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hemp-147195_1280Not all types of cannabis are cultivated for their psychoactive properties. Hemp, a specific kind of cannabis sativa, has been harvested by humans for at least 10,000 years [1] and has little to no recreational value. This is because it has very low amounts of the chemicals that cause “highness” (mainly THC). Instead, the plant is highly valued for its seeds and fibers.

Hemp has a number of practical uses, like being a source of nutrition and providing construction materials for textiles. Despite this knowledge, many governments still place restrictions on the production and processing of hemp because they cannot move past its scientific classification as a member of the cannabis genus. The current movement toward the legalization of cannabis should have a profound effect on hemp markets as well, providing ample opportunity for businesses and consumers alike.

Hemp Seeds

The seed of the hemp plant is often harvested as a source of hempseed oil, which can then be used in industrial processes as a part of lubricants, paints, plastics and more. Hemp seeds (and hempseed oils) also have a high nutritional value because they contain essential fatty acids in favorable ratios, along with a large amount of protein [2]. A host of important dietary minerals are also present in hemp seeds, like manganese, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and iron. Overall, seeds and oils obtained from the hemp plant hold promise as a high-quality foodstuff.

Hemp Fiber

Fibers from the hemp plant have been used to create materials since at least 5,000 years BC [1]. Harvested from the stalk, these long filaments can be turned into textiles and formed into clothing, sacks, sails and so on. Strong rope and twine can also be made from hemp fibers, or they can be pulped and included in the creation of paper products. In most situations, hemp fibers can be utilized on their own or in combination with other fibers (flax, cotton, etc.) to achieve desired levels of specific characteristics (softness, durability, etc.).

The potential usefulness of seeds and fibers are more than enough of a reason to recognize hemp as an important crop, but the rest of the plant won’t go to waste either. For example, leftover parts that are known as hards or hurds (due to their coarseness) can contribute to a heavy duty and environmentally friendly building material known as hempcrete or hempline [3].

Clearly, there is no shortage of benefits to be had from the expansion of hemp-focused industries. We just need to wait for regulations to catch up with the facts.

References:

[1] http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v13/2/history.html

[2] https://www.votehemp.com/PDF/13-03_European_Hemp_Industry.pdf

[3] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378778813001783

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