Hemp, popularly known as industrial hemp, is a plant species in the Cannabecae family (Cannabis Sativa L.) that is specifically grown for numerous industrial uses of the products derived from it. Hemp has its origins in central Asia, and it has been cultivated for its highly industrial bast fibre (a soft fibre that is obtained from the stems of dicotyledonous plants used for fabric and cordage) since 2800BC. It has a rich history in industrial, food, and health-related uses and today, the hemp plant is usually cultivated for its fibre and its exceptionally nutritious and edible seeds.
The hemp plant thrives in temperate zones which have loose, well-aerated loam soil because sandy loam soil has good drainage. Hemp seed germination is better at temperatures between 6‐10 °C (43‐50 °F) than at 1°C and the soil needs to be very fertile, with sufficient organic matter and a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. Hemp is cultivated from seed, and it can grow up to 20ft. tall. On average, hemp responds very well to soil moisture availability, and it requires monthly rainfall of at least 65mm. Hemp leaves are compound with a palmate shape, and they have small, greenish-yellow flowers. For the harvest, hemp plants are normally pulled by hand or cut off at about 2.5cm (1inch) above the ground.
Although Hemp is usually confused with plants from the Cannabaceae family that are popular for their psychoactive properties (such as marijuana), hemp and marijuana have distinct differences in cultivation, function, and application.
Uses of the Hemp Plant
Hemp fibre is used in many ways, in the same ways that we use polypropylene or glass fibre. Just like most natural fibres, hemp fibre has numerous benefits for the environment in terms of energy-saving, amongst other factors such as:
- It is cost-effective.
- It is incredibly durable due to its high strength and stiffness.
- It is excellent for needle-punched products that are not woven.
- It is a great replacement for glass fibre.
- It reduces moulding time.
- It is significantly lighter as a finished product.
- It is recyclable and easy to process.
- Its production is sustainable.
Contrary to the common misconception, hemp seeds do not have a psychoactive effect. The chemical that has psychoactive properties in plants from the Cannabecae family (THC) is found in minuscule traces in hemp (0.3% or less). Hemp seeds can, therefore, be used as a healthy non-psychoactive supplement to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
- Hemp seeds are great sources of protein, fibre, and magnesium. They can be eaten raw in smoothies or salads.
- Hemp seeds provide unsaturated fats and all nine amino acids.
- Consuming hemp seeds with the shell has been scientifically proven to reduce appetite and help with weight management, stabilise blood sugar levels, and promote the health of your gut. This is due to the fibres present in hemp seeds.
- Consuming hemp seeds prevents numerous diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, and childhood seizure disorders.