The uses of hemp are nearly endless and seem to be limited only by our creativity. Hemp has been used in many different ways for thousands of years. The way hemp is applied depends on which part of the plant is being utilized. The three main components of a hemp plant are the stem, the seeds, and the bud (different cultivars or strains of hemp are typically bred to focus on one part). The stem is used to make fibrous materials such as textiles, paper, and rope. The seeds are made into animal feed or hemp seed oil, which can be used to create biodiesel, cooking oil, and moisturizers. The bud of the plant is used medicinally and recreationally in the form of concentrates, edibles or smokables. Hemp is truly a versatile plant.
When hemp seeds are crushed to extract oil, this oil is then applied in multiple ways. Biodiesel is one of the most exciting ways hemp oil is being employed because it is more eco-friendly than fossil fuel. It could help the environment, as standard gasoline is very harsh on our planet. Hemp can produce 39 gallons of biodiesel per acre of land, which outcompetes most other plants for this use. The main reason for the higher amount of gallons per acre is the fact that hemp oil has a 97% conversion rate into biodiesel, meaning very little oil is wasted in the process. Another demand for this precious oil lies in cooking!
Hemp oil has a fairly unique nutty taste and can be quite delicious if appropriately used. Hemp oil is not suited well for frying, though, as it has a low burning point like olive oil and will attain a burnt taste at excessively high temperatures. The burning temperature isn't the only similarity to olive oil. Hemp oil can be used as a substitute for olive oil in many recipes since they interact with many foods similarly.
The last use of hemp oil I'll talk about is its moisturizing abilities. Hemp oil is non-comedogenic, meaning that it doesn't clog pores. This allows moisturization without risking acne! It prevents acne on two fronts: moisturizing dry skin (dry skin will secrete excess oils, forming acne) and keeping pores clear (many moisturizers clog pores, causing acne). Hemp seed oil is known to soak right into the skin without leaving you greasy or slippery. These attributes make hemp oil one of the best choices around for moisturizers.
Hemp fibers come from the plant's stem and branches and are usually harvested from hemp plants directly bred for fibers. These hardy, towering cannabi can grow as tall as twenty feet! These fibers can be used very effectively as textiles. The most common pant used for textiles today is cotton, but with today's processing technology, which makes hemp fabric softer than ever before, hemp outshines cotton in almost every way. Hemp creates virtually twice the amount of fibers per acre compared to cotton. And despite growing all these fibers, hemp only uses one quarter the amount of water that cotton does. The textiles created from hemp fibers are more durable and suffer less UV degradation than cotton fabrics. Hopefully, we will see more hemp clothing on the market soon, as legalization spreads and infrastructure is built.
Another product made from hemp fibers is hemp paper. Before the 21st century most paper was actually hemp paper, in fact it accounted for 75-90% of paper produced. This paper has several advantages over wood pulp paper. The most significant advantage is that a lot more paper can be produced using hemp, as hemp can be harvested annually and planted densely. At the same time, lumber takes many years to grow big enough for one harvest. Using hemp to create paper also slows down deforestation. If tree farms converted to growing hemp, they could supply paper mills using only a fraction of the space while eliminating the need to cut down trees to produce paper. Hemp paper would lower the demand for fresh paper, given its ability to be recycled more times than traditional wood pulp paper, thanks to its durable fibers.
The third brilliant use of hemp fibers is for rope. Hemp rope has changed the course of history by being the most famous maritime rope for centuries. This was due to its immense strength that doesn't compromise flexibility. The oldest hemp rope we know of was found in southern Russia and was over 2600 years old! Hemp rope was the rope of choice for most uses for thousands of years, and it was only dethroned as the champion of rope recently with the introduction of synthetic fiber ropes.
The last part of the hemp plant to talk about is the bud, which has traditionally been and still is used medicinally. The cannabinoids that are usually given the credit of carrying the medicinal properties of cannabis are THC, CBG, and CBD. By the legal definition, hemp does not contain THC, leaving CBD and CBG as its main sources of power. These molecules have medicinal properties that can aid in relaxation, focus, pain relief, and potentially even alleviate symptoms of some diseases (research is ongoing).
Hemp is a miraculous plant, and humanity has only scratched the surface of its potential. This plant has already helped launch civilization into the future, and it's not slowing down anytime soon. I hope to one day see a world where every car is run on hemp biodiesel, held together by hemp rope, and the drivers are so relaxed sales tax will have to be raised to make up for the loss in speeding ticket revenue. Hemp is the way of the future.