The healing potential of hemp
With Earth Day this month, this is the perfect time to celebrate the beauty and power of nature—including our favorite plant: hemp. Hemp has recently emerged from its prohibition to acceptance with well-deserved fanfare, and it’s exciting to share some of the numerous (and sometimes surprising) ways that it can be used
to help build a more environmentally sustainable world.
Many people hadn’t heard about hemp until the modern cannabis and CBD industries emerged, but the truth is, hemp has been cultivated for its strong fibers for more than 10,000 years. It was discovered in rope on pottery in ancient China,
where it was also used in paper and bow strings. The Japanese and Arabs learned about it from the Chinese, and then hemp made its way to Europe and Colonial America. By the mid-1600s, hemp was an economic staple with the Colonies producing cordage, cloth, canvas, sacks, and paper during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.
Hemp in the foundation of America
The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were penned on hemp paper. Hemp fiber was so important to the young Republic that farmers were compelled by patriotic duty to grow it and were allowed to pay taxes with it. George Washington grew hemp and encouraged all citizens to sow hemp widely. Thomas Jefferson bred improved hemp varieties and invented a special brake for crushing the plant’s stems during fiber processing.
What is it about hemp that’s causing many people to refer to it as a “wonder crop?” Relatively easy to grow, industrial hemp can thrive in most conditions. It requires about half of the water and acreage needed to grow cotton and doesn’t need much to protect it from pests and diseases. Factor in its ability to sequester carbon from the air and return nutrients to the soil from which it grows, and it’s easy to understand why farmland dedicated to hemp production in the United States
has multiplied exponentially (by about 100 times, according to the USDA) over the past five years alone.
The many uses for hemp
Not only is the footprint of hemp much smaller than other widely used crops, but its use potential is vast and impressive. Tall, sturdy hemp plants can be used to make clothing, rope, shoes, paper, bioplastics, biofuels, and building materials that
require a fraction of the resources we’ve been dedicating to other sources of those goods until recently.
Hempcrete, a concrete-like material made of hemp and lime, has already proven to be an energy-efficient, breathable, mold- resistant, versatile material that could replace the plastics and plasters currently used by homebuilders. If widely adopted,
it could revolutionize construction during a time when the demand for eco-friendly infrastructure is steadily climbing.
It’s more than just the fibers of hemp that can be put to use. Hemp seeds provide a nutrient-dense food source rich in fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that can be consumed raw, hulled, or in other forms such as milk, protein powder, flour, and salad dressing. Oil made from hemp seeds has moisturizing, nourishing, and anti-inflammatory properties that nourish hair and skin, making it a great ingredient for
lotions, soaps, shampoos, lip balms, and much more.
Hemp’s relation to CBD
One of the greatest gifts bestowed by hemp is the high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) present in its flowers. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, inflammation, insomnia, migraines, and seizures are among the ailments now shown to be reduced or improved by activating endocannabinoid receptors in the bodies of humans and animals alike through high-CBD hemp extracts. Additionally, these benefits are realized without the side effects associated with common pharmaceuticals or the
psychotropic effects of another well-known cannabinoid THC, high levels of which are within the flowers of marijuana plants.
Perhaps one of the most large-scale opportunities for hemp to demonstrate its utility is in the area of textiles. Approximately 20 million tons of cotton are produced around the world annually, accounting for more than 30 percent of
fiber requirements. Switching to hemp could have significant environmental impact for a multitude of reasons including:
Cotton requires twice as much land per ton of finished textile compared to hemp, so the same demand could be met while saving half of the acreage currently used. Hemp also returns nutrients to the soil from which it grows and sequesters carbon dioxide out of the air, two sustainably useful traits that aren’t shared with cotton.
For each kilogram of usable fiber, cotton requires more than 10,000 liters (2,642 gallons) of water while hemp needs 2,123 liters (561 gallons) according to a 2005 study published by the Stockholm Environment Institute. Other studies have hemp’s water consumption at half of what cotton needs, so hemp is the clear winner even granting cotton the more generous estimates.
One quarter of the planet’s pesticide use is on conventional cotton fields while hemp is naturally pest-resistant and requires little to no insecticides.
Hemp bioplastics are made from hemp stalks that provide a very high cellulose count, around 70 percent—the element needed to produce plastic; it can also be heated and put under pressure to produce nanocellulose, a gel- like plastic product. Lego bricks as we know them will be a thing of the past. The company is now
looking to replace the plastic bricks with a more environmentally friendly material and hemp bioplastic could offer a solution. Using hemp for sturdy composites is nothing new—Henry Ford, who was a big advocate of hemp, made a prototype car in 1941 that had a body made from a hemp composite.
Hemp can also provide two sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels: hemp biodiesel, made from the oil of the (pressed) hemp seed and hemp ethanol/methanol, made from the fermented stalk. A conversion to hemp as a renewable fuel source would
do wonders to help restore the planet’s health by protecting biodiversity, preventing fracking and stabilizing climate change by reducing air pollution.
In the age of conscious consumerism and a heightened awareness of what environmental impacts are attached to our purchasing decisions, choosing hemp could revolutionize multiple industries and create a more sustainable future for our
planet. Readers who are interested in learning more can visit Kaya Hemp Co., located in Central Phoenix. The company is committed to supporting the resurgence of this “wonder crop” by offering a curated selection of unique and eco-friendly hemp products for people and pets, including premium CBD products.
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Cathleen Mitchell is owner and founder of Kaya Hemp Co., a wellness boutique in Phoenix, AZ. Kaya’s mission is two-fold: to provide a curated selection of premium CBD products within a welcoming and informative environment, while advocating for all things hemp. Committed to sourcing only the highest quality products, Kaya is continually adding CBD and hemp products based on ongoing research. Cathleen takes great care in selecting the products she offers, bringing you a one-stop
shopping and educational experience for all things CBD and hemp.