August 10, 2020 6 min read

By Lydia Kibet

The passage of the Farm Bill 2018, which decriminalized the cultivation of hemp and its distribution across the United States, has led to the popularity of hemp. The versatility of the plant is incredible, apart from being a source of cannabidiol (CBD), hemp can also be found in nearly all of our household items.

Hemp cultivation dates back as far as 2800 BC, whereby the practice spread to the Mediterranean countries in the Christian era and throughout Europe during the middle ages. Hemp has long been used for thousands of years for textiles, fuel, food, building materials, among others.

But, what exactly is hemp? How does it differ from the intoxicating forms of cannabis? Let’s dive in to understand better about hemp and its uses.

What is hemp?

Hemp, also referred to as industrial hemp, is a non-intoxicating plant and a member of the cannabis plant.

Both hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, but the hallmark difference is the chemical constituent, cultivation methods, and usage. Some people dread when they hear the word hemp because they associate it with marijuana. However, hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, unlike marijuana, which is known to give a head-high. So, you won’t get high from consuming hemp.

What is hemp used for?

Hemp is a true wonder plant with an incredible number of uses in the majority of the products we commonly use in our everyday life.

As you read on, you might be surprised to find that the products we depend on and use every day are made from hemp. Here is a list of the most common hemp uses and benefits:

1. Clothing

Hemp has been used in the textile industry for the past decades, which dates back to as long as 8,000 BC.

While it has been used for thousands of years to make clothing and textiles, hemp is today revered for its durability and versatility. Hemp has now broken into realms of high fashion apparel, mixed with silks for more high-end styles.

It has also been used to provide material for shoes, jeans, and sports clothing - where durability is used to best advantage. The fibrous stalks present in hemp, make it suitable for weaving into clothes.

The hemp vs cotton debate has been raging on for years.

When hemp was prohibited, cotton took over, but today nothing beats clothing made of hemp fiber. In fact, making clothing using hemp is cost-effective and lasts longer than cotton. Even better, hemp is environmentally friendly – growing hemp takes far less water compared to growing cotton. Additionally, hemp is a good source of fabric because it is anti-microbial, soft on the skin, and provides UV rays protection.

That said, hemp has remained popular for a long time!

2. Plastics

One major contributor to pollutions in the world is plastics.

With a million tons of plastics dumped in oceans and coastlines each year, it is unfortunate that they take thousands of decades to decompose. Hemp seems to be the future of plastics since it is a viable raw material for plastics production. Such plastics are made by extracting fibers from hemp stems that contain high amounts of cellulose. The cellulose is then used to make biodegradable plastic.

In fact, companies, such asPorsche, have begun to manufacture cars with bodies created with hemp-bioplastic.

This is a clear indicator that we’re moving to a more sustainable future where hemp plastics will play a fundamental role, which is suitable for both the environment and the economy.

3. Paper

For a long time, hemp has been used to make paper, and the first hemp paper was made in China.

Today, trees are used to create paper. However, the only problem is, they take several years to grow and leads to deforestation, which negatively affects the environment, unlike hemp that regenerates in a matter of months and produces a top-shelf paper. Compared to wood pulp, hemp pulp provides 4-5 times more massive fiber, and it is more durable and resistant to tearing.

Paper can be made from either hurd or pulp of the hemp plant. Pulp is preferred because it is simple to make, while hurd is much more durable.

Besides, an acre of hemp can produce the same amount of paper as 4-10 acres of trees in a 20 years cycle. This is because hemp has a faster growth rate and have a higher concentration of cellulose. Generally, hemp paper is much more durable and doesn’t become brittle or yellow over time.

4. Fuel

Yes, biofuel can be made from hemp!

With the limited supply of fossil, scientists are looking for a way to make an environmentally and sustainable fuel, and that could come from hemp. With the widespread cultivation of hemp, it could be a useful resource for biodiesel. As cellulosic ethanol technology continues to become a viable commercial option, biofuel can be made from the fibrous stalks of hemp. 

That said, researchers havediscovered that hemp stalks can be transformed into nanomaterials that aid in the development of inexpensive and more efficient supercapacitors. Supercapacitors are used to provide energy to computers, electric cars, cordless tools, among others.

The possibilities that hemp can provide are endless, and scientists are hoping that supercapacitors manufactured from hemp can boost their capacity in an environmentally-friendly manner.

5. Food, Nutrition, and Medicinal Products

Hemp seeds offer a myriad of nutritional benefits from proteins, milk, to medicinal benefits, and they’re mostly featured in healthy recipes.

Hemp seeds contain plant-based protein and healthy fatty acids. That’s why it is called a ‘complete protein’ because it has all the nine essential amino acids that humans get from food. 

Today, many people are switching from cow’s milk to plant milk. Surprisingly, hemp seeds can produce milk when blended with water, and the mixture strained. People say hemp milk packs a punch when it comes to taste, and it is creamy as well. Plus, it contains healthy fat, protein, and low-calorie content.

We couldn’t forget about cannabidiol (CBD) derived from industrial hemp plants. Hemp is all the rage these days in this booming CBD industry, mainly because of the therapeutic benefits that hemp oil offers.

As a dietary supplement, CBD can be infused in nearly anything you can think of, from beverages, edibles, capsules, and even gummy bears!

6. Pet Food and Bedding

Humans are not the only ones who can benefit from hemp, even pets!

Today, the pet market is pretty big, with several hemp-treats for your furry friends – cats and dogs.

Hemp-based pet treats are beneficial in maintaining a pet’s health. Besides, cows and horses may also benefit from hemp bedding to lay on. You can also find hemp dog toys that are very durable, and you can rest assured they’ll last longer due to the hemp’s sturdy textiles. Hemp bedding can be soft and luxurious for your pet!

7. Automotive Industry

When you think of high-end luxury automobiles, hemp is the last thing that comes to your mind.

Today, hemp composite can be found in interiors of cars made by BMW, Audi, Lotus, Mercedes, Honda, to name a few.

The latest BMW i3 electric car has hemp lined door panels instead of traditional materials to reduce weight. The i3 weighs 800 pounds less compared to its market rivals.

The Kestrel, a Canadian-made vehicle, is created with resin-infused hemp stalks to replace fiberglass in the vehicle’s body. The use of hemp leads to a dramatic reduction in weight, improved efficiency, and an ecologically sustainable automobile. 

8. Building Supplies

Hemp has also found its way in the construction industry.

Hempcrete is beneficial in various construction needs, from roof installation, wall construction to flooring. When hemp fibers called hurd is combined with lime, they form hempcrete – a lightweight, mold-resistant, elastic, carbon-negative material that is ideal for insulation.

Insulation created from hemp is increasingly becoming a popular environmentally friendly option to conventional insulation materials such as mineral wool. Once fully cured, hempcrete blocks float in water.

That said, the portability and durability of hemp seem to be the future of the building and construction industry.

9. Multi-purpose Restoration Oil

Hemp oil can be used to maintain and restore different materials, such as leather, by protecting it from tears and cracks. Moreover, it can restore metals and wood as a top coat over particular types of paints.

Final Thoughts on Hemp Uses

Hemp is a wonder plant that can be used to its entirety.

The number of potential uses of hemp is endless – the seeds, stalks, and leaves – all contribute to the many hemp uses. Hemp is so versatile and can be used in textiles, fuel, nutrition, and the construction industry, among many others.

After years of prohibition, theHemp Farming Act finally legalized industrial hemp at the federal level in the United States. Unfortunately, the plant is illegal in some countries.

We hope to see a shift in the legalization of hemp across the globe because the uses of this plant are incredible.  It will be quite exciting to see where hemp can take us in the future.

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