Uses and benefits
Hemp is one of the most useful plants on Earth. For thousands of years, humans have used parts of this amazing plant for food, textiles, paper, fabric, and fuel oil.
Industrial hemp is a hardy, fast growing herbaceous plant. The broad leaf blocks out sunlight inhibiting competing weeds, reducing need for heavy herbicide use. And these days a lot of hemp is grown organically, without need of any synthetic agricultural additives. It can reach heights of 4.5 metres and can be ready to harvest in roughly 100-120 days after sowing. But rather than plant it year round, it performs best used a rotation crop, with soy, sorghum, etc, as its long tap root and leaf foliage return much needed nitrogen to ever worn-out soils.
Here are some of its most important applications:
Food and Nutrition
Hemp seeds and oil are highly nutritious. The seeds are an excellent source of protein, minerals, and dietary fibre. It is the only plant that contains all of the essential fatty acids and amino acids required for body functions, including metabolism, the skin, the brain, and the heart.
Many people eat fish and take fish oil supplements to get these essential fats, however concerns around over fishing and the chemical contamination of modern fish have made many choose to switch to the vegetarian and sustainable option of hemp instead.
Hemp is also good for animals, and some veterinarians recommend including it in the diets of pets and livestock.
Due to its high content of beneficial oils and natural emollient properties, hemp is becoming a common ingredient in lotions and many other skin, hair, and cosmetic products. It is a good alternative to the toxic chemicals present in many petroleum based lotions and cosmetics.
Hemp is an ideal material for making paper. Historically, it has been used to make paper for thousands of years. It makes a fine quality paper that is naturally acid free and does not become yellow and brittle or disintegrate over time like conventional paper. It is a faster and more efficient way of growing fibre than the use of trees.
Fabric, Textiles, and Rope
Hemp can be used to make a variety of fabrics, similar to but more durable than cotton. The word canvas comes from the Latin name for hemp. It is also excellent for making rugs and other textiles.
The oldest known woven fabric was made from hemp, as were Levi Strauss’ original denim jeans, and the first American flag. It was a common material for clothing until the cotton industry gained strength in America.
This amazing plant is the traditional rope making fibre due to its flexibility, strength, and resistance to water damage. In past centuries, it was extremely important to the Navy, the shipping trade, and fishing because it was used to make ropes, riggings, nets, and sails.
For centuries, hemp oil was used as lamp oil. It began to be phased out in America in the 1870s when petroleum was introduced.
Today, hemp oil can be used to create biofuels to replace gasoline for diesel engines. Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are renewable and produce less of the greenhouse gas carbon monoxide.
Standard plastic is made from fossil fuels using toxic chemicals. A variety of alternatives to plastic can be made from hemp.
In 1941, Henry Ford held a media event where he swung an axe at a prototype car body made of hemp and other plant material to prove its strength. The technology was never put into mass production, cars continued to be made of steel, and plastics made from petrochemicals became the norm.
Hemp based materials can replace wood and other materials used to build homes and other structures including foundations, walls, shingles, paneling, pipes, and paint.
The modern building materials Hempcrete and Isochanvre are lightweight, waterproof, fireproof, self-insulating, and resistant to pests.