What Can You Find in a Hemp Plant? Learning the Uses of Hemp
When you think of the word “hemp” your mind may go to woven bracelets with beads and pookah shells that were popular a few decades ago. You might remember some vague sense that hemp is supposed to be illegal without really being sure why. But did you know hemp is one of the most useful and earth-friendly plants we can grow today? There are many uses for the hemp plant that range from plastic and battery production to food and clothing.
Read on to learn more about hemp and all the things it can help us do.
What Is Hemp?
Before we dive into all the various uses for hemp, let’s talk some about what it is. Hemp is a plant in the marijuana family, although the two plants are not at all the same thing. Marijuana has a high concentration of THC, the compound that will get you high, while hemp contains much less of this compound.
Because of its status as a member of the cannabis family, hemp has gotten a lot of bad press over the years. But in fact, it’s an incredibly useful plant that can solve a number of different problems. It produces two to three times as much fiber per acre as cotton, grows in all fifty states, and requires less water to grow.
Unfortunately, because hemp is related to marijuana, it’s fallen under the same blanket bans that govern the rest of the cannabis family. However, in recent years and thanks to hard work from activists, hemp has finally become legal nationwide. There are still severe restrictions on its production and sale, though.
In 2018, the Farm Bill expanded hemp production somewhat, allowing states to create their own hemp regulation plans and allowing transport of hemp across state lines. People who want to grow hemp must get a license to do so, and their plants cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. Certain states also have further restrictions on hemp production.
You may be surprised to learn that one of the primary uses for hemp is as food. Hemp seeds can be added to a variety of different recipes, and many health-conscious people believe they can have a variety of benefits. You can use hemp seeds to make a chia-like pudding, to make oatmeal, or in energy bites that will keep you going throughout your day.
You can also use hemp to make dairy-free milk, an option that’s becoming more and more popular as people realize the environmental and ethical hazards of traditional dairy production. You can also get hemp protein to add to shakes and smoothies as an extra nutritional boost. This can be an especially great option for athletes looking to improve their performance or boost their diet.
If you’ve heard anything about hemp products before, you’ve probably heard of its use as a fiber source. Hemp ropes have been popular for decades, and for good reason. Aside from their lower growing requirements, hemp ropes are strong, durable, and affordable.
But hemp can also be used to make clothing, as well as other fabrics, such as sacks, carpets, and nets. Hemp fabric is very strong and has some antimicrobial properties that help prevent it from molding or mildewing. It also breathes better than cotton and gets softer with use and age.
Another great use for the hemp plant is as a renewable source of fuel. Fossil fuels do serious damage to our environment, and some groups estimate we’ll run out of oil sources within the next thirty years. Finding renewable sources of fuel has become a matter, not just of environmental responsibility, but of practicality.
Hemp seeds and stalks can be a source of natural biodiesel, a clean-burning resource made from renewable resources that can replace current diesel fuels. The fibrous stalks also contain a form of cellulosic ethanol. This can be used as a renewable, clean biofuel that will protect our environment and provide a continuing fuel source to power our world.
Take a minute and look at all the objects you have sitting within view; how many of these are made of or contain plastic? The computer or phone you’re reading on probably even has some plastic components in it. Plastic is one of the most important materials in our modern world, but it, too, is made from fossil fuels.
Hemp can be used to make plastic that is more environmentally friendly and renewable. These bioplastics don’t require fossil fuels to produce; instead, they use the oils found in the hemp plant. Better still, some hemp plastics are compostable, meaning they won’t stick around in our oceans and landfills.
If you’ve ever made paper, you might not be surprised to learn that we can manufacture hemp paper. Paper is the result of pulp (usually from wood) set in a screen mold, pressed, and allowed to dry. So it makes sense that we can use a plant as fibrous as hemp stems are to create paper.
Every day, we cut down more than 160,000 trees to make enough paper to meet our needs. Those trees take years, acres, and gallons of water to grow, and cutting them down reduces the amount of carbon dioxide recycling happening in our atmosphere. Hemp plants, by comparison, grow relatively quickly, can accordingly use less acreage, and don’t require as much water to grow.
We mentioned earlier that you can make milk from the hemp plant, and that may be one of its most underrated uses. The dairy industry uses an enormous amount of water and land to maintain their cows, not to mention the water and land it takes to grow food for these cows. Not to mention the dairy industry accounts for 4 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
The dairy industry also comes with some serious ethical concerns, especially for those who care about animal rights. Dairy cows often live in crowded conditions and are put through serious physical trauma and strain in order to produce as much milk as possible. Hemp plants are much less damaging to the environment and pose much less risk of cruelty.
