Do you have a hard on for hemp and want to know more? Or maybe you just want to share this amazing plant with your loving, but oh so painfully ignorant parents, who still hate on hemp because of its associations to ganja. Here is all you want and need to know about this magnificent plant in one comprehensive article!
As some of you may already know, hemp is one of the most diverse, functional and environmentally friendly plants that the human race has so far discovered. Before being outlawed in the 1940’s in America, hemp was cultivated for, as far as we can tell, over 10,000 years and is one of the earliest domesticated plants known. Apart from having thousands of uses this amazing plant is extremely environmentally friendly and sustainable. It can replace fossil fuels, plastic, building materials and paper, to mention just a few. It can also be grown in almost any climate and soil type and actually returns nutrients to the soil it lives in. Hemp truly is a wonder plant.
Although it is hard to tell exactly how long this plant has been cultivated and used for, there is significant historical evidence to show that it has been used for thousands of years. Hemp cloth dating back to 8000BC has been found in Mesopotamia and mentioned in Assyrian scripts. Much of the historical writings highlight the industrial uses for the plant. Evidence suggests by 5000BC 80% of the world’s textiles were hemp.
Hemp became the heart of many industries in the second millennium AD.
It was most important for sails and rigging for the huge sea trade between Europe and Asia. In the 1700’s the demand for textiles outgrew what the land alone could offer and governments of the time were known to offer incentives to grow hemp. In America it was actually illegal for farmers not to grow and cultivate the plant in several states. Throughout the next few centuries demand for hemp played a major role in the historical power struggles between Western countries
Upon the turn of the century and the industrial age, hemp was able to be manufactured much more efficiently,
however, ironically, most of the industry was rendered obsolete as hemp replacement products became easier and cheaper to produce. In 1938 in America, the ‘Reefer Madness’ “war against drugs” campaign began, linking the hemp and marijuana to be the same. It was not long afterwards that this bled into Australia, for its own
version of ‘Reefer Madness’.
Greed and power conspiracies alone cannot be blamed for hemp’s downfall. At that time consumers were interested in new, shiny, plastic, modern, fast and high-tech. ‘Natural’ did not carry the marketing cachet it does
today. A long series of technological advances and economic decisions have led us to forget the bounty of the renewable fruits of the soil. Polymers took over and old, traditional, rustic materials were lost in both the markets and the minds of the populace.
Vital for the Environment
Hemp is one of the fastest growing biomass known. It can produce up to 25 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year. To put this into perspective, a hectare of hemp will produce four to ten times as much paper pulp as will a hectare of trees in the same growing time. This plant has a long root system which alleviates soil compaction. It will also sink a main root tap down 1ft, which is able to draw nutrients from deep soil and make them available for subsequent crops.
When dried in the field the plant will return 60% of the nutrients it has used back into the soil. It is naturally resistant to most pests and weeds, which means it needs little or no pesticides, herbicides and fungicides; cotