and greater innovation is achieved. However, because the cultivation of hemp is highly restricted in most countries, its use as bio-fuel is largely unexplored.
Soil and Water Purification
Industrial hemp is often termed as mop crop. This means that it can be used to separate impurities from waste water, eliminate the high-levels of phosphorus from chicken litter and also other chemicals. Hemp, as a purifying product, was most notably used in the clean-up of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine and was used to heal its soil in the aftermath of the mishap. Through a process called phytoremediation, hemp can help cleanse air, soil and water and clear out radioisotopes, sewage, sludge, fly ash and other harmful chemical components.
Interestingly, industrial hemp is a great weed killer. Since it grows to a good height and is also dense in foliage, industrial hemp is often planted to reduce the growth of unwanted weeds and also to root out the tougher ones. The use of hemp in farming land helps constrict the pool of unwanted seeds that are embedded in the soil. Moreover, the planting of hemp among their regular crop helps farmers avoid the excessive use of herbicides and helps grow organic crops. It also provides them with the advantage of crop rotation. However, in some areas, because of hemp’s inhibited growth, it is termed as a noxious weed and its growth is prohibited.
These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Alaina Dorsey is CEO, freelance cannabis copywriter and content strategist at her Baltimore-based business Bud Biz Llama in Maryland.