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The Versatile Hemp Plant

Updated on August 29, 2012

The Hemp Plant

Not to be confused with it's psychoactive cousin Cannabis Sativa Indica, the hemp plant when grown industrially has almost limitless uses and applications.

Hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants. It is environmentally friendly, requires few if any pesticides, and is one of the fastest growing biomasses known. In modern times it has been used for everything from fuel, construction materials, and biodegradable plastics to clothing, food, and jewelry making it one of the most multifaceted plants around.

Hemp Fiber

The most valuable part of the Hemp Plant is the fiber which is known as the bast. Hemp is strong and fast growing and produces 10% more fiber than cotton or flax. Although the popularity of using hemp fiber decreased after the industrial revolution, many manufacturers are re-examining hemp because of it's renew-ability and strength. Historic uses of the hemp fiber include

  • Paper
  • Sail Canvas
  • Netting
  • Sacks
  • Carpet
  • Rope
  • Plumbing Seals.


Hempcrete

Hempcrete is a building material made of hemp and lime. Although not strong enough to be used structurally, it is not brittle like concrete and is perfect as an insulator and moisture regulator.

The first house built using hempcrete as well as other hemp product was completed in France in 2009. Asheville, NC boasts the first US home that was completed using hemp in 2010.

Hemp Fashion

Hemp has long been used to make clothing and jewelry. Hemp fabric has a feel and texture similar to linen and can be used to make shirts, dresses, pants, bed linens, undergarments, and almost anything else imaginable. Since hemp is a natural fiber it breathes better and feel cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It is also stronger than other natural fiber fabric and can last up to four times longer than cotton.

Hemp jewelry has grown in popularity in recent years. Made from the hemp twine using macrame techniques, hemp jewelry comes in many varieties like bracelets, necklaces, watch bands, anklets, and even rings. The hemp twine comes in various thicknesses and colors and is often adorned with colorful beads made from wood, stone, glass, or bone.

Eating Hemp

When it comes to consumable Hemp there are choices and options for everyone. Hemp is a great source of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), Omega-6, Omega-3, protein, and has a nearly complete Amino Acid profile. The amount of protein in Hemp (33%) is second only to Soy (35%) but Hemp doesn't contain the enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals that Soy does. Hemp may be than Soy to digest as is doesn't contain the ogliosaccharides that Soy does. Ogliosaccharides are complex sugars that are difficult for some people to digest and will cause excess gas.

Hemp Seeds

The seed of the Hemp Plant can be ingested many ways. They can be eaten raw, ground into meal, made into a tea, ground into a flower to be used in baking, pressed into Hemp Oil, made into a non-dairy milk, made into butter, ground into Hemp Protein Powder, and for non-dairy ice cream. Hemp milk, butter, and oil has a pleasant nutty flavor and even people with dairy, soy, and nut allergies should be able to safely consume hemp.

Hemp flour and Hemp Protein Powder can be used in baking and cooking to make hemp bread, waffles, protein muffins, cupcakes, smoothies, and granola.

Growing Hemp In The US

The growth of hemp for industrial uses in the United States has had it's share of problems. Hemp is considered a controlled substance even though the variety of the cannabis plant that produces hemp is vastly different from the plant that produces marijuana. Hemp typically has less than .03% of the psychoactive drug Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) whereas marijuana contains from 2% to as much as 20%. Some states have made the growth of industrial hemp legal but still must obtain special permission from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. DEA requirements to grow hemp usually make the cultivation cost prohibitive therefore making this Eco-friendly plant less attractive to farmers despite it's myriad of uses.

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