Another effect of human pollution is that we’ve contaminated the soil in a variety of areas. We’ve dumped toxic metals, such a lead and nickel into the earth, not to mention sewage. And nuclear disasters have rendered acres and acres of soil unusable for generations.
Hemp plants are an amazing way to clean up soil that’s been contaminated by a variety of different types of pollution. Growing hemp plants can pull cadmium, lead, and nickel from the soil, as well as toxins from raw sewage. Some scientists even suggested planting hemp plants around Chernobyl to help cleanse the soil from that cataclysm.
You might be surprised to learn that if you have a dog or cat at home, hemp plants could help feed them, as well as you. These plants offer your pets just as many nutrients as they offer you, and their digestive systems can handle the more fibrous parts of the plant. If you’re wanting to give hemp pet food a try, look at your local natural food or organic store.
It is important to make sure you keep a diversified diet for your pets. From an evolutionary standpoint, dogs and cats are meant to be carnivores, so they will also need some meat-based food in their diet. You may be able to stick to hemp food for rabbits and other herbivores, however.
Another great use for hemp plants is as pet bedding. Many pet beds are made from plastic and synthetic fibers, which are neither good for the environment, nor your pet. Many pets tend to chew on their beds, and your dog or cat could suffer serious harm if they swallow a lot of synthetic stuffing.
Because hemp is durable, it makes a great material for pet beds, which tend to see more wear and tear. It’s also completely natural, so it’s less likely to harm them if they swallow it. You may even be able to find hemp-based pet toys, which will last longer than synthetic materials and will be better for the environment.
It may seem odd that a plant as flexible and fast-growing as hemp is could be used as a construction material. But hemp’s fibrous characteristic makes it perfect for a substance called hempcrete, a plant-based concrete. Builders begin with the pulpy center of hemp stems and mix them with a lime-based binder to make a concrete-like substance.
Although hempcrete isn’t as strong as traditional concrete, it is much lighter – in fact, it weighs about an eighth of what concrete does. This makes it great for providing structural support and shoring up buildings. It also makes a great insulator, is resistant to mold, and is carbon-negative, an important factor for the construction industry.
What would you say if we told you that you could use the same stuff your house is built of to wash your body? It may sound crazy, but hemp soap is gaining more popularity, especially among health-conscious communities. However, unlike the hempcrete we discussed, hemp soap uses the oily seeds of the plant, rather than its woody center.
Traditional soap can contain a variety of harsh chemicals and scents that can be especially hard on people with sensitive skin. Hemp soap, by comparison, doesn’t contain the additives that can dry out your skin. But it does contain Omega 3 and 6, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A, which can promote beautiful, healthy, radiant skin.
If you’ve had to buy batteries recently, chances are you couldn’t believe they were so expensive. Batteries rely on semi-precious metals that are somewhat rare and which damage both the earth and our wallets. But did you know hemp can be used as a component of batteries to make them more affordable and eco-friendly?
Scientists have found ways to turn the pulpy center of hemp plants into carbon nanomaterials. These can be made into supercapacitors, batteries that can charge and discharge in just a few seconds. Although these can’t store a lot of energy, researchers are hoping to increase their capacity using hemp.
You may not be surprised to learn that hemp can be used in cosmetics, too. In recent years, there has been a push for the cosmetics industry to reexamine the kinds of ingredients they use. People want to see fewer harsh chemicals and more natural solutions for their health and beauty needs.
Because hemp seeds have so much natural oil in them, they can be wonderful for moisturizers and lotions. Some people believe hemp has some anti-aging properties that are useful in night creams and the like. And hemp’s UV blocking components make it great in natural sunscreens perfect for sensitive skin.
Discover More Uses for the Hemp Plant
The hemp plant has gotten a bad reputation over the years thanks to outdated marijuana laws, but the tide is starting to turn. There are dozens of uses for the hemp plant, from fuel and food to make-up and construction materials. And these are just the uses we’ve discovered so far – who knows what the coming years will bring!
If you’d like to start incorporating hemp into your life, check out the rest of our site at Etanicals. We aim to always provide you with the highest-quality botanicals available on the market. Shop our products today and start getting the best lab-tested, potent, and powerful options available.