What is HEMP?
Hemp, (Cannabis sativa), also called industrial hemp, plant of the family Cannabaceae mainly cultivated for its fibre (bast fibre), its edible seeds or extracts. Hemp is sometimes confused with the cannabis plants that serve as sources of the drug marijuana and the drug preparation hashish. Although all three products—hemp, marijuana, and hashish—contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans, the variety of cannabis cultivated for hemp has only small amounts of THC (< 0.3%) relative to that grown for the production of marijuana or hashish.
The 2018 US Farm Bill officially defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
Hemp is indeed a God Plant. Not only is it one of the most sustainable, versatile ,planet-friendly plants around – it’s also one of the most nutritious and one of the best medicinal plants on our planet. Hemp which is believed to have originated from the Himalayas is one of the earliest domesticated plants known to man and has been grown for hundreds, and even thousands of years in many countries of the world.
HEMP - Infinite Possibilities
As mentioned above Hemp can be grown for extract-rich flowers, fibre (the “stalk” of the crop), seed, or as dual- purpose crop. The interior of the stalk has short woody fibres called hurds where as the outer portion has long fibers called bast fibres.
Using the above plant components, there are an estimated 25,000 products that can be derived from industrial hemp.
Hemp Fibre Products
There are three different fibre cells in hemp stems: primary phloem, secondary phloem and xylem. The primary phloem includes the outer cells that provide long fibers. The inner cells generated by the cambium provide secondary phloem short fibers, and inside the cambium is the wood (hurds), which provides short fibers. The longer the fibers, the more valuable they are. Thus Primary bast fibers are the most commercially valuable of the hemp fibers, followed by the secondary bast fibers and then the wood core fibers.
With consumer preferences worldwide increasingly favoring natural products and production systems that are environmentally friendly, the market for textiles, fabrics and clothing that include fiber hemp has increased significantly.
Luxury designers have embraced hemp as a fabric. Giorgio Armani started a consortium to cultivate hemp in Italy. Other designer brands using hemp fabric include Versace, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein.
Alternative to Petroleum Products:
Bio-Plastic can be produced from either the fiber or oil of hemp. Because of the higher cost of producing hemp oil, the cellulose fibers are generally used. At this time, creating hemp-based plastic is both energy-intensive and expensive. There are advantages, however. Hemp plastic is durable – it is between 2.5 – 3.5 times stronger than petroleum based plastic. It is also 5 times stiffer, heat resistant, non-toxic and pesticide free. This makes it perfect for culinary use. It is also recyclable and biodegradable within 6 months.
Numerous auto and airplane manufacturers, including BMW, Volvo, Mercedes, Audi, Lotus, and Porsche, have used hemp-based plastics for their interiors for over a decade.
Due to its high biomass production, hemp shows promise as a bioenergy crop. Hemp can produce two types of biofuel. Bio-diesel is made from the oil of pressed seeds. Ethanol and methanol are made from fermented stalks. Mercedes Benz tested hemp bio-diesel on their cars and found that the mileage was comparable to fossil diesel fuel. Hemp biofuel could eventually become a viable sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
When mixed with limestone and water, a hemp composite material forms a type of concrete (Hempcrete) that can be used in building. Though it can’t be used as a load-bearing material by itself, it is significantly lighter than similar materials (1/9th the weight), and works very well as an insulation material that is airtight, yet breathable, flexible, and repels some vermin.
Hemp blocks can be formed into a building material similar to concrete blocks. They have a high thermal mass capacity that stores energy and releases it gradually. The blocks are resistant to insects, fungi, mold, mildew, fire, rodents, and termites.
Other products such as fiberboards and fiber-reinforced cement boards can also be made using Hemp.
Hemp is a very efficient source of paper pulp. A single acre of hemp produces 4 times the amount of pulp that trees will over a 20-year growing cycle. Hemp also requires only approximately 4 months of growth before it is harvestable. Paper and pulp products such as hygiene products, banknotes, filters, art papers, tea bags etc can be made using hemp.
Hemp Fibre is also used in horticultural planting materials; biodegradable mulch; pressed and molded fiber products, including those used in the automobile industry; insulation materials; animal bedding (made from the woody core of the plant called hurds);
Hemp seed or grain products
Hemp seed contains 20%–30% edible (fixed) oil; 25%–30% protein, which includes eight of the daily essential amino acids recommended for humans; 20%– 25% fiber; 20%–30% carbohydrates; and many essential nutrients and vitamins.
Humans have used hemp seed as food since ancient times. Grain or oilseed hemp products include hemp seed, seed flour, seed protein, seed powder, seed oil, and hemp meal. Nowadays, hemp grain is used in human health food because of the desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in hemp oil.
Hemp seed oil is used in many cosmetics and as a substitute for other industrial oils. Hemp seed oil has a pleasant flavor and is used like olive oil as table oil and in salad dressing. Hemp seed oil should not be used for frying or baking; when heated at temperatures above 320°F (160°C), flavor declines, and it may produce toxic byproducts. Also, hemp seed and hemp seed oil do not have a long shelf life.
Hemp seed should be stored in dark containers and refrigerated to extend the shelf life and preserve the quality.
There are three different oils that can be extracted from industrial hemp: cannabidiol (CBD) oil, essential oil, and seed fixed (fatty) oil.
CBD or cannabidiol is an extract of the flowers and buds of hemp. It does not have a psychoactive effect (produce a high), but many people use it to treat symptoms of arthritis, inflammation, chronic pain, or even epilepsy and multiple sclerosis & for reduction of pain, anxiety, and nausea. It is also being used extensively in topical pain-killing creams. As of now CBD oil is being added to wide variety of products such as lotions, teas, tinctures, vape products, sparkling water etc.
Unlike the other major cannabinoid compound — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — CBD is classed as nonintoxicating and without “abuse liability,” which means it is not addictive.
Cannabidiol is known for a wide range of pharmacological activities, although there is still a need for research to clarify the exact mechanism of CBD action and its safety profile. A pharmaceutical-grade CBD extract was approved in 2018 by the FDA as a new medicine for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy in children.
Now when it comes to cannabinoids, you’ve probably heard all about it’s two most popular cannabinoids, THC and CBD. But these aren’t the only cannabinoids produced by the plant. You’ll also find minor cannabinoids, like CBN & CBG among others which have also shown great therapeutic and medicinal properties and are being studied and tested extensively.