The first recorded use of hemp dates back to over 10 000 years ago, now it is estimated that there are 25 000 potential applications for the plant. We would be here all day if we mentioned even half, so here are a few to get started.
Firstly, let’s talk about the plant itself. What is the actual difference between hemp and marijuana?
Although they are both members of the species Cannabis sativa, they both contain different amounts of THC which is also the main difference that underpins legality in most countries.
In Europe and Canada, hemp must contain no more than 0.2% THC to be considered legal. It also means that it won’t make you high because the level of THC is so minuscule you would have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone mast to feel the effect! The amount of THC in marijuana is usually around 10 – 15 % but it can go as high as 30 %.
In the United States, cultivation of hemp was prohibited until 2014, nowadays the policy is relatively lax and its cultivation is on the rise again. The low content of THC is balanced by a higher content of a cannabinoid called CBD, which in contrast to THC, doesn’t get you high. Furthermore, according to the National Center for Biotechnology, CBD actually blocks the psychoactive effects of THC.
It is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. It can grow almost anywhere, in several types of soil, in dry regions and in short growing seasons as well. Hemp can grow without pesticides; it purifies soil and is suitable for rotation use due to its short harvest cycle (120 days). It also very yields efficient compared with other plants. The same planted area of hemp, yields twice as much oil than peanuts and four times as much fibre pulp for paper, compared to trees.
The Chinese were probably the first ones using the herb according to archaeologists, who found remains of hemp fibre imprints in ancient Yangshao pottery. It was then spread around the world for thousands of years after.
Did you know that in the 17th century, it was mandatory to grow hemp in colonial America?
T. Jefferson actually wrote the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. During World War II, the Department of Agriculture made an educational movie to promote the plant growth due to the shortage of resources imported from overseas. It was the only material that could cover the demand. During the same period, Henry Ford created a car which was fueled by hemp. Ford constructed 70 % of the car body from industrial hemp!
As we mentioned, there are around 25 000 products of the precious plant. Let’s take a look at the most useful and common.
1. Fuel – depending on the process of production, it can produce 2 types of fuel – methanol/ethanol and bio-diesel. It is the most cost-efficient and environmental-friendly way how to “fuel the world”.
2. Batteries – the cost of making a hemp based batteries is one thousandth of the cost of normal batteries. They also store energy more effectively.
3. Plastic – hemp-based plastic is not only stronger and stiffer than the polypropylene plastic, but it is also safer. It does not pose the same health and safety risks associated with the toxic chemicals in conventional plastic.
4. Mulch – improves the soil around plants, provides thermal insulation and moisture in dryer surface areas
5. Fibreboard – water resistant, stronger and lighter than usual insulation material. It is also environmentally sustainable.
6. Canvas – Canvas made from that plant is one of the strongest and most durable materials on the planet. Merchant sailors were sailing with hemp sails and today people make jeans from hemp canvas.
7. Carpet – traditional carpets are usually loaded with toxic chemicals and catch allergens, debris, and other dirt. Carpets made from hemp actually reduce the indoor pollution and are biodegradable when made with eco-friendly materials.
8. Paper – Until 1883, up to 90 % of all paper was made using hemp fibre. Both the long bast fibre and the short bast fibre of the plant can be used to make paper. 15 billion trees are cut down each year and a large proportion is due to paper production – hemp is an earth-saver!
9. Flour – bakers, listen! The plant’s flour provides the body with essential fatty acids and fibre. It is made from the seeds, so it has all the good stuff. There is no gluten in it, so it is convenient for those of you who are gluten intolerant. When baking with the flour, mix it with other flours (1:4), because hemp flour itself is too dense to be used on its own.
10. Tofu – maybe you love tofu, but have you had enough of soybeans? This kind of tofu is made using the same processing techniques as regular tofu, but soybeans are replaced with hemp seeds. They don’t have the same texture, but this tofu is full of beneficial nutrients.
11. Chocolate – who doesn’t like chocolate? Especially with hemp seeds or hearts, since it’s even better for you! Not only for your soul but for your body too.
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