Hemp is the name given to a variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant, grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products.
Generally grown outdoors by the acre for its seeds, stalk and fibre rather than its bud.
Hemp contains extremely low levels of the psychoactive component THC, therefore not producing the famous cannabis ‘high’ when consumed. It has been used for thousands of years due to its extremely versatile nature as a food, a medicine and an industrial fibre for clothing, textiles, ropes and more.
History of Hemp
Cannabis is regarded as one of the oldest cultivated plants dating as far back as 10,000 years ago.
The first clear signs of hemp appeared in Asia around 8000 BC. With signs of early hemp found throughout Asia, it spread through India and the middle east. It was first used for decoration, clothing, footwear, paper, ropes and food and was thought by early tribes to be a gift from god, featuring in numerous rituals.
Around 1500 years ago hemp was first used as a bio-plastic which is now used for manufacturing car parts, furniture and other eco-friendly products.
Early books were printed on hemp paper, the first Ford cars used hemp interior and refined hemp seed oil was used a fuel source for the auto industry.
It was only until the 1950s when the war on cannabis really took off that commercial hemp production started to take a big hit. With cannabis being listed as a schedule 1 drug it wasn’t worth the hassle dealing with tough regulation trying to grow hemp.
In the 1990s hemp started to make a come back with the growing demand for hemp products. The early 2000s saw legal reform and the separation between cannabis and hemp, making it easier for farmers to produce hemp.
As recent as 2017, it was a government requirement in New Zealand to label hemp products as animal feed only. We’ve come a long way!
Medicine and Health
The cannabis plant has a rich nutrient profile and has been used to treat an extremely wide variety of ailments including fever, pain, inflammation and enhancing cardiovascular and digestive health. First records of hemp being used as a medicine date back to ancient China around 5000 years ago, primarily for easing pain and enhancing wound healing. This then developed into using the hemp plant as a food source for people and livestock.
According to a review published in Nutrition and Metabolism, hemp has incredible nutritional value, including high levels of:
- Essential Fatty Acids
- Amino Acids
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
- Vitamin E
Hemp can be refined in ways to support a variety of commercial and industrial products due to its incredible strength and resistance to mold, UV light and salt. This started off making hemp the primary fibre in ropes and sails for boats before being turned into paper too. The hemp fibre is used in textiles, yards, fabrics, carpets, paper, construction, auto parts, bedding, insulation and more.
Features of Hemp
resistance to mold
resistance to salt
resistance to UV light
In clothing, hemp is becoming a popular combination fiber with cotton as it can be grown to produce up to 250% more fiber on the same area than cotton, will soften with each wash, and is hypoallergenic and breathable. Growing hemp is also environmentally friendly, easy to grow organically with no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers.
The seeds from the hemp plant are extremely nutritious and are growing in popularity in consumer-based products such as food and beverages, protein powders, shampoos, soaps, lotions, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and nutritional supplements.
The oil from the hemp seed contains fatty acids essential to human health in perfect ratios of omega 3 to omega 6. Hemp seed oil is made by cold pressing hemp seeds and collecting the oil out of the seeds. The heart of the hemp seed is high in protein, vitamins and a handful of essential minerals.