An introduction to hemp
Hemp, part of the Cannabaceae family, is a plant similar to cannabis.
It is sometimes known as ‘industrial hemp’, and generally contains only trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound that gets you high).
It’s a magical plant, and has so many applications and benefits which have been enjoyed by humanity up until its decline in the twentieth century.
We’re facing environmental collapse, economic and spiritual uncertainty, and rising levels of illness and pandemics in the world. This calls for a new way. A new way that looks to a symbiotic relationship with nature.
We can draw on the powers of hemp to change how we live.
Our spotlight series on hemp aims to give you an overview and some interesting facts about the plant.
Characteristics of Hemp
Britannica encyclopedia describes the hemp plant as being a ‘stout, aromatic, erect herb’. The herb does produce flowers, but they are small and green/yellow. The flowers that produce pollen are male, and those which produce seeds, are female.
History of hemp
Hemp has been used for thousands of years for a range of purposes.
It dates back to ancient civilizations in Asia, where it was used for fibre, food, and medicine. Over the centuries, hemp has been cultivated and utilized in all over the world.
Hemp was a major crop in colonial America, where it was grown for fiber and oil. There is even a popular myth that the American constitution was written on hemp paper, but this is debated.
The production and widespread use of hemp declined in the 20th century due to the rise of synthetic fibers and the strict prohibition of cannabis that followed in this period.
- Building. Hemp is being used as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional building materials. In Europe, some builders are using hempcrete, a mixture of hemp fiber and lime, to construct energy-efficient homes. It’s durable, lightweight, and is an excellent insulator.
- Clothing. Cotton is really damaging and chemical intensive. Hemp is being used an alternative for clothes, as it’s durable, breathable, and naturally resistant to bacteria and odors. Companies like Patagonia and Levi’s are using hemp in their clothing lines, reducing their impact on the environment and promoting sustainable fashion.
- Plastic Alternatives. Hemp can be used to produce biodegradable plastics. Companies like Hemp Plastic Solutions are leading the way in this field, offering alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics.
Environment and Farming
One of the most significant benefits of hemp is its potential to be an environmentally-friendly crop. It’s fast-growing, and requires very little water, pesticides, or herbicides.
Amazingly, hemp absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so it can help us to save the world from climate change.
Farmers used it as a rotation crop too, where they improve soil health for other plants to be grown in future seasons. The deep roots of the hemp plant help to break up compacted soil, increasing the availability of nutrients for other crops. The better soil subsequently reduces the need for pesticides and herbicides.
Additionally, hemp can be grown in areas with low rainfall, making it a suitable option for areas of the world that struggle to get enough water to crops.
Hemp-based CBD oil has seen a huge boom in the last five to ten years. They can treat various conditions, such as anxiety, pain, and insomnia, and are seen more and more as viable natural alternative to prescription medications.
In their book ‘The Medical Cannabis Guidebook’, Ditchfield and Thomas discuss the uses of hemp in food and nutrition.
They state that the seeds from hemp can be used as part of a health diet, and have been ‘found to leave individuals feeling more energetic, fuller, and far less likely to crave..sugary snacks.’
Because of its hardiness, the plant can also be beneficial in helping areas of the world suffering from food shortages. It’s light and easy to prepare, and so can be easily transported compared to many other foods.
So Can Hemp Save the World?
There are some drawbacks to hemp farming.
One of the main challenges is finding the right strains of hemp that are suitable for different climates and soil conditions.
Additionally, there is still a significant amount of stigma surrounding hemp and marijuana, which can make it difficult to secure funding or investment.
Despite these challenges, hemp farming is on the rise, with farmers in many countries experimenting with new techniques and varieties of the plant.