The use and cultivation of hemp span at least 10,000 years of human history and is an extremely versatile plant. Cannabis cultivation consists of three strains: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. THC is the psychoactive component of the plant, which gets the user “high.” Hemp has a THC count of .03% or less and will not get anyone “high.” Cultivated for its fiber, seeds, hurds, and medicinal properties, it proves its value for human use in the 25,000 plus products in nine sub-categories: agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food and beverages, paper, construction materials, and personal care.
Hemp is a “green technology.” It processes more carbon dioxide than it generates during its growing cycle, making it a carbon dioxide negative plant. It converts more carbon dioxide from the environment into oxygen. When used as a building material, it continues to extract carbon dioxide from the air. Hempcrete consists of mixing hemp hurds, water, and lime. This mixture shapes into bricks, sheetrock, or compressed into wall forms built around a wood or steel frame.
Hempcrete performs as a thermal insulator that regulates the temperature of the building. It is very light, mixes on-site, and is resistant to insects and mold. Hempcrete is an acoustic insulator that reduces ambient noise and is flexible enough to be used in earthquake-prone zones. Hempcrete is also fire resistant up to 815 Celsius and requires less energy to produce. Finally, it is 100% natural and leaves a positive carbon footprint in the world.
Growing hemp is an environmentally positive crop. Cultivation produces no waste. As previously stated, hemp is carbon dioxide negative and is more effective at producing oxygen than trees. The soil regenerates by leaf matter from the plant mixing in the soil and leaving the remaining root balls behind. Hemp does not require pesticides and uses very little fertilizer, releasing less harsh chemicals into the environment.
Hemp matures quickly, so there can be several harvests in a single growing season. The intricate root structure prevents soil erosion and requires less water than soybeans or cotton. It is an environmental answer to deforestation and absorbs toxins from the soil. Hemp leeches the contaminants strontium and cesium from the soil of the Chernobyl nuclear site.
Hemp will replace trees as a paper source. One acre of hemp equals four acres of tree pulp production. It takes twenty years to grow an acre of trees while it takes twenty weeks to grow an acre of hemp. Twenty million acres of hemp would end deforestation. Before 1883, 75%-90% of the world’s paper consisted of hemp fiber.
Hemp fibers are bast fibers. These bast fibers are the most durable and strongest natural fibers in the world. The fibers have high tensile strength, wet strength, and other characteristics favorable for various industrial products. Bast fibers are low in lignin, which means they are bleached without using chlorine. Bast fibers are also used in biodegradable geotextiles.
These fibers are used in textile production, and the product has great longevity. Hemp fibers are naturally antimicrobial and UV resistant. One acre of hemp requires 75% less water that one acre of cotton and no pesticides. Hemp fabric also softens with each washing. Therefore, it becomes more comfortable as it is worn.
The fatty acid composition determines the quality of an oil. Hemp has high nutritional quality because it contains high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids. These acids are oleic, linoleic, alpha-linolenic, and gamma-linolenic. Two fatty acids that must be ingested and are considered essential to human health are linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid. Hemp seeds contain both.
Hemp seeds are also a great source of protein. Nearly 25% of their total calories are from high-quality and complete proteins. This means the seeds provide all the necessary essential amino acids required by the human body. Hemp seeds are also a viable source for vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc.
Hemp seed may reduce the risk of heart disease. The seeds contain a high amount of arginine, which produces nitric oxide. These gas molecules make blood vessels dilate and relax leading to lower blood pressure. Hemp seeds also have a ratio of 3:1 omega-6 to omega-3. This ratio is an optimal balance for human health and may benefit skin diseases such as eczema. The high content of gamma-linolenic acid may help symptoms associated with PMS and menopause. The seeds also contain a lot of fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health and may reduce inflammation. Another review in 2018 suggests the seeds may have neuroprotective and immune system effects.
Another attribute of industrial hemp is the production of Cannabidiol or CBD. CBDs have shown great promise in medical treatments. When cannabis plants are high in CBDs, they are low in THC. So, hemp grown for CBDs is naturally low in THC. Remember, THC is the component that gives the user a euphoric feeling. Although the benefits of CBD oils are still in research, promising results have presented themselves in the treatments of anxiety, diabetes, epilepsy, pain, inflammation, PTSD, IBS, opioid withdrawal, taste depression, chronic pain, and sleep. CBDs are also being used in the field of preventative health. Lab test findings suggest hemp seed extracts have anti-oxidant effects which could be from the CBD content.
This plant has been criminalized by society for far too long. In the United States, the legality of this plant is rooted in both racism and corporate greed. DuPont Chemical squashed the hemp industry because it was in direct competition with its new product nylon.
Americans feared Mexican immigration. The Mexican people grew hemp and smoked marijuana. To curb immigration, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 became law. There was also a fear the intoxicating effects of the plant would cause insanity. Which it doesn’t. Harry Anslinger, head of the US Treasury Bureau of Narcotics, believed the plant was safe. It was not likely to cause someone to be violent. However, he needed something to replace the end of alcohol prohibition. He went against the recommendations from 29 out of 30 pharmacists to keep Cannabis legal. He began the eighty-year crusade against a harmless plant.