Hemp has a myriad of uses. Itâ€™s not just all about nutrition. Although hemp is a Superfood, it has a bad reputation because of its relation to the marijuana plant. This article delves in to the different way hemp can be used to improve our lives and protect the environment.
Hemp has a bad reputation because of its association with marijuana. However, the two plants differ greatly. Both hemp and marijuana are part of the Cannabis sativa species, which is part of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants. However, their similarities end there. Hemp contains negligible amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Compared to its cousin, the marijuana plant, hemp has a THC level of about 0.05 and 1 percent in the flowers it produces. Marijuana’s flowers contain 3 to 20 percent THC.
The hemp plant is ideal for many uses. It was used by the Chinese to make paper for almost 2,000 years. Actually, 75 percent of the world’s paper was produced with hemp up until about 1883 when paper made from wood pulp was introduced. Hemp can be used to make textiles, personal hygiene products such as shampoos and body lotions, protein powder, rope, plastics, insulation, biodiesel fuel and even hemp vehicles.
Hemp is extremely easy to grow. It will thrive in almost any climate, but is believed to be indigenous to Central Asia. It can grow to a height of 15 feet or more, and does not require any pesticides or herbicides to keep pests at bay. There are about 100 pests that commonly destroy crops, but only 8 of them can affect the hemp plant. These pests are easily controlled with organically homemade and all-natural pesticides. The hemp plant can also be used for keeping weeds out of a crop because of the leafy canopy they create, which blocks out sunlight to the weeds below. It grows like a weed itself (no pun intended).
The Conspiracy to Make Hemp Illegal
The history of hemp is controversial. Hemp was a very important agricultural crop up until the 1930’s. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the plant on their plantations, and Benjamin Franklin started the first hemp paper mill, which allowed America to have a supply of paper that did not come from England. It was so important, in fact, that places such as New Hampshire, Hampton and Hampstead were named because hemp was once grown there. The term hamp is the Danish word for hemp.
William Randolph Hearst, who was publisher of The San Francisco Examiner, in cooperation with the Dupont Corporation lead a movement to ban hemp and hemp products in the early 1930’s. Hearst had acquired millions of acres of forest that he intended to use to make paper. Hemp paper was a threat to Hearst’s plan.
The process of making wood-pulp paper with sulfuric-acid was owned by Pierre Dupont. To replace hemp rope, Dupont patented a rope made from synthetic petroleum chemicals in 1937 called nylon so that hemp wouldn’t be needed. Hearst used his power as a publisher to lobby for a change in public opinion about both marijuana and hemp based on the effects of the THC in the marijuana plant.
In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed by congress essentially prohibiting the growth, handling and distribution of both hemp and marijuana by placing unreasonable restrictions on hemp and the production of hemp products. During World War II, hemp was legalized again to support the war effort, but was quickly discontinued when the war ended.
In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 was enacted which made marijuana illegal. By making very little distinction between marijuana and hemp, the act effectively made both plants illegal to grow, distribute or otherwise handle.
The Many Different Uses of the Hemp Plant
The hemp plant is quite versatile. All parts of the plant can be used to make anything currently made using petroleum, timber or cotton. It can be used to make personal hygiene products, clothing and fabrics, paper, rope, plastics, building materials and biodiesel fuel.
In 1941, Henry Ford experimented with hemp creating a vehicle, which had a body comprised of 70 percent hemp cellulose fibers. It ran on fuel made from hemp and ethanol. The vehicle was never made available to the public because of the ban on hemp and the power of the petroleum industry.
The hemp plant is made up of very strong, natural fibers that can be used to produce anything that can be made with cotton, and it takes less hemp to do it. It can produce more textiles on just one acre of land than cotton can produce on two acres. Hemp is also more absorbent, and it has a tensile strength three times that of cotton. Hemp clothing protects against UV overexposure when the article is over 50 percent hemp, and it is mildew and mold-resistant as well.
The stalk of the plant can be used to make many different building materials. Some of these materials include:
- Fiberglass substitutes
- Cement blocks
The medium density fiber composite boards made from the plant were found to be about two and a half percent stronger than its wood counterpart by the Washington State University Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory. The boards elasticity is triple that of wood composite boards.
Biodegradable plastics can be made from hempseed. Interestingly, there are over 2 million vehicles on the roads of the US that have parts such as dashboards, roof racks, and doors that contain hemp. The plant can be used as a substitute in just about all products currently made by petrochemicals such as:
- Hemp/recycled plastic blend that can be used to make injection-molded products
- Oil paints
Hemp as a Superfood
The seeds of the hemp plant are a complete protein source, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies need for optimal health. The oil of the seed contains the most essential fatty acids, such as Omega 3, 6, and 9, than just about any other seed. It is easily digestible and also contains over twenty trace minerals. These minerals are:
The leaves of the plant are high in fiber and contain large amounts of silica, which is used by the body to build strong bones and promote healthy hair, skin and nails. The leaves also aid in cleaning the bowels. One side of the leaf is abrasive, and the other side is soft. As the fiber moves through the intestines, the leaf fibers scrape against the walls gently scrubbing the intestines clean. The dried leaf has antimicrobial properties.
With the exception of spirulina, AFA blue-green algae and marine phytoplankton, hemp has the highest natural content of protein in nature. Its essential amino acid content is perfectly balanced for our nutritional needs. No other plant has this perfect balance, and no other plant is as easily digested. Hemp also has a very high content of vitamin E (triple that of flax).
Hemp also contains edestin, which is a plant globulin. Globulins are proteins made up of only amino acids. Almost all antibodies, enzymes, hormones, fibrogin (a blood clotting agent), and hemoglobin molecules are globular proteins and can be made from edestin. Hemp can boost the immune system because immunoglobulins are also synthesized from the plant globulin.
Hemp also helps prevent the inflammatory response because it contains gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA. GLA inhibits the production of prostaglandins, which are responsible for the inflammatory response, and it also balances hormones.
The hemp plant has amazing properties. It’s environmentally friendly, can be produced quickly and has a myriad of uses, not to mention its health benefits. It could also reduce our dependence on foreign oil and with low levels of THC, it can’t be used to “get high.” The hemp plant can be easily distinguished from marijuana. But, in order to reap the rewards of this super-plant, the laws need to be changed.
Photo by Natrij PD, via Wikimedia Commons
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