So you think you know what Hemp is? Think again! In this piece, we'll be taking an in-depth look at 7 amazing facts everyone should know about our oldest companion species, Cannabis.
Historically when Cannabis has been utilised as an industrial resource it has been known by the term Hemp.
Hemp is a colloquial term for Cannabis that has been specifically bred to have less than a certain limit of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Which is the primary Cannabinoid responsible for getting you high.
In most of Europe and the UK, the legal limit is 0.2% THC.
These specific Hemp strains have been approved for widespread industrial cultivation in Europe for many decades and have now been grown there for generations which have exaggerated some of their more useful and desirable characteristics.
Stabilising these genetics lead to strains that produce much taller plants with increased fibre and thicker hurds making them perfect for industrial applications. These unique traits and characteristics have led some in the community to attempt to classify Hemp a different subspecies of Cannabis Sativa L altogether.
In this article, we'll be looking at just seven of the several thousand amazing uses and facts about Hemp strains of Cannabis.
Hemp can help reduce deforestation
Industrial strains of Cannabis known as Hemp have been cultivated historically for use in paper production.
It was first used during the Western Han Dynasty in China over 2000 years ago, some 200 years before the invention of wood pulp paper making in the same nation.
Did you know that The first draft of the American constitution was written on Hemp paper in the eighteenth century? As were most documents of the time on the continent as it was illegal to have arable land and not cultivate the low THC Cannabis strains which made Hemp paper a cheap and abundant resource.
The first copies of the bible were also printed on Hemp paper too.
This ended when William Randolph Hearst, an American print media and paper tycoon in the early twentieth century championed the demonetisation of Hemp and helped hasten its downfall and its eventual demise.
Once Cannabis was made illegal, it became easy for his “Yellow press” to affix the same stigma to its low THC sibling, Hemp which was a potential rival for the timber paradigm that he was alleged to be so heavily invested in.
Consequently, Hemp production fell globally. Which has lead to a worldwide increase in the consumption of wood products by 64% since 1961.
Think of all those trees felled unnecessarily. All those newspapers, magazines, toilet rolls, till receipts, notepads, books and more that could have been made from an environmentally friendly source like Hemp.
Wood pulp production for paper contributes nearly 10% of total carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing. Producing paper is one of the largest contributory factors behind deforestation after agricultural expansion and livestock farming.
Creating new ways to reuse, recycle and reduce our waste is becoming increasingly important to the continuation of the species and Hemp is the ultimate resource to aid us in this journey.
Hemp paper, for example, can be recycled 7 to 8 times, compared with only 3 times for wood pulp paper.
Cultivating Hemp can produce as much as 4 – 10 times as much paper than trees over a 20-year cycle. Hemp crops can be harvested several times a year, whereas the wood necessary for the pulp would take decades to produce.
Hemp produces fibres that are 5 times longer than wood pulp and provides a much higher tensile strength. Cannabis is also one of the most efficient carbon capture technologies on the planet.
It sequesters 325kg of carbon from the atmosphere per ton.
However, these days, Hemp paper is only really utilised in some bank notes, filter paper, and rolling papers.
Hemp is not “Marijuana” (A derogatory colloquial term for Cannabis that has a certain percentage of THC)
“Marihuana” is a slang term first used by Mexican migrants for the wild varieties of Tobacco that they used as an alternative to expensive commercial Tobacco products.
The word was later adjusted to “Marijuana” The “h” was dropped and replaced with a “J” (as in Tijuana) so it would be further associated with the influx of Mexican migrants.
This antiquated and racist term was then popularised in the states during the early part of the twentieth century by prohibitionists like Harry J Anslinger.
“Marijuana”, Hemp, Cannabis, it’s all the same plant Cannabis Sativa L.
The difference between Cannabis and Hemp comes down to the Cannabinoid content of a particular strain.
When people use the term “Marijuana” they generally mean the majority of the strains that exist that have over the arbitrary legal limit of THC.
Hemp is the other catch-all term that is often used to describe strains of Cannabis that have a THC limit that is below the legal limit. (0.2% in Europe) Effectively the only difference between the two terms is their connotations, applications and the level of the stigma they carry.
Hemp is a viable alternative to thousands of commercial and industrial products
We have been utilising Cannabis fibres, Seeds, leaves, and flowers for millennia making them into resins, oils, rope, rigging, sails, textiles, cloth, fuel, food, milk and much more.
The Chinese have the longest continuous relationship with Cannabis. They've utilised it for everything from paper to clothing, Lamp oil to Medicine for thousands of years. Although THC-rich Cannabis strains have been banned in the country since the rise of communism, Hemp strains have nevertheless continued to thrive.
Modern-day China is seeking to learn from the lessons of its history by investing heavily in Cannabis based technologies, with domestic companies reported to now hold 309 of the 606 global patents for Cannabis currently registered with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) further evidence that their rekindling of this historic love affair with Cannabis is just beginning.
China is now leading the world in Hemp production, cultivating more than all of the other countries combined. China has recently overtaken Europe as the dominant producer of commercial plastic products, so it's not to big of a leap to see their continued investment in Cannabis as a good omen, as once they switch to plant-based plastics so to do the rest of us by extension.
Hemp as a cloth is more economically viable than cotton providing a far more environmentally sustainable clothing material. Cotton is currently one of the most widely used fibres along with Nylon a synthetic fibre produced from petroleum.
Hemp is a much more versatile plant than Cotton which requires far more water, energy, and land to produce. It requires pesticides and herbicides in its production, chemicals that aren't necessary for the cultivation of Cannabis.
Hemp fibres last twice as long as cotton, they're stronger and softer than cotton and can grow in much harsher climates and produce far bigger yields.
The petroleum oil in conventional plastics takes over 100 million years to produce, were as Hempseed oil takes a little over 100 days. Every single piece of petroleum-based plastics is still here and will be for thousands of years breaking down into smaller and smaller parts enlarging landfills.
Hemp could also replace fibreglass which is currently used in wall cavities and lofts as an insulator to keep heat in buildings.
Unlike Fibreglass, Hemp insulation won’t irritate your skin, Hemp is all natural, were as the fibreglass is man made from recycled glass and sand.
As fibreglass degrades it produces airborne microscopic fibres that can cause respiratory illnesses and make it difficult to breathe.
Unrefined Hempseed oil can be used to produce, paints, varnishes, cosmetics and can even replace one of the most destructive and widely used products in the world, petroleum!
Cannabis oil-based plastics like Hemplyne are 100% biodegradable and environmentally friendly. These plant-based plastics, unlike traditional petroleum-based plastics, are not carcinogenic and relatively easy to produce.
Hemp plastics sequester carbon monoxide from the atmosphere during cultivation and can even go to a landfill with food waste once it has outlived its purpose and will degrade faster than most man-made food sources.
Hemp is one of the most nutritional food sources
Cannabis/Hemp seeds are a great source of protein. Second only to Soybeans in terms of having a complete protein.
A 100-gram portion of hulled Hemp seeds supplies around 586 calories or around a quarter of your daily recommended caloric intake.
Consuming Hemp as a food source provides a wealth of dietary benefits. Hemp can be processed into Hempseed oil, butter, milk, snacks and even flour.
Producing a plethora of ways to consume one of the most naturally complete proteins on earth.
Hemp seeds are a rich source of Omega 3 and 6, they actually have one of the best Omega ratios in nature with a 3:1 ratio. (The ideal ratio is 4:1) They contain approximately 56% Omega 6 or Linoleic Acid (LA), 20% Omega 3 or Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) and 3% Gamma linolenic acid (GLA).
Hempseed is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids.
They’re also a great source of amino acids that are essential for healthy bodily function.
Hempseed's contain some 20 amino acids including 9 essential ones that are only available through the diet as the body cannot synthesize these compounds.
This means that they must be ingested regularly to keep them topped up.
These acids support metabolism, help protect the heart and aid in healing wounds and repairing tissue and cell damage. They also aid in the breaking down of food and production of bodily waste.
Hemp is a biofuel that can replace petroleum and diesel
Hempseed oil, the stalks and the Ethanol that's produced in the fermentation process of the Cannabis plant is considered to be the most viable alternative to petroleum-based fuels.
The first Diesel engine was actually designed and manufactured by Rudolf Diesel to run on biofuels such as peanut oil, sunflower oil, and Hempseed oil.
In the 1930s, Henry Ford produced a car that was composed of a plant-based plastic composite material made of Hemp, soybeans and flax. The cars body was 1000 pounds lighter and many times stronger than the traditional automobiles that were being produced using steel.
“Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” – Henry Ford
The car was also designed to utilise the diesel engine making it the first biofuelled car ever produced. Unfortunately, World War two and other unforeseen circumstances meant the project was shelved and petroleum's dominance was assured for another century.
Utilising biofuels means that oil can be grown in just over a 100 days were as the petroleum needed to produce diesel and petrol takes over 100 million years. Hemp sequesters 325kg of carbon from the atmosphere when cultivated, were as petroleum releases vast amounts of it that have been trapped in the earth for millennia hastening climate change and threatening the future of humanity.
Recent technological discoveries negate this debate anyway. The advent of Graphene and the discovery that Hemp husks can be made into these superconductors means there simply is no need for combustion engines that are inefficient, environmentally destructive and that pollutes and poisons our air and water.
Hemp Graphene is 100 times more conductive than copper and 200 times stronger than steel. It has equal or greater than energy storage potential as lithium celled batteries and has the potential to power our technological evolution deep into the next century.
Hemp can improve the environment and help tackle climate change
When cultivated Cannabis/Hemp absorbs heavy metals and desalinates the soil.
It can also be used to remove radioactive contaminants in soil. It uses far fewer pesticides and herbicides and is so versatile enough that it can grow virtually anywhere on Earth.
As mentioned in the above section, when cultivated Cannabis sequesters 325kg of carbon monoxide from the atmosphere, making it one of the best carbon capture technologies on the plant.
That Hemp can then be made into Hempcrete, which is a building material that is produced from mixing powdered limestone with Hemp fibres, husks and water to produce a building material that is moister, pest resistant, flame retardant, Carbon negative and environmentally friendly.
It can also greatly reduce the amount of fibrous insulation needed in the construction process.
Hempcrete also contains no toxic chemicals making it the perfect alternative to traditional construction methods.
Hempcrete homes tackle homelessness while storing the excessive carbon in the walls and ceilings of these economical and environmentally friendly buildings for generations to come.
Utilising a renewable resource like Hemp over environmentally destructive ones such as fossil fuels, Petroleum plastics, Nylon and other man-made textiles and materials reduces the amount of carbon released into the environment, lowering our collective carbon footprint.
Cannabis/Hemp is one of the oldest human resources and until the rise of prohibition at the end of the 19th century was one of the most widely used renewable resources known to man.
Hemp fabric was around at least 10,000 years ago
Historically humans have been utilising Cannabis for tens of thousands of years. The earliest example we have that confirms such industrial utilisation comes in the form of a rope found in what is now modern-day Czechia (Czech Republic)
The rope which dates back to 26,900 BCE is made of Hemp fibres woven together. This is indicative that our relationship with Cannabis extends a lot further back deep into our evolutionary history. This casts doubt on our current cultural narrative that the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago was the birth of modern man.
There is evidence that shows that humans have been utilising Cannabis and Hemp for fabric, cloth, and textiles for thousands of years in Asia. The Chinese and Japanese have some of the oldest evidence documenting the production, trade and widespread utilisation of cannabis.
There are Hemp fibre imprints that have been found in pottery shards in China dating back 10,000 years. There is also evidence of Cannabis seeds being used in ancient China and oils being used in cooking form 6,000 years ago. In 2,737 BCE the first recorded use of cannabis as medicine by Emperor Shen Neng of China.
During the Jōmon period in early Japan, some 10,000 years BCE Cannabis was being used for its fibres they were made into cloth, textiles, fishing lines and bowstrings. There are even Japanese prehistoric cave paintings that appear to depict Cannabis Sativa, giving rise to the thesis that Cannabis has an even older heritage in the region than we are currently aware.
Over the centuries nations have invaded and conquered other countries all over the world, taking Cannabis with them as an industrial resource and as a source of nutrition. This ensured that they not only survived but thrived in any given region or climate. This now means that cannabis/hemp can be found in all cultures and on all continents except Antarctica.
In conclusion, Cannabis is the oldest renewable resource known to mankind and has been utilised for tens of thousands of years in thousands of industries providing medicine, food, textiles, fuel, clothing, shelter and as a spiritual enhancer for religious sacrament for longer than humans have kept records.
- written by Simpa