The Versatile Uses of Hemp: From Superfood to Fashion Statement

HEMP is a robust, aromatic and erect annual herb that is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products, including ropes, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulators, and biofuels. It is sometimes confused with cannabis plants that serve as sources of the drug marijuana and the pharmacological preparation hashish. Although all three products contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans, the cannabis strain cultivated for hemp only contains small amounts of THC compared to that cultivated for the production of marijuana or hashish. The hemp plant has thin, rod-shaped stems that are hollow except at the tip and base. Its leaves are composed with a palmeal shape and the flowers are small and yellow-green in color.

The flowers that produce seeds form elongated spike-shaped clusters that grow on pistillate or female plants. Pollen-producing flowers form highly branched clusters on stamina or male plants. Hemp has been cultivated for fiber since 2800 BC in China and was practiced in the Mediterranean countries of Europe at the beginning of the Christian era. It was planted in Chile in the 16th century and a century later in North America. Hemp is grown in temperate zones as an annual plant from seed and can reach a height of up to 5 meters (16 feet).

Crops grow best in sandy loam soil with good drainage and require an average monthly rainfall of at least 65 mm (2.5 inches) during the growing season. Crops grown for fiber are densely planted and produce plants that average 2 to 3 meters (6 to 10 feet) tall with almost no branching. Plants grown for oilseeds are planted further apart and are shorter and have many branches. In fiber production, maximum yield and quality are achieved by harvesting soon after plants reach maturity, indicating that male plants are flourishing and releasing pollen freely. Although sometimes torn by hand, plants are most often cut about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the ground. The fibers are obtained by subjecting the stems to a series of operations including drying and shredding, and to an agitation process that completes the separation of the woody part, releasing the fiber or line long and fairly straight.

Fiber strands, usually larger than 1.8 meters (5.8 feet), are made up of individual cylindrical cells with an uneven surface. The fiber is usually yellowish, greenish or dark brown or gray and is strong and durable. It is used as a string for example, while some specially processed types of hemp have a whitish color and an attractive luster and are used to make linen-like fabrics for clothing. Hemp textiles can also be used to make shoes. Hemp fiber is used to make bioplastics that are recyclable and biodegradable depending on the formulation. The novel “hemp concrete”, a composite material of hemp and a lime binder, can be used in a similar way to traditional concrete in applications that do not withstand loads.

Hemp can also be used as an alternative to wood pulp in some cases; it is frequently used in papermaking and is a sustainable alternative to fiberglass insulation in buildings. Although only the hemp plant produces true hemp, other plant fibers are referred to as “hemp” including Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum), Mauritian hemp (Furcraea foetida) and sun hemp (Crotalaria juncea). Hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious and are a great source of plant-based protein; they're widely considered a superfood. You can use hemp to make a fashion statement; it gets softer every time you wash it. The Kentucky Hempsters advocate for the economic, environmental, nutritional, and agricultural benefits of industrial hemp because hemp varieties contain virtually zero tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Proteins, fatty acids, and vitamin E are essential for nail health, and hemp has all three in abundance. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid that has become increasingly popular since hemp became federally legalized.

Studies have shown positive effects of hemp and flaxseed oils on serum lipid profile, serum total lipid and lipoprotein concentrations, as well as hemostatic factors.

Alyson Klehn
Alyson Klehn

Friendly coffeeaholic. Total bacon specialist. Passionate troublemaker. Typical zombie lover. Wannabe travel practitioner.

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