Canninbus sativa, commonly referred to as “hemp” has become the latest substitution plant for a multitude of uses, both in food, textile products, biofuel and plastics.
It took me many years myself to wrap my arms around the idea of this plant not being “pot” per se. The mere mention of hemp had me questioning how and why people were using it, and were they getting high. Silly ignorance of mine.
But now, being a wellness consultant, I can honestly say that I use more hemp products than cotton, linen, wool, even polyester blends (which is big in the running and fitness world). Hemp products are in my closet, my bathroom, my kitchen, my freezer, my bedroom, you name it, I either have it, or I need to acquire it. My ignorance is no longer bliss on this majestic and useful plant. Let me be clear, hemp is not marijuana. Hemp has been used primarily for its fiber preparations and uses, whereas marijuana has been used for drugs and its preparations. That seems rather obvious, but it took many (including me) awhile to grasp the differences between the two.
Hemp, grown under license mostly in Canada, is the most publicized new crop in North America. Even Popular Mechanic’s magazine touted hemp as the new “billion” dollar crop, stating that “it can be used to produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to cellophane”. As far back as the middle of the 19th century, hemp rivaled flax as the chief textile fiber of vegetable origin, and was described as the “king of fiber-bearing plants-the standard by which all other fibers are measured”. This is a lofty statement. And, true.
Here are the many uses of hemp:
1. Dietary—hemp seeds and hemp oils are highly nutritious and delicious. The seeds are an excellent source of protein, minerals and dietary fiber. Sprinkle a few on your salads, stir fry meals and even roasted right out of the bag. Just make sure you have some dental floss nearby! Hemp protein powder has become a popular post-workout replacement fuel, not only for vegetarians, but anyone wanting a quality protein instead of the common “whey” choice.
Hemp is the only plant that contains all of the essential fatty acids and amino acids required by the human body. If you are a vegetarian and needing to make the switch over from the essential fatty acids of fish oils, hemp oil or seeds are the best option. These oils are known to aid in mood, behavior, skin conditions, metabolism and the heart.
Hemp foods are becoming more and more popular as the public is discovering the many uses of cooking with hemp and its overall nutritional value.
2. Personal Body Care—due to its high content of emollient and beneficial oils, hemp is now a major ingredient in many lotions, shampoos, skin care and cosmetics. It’s a great alternative to the toxic chemicals found in most petroleum based lotions and cosmetics.
3. Paper products—historically, hemp has been used for paper for thousands of years, as it doesn’t become acid or brittle and disintegrate over time, like conventional paper. Plus, the hemp plant regenerates in the field in months (trees take an average of 30 years to harvest after planting), which can help save the world’s forests, just by moving more towards using hemp in paper products.
4. Fabric and Textiles—hemp purses, clothing, bedding, rugs, the list is endless. Hemp is much more durable than cotton. The word “canvas” is actually derived from the Latin word for hemp. It used to be a much more common fiber used in clothing until the cotton industry gained strength in America.
So, with all the above uses, and trust me, there are oodles more, why hasn’t hemp been more widely used in the U.S. and abroad? The obvious answer is politics. In the United States alone, growing hemp is largely prohibited mainly due to the fear of it resembling marijuana. Hemp may look like marijuana, but it doesn’t contain the active chemicals that cause the mind-altering effects. Since Canada is the primary country allowed by their federal government to cultivate the crop with a special license, other countries are beginning to jump on the bandwagon. It is becoming a growing agricultural sector, as hemp products are more than useful in our lives.
The campaign in the United States to keep hemp prohibited is mainly due to fear. That whole “war on drugs” phase, and the surrounding politics towards hemp prohibition as well. Now that many states have eased restrictions on marijuana usage, you would think that the hemp industry might begin to thrive even more, as it did back in the days of our founding fathers.
To quote Thomas Jefferson himself “hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” Farmers back in those days were legally required to grow it to help aid the war effort.
My, how things have changed. However, there are many conscious citizens working to make growing hemp legal, but for now the laws remain restrictive.
Let’s hope that a more viable movement towards hemp and its useful qualities will remain on the tips of everyone’s tongues. This just might be our saving grace to a more environmentally aware society.
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Ed: Sara Crolick