Hemp is a plant with great potential for feeding and clothing us and healing the environment. Let's get one thing out of the way right at the outset: Hemp is a tall-growing fibrous plant containing at most trace-amounts of the phsycho-narcotic substance THC that the related marijuana plant has. Only a fool will smoke hemp, and he'll only get a huge headache out of it. Furthermore, eating hemp foods will not make you test positive in a drug test; and wearing hemp clothing is perfectly legal everywhere. Now to the positives:
Hemp fiber breathes well, insulates, and blocks UV
Hemp fiber is constructed with several interlined, irregular-shaped hollow spaces. This prismatic structure is why it has protective functions against UV and radiation. In an age of rampant skin cancer, it is noteworthy that hemp fabrics block more than 50% more UV rays than regular cotton fabrics. And hemp-based sun screens, while moisturizing and nourishing the skin, block harmful UV rays while allowing the absorption of vitamin D. Not done yet with radiation - dense hemp fabric blocks virtually all ultraviolet rays and most of the microwave radiation of mobile phones.
The hollow cavities of hemp fiber revealed under a microscope are also the reason why you feel cooler in hemp clothing in summer, as moisture gets wicked away and the body's cooling systems can work best. This also greatly reduces body odor. In addition, hemp fiber contains natural oils that kill harmful germs.
Hemp foods are nourishing
The oil and proteins in hemp are very nourishing both through the skin and as food. The nutrients resemble the naturally occurring molecules (aka lipids - fats, waxes, and fat-soluble vitamins) in the human body and are therefore easily absorbed. Edible oils make up almost half of hemp seeds by weight, mostly containing essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as linoleic acid, omega-6, alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3, gamma-linolenic acid, and omega-6. Another third of hemp seed weight consists of Proteins. The amino acid profile of hemp protein is "complete" (unlike the more common sources of proteins such as meat, milk, eggs and soy), containing all amino acids in quantities and ratios needed by the human body, including the 9 essential ones not produced by the body. One tablespoon (15 ml) of hemp oil supplies the full daily EFA requirement of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids. The nutrients in Hemp seed oil also stimulate keratin formation in the human body. (Keratin is the structural protein that forms hair, nails, and outer skin).
Environmental benefits of growing hemp
Hemp grows in any climate. It grows very fast, with a quickly developing dense canopy that shades out weeds. It can easily be grown without any herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. With its deep roots, hemp loosens and replenishes the soil with nutrients and nitrogen and helps control erosion of topsoil. Clean fresh water is increasingly scarce in many parts of the world, and hemp is ideal for conserving this precious vital resource as it needs less watering than crops with more superficial roots. For examply, cotton requires up to 29,000 liter of water per kg dry matter, compared to hemp's 400 liter.
For paper production, hemp produces four times more fiber per acre than trees. Hemp produces lots of oxygen and effectively cleans up pollution: Hemp can actually clean up toxins from the ground. This process is called phytoremediation. A good example of this is when hemp was used to help clean up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site to remove radioactive elements from the ground.
History of hemp
Hemp cultivation looks back on a 12,000 year history. It was early on used for paper making, clothing and rope in China (7,000 years ago). The usage greatly expanded through all great civilizations in Europe and the middle east, to the age following Christopher Columbus' voyages to North America, where he carried hemp seeds along. In the golden age of sea-faring, hemp was what sails and ropes were made from; indeed, the word 'canvas' is directly derived from cannabis, the Latin name for hemp. T. Jefferson and G. Washington gew hemp (as did at least 5 other US presidents after them). William Strachey (1612) records a native (Powhatan) name for hemp (weihkippeis).
But then headwinds appeared for more widespread and continued use of hemp. For paper-making, using wood pulp is much cheaper (but only when leaving out the huge cost to the environment of cutting down trees and making them into pulp for paper), because only 25% of the hemp plant is useful for paper making, and hemp is only harvested once a year and has to be stored to feed paper making equipment year-round; for ropes, manila ropes made from a banana variety lasted longer in wet conditions because the inner hollow core of hemp traps water and tends to rot unless it is tarred; for clothing, cotton grown on slave-powered plantations and later on, sweatshops in developing countries, cheaply spun into thread with the cotton-gin; and for foods when it ended up being classified a drug in the US and banned from commercial growing. These headwinds confined hemp to its current niche-status; while it is seeing increased popularity now with health benefits of hemp foods and clothing being rediscovered, it is still relatively costly to grow it and process sweatshop-free in Europe and North America.This disadvantage will diminish over time as more people passionately turn to hemp products for personal health or ethical reasons, and as hemp production becomes legal again in the US. In October 2013, the first few acres of hemp since the 1950's were harvested in Colorado, and many more states are legalizing industrial hemp and pushing the federal government to follow their lead.
Hemp, GA • Hempfield, PA • Hempstead, NY • Hempfork, VA • Hemphill, KY
The Hamptons, NY • Hempton, UK • New Hampshire, USA • Hempwallace, AR
Hemp Swamp Brook, CT • Hempstead Brook, CT • Hemp Key, FL
Hemp Factory Branch, IL • Hemp Ridge, KY • Hemphill, KY • Hemphill, LA • Hempfield Lake, MI
Hemphill Lake, MN • Hemple, MO • Hemp Hill, NH • Hempstead, NY • New Hempstead, NY
Rockland Hempstead Gardens, NY • Hemp Patch Branch NC • Hemphill Bald, NC • Hemphill Creek, NC
Hemphill Knob, NC • Hempfield, PA • Hemp Branch, SC • Hemphill Lake, SC • Hemp Fork, VA
Hemphill, TX • Hempstead, TX • Hemp Mill Branch, VA • Hemppatch Branch, VA
Hemppatch Mountain, VA,• Hemp Hill Creek, WA • Hempel Creek, WA
Hempel Lake, WA • Hemphill, WV • Hempton Lake, WI
All over the world there are names based on hemp; near Osaka is a thousands of years old shrine called Taimdo which translates as 'Hemp Shrine'. Last but not least, there's Hampstead Heath in London, an 800-acres rural oasis where I went so often as a student to escape the pressures of life in inner London. And Southampton was the port the Titanic set out from on its fatal maiden voyage to the New World.
Hemp is the oldest cultivated plant; in 8,000 BC it was already woven into fabric in present-day Turkey, and a piece of that cloth was found.In the following millennia, hemp was widely used in diverse civilizations like Japan, where emperors 5.500 BC wore hemp attire for the most formal occasions; China, and Germany. Medicinal use of hemp seeds in traditional Chinese Medicine is documented from at least 3,700 BC. Hemp was cultivated for seeds and fiber, as well as kicking off the world's first paper industry in China for their scrolls. Scythians made Hemp linens to sleep in, some 4,000 years ago. Hemp's global victory tour continued with the Chinese weaving multy-strand into yarns strong enough to make vegan clothing and shoes, ending the monopoly that animal skin held till then. From then on until the invention of the cotton ginny, nothing could stop the spread of hemp as food, medicine, and fiber. Highlights include the 1455 publication of the Gutenberg Bible on Hemp paper; Columbus bringing Hemp seeds along on his attempt to reach India by boat sailing west; and the British Navy using hemp ropes and sails in their heyday.That created conflict with the colonies in North America, as the King needed vast amount of hemp but the settlers didn't have the workforce to grow it for him, and they found tobacco more profitable. On a more positive note, recycling hemp rags and ropes to make into paper spawned a first big recycling industry. All along, maps in past centuries were on hemp paper and lighting came from hemp oil lamps. Hemp was so vital for economies four hundred years ago, that not only G Washington and Jefferson grew and promoted it; in 1640 it became law in MA that every resident had to grow it. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on Hemp; Taxes could be paid in hemp; the bible and maps were printed on hemp; and it was the cash crop that gave income and self-sufficiency to many communities. Then headwinds appeared. Steam boats lessened the demand for hemp ropes and sails; the cotton-ginny reduced the need for costly labor in cotton production; Hearst and DuPont saw vital business interests in Wood for paper-making and synthetic fibers threatened by hemp, as did the entire pharmaceutical industry that could not patent hemp, and had to protect their profits made from substitute medicines. On a strategic note, the US government feared for its cotton industry if Canadian Hemp became strong, so it stymied hemp production and in every way it could (1937 Marijuana Act). WW II provided only a short but intense reprieve, when imports of fiber crops were disrupted and the Government saw it fit to declare 'Hemp for Victory'. Henry Ford even built a car with mostly hemp fiber and hemp resin and minimal use of steel. But this honeymoon ended abruptly with the end of WW II, and for the following decades hemp was out again in all major economies. The end of the 20th century saw attempts to revitalize the industrial growing and use of hemp in many countries such as Germany and Canada, and to this day the struggle continues. Sweatshop-production of alternative fibers grown unsustainably with heavy use of toxic chemicals in Third World countries, and continued restrictive laws and regulations, make it hard for local hemp industries in Europe and North America to get off the ground. Hemp is still down, but it is too early to count it out. Organic hemp products are of critical importance to chemically sensitive people all over the world, and hemp protein and oil is praised for its healthy nutrient profile. Will the future see hemp remain a niche product, or will its potential be realized with more widespread adoption? The choices we all make collectively determine the outcome to answer that question. on