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Written by Blair Berson   
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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Hemp Uses

What is Hemp? Hemp is a plant of the Cannibus genus that can be grown in a large range of soil types, however it grows best in nitrogen-rich and non-acidic soil. Most importantly, hemp is one of the strongest fibers in the world! Luckily, it also grows quickly with very low pesticide usage, making it one of the more sustainable materials available Hemp fiber is also very durable and absorbent.1

Hemp seed oil is very high in essential fatty acids and very low in saturated fats. The fiber, which is also called bast, is the exterior part of the plant that is used for a multitude of purposes including clothing fabric, nutritional products such as hemp milk, tofu, grains, and seeds, as well as industrial products. For example, hemp in combination with lime, create a concrete-like quality used as insulating material for construction.2 Being an eco-friendly material, hemp can be used in place of products that prove to be more detrimental to our environment.3

Where is Hemp Grown? Interestingly enough, it is illegal to grow hemp in the United States of America because it is prohibited under the marijuana prohibition act.4 Hemp is produced in and exported from China, Russia, Germany, England, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Australia, and more recently in Canada, and hemp-based products can be imported into the United States.

What is Hemp Used to Make? There are three main components to industrial hemp including the seeds, fiber, and hurds.

Hemp seeds are an environmentally friendly substitute for a wide range of products including food, cosmetics, soaps and paints. Oil from the hemp seed contains a high amount of polyunsaturated fats which contain the very healthy fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. In addition, the hemp seed contains a special fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid which has been shown to help with ailments such as arthritis.5 The hemp seed oil can be used as an environmentally friendly chemical agent in the production of biodiesel , soaps, paints and varnishes.6

Hemp fiber, as previously mentioned is extremely strong and absorbent, therefore it is a great eco-friendly substitute textile material used in place of cotton, rope, canvas, and other more toxic fibers and building materials such as fiberglass and recycled plastic .7

Hemp hurds are the stalky core of the hemp plant that can be used in place of paper, chemicals, plastics, and a variety of fuels. In essence, the entirety of the hemp plant can be used in order to produce more environmentally sound products.

Currently, there are many companies involved in the use of hemp to make t-shirts, hoodies, hats, gloves and even underwear. It is important to be able to have hemp as an alternative to cotton seeing as an enormous amount of chemicals and pesticides are needed to grow cotton. Even organic cotton has its drawbacks. Hemp, on the other hand, as previously mentioned, can be grown in a wide range of climates and requires much smaller amounts of fertilizer and pesticides than most other crops.8

Hemp Benefits: Hemp can help to reduce the high rate of deforestation in the world because it can be used in place of wood fiber. Large amounts of hemp can be grown in a small area—one acre of land can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber, which is around four times the amount a forest yields.9 In addition, hemp grows incredibly quickly. It takes about four months to grow hemp while it takes many years for trees to grow.10 Worldwide, we cut down about four billion trees per year for paper products, which can be anything from tissue paper to electrical plugs. In the United States alone we use around 187 billion pounds of paper per year.11 Imagine how many trees we would save, not to mention the wildlife living in the forests we demolish, if we implemented the use of hemp fiber in more of our paper products!

The continued utilization of hemp as an environmentally friendly product could result in the additional uses for hemp such as in road, highway, and bridge building materials, and even in cars! Cars made out of the industrial hemp material could prove to be much stronger than steel and even weigh a significant amount less.12 Even more significant is the fact that if cars were made out of industrial hemp, the material could be recycled and the breakdown of the old cars made from hemp would yield a much lower carbon footprint than current automobiles made out of steel headed to the junk yard.

The hemp plant has the potential to become the product of the future. It is easy to grow, can thrive in a variety of soils, and requires very low amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. All parts of the plant can be used and it can be grown within the very short period of only four months. It is durable and can be used for a multitude of purposes including food, clothing, paper, fuel, and building materials. Perhaps one day we will even be able to make cars out of this eco-friendly product. There are many groups focused on getting hemp production legalized in the US, and if you are interested in this effort check outthis online petition and be a part of the movement to get hemp made in the USA!

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 27 October 2011 )