Humans have been using different plants for a multitude of everyday items and products from things like paper, building materials and food amongst other things. One that’s been underutilised until recently is industrial hemp. Hemp is incredibly versatile and can be used in place of a number of other natural substances, in some cases it’s even more efficient than other plant alternatives. Having been cultivated throughout the world for thousands of years now, we’ve adapted to get a lot out of this hardy shrub. A hemp crop only takes around four months to reach maturity, meaning it’s a fast turnaround that can be harvested multiple times a year.
While it’s not currently legal to grow hemp in the UK, it’s becoming increasingly common to grow and farm in the EU. Add to that, last year the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was passed in the United States, legalising the cultivation of industrial hemp. With more hemp agriculture sprouting up all over the world, the potential for hemp is huge.
Hemp can be used to clean the soil
Did you know? Growing hemp can help clean the environment through bioremediation. 🌿— HempWorx 🌱 (@HempWorxHQ) 17 juillet 2019
Hemp can clean the atmosphere, protect the environment and even reverse damage done to it. 😎 pic.twitter.com/6u41qPCTcF
In a process that’s technically referred to as bioremediation, hemp can actually remove toxins and pollution from soil. Hemp can grow just about anywhere, no matter how poor the soil quality is and over time can actually improve the quality of the soil it’s grown in. From heavy metals, contaminated water and pesticides to solvents and gasoline, hemp can absorb chemicals in the soil that would kill other plants and store them in its roots.
Over time, hemp can gradually filter the soil and make it suitable for growing other crops in again. While these plants wouldn’t be suitable for processing into food, they can be used in other ways like biofuels, building insulation and bioplastics.
The world has been turning its attention to how we power our homes, cars and lifestyles for a while now. There’s an increased focus on things like solar, electric and hydro power. Another option that’s still in the early stages of being explored is biofuels. Hemp can be used as a biofuel in a few ways. It can be turned into bioethanol, biodiesel and biomass. Each of these can be utilised in slightly different ways.
Bioethanol can be used to power cars. While you need more bioethanol than you would conventional petrol to achieve the same amount of power, the bio equivalent has a lower environmental impact⁽¹⁾. It can also be grown locally and is renewable whereas fossil fuels are not. Biodiesel is similar in that it releases less carbon than conventional diesel but diesel engines are more capable of utilising bio options. Up to 20% of fuel can come from renewable sources in diesel engines compared to 10% in petrol engines⁽¹⁾.
Everyday items: fabric, textiles and bioplastics
Hemp can also be made into textiles like fabric for clothing in a similar way to cotton. The key difference between the two is that hemp is more hard wearing than cotton, making your garments last longer but also requires less pesticides and water than cotton. As mentioned before, hemp also helps clean the soil. So while cotton results in more processing, pesticides and fertilisers, hemp uses less while also helping the soil it’s grown in. Hemp also requires less water than cotton. In today’s climate where fresh water supplies are more precious than ever, hemp is a wonderful option for clothing.
Hemp can also be used for things rope, insulation and paper. It’s also becoming increasingly common in the production of bioplastics. Bioplastics serve the same purpose as regular petroleum based plastics with one major difference - bioplastics are created from plants and can break down naturally and more quickly. If you’ve ever picked up a coffee and seen the lid is bioplastic, it can be recycled in the same way as regular plastic but will also biodegrade if you put it in your compost bin - all without contaminating the soil.
Houses of hemp - “hempcrete” and hemp’s use in construction
Like biofuels, hemp in construction is still in its infancy, but has the potential to change the way we build and insulate homes. A new material called Hempcrete holds major promise for the future of construction. It’s a mix of hemp and lime stone and when mixed together creates a concrete like substance.
Hempcrete is non-load bearing, meaning it would need a wooden structure to be used in home building. However, it’s only 15% the density of regular concrete and is light enough it could actually float on water. Due to its light density, it’s breathable and can help regulate the humidity and temperature between the inside and outside of a building⁽²⁾. It’s also mold and fire resistant and is more sustainable than concrete.
A food source: hemp protein powder, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil
Hemp can also be incorporated into your diet in a number of different ways. The seeds alone are incredibly versatile and can be eaten as they are or be pressed for oil, used to create hemp protein powder, dairy free cheese and hemp milk. Hemp seeds are rich in essential fatty acids as well as essential nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus and potassium⁽³⁾.
As far as a protein source goes, hemp contains all ten essential amino acids making it a great option for vegans and meat-eaters alike⁽³⁾. Hemp protein powder can be used in baking, smoothies and protein balls and has a similar consistency to wholemeal flour. Hemp seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids which are key for brain function and heart health. The oil can be used both in your daily cooking as well as applied to the skin topically.
CBD is a cannabinoid that is found in high concentrations in the hemp plant. It’s typically derived from organically grown hemp utilising the supercritical CO2 extraction method. Not only does this maintain the integrity of the CBD, it also extracts the maximum amount possible from the plant itself. CBD can be incorporated into your daily lifestyle a number of ways. It’s available in tinctures, capsules, vaping e-liquids and topical treatments. When your body absorbs CBD, it may help support your endocannabinoid system. This system is important in normalising things like inflammation, mood, stress, sleep patterns and pain regulation⁽⁴⁾. It’s becoming increasingly commonly used by a wide variety of people, from athletes using it for sports recovery to people with busy lifestyles taking it to manage stress.
- Hemp for Fuel - ukhemp.co.uk
- Not Just a Pipe Dream: Hemp as a Building Material - engineering.com
- What are the health benefits of hemp? - medicalnewstoday.com
- An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
The World of Hemp website contains general information about diet, health, wellbeing and nutrition. This is general information and should be considered as is and not as specific medical advice to treat specific conditions. World of Hemp makes no representations or warranties in relation to the health information on this website and as such you should not rely on this information as an alternative to advice given by a doctor or specialist medical practitioner. Read disclaimer in full.