Hemp: Uses for This Environmentally Friendly Plant

Hemp is a plant fiber that should not be confused with cannabis or marijuana. This handy plant has many practical uses and has been used for years. The industrial hemp plant is one of the oldest cultivated plants. It can be traced all the way back to 8000 BC in the Middle East and China. The fiber from the hemp plant was used to make a variety of textiles, and the seeds were eaten because they were found highly nutritious. Hemp has a long history of being very versatile and very useful. The Latin name, Cannabis sativa, means “useful hemp”. The hemp does live up to its name. In fact, you may find that products containing hemp, ranging from body lotions to pet products are making its way to store shelves.

For generations, people have recognized the usefulness of this versatile plant. Hemp is strong and resistant to rotting and molding. Because of this, hemp was used to make canvas for sails, nets, and rigging. The plant was found to be very strong and resilient. Paper, twine, and rugs were also made of hemp. Hemp canvas was even used by Van Gogh and Rembrandt. The pilgrims first brought hemp seeds to the United States in 1632. By 1850, hemp was the third largest crop in America. As a matter of fact, even the presidents once recognized hemp as a vital crop. Thomas Jefferson grew hemp and because the fibers were so strong, he modified his thresher to accommodate the hemp crops. Did you know that the first pair of Levi jeans was made out of hemp?

By 1937, however, the United States government put hemp and marijuana in the same category and hemp fell out of favor. After War World II, all of the major hemp production plants were shut down and hemp was put on the back burner. By 1955, hemp production was banned. Now, many are recognizing that hemp is very useful, efficient and eco-friendly. More and more products are being made using hemp. Although distant cousin to cannabis, hemp is no longer illegal. It can be used to make a huge variety of products.

It is important to remember that hemp is not the same plant as marijuana. The hemp plant has a different appearance and the uses for the two are very different. Hemp belongs to the nettle family and grows from 5 to 15 feet in height. It has several serrated, narrow dark green leaves. Hemp is tall and most of the leaves are at the top and grow very close together. In addition, hemp can be grown in almost any condition and requires little care. It grows easily and quickly.

There are many uses for this completely renewable and environmentally friendly crop.

Food: Hemp packs a huge nutritional punch. This plant is even better for you than soybeans. It is nutritionally balanced and is used in a variety of ways. Hemp can be used in lots of recipes and give food an added health benefit. Salad oil can be made from hemp and the seeds can be eaten as nuts or added to baked goods. Hemp is high in amino acids and has healthy oil content and essential fatty acids, which are vital to diet. Hemp seed can be crushed into oil or processed into flour. Did you know that hemp was used as a primary food source in the famine of China as recently as War World II?

Building Materials: The hemp plant makes strong and sturdy building materials. Hemp cement is made using core fiber and minerals. Hemp bales can be used in straw baling. Homes made of hemp are strong and weather resistant. They can even withstand a tornado with little or no damage. It is estimated that building a structure using hemp would save thousands of dollars and be more environmentally friendly. In fact, hemp can even be used to make cars!

Pet Food: This plant is also a healthy protein for animals. It can give cats a rich and shiny coat. Cats, dogs, horses and cows can all eat hemp as a dietary supplement. Birds also enjoy eating hemp seed. The hemp plant contains essential proteins, Vitamin A and is easily digested.

Pet Bedding: The hemp plant is extremely absorbent making it ideal for using as pet bedding for rats, guinea pigs and other rodents and for cat litter. Many pet supply manufactures are starting to recognize hemp as an inexpensive alternative to cedar, or pine shavings. You can now find these products made of hemp in many pet supply stores.

Cosmetics and Lotions: Oil from the hemp plant makes it a good choice for lotions and body oils. The EFA content helps regenerate dry and cracked skin making it an excellent moisturizer. Hemp can also be used in cosmetics as an alternative to petroleum and helps fight the signs of aging. Hemp can be used in shaving products, hair care and styling products and sunscreen.

Paper: Paper made from hemp is both economical and good for the environment. Because fewer trees are used, using hemp for paper helps protect forests and wildlife. Hemp requires less bleaching, which is a source of water pollution. In addition, hemp can be recycled several times more than traditional paper.

Fuel: Hemp can also be used to produce alternative fuel including biodiesel and ethanol. The seed, straw and chaff from the plant can all be used. Hemp also produces more ethanol than corn per acre.

Oil: In the past, hemp oil was used for lanterns, candles and paint. Hemp requires no fertilizer, pesticides or fungicide to grow. Hemp oil can be made into nearly any product requiring oil, including oil based paints. Paint made of hemp last longer and is more durable. Products made of hemp are also nontoxic and can be disposed of without harm to the environment.

Clothing and Textiles: Hemp is a great source for textiles and clothing. The fibers require less toxic chemicals and water to grow than cotton. Hemp also lasts for years and is naturally resistant to UV light, mold and mildew. Big name labels are now using hemp fibers for clothing including Armani, Disney, Ralph Lauren, Adidas and Calvin Klein.

Plastic: Biodegradable hemp plastic products can help reduce landfills. Hemp was used in the past as packing material and is now being used for making products such as CD jewel cases. Hemp can also be used to make all sorts of plastics including garbage bags!

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