Hemp is a plant. It is the same species of plant as cannabis. But unlike cannabis, hemp contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), less than 0.3%. It is legal to sell hemp and hemp products in the U.S. Hemp flowers, leaves, seed, seed oil, and protein are used as food and/or medicine.
Hemp is used for constipation, high cholesterol, eczema (atopic dermatitis), arthritis, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Hemp is used to make cloth, cosmetics, rope, printer’s ink, wood preservative, detergents, soaps, and lighting oil.
Don’t confuse hemp with Canadian hemp, hemp agrimony, cannabis, or cannabidiol (CBD).
How does it work ?
Hemp seed contains fats, protein, and other chemicals. The fats in hemp seed might help to reduce inflammation (swelling). Some chemicals in hemp seed help to promote bowel movements and lower blood pressure.
When taken by mouth: Hemp is LIKELY SAFE when the seed, seed oil, or seed protein is taken by mouth as food. Hemp is POSSIBLY SAFE when the seed oil is used as medicine for up to 6 months. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if hemp flowers, hemp leaves, or hemp oil made from the flower or leaf is safe or what the side effects might be.
Special Precautions and Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if hemp is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: There isn’t enough information to know whether hemp can be safely used by children. Hemp seed oil has caused rare cases of sleepiness and blood shot eyes in children.
Allergy to cannabis: People who are allergic to cannabis might also be allergic to hemp. Use hemp with caution if you are allergic to cannabis.
Surgery: Hemp protein might lower blood pressure. In some people this might make blood pressure fall too low, especially during surgery. Stop using hemp protein at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Hemp can be used to produce fiberboard that is stronger and lighter than wood. Substituting hemp fiberboard for timber would further reduce the need to cut down our forests.
Hemp can be used to produce strong, durable and environmentally-friendly plastic substitutes. Thousands of products made from petroleum-based plastics can be produced from hemp-based composites.
It takes years for trees to grow until they can be harvested for paper or wood, but hemp is ready for harvesting only 120 days after it is planted. Hemp can grow on most land suitable for farming, while forests and tree farms require large tracts of land available in few locations. Harvesting hemp rather than trees would also eliminate erosion due to logging, thereby reducing topsoil loss and water pollution caused by soil runoff.
Hemp seeds contain a protein that is more nutritious and more economical to produce than soybean protein. Hemp seeds are not intoxicating. Hemp seed protein can be used to produce virtually any product made from soybean: tofu, veggie burgers, butter, cheese, salad oils, ice cream, milk, etc. Hemp seed can also be ground into a nutritious flour that can be used to produce baked goods such as pasta, cookies, and breads.
Hemp seed oil can be used to produce non-toxic diesel fuel, paint, varnish, detergent, ink and lubricating oil. Because hemp seeds account for up to half the weight of a mature hemp plant, hemp seed is a viable source for these products.
70% of the Cannabis Plant total weight is made up of the ‘hurd’ or woody inner core. This part of the plant is THC free (i.e. Hemp) and is used in housing construction. The silica leached from the soil by the plant combined with unslaked lime forms a chemical bond similar to cement which is fire and water proof. Cannabis Homes
Hemp may be grown also for food (the seed) but in the UK at least (and probably in other EU countries) cultivation licenses are not available for this purpose. Within Defra (the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) hemp is treated as purely a non-food crop, despite the fact that seed can and does appear on the UK market as a perfectly legal food product.
Both the complete protein and the oils contained in hempseeds (rich in lanolin and linolenic acids) are in ideal ratios for human nutrition.
Until its rediscovery in the late 1980s, the use of hemp for fiber production had declined sharply over the past decades, but hemp still occupied an important place amongst natural fibers as it is strong, durable and unaffected by water. The main uses of hemp fiber were inrope, sacking, carpet, nets and webbing. A hemp clothing industry was reborn in the West in 1988, and hemp is being used in increasing quantities in paper manufacturing. The cellulose content is about 70%.
Smallholder plots are usually harvested by hand. The plants are cut at 2 to 3 cm above the soil and left on the ground to dry. Mechanical harvesting is now common, using specially adapted cutter-binders or simpler cutters.
The cut hemp is laid in swathes to dry for up to four days. This was traditionally followed by retting, either water retting whereby the bundled hemp floats in water or dew retting whereby the hemp remains on the ground and is affected by the moisture in dew moisture, and by moulds and bacterial action. Modern processes use steam and machinery to separate the fiber, a process known as thermo-mechanical pulping.
Fuel can be a by-product of hemp cultivation. One fuel would be biodiesel because of the oils in the seeds and stalk of the hemp, another would be biofuel from the fibrous stalks.
Millennia of selective breeding have resulted in varieties that look quite different. Also, breeding since circa 1930 has focused quite specifically on producing strains which would perform very poorly as sources of drug material. Hemp grown for fiber is planted closely, resulting in tall, slender plants with long fibers. Ideally, according to Defra in 2004 the herb should be harvested before it flowers. This early cropping is because fiber quality declines if flowering is allowed and, incidentally, this cropping also pre-empts the herb’s maturity as a potential source of drug material, even though the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content would still be very low with these strains of hemp.
The name Cannabis is the genus and was the name favored by the 19th century medical practitioners who helped to introduce the herb’s drug potential to modern English-speaking consciousness. Cannabis for non-drug purposes (especially ropes and textiles) was then already well known as hemp.
The name marijuana is Mexican (or Latin American) in origin and associated almost exclusively with the herb’s drug potential. That marijuana is now well known in English as a name for drug material is due largely to the efforts of US drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s. We can surmise that this name was highlighted because it helped to characterize the herbal drug as quite alien to English-speaking culture.