From food to fuel, hemp is an incredibly industrious and useful plant.
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The cannabis plant has been getting a lot of attention in recent years. Legalization efforts have led to changing laws in many states, including California, which is one of the most populated states in the country and is expected to have a $6.5 billion market by the year 2020.
However, with all the controversy over cannabis and its use both in medicine and as a recreational substance, many people are missing another important aspect of this plant: hemp.
All About Hemp: The Non-psychoactive and Highly Useful Form of Cannabis
Hemp is a cannabis plant that either does not contain or contains very low levels of psychoactive chemicals. In other words, it can’t be used to get high. Many people don’t realize that not all cannabis plants are the same. Hemp plants do contain small amounts of CBD, which presents exciting potential as a non-psychoactive medicine.
Typically, hemp fiber is extracted from the stems of cannabis plants and used for a variety of purposes. Other parts of the plant, such as the seeds, are also used.
Hemp as a Food
Hemp is already popular in health food circles. Packed with fiber, protein and essential fatty acids, it’s an excellent food to add to your diet.
Hemp seeds are used to make:
- Cooking and salad oils
- Granolas and other cereals
- Fiber and protein supplements
- Animal feed
Hemp as a Fuel
Many people are surprised to learn that hemp is a potential fuel source. Hempseed oil can be processed to make biodiesel, just like many other vegetable oils. Fermented hemp fibers from the stem of the plant can be used to make ethanol and methanol fuel.
Hemp as a Material
Hemp fiber is sturdy, making it an excellent choice for a variety of textiles.
Hemp fibers can be used to make:
- Rope and twine
- Nets and tarps
- Lining, caulking, composites and other industrial materials
- Clothing, handbags, shoes and other apparel items
Hemp pulp has a variety of interesting uses as well. These include:
- Stucco and Mortar
- Various types of paper and cardboard
Hemp in Agriculture
Conventional farming and pesticide use are other controversial subjects, and in the past decade or two, more people have developed an interest in organic farming. Hemp has a lot to bring to the table.
First of all, the plant itself is naturally resistant to pests, which means it requires less pesticides and herbicides. Since it’s a “weed” itself, it tends to thrive in a variety of climates and resist most diseases. All of this combined with a quick growth cycle makes it a sustainable crop. Its deep roots aerate the soil, which makes it a great option for cycling between other crops.
Hemp fuel can be used in other types of farming, and hemp pulp makes great bedding for animals.
Hemp as a Natural Medicine
Aside from being a nutritious plant with fatty acids that benefit the health of the body and mind, hemp also has other medicinal uses. It has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years and is thought of to be a solution for:
- Skin problems
- Stomach problems
- Migraine headaches
- Minor skin burns, abrasions and cuts
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- General inflammation in the body
- Menopause symptoms and other general hormonal symptoms
These are just a few of the areas that hemp may help with, but further study is needed to know all of its benefits. It’s clearly a valuable plant with many wonderful things to offer the human race, and it’s a shame that its association with the psychoactive cannabis plant has caused a stigma that has delayed researchers and manufacturers from developing it as much as they could have by this point.
However, with public opinion about cannabis in general shifting in recent years, we can hopefully move forward and begin learning more about this plant and all it can offer society.