Hemp and its many uses:
Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bio-plastics, insulation, and bio-fuel. The bast fibers can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp, but they are commonly blended with other fibers, such as flax, cotton or silk, as well as virgin and recycled polyester, to make woven fabrics for apparel and furnishings. The inner two fibers of the plant are more woody and typically have industrial applications, such as mulch, animal bedding and litter. When oxidized (often erroneously referred to as “drying”), hemp oil from the seeds becomes solid and can be used in the manufacture of oil-based paints, in creams as a moisturizing agent, for cooking, and in plastics. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix as well. A survey in 2003 showed that more than 95% of hemp seed sold in the European Union was used in animal and bird feed.
Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into hemp meal, sprouted or made into dried sprout powder. Hemp seeds can also be made into a liquid and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk and tisanes. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids. The leaves of the hemp plant, while not as nutritional as the seeds, are edible and can be consumed raw as leafy vegetables in salads, and pressed to make juice.
In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products, mostly driven by growth in the demand for hemp seed and hemp oil for use as ingredients in foods such as granola.
In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs treats hemp as a purely non-food crop, but with proper licensing and proof of less than 0.2% THC concentration, hemp seeds can be imported for sowing or for sale as a food or food ingredient. In the U.S., imported hemp can be used legally in food products and, as of 2000, was typically sold in health food stores or through mail order.
A 100-gram portion of hulled hemp seeds supplies 586 calories. They contain 5% water, 5% carbohydrates, 49% total fat, and 31% protein. Hemp seeds are notable in providing 64% of the Daily Value (DV) of protein per 100-gram serving. Hemp seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber (20% DV), B vitamins, and the dietary minerals manganese (362% DV), phosphorus (236% DV), magnesium (197% DV), zinc (104% DV), and iron (61% DV). About 73% of the energy in hempseed is in the form of fats and essential fatty acids, mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic, oleic, and alpha-linolenic acids.
Hempseed’s amino acid profile is comparable to other sources of protein such as meat, milk, eggs and soy. Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores (PDCAAS), which attempt to measure the degree to which a food for humans is a “complete protein”, were 0.49–0.53 for whole hemp seed, 0.46–0.51 for hemp seed meal, and 0.63–0.66 for hulled hemp seed.
Hemp oil oxidizes and turns rancid within a short period of time if not stored properly; its shelf life is extended when it is stored in a dark airtight container and refrigerated. Both light and heat can degrade hemp oil.
Hemp fiber has been used extensively throughout history, with production climaxing soon after being introduced to the New World. For centuries, items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials were made from hemp fiber. Hemp was also commonly used to make sail canvas. The word “canvas” is derived from the word cannabis. Pure hemp has a texture similar to linen. Because of its versatility for use in a variety of products, today hemp is used in a number of consumer goods, including clothing, shoes, accessories, dog collars, and home wares. For clothing, in some instances, hemp is mixed with lyocell.
Concrete-like blocks made with hemp and lime have been used as an insulating material for construction. Such blocks are not strong enough to be used for structural elements; they must be supported by a brick, wood, or steel frame. However, hemp fibres are extremely strong and durable, and have been shown to be usable as a replacement for wood for many jobs, including creating very durable and breathable homes. The most common use of hemp lime in building is by casting the hemp and lime mix while wet around a timber frame with temporary shuttering, and tamping the mix to form a firm mass; after the removal of the temporary shuttering, the solidified hemp mix is then ready to be plastered with a lime plaster.
The first example of the use of hempcrete was in 1986 in France with the renovation of the Maison de la Turquie in Nogent-sur-Seine by the innovator Charles Rasetti. In the UK hemp lime was first used in 2000 for the construction of two test dwellings in Haverhill. Designed by Modece Architects, who pioneered hemp’s use in UK construction, the hemp houses were monitored in comparison with other standard dwellings by BRE. Completed in 2009, the Renewable House is one of the most technologically advanced made from hemp-based materials. The first US home made of hemp-based materials was completed in August 2010 in Asheville, North Carolina.
A panellized system of hemp-lime panels for use in building construction is currently under test in a European Union-funded research collaboration led by the University of Bath. The panels are being designed to assure high-quality construction, rapid on-site erection, optimal hygrothermal performance from day one, and energy- and resource-efficient buildings. The 36-month-long work programme aims to refine product and manufacturing protocols, produce data for certification and marketing, warranty, insurance cover, and availability of finance. It also includes the development of markets in Britain, France, and Spain.
Hemp is used as an internal plaster and is a mixture of hemp hurd (shive) mixed with larger proportions of a lime-based binder. Hemp plaster has insulative qualities.
Plastics and Paper
A mixture of fiberglass, hemp fiber, kenaf, and flax has been used since 2002 to make composite panels for automobiles. The choice of which bast fiber to use is primarily based on cost and availability. Various car makers are beginning to use hemp in their cars, including Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Iveco, Lotus, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Saturn, Volkswagen and Volvo. For example, the Lotus Eco Elise and the Mercedes C-Class both contain hemp (up to 20 kg in each car in the case of the latter). Hemp paper are paper varieties consisting exclusively or to a large extent from pulp obtained from fibers of industrial hemp. The products are mainly specialty papers such as cigarette paper, banknotes and technical filter papers. Compared to wood pulp, hemp pulp offers a four to five times longer fibre, a significantly lower lignin fraction as well as a higher tear resistance and tensile strength. However, production costs are about four times higher than for paper from wood, so hemp paper could not be used for mass applications as printing, writing and packaging paper.
Hemp is usually planted between March and May in the northern hemisphere, between September and November in the southern hemisphere. It matures in about three to four months.
Millennia of selective breeding have resulted in varieties that display a wide range of traits; e.g. suited for a particular environments/latitudes, producing different ratios and compositions of terpenoids and cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, CBN…etc.), fibre quality, oil/seed yield, etc. Hemp grown for fiber is planted closely, resulting in tall, slender plants with long fibers.
Use of industrial hemp plant and its cultivation was commonplace until the 1900s, when it was associated with its genetic sibling a.k.a. Drug-Type Cannabis species (which contain higher levels of psychoactive THC). Influential groups misconstrued hemp as a dangerous “drug”, even though hemp is not a recreational drug and has the potential to be a sustainable and profitable crop for many farmers due to hemps medical, structural and dietary uses.
In the United States, the public’s perception of hemp as marijuana has blocked hemp from becoming a useful crop and product,” in spite of its vital importance prior to World War II. Ideally, according to Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the herb should be desiccated and harvested towards the end of flowering. This early cropping reduces the seed yield but improves the fiber yield and quality. In these strains of industrial hemp* the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content would have been very low.
The seeds are sown with grain drills or other conventional seeding equipment to a depth of 1.27 to 2.54 cm. Greater seeding depths result in increased weed competition. Nitrogen should not be placed with the seed, but phosphate may be tolerated. The soil should have available 89 to 135 kg/ha of nitrogen, 46 kg/ha phosphorus, 67 kg/ha potassium, and 17 kg/ha sulfur. Organic fertilizers such as manure are one of the best methods of weed control.