Hemp is also known as industrial hemp. That’s because this versatile plant is deployed in more than fifty thousand applications! Because hemp doesn’t exhaust the land, requires little water and yields up to 8 tonnes of fibre per hectare, it is a popular agricultural product. But what is there that can be used from the hemp plant? And for what?
The Anatomy of Hemp
It is no wonder that hemp is so widely used. Everything can be used! Hemp fibres are the strongest natural fibres in the world. So let’s have a look at the uses for each part of the hemp plant.
Let’s start with the bottom of the plant: the roots. Hemp roots contain a lot of nutrients for other plants. Therefore the roots are used for organic compost and plant nutrition. The roots are also processed into food supplements and cosmetics.
The stem is where hemp fibre gets its reputation from. The woody parts of the stem are widely used as building material. In compressed or laminated form it’s stronger and lighter than concrete and is therefore used in the construction of houses. Hemp is particularly popular with people who care about the impact of building materials on our environment. Hemp reaches maturity in a few months and needs very little attention or water. This makes the ecological footprint of a house with a hemp frame construction especially small. Moreover, building materials from hemp are also biodegradable. There is no other material that is more durable or so strong in the building industry.
Insulation material, fibreboards and even recyclable, biodegradable plastic are also made from the woody parts. Other uses for the stem of the hemp plant include dashboards for top-quality cars, cardboard and printer paper.
The bast fibre is much finer and also has a wide range of uses. Think here of curtains, rope and jute sacks, and also fine fabrics, shoes and fashion items. It just depends how finely the fibres are spun. Clothing made from hemp is as durable as cotton clothing and equally colourfast.
Leaf and Flower
The leaves and flowerheads contain the well-known cannabinoids: CBD, CBG and CBC. These cannabinoids are used in various food supplements and cosmetic products such as:
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Nowadays a complicated process called CO2 extraction is used to extract these valuable substances. This process can take place either cold or hot. When the plants are not heated to obtain the cannabinoids, the healthy substances are not lost. In some cases the extract process involves heating. Then the naturally occurring substance CBDA is converted into CBD which increases the CBD percentage and makes the taste more pleasant but other substances are lost. To make CBD oil this extract is added to a base oil. This base oil can also be derived from the same plant.
Hemp seeds are perhaps less widely used than the stems. In the first place, hemp seeds are split and shelled for direct consumption. Hemp seeds are bursting with healthy fatty acids and amino acids (proteins). Hemp seed contains approximately 30% fats and 29% proteins. It is a myth that only meat contains sufficient variety of proteins. For this reason pure botanical hemp protein powder is manufactured: a food supplement by which vegan bodybuilders swear.
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Because the fat percentage of hemp seeds is so high, they are also an excellent source for pressing oil. This oil is then chosen often as the base oil for CBD oil. Another food industry application is hemp flour for baking gluten-free bread.
As well as food, hemp seeds are also used to make:
- Creams and ointments
- Hair products
- Industrial products such as printing ink, dyes, oil-based paints and fuel
In the Netherlands, hemp and cannabis are strictly differentiated but because the plants closely resemble each other, the plant names are often used interchangeably. You often hear in the news that a ‘hemp nursery’ has been shut down. In actual fact that always means cannabis. The difference lies in the permitted percentage of THC, the substance which makes you high. In the Netherlands this limit is 0.2 per cent for plants. There is even a list of approved types of hemp which can be grown under permit. The cultivation of cannabis, on the other hand, is not permitted and is punishable. The tolerance policy makes this point complicated.
Long Live Hemp
Hemp is thus immensely versatile. Hemp has taken up an important place in daily life which often goes unnoticed. As far as supplements are concerned, we will see a large expansion of products in the near future. More variety in forms like confectionery, products for pets and hemp seed oil with CBD for example. Besides those, we are also seeing products with an emphasis on other cannabinoids. Thus we saw the introduction of CBG oil; a fine oil from Medihemp which contains in particular the natural substance cannabigerol (CBG) from organic hemp. Hemp is being used more and more!