Hemp 101 – What is hemp and how can it be used

The controversy surrounding hemp is peculiar to me.  Several years ago I did some research on the many different uses of hemp.  I found the results to be mind altering, in an academic way. I could not understand why hemp was not being used all over the country.  

At first glance, the biggest resistance towards hemp appears to be due to the close relationship hemp has with marijuana.  Many people tie three key words together, hemp, cannabis, and marijuana, and use them synonymously with each other to all mean the psychotropic drug so many are fearful of.  Let’s differentiate between each of these three confusing terms and decide for ourselves what the facts are.

The three terms, hemp, cannabis, and marijuana have some things in common.  Let’s first look at the basics. The official taxonomy (the science stuff) goes like this:

  • Kingdom Plantae (Plants)
  • Subkingdom Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
  • Superdivision Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
  • Division Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
  • Class Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
  • Subclass Hamamelididae
  • Order Urticales
  • Family Cannabaceae (Hemp family)
  • Genus Cannabis L. (Hemp)
  • Species Cannabis sativa L. (Marijuana)¹

This tells us that cannabis is the plant that both hemp and marijuana come from.  Hemp comes from specific parts of the cannabis plant, as does marijuana. I find the easiest way to understand the difference between hemp and marijuana is to consider the tetrahydrocannabinol levels.  The what levels??? Tetrahydrocannabinol is the long drawn out name for THC, the principal psychoactive portion of the plant. You know, the stuff that makes it the “wacky-tobacky.”

Marijuana is produced from cannabis plants that have more than 0.3 percent THC.  Hemp is what you have when the plant has less than 0.3 percent THC. To put things in perspective, the average marijuana plants are 1 – 5 percent THC.  Another determining factor to consider is the cannabidiol level or the CBD.  The higher the CBD level, the less psychoactive properties exist.  Hemp has low THC levels and high CBD levels while marijuana has the opposite.

Different Uses of Hemp

Now that we have gained a general knowledge and distinction between marijuana and hemp, let’s talk about the different uses of hemp.  Hemp has commercial and industrial uses as well as having many health benefits. As human beings, we have a short and very basic list of things that we need to survive and thrive.  Food, clothing, shelter, fuel, and medicine make up that list. The cannabis plant provides all of those things.

Hemp is the oldest known fiber to have been made into clothing.  As far back as 2800 BC there are recordings of hemp fiber being used in China².  A remnant of hemp cloth was found by archaeologists in ancient Mesopotamia (currently Iran and Iraq) dating back to 8000 BC³.  The first pair of Levi’s jeans was made from hemp, not cotton. Suffice to say, hemp has a long history with man.

Hemp can be used to make paper and canvases.  Many of the great masterpieces we see adorning the walls of such places like The Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City were created on canvases made of hemp.  In fact, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. There is some irony with that one, considering that hemp has been illegal to grow in the United States since 1937.

As a plant, hemp has long roots that are beneficial with cutting down on soil erosion.  The cannabis plant requires less water to grow than cotton and does not require any pesticides.  Nor does it need herbicides, insecticides, or bleaching agents to grow and be produced into usable items.  I would wager to say that this makes companies like Monsanto, who make a living from creating these chemicals, very unhappy.  

One acre of hemp yields approximately 10 tons of biomass material and 2,000 gallons of ethanol.  This can be used for fuel, heat, and shelter. That same acre can yield about 300 gallons of hemp seed oil.  The pressed seeds that are leftover from making the oil can be used to feed livestock.

In addition to these things, hemp can be made into just about any petroleum based product that we see on the market today.  Biodegradable plastics can be made from the biomass and oil from hemp. This would greatly cut down on the over 200 billion pounds of plastic created each year.

The list of industrial uses, commercial uses, and environmental uses goes on.  For information on how Florida Microgreens uses hemp as a growing medium, read more here.  Now, let’s move on to the health benefits.  

Health Benefits of Hemp

The hemp seed is considered by many to be a super food. The hemp seed contains all 21 known amino acids, is high in vitamin E and magnesium, and is a great source of healthy protein.  This tiny seed also contains the omega essential fatty acids 3, 6, and 9. This makes the hemp seed beneficial to a healthy heart and reducing inflammation. Reduced inflammation takes stress off the endocrine system and the nervous system.  It also helps the vascular system and the circulatory system.

Hemp oil is great for diabetics.  The nutrients present in the oil can help regulate blood sugar.  The omega-3s found in hemp oil can thin your blood, reducing blood clots and varicose veins.  Your skin oxygenation and hydration can be improved by the omega-6 fatty acids found in hemp oil.  It increases the skin elasticity and water retention capacity in tissues. This equates to younger, healthier looking skin.  Another great benefit of adding hemp oil to your diet is that it lowers the bad cholesterol by increasing metabolic processes.  An increase in your metabolism also helps with weight loss and maintenance.

These are just a few of the many benefits we receive by adding hemp into our daily lives.  

References:

  1. “Hemp vs. Marijuana vs. Cannabis: What’s the difference?.” CBDweb. http://www.cbdweb.org/medical-cannabis-guide/hemp-vs-marijuana-vs-cannabis.
  2. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Hemp.” Encyclopædia Britannica. January 17, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/plant/hemp.
  3. “The People’s History.” The Thistle. Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000. The Thistle. http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v13/2/history.html. 

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