Hemp, typically found in the northern hemisphere is one of the fastest growing plants and one of the first to be spun into usable fiber. It is can be refined into a large variety of items including but not limited to food, clothing, paper, textiles, biofuel, biodegradable plastics and paints. Cannabis as a drug and hemp derive from the species Cannabis sativa, and therefore contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Hemp has low concentrations of THC and high concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which decreases or eradicates its psychoactive effects. CBD has been used medicinally for epilepsy treatment or alleviating pain from multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis.
On an annual basis, 1 acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as 2 to 3 acres of cotton. Hemp fiber is stronger and softer than cotton, lasts longer than cotton, and will not mildew. Cotton grows only in moderate climates and requires more water than hemp; but hemp is frost tolerant, requires only moderate amounts of water. Cotton requires large quantities of pesticides and herbicides--50% of the world's pesticides/herbicides are used in the production of cotton. Hemp requires no pesticides, no herbicides, and only moderate amounts of fertilizer. On an annual basis, 1 acre of hemp will produce as much paper as 2 to 4 acres of trees. From tissue paper to cardboard, all types of paper products can be produced from hemp. The quality of hemp paper is superior to tree-based paper. Hemp paper will last hundreds of years without degrading, can be recycled many more times than tree-based paper, and requires less toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process than does paper made from trees.
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. Various strains of hemp plant are grown for suitability with diverse environments, as well as various goods. Hemp used for fiber industrial use is typically grown with tall fibrous stalks, whereas hemp grown for food consumption is grown with much smaller stalks.
Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground, and sprinkled on everything you can imagine, and possess a slight nutty flavor. The leaves can also be consumed raw in salads. Hemp can also be made into a powder or a liquid and used for baking or beverages such as hemp milk, tea and smoothies. Hemp seed can also be ground into a nutritious flour that can be used to produce baked goods such as pasta, cookies, and breads. Hempseed oil is cold pressed from seeds and is high in unsaturated fatty acids and can also be used in a variety of sauces and salads, or as a topical ointment for example. Hemp seeds provide large amounts of protein, and high amounts of fiber. Essential amino acids are provided through omega 3, 6 and 9 which are essential fatty acids. They are rich in B vitamins and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron and dietary fiber.
Hemp fiber can be used to make fabrics and textiles ranging from rope and historically sail canvas with the word deriving from cannabis. Pure hemp has a texture akin to linen but generally hemp is combined with wool or cotton in the current industrial clothing production. Hemp jewelry is made by knotting hemp twine and including bracelets, necklaces, and watches to name a few.
Blocks similar to concrete can be created by hemp and lime and have been used for construction purposes, also known as “hempcrete”. They are used as an insulating material, and are extremely strong and durable and have been shown to replace wood for many jobs creating durable homes. 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. It has also been used for panels and internal plastering due to its insulative qualities. The Australian company Mirreco are redefining sustainable development by 3D printing hempcrete panels and providing concepts for hemp homes.
Water and soil purification can be attained by using hemp as a mop crop to clear wastewater of impurities such as sewage, excessive phosphorus and other unwanted chemicals. Hemp is being used in Chernobyl, the site of the traumatic nuclear disaster in 1986 for decontaminating soil from toxins and nuclear radiation.
Biodiesel is typically produced from cereals, coconuts, palm seeds and byproduct raw materials such as household or industrial waste but it can also be made from the oils in hemp seeds and stalks. The whole plant can be fermented to produce alcohol fuel such as ethanol. The diesel engine invented by Rudolf Diesel in 1892 was intended to power on a diversity of fuels including vegetable and seed oils and if the hemp oil is filtered it can be directly used to power these engines. Because hemp produces more biomass than any plant species (including corn) that can be grown in a wide range of climates and locations, hemp has great potential to become a major source of ethanol fuel. 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.