When someone asks “what is hemp” most people think of marijuana and drugs, but that could not be farther from the truth. This is one reason we feel that industrial hemp is the most misunderstood plant in the world. As explained below, the real answer to the question, “what is hemp?” should be “a sustainable, natural solution to many of the needs of humanity.” With the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018, farmers are starting to grow hemp in many states. The question is bigger than what is hemp; it is now what can Hemp do for you and me and what can we do for it? Now hemp oils, CBD, hemp plastics, hemp building materials and many hemp fiber products can be seen and purchased on the market as explained below.
Hemp is the low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Under federal law, industrial hemp contains very small amounts of THC—indeed the plant must contain less than .3% THC by dry weight. Simply put, there is no “getting high” when it comes to ingesting or smoking industrial hemp. Hemp and marijuana are often confused, learn more about the difference on our hemp vs. marijuana page.
The industrial hemp plant generally grows very tall with thick stalks. These long stalks produce extremely long fibers which are useful for many applications. However, advances in genetics have produced industrial hemp plants in a variety of sizes to accommodate different purposes, such as CBD production.
The re-growth of industrial hemp in the United States is heavily regulated, although the neighboring nation of Canada successfully grows hemp commercially and on a fairly large scale. Since becoming legal to grow again in Canada, the crop has taken off and has become a booming multi-million dollar export. This same type of growth should occur in the United States if the public comes to understand the benefits of this ancient plant. So what exactly are the uses of industrial hemp?
The entire hemp plant is useful. In fact, the uses and products number in the thousands. It is sometimes easiest to simply state the wide variety of uses such as medicines, foods, paper products, molded plastics, textiles, body care products, construction, animal feed, animal bedding, nutritional supplements, and essential oils. However, we believe that viewing from a “plant-first” perspective is optimal as the “inputs” and “outputs” can be clearly distinguished. Consequently, we identify the primary parts of the plant and various uses/applications associated with each part.
The hemp seed is uniquely healthy and useful. From a food standpoint, the hemp seed is calorically dense and derives 25% of its total calories from protein. Approximately 30% of the seed’s calories derive from fat. In fact, the hemp seed contains omega-3 fatty acids and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) along with magnesium (which can aid sleep and heart health) and the amino acid arginine. The variety of products derived from hemp seed and hemp seed oil is astonishing. These include:
- Cooking oils
- Bird seed and animal feed
- Paints and ink
- Protein powders
- Soap and Shampoo
Visit the Hemp University to learn more!
Using Industrial Hemp seeds in my food has greatly improved my health. I use them in just about everything I cook.
The Hemp Stalk
Use of industrial hemp stalks is ancient. The tall, thick industrial hemp stalks produce extremely long soft fibers able to be grown on an annual basis. Traditionally, hemp fiber was (and is) a very coarse fiber when raw, which made it well suited to rope but less than ideal for clothing designed to be worn against delicate human skin. Advances in breeding of the plants and treatment/processing of the fibers resulted in a much finer, softer hemp fiber—ideal for weaving into hemp clothing, fabrics and rope. For a fun aside, watch the video on Hemp for victory to learn more about the importance of hemp during war times.
The hemp stalk provides numerous highly valuable products including:
- Agro-fiber composite
- Brake linings
- Fine fabrics
- Filter paper
The leaves of the industrial hemp plant commonly remind people of industrial hemp’s cousin, marijuana. Unfortunately, this distracts people from the benefits of this leafy wonder. In addition to various, highly valuable industrial uses identified below, the leaves can be eaten raw to great benefit. The leaves contain fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. The leaves also contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols which help fight again disease and improve aging skin. The hemp leaves contain CBDa, THCa, terpenes, and chlorophyll. Aside from their raw use as a food product, hemp leaves also can be processed into the following products listed below. (Note, some of the products stated below derive from hurds (pulp) which uses both stalk and leaves).
- Animal bedding
- Compost & mulch
The Hemp Flower
The coveted industrial hemp flower is truly a fountain of health benefits that science is only beginning to fully understand. It is a powerful source of CBDs – a collection of cannabinoid compounds that warrant their own in-depth discussion. Needless to say, Hemp-derived CBD is very useful for health and the business of producing and selling CBD is thriving. However, to briefly summarize, products deriving from hemp flowers include: