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All About the Hemp Plant

What Is Hemp, Anyway?

Hemp is an amazing textile, industrial product, and food product.

Hemp itself is just a plant. Specifically, it is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. It is usually grown for all of the industrial applications possible.

Hemp is a very fast-growing plant. It was one of the very first plants to be processed and spun into fiber usable for clothing and such. This happened about 10,000 years ago! Today, we can make paper, textiles, clothing, sails, rope, a form of concrete, biofuel, plastics, nanomaterials, and more with hemp. Food is made from hemp and hemp seed as well.

The Vast Applications of Hemp

The bast fibers of the hemp plant are often combined with other plants like flax. This allows the hemp to be used for clothing. Pure hemp fiber has a texture much like linen and it is therefore usually made into a hybrid fiber. The inner portion of the stalks is used for mulching and animal bedding type applications. Hemp oil can be very nutritious food. If hemp oil undergoes oxidation it may also be used to make paints, creams, and plastics. Europeans use hemp seed as a type of bird feed as well. 

Hemp production was vast and common prior to being made illegal in this country. Sail canvas was a main product for which hemp was grown and harvested. Indeed, the word canvas has been derived from the word cannabis.    

Hempcrete is a type of building material made from hemp. This was first used by an innovative builder in France in 1986. Hemp has been used to build technologically advanced homes in the UK. The first homemade from hemp-based materials was finished in 2010 in North Carolina. Building materials derived from industrial hemp are fiberboard, thermal insulation, acoustic ceiling insulation, insulation blocks, and concrete blocks.

Hemp is used to make different sorts of materials like plastics as well. Car manufacturing is beginning to incorporate hemp into production. There is about 20Kg of hemp in a Mercedes C-Class for example. Paneling for automobiles and other applications is made from hemp fiber, kenaf, and flax along with fiberglass.   

Hemp paper is too expensive to make relative to wood-based paper and it is only really used for technical industrial applications such as filtering. Cordage is a great use of hemp fiber. However, the fibers retain water. Hemp rope is usually treated with a water-resistant material. In the past this was tar. Today, more rope is made from a variant of the banana plant than from hemp. This is because the banana fibers have less capillary action than do hemp fibers.

One of the best uses of industrial hemp as a plant is to clean soil. Italy has large crops of hemp planted specifically for this application. Hemp is also being used to clean soil that was ruined by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. This is by phytoremediation.

Growth & Harvesting

The technology to harvest and process hemp is not new. Because of regulatory actions by the Federal government, the technology for hemp is essentially halted in the year 1938. This is when the marijuana tax act was passed. The 1930’s era decorticator is a machine that separates the fibers from the inner hurd. This was previously completed by hand. The manual process was known as scutching. Sadly, industrial hemp was mistakenly grouped with its cousin, the more medicinal marijuana plant, and was banned although its uses are many and important.   

In the South, hemp is planted between September and November. It only takes about 3-4 months to mature. Hemp grows very densely and is often used to choke out weeds. It is easy to grow an organic hemp crop because it is inherently insect resistant and the density of the plant stops weeds. Hemp that is grown to harvest the fibers is usually very tall and slender and produces very long fibers.   

When harvested, the hemp is cut and then left to dry in the field for about 4 days. Hemp uses less water than cotton.  It also prepares the soil for the next crop in a beneficial manner. Hemp does best with heat in and relatively low altitudes. One of the attributes of hemp is that very little if any pest control is needed. In addition, manure is enough to fertilize this crop. Some have described hemp as a carbonnegative raw material.  

Currently, France and China are the leading producers of this versatile plant. Russia used to be the main producer. Almost all of this hemp has been used for food and industrial purposes.

Hemp & Nutrition

For food applications, hemp is very versatile and nutritious. The seeds may be consumed raw. The seeds may also be ground into a meal, sprouted or even made into a dry sprout powder. There are hemp juices, teas, and milks. Hemp oil is an amazing source of highly unsaturated fatty acids. This is particularly true when the hemp oil is cold-pressed. Just 100g of hemp seeds (hulled) will provide 64% of the daily recommended protein intake. 

The polyunsaturated fatty acids in hemp are extremely valuable for an excellent and cell-preserving diet. They include linoleic, oleic, and alpha-linolenic acids. In addition to these heart-healthy fats, hemp can also provide a significant amount of dietary fiber. There are also B vitamins, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and iron. In order to preserve the quality of the hemp oil, it is important that it be kept in a dark container and refrigerated.   

The History of Hemp

From an area in Japan during 8000 BC archeologists discovered Cannabis achenes; this seems to indicate the societal use of the plant. From China, hemp has been found in archeological digs from the Neolithic age. Yangshao pottery from 5th millennium BC incorporated hemp fibers. More Chinese data shows that hemp has been used for thousands of years in ropes, paper, clothing, and shoes.

Herodotus of Greece described the use of hemp as a seed smoke for both ritual and recreation. For Western cultures, it took until the Iron Age for hemp to really be used industrially. One hemp expert, EW Barber feels that the true spread of hemp during the first millennium B.C. was due to pot-smoking from the cultures of East Asia. The drug-producing variety of Cannabis sativa was developed in that region of the world.

Christopher Columbus used hemp for the ropes of his ships. Spaniards introduced hemp to the Western world in Chile in the year 1545. There is a report that in 1605 clothing in the New World (Cape Cod, Nauset people, Plymouth Bay) was from hemp. Hemp was known to be a 4-5 ft tall crop in this region. The Native Americans definitely cultivated hemp. In the House of Burgess of Virginia, an Act was passed in 1619 that required farmers to plant both English and Indian varieties of hemp. Even the Puritans cultivated hemp.

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George Washington grew hemp on his plantation. Some believe that he used the plant recreationally. Most evidence shows that he used it for the Industrial fibers. President Washington imported Indian hemp seed from Asia. Hemp was generally a sustainable and lucrative crop for Americans for years. This stopped in 1937 with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act. Many believe that this was a politically and economically motivated Act pushed by owners of competing products to the Industrial Hemp plant. Specifically, Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and members of the DuPont family were against allowing common farmers to grow hemp. The moratorium on hemp was lifted briefly to provide materials for WWII. There was even a film produced in 1942 that promoted hemp as a crop to help us win the war. It was called “Hemp for Victory.”

Today, there is a resurgence of this versatile and important crop. The Federal Government finally separated Industrial Hemp from Marijuana in terms of classifications and decriminalized the use of Industrial hemp.

Why We Utilize Hemp In Our Products

Hemp is one of the key ingredients in our Well Theory products. We incorporate full spectrum hemp powder and hemp isolate for they phytocannabinoids, vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The addition of this ingredient helps boost the body’s natural recovery processes, relieves pain and stiffness, lowers stress levels, and even helps to lessen inflammation.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of hemp are great tools for conquering musculoskeletal pain and muscle sensitivity!

If you are ready to see how the many benefits of hemp can help you live well, order our products today to try them for yourself!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Meredith Warner is the creator of Well Theory and The Healing Sole. She is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Air Force Veteran.

She is on a mission to disrupt traditional medicine practices and promote betterment physically, spiritually and mentally to many more people. She advocates for wellness and functional health over big pharma so more people can age vibrantly with more function and less pain.

At Well Theory, Our surgeon-designed products are FDA Registered and formulated to help people:

  • Manage the symptoms of musculoskeletal pain
  • Recover vibrantly from orthopedic related surgeries
  • Fill the gaps in our daily diets
  • Manage pain associated with inflammation

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