I can hear you asking...what is this plant useful for
Hemp - aka cannabis
sativa L, (as aluded to in the HISTORY page), was historically
used as fiber for rope, twine, tough sailcloth, and paper.
Over the years, hemp slowly fell out of favor in the world
due to the time-consuming process of harvesting hemp,
as they had yet to invent a mechanical reaper capable
of processing the plant. In later years a few bright fellows
invented a reaper capable of handling the plant and the
thermo-mechanical pulping process, permitting hemp to
become economically viable once again. However, the businessmen
in charge of various industries (timber and petrochemical
corporations, for the most part) were not too keen to
have a competitive product creep up on them and organized
a campaign against them. The media blitz survives to this
day in the term 'Reefer Madness', which later led to the
ban of hemp growing in the US and elsewhere. Below is
a list of some of the major uses for hemp, though it is
stressed that this is NOT a complete list of all possible
applications, commercially-viable or not.
Before we get started, most informational
links are run through Wikipedia,
an online encyclopedia that is continually updated by
volunteer historians, professors, teachers, and craftsmen,
in a similar fashion to the Linux operating system. It
is an amazing site in its own right, and cannot be promoted
enough - all information is free and provided without
requiring fees or access accounts. However, all information
shown can be cross referenced in the other major online
encyclopedias, if you wish and have appropriate access
As a paper product, industrial hemp yields
3-8 tons of dry fiber per acre, around 4 times the yield
a forest the same size produces. The average tree takes
between 10 and 20 years to mature to harvesting size.
Hemp, on the other hand, matures within 4 months. In addition,
hemp fiber is substantially more durable than wood pulp
fiber with nearly double the average fiber strength, greatly
increasing the lifespan of any paper created from it.
Paper created from hemp has a strength roughly comparable
to a dollar bill, as an easy comparison. Quality-wise
it is equivalent to the best wood-pulp paper. The longer
and stronger hemp fibers provide superior bonding and
Hemp fiber paper has been known to last
for millennia in the form of scrolls and books with little
degredation. Wood pulp fiber generally has a lifetime
of 25-30 years on average before yellowing caused by oxidation
causes the paper to become illegible. Modern acid-free
wood-pulp paper has a longer span of centuries, but requires
an additional process, a step that could be skipped with
Furthermore, hemp fiber contains a relatively
low amount of lignin, the organic glue that binds plant
cells together. This allows hemp paper to be bleached
without the use of additives like chlorine.
On the other hand, hemp paper is expensive.
Hemp pulp fiber is very high quality and therefore demands
a high price on the pulp market. Also, due to the nature
of the timber business, contemporary wood mills operate
at high volume/low markup and literally dump wood pulp
onto the market, making wood pulp distinctly more economical
for low-end paper products. Other issues abound as well,
regarding the economical transportation of hemp bales
over distance compared to relatively compact wood as well
as the potential location of suitable mills. So, you are
unlikely to see hemp paper bags and notebook paper anytime
soon. It would most likely be used in specialty high-end
paper for photoprinting and business documents, high-end
textbooks, and in applications requiring a high-tensile
strength for the paper, such as money and storage materials.
For more information on the specifics, please consult
Cloth and Clothing
Raised primarily as a fiber plant during
its heyday, hemp fiber was used for many years in the
construction of cloth required to be both functional and
durable. Sailcloth (as well as denim) was constructed
almost entirely of hemp fiber due to its unique (at the
time) natural resistance to salt corrosion. As has been
reported widely, the original Levi jeans were constructed
out of hemp fiber. Aside from the rivets, the higher tensile
strength of the hemp fiber relative to the cotton fiber
certainly helped the aura of indestructability the pants
enjoyed during the 1849 gold rush era.
In terms of fiber quality, the texture
of hemp cloth varies depending on the time of harvesting
and the individual growth area for each individual plant.
Depending on just when it is picked, hemp fiber can be
as soft and pliable as cotton (to be specific, 3 months
and 900 plants to the square yard), or considerably coarser
(think rope or twine).
Hemp fibers come in two varieties: long
and short. The long fibers are extracted from the bark
of the stalk, and are called "long" because they stretch
the length of the entire stalk, which can grow to 15 feet
or more in certain conditions. This is particularly useful
in strength applications as fiber strength is directly
related to the length of the fiber. In contrast, cotton
fibers generally reach a length of 1-2 centimeters. The
short fibers or "tow" are found inside the stalk and are
closer in size and strength to standard cotton.
Various consumer enterprises have entered
the market in recent years catering to activists, environmentalists,
and similar folk willing to pay a premium for access to
the cloth. Again, as with paper, the problem is relative
cost, however, in this case not due to any intrinsic issues,
but simply to the current production and distribution
limitations of the current generation of commercial hemp
growers. If hemp was allowed to 'go public' once again
in a wide sense, there is a very good chance that hemp
cloth and supplemental blends could indeed become a powerful
commercial enterprise once again.
The hemp plant's chief food product is
its seeds. The leaves can be digested but they mostly
provide fiber and little nutritional value besides that
of roughage. The whole unhusked seed contains, on average:
25% protein, 30% carbohydrates, 15% insoluable fiber,
30% oil, the nutrients carotene, phosphorous, potassium,
magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, and the vitamins
E, C, B1, B2, B3, and B6. Hemp seed also is one of the
few seeds to contain Omega-6 and Omega-3 Linoleic acid,
normally found only in fish and useful to the immune system.
It is the only edible seed source of Gamma Linoleic acid,
used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, otherwise
only available from specialty oils such as evening primrose
and borage oil. It should be noted that the hulled hempseed
contains no amount of THC. (THC is normally stored in
the fleshy parts of the plant, especially the leaves.
None is contained in the seeds, flowers, or roots of the
plant.) Whole hempseed can occasionally contain trace
amounts, far below what is required for any type of psychoreactive
action (Think poppy seed muffin...this technically contains
opium in the poppy seeds but it is highly doubtful that
anyone has ever gotten any kind of reaction from such
a food. As just about any chemist will tell you, dosage
is always the key, not the substance in and of itself).
This results from the seed extraction process as occasionally
other parts of the hemp plant can be caught in the machinery
and small bits of pulverized plant containing amounts
of THC mixed in with the whole seeds. If the seed harvester
washes the seeds after the extraction process, virtually
all THC impurities are removed.
In sterilized, toasted, roasted, and factionalized
(cracked) form. The whole seed can be used to create various
nut mixes, trailmixes, and snackfoods, or simply eaten
Similar to bran, the hemp seed hull is
primarily a source of dietary fiber. It can also be used
as a base for animal feed and mulch.
Hulled Hemp Seeds
The hulled seed is used in a variety of
ways. Most birdseed sold on the market today contains
a large quantity of hulled hempseed. It can be the base
for flour, as well as added components of baked goods,
granola bars, sauces and dips. The most versatile of the
subgroups, hulled seeds have been processed into everything
from cakes to cheese, salsa, and ice cream.
Hemp Seed Oil
Cold-pressed unrefined hemp oil is a light
green color and is generally described as having a 'nutty-grassy'
flavor. The flavor has become known as a good compliment
to dips, dressings, and spreads. It can be combined or
used in replacement of olive, walnut, or sunflower oil
in cooking recipes.
Refined oil has little to no flavor or
nutrients. It is primarily used as the base for various
lubricants, paints, and body care products, such as lotions.
Hemp Seed Meal
This is what remains of the hemp seed
after being cold-pressed for oil. The remaining product
still contains 25% protein and can be used as a supplemental
ingredient for breads and pastas, as well as providing
a good fermentation base for beer brewing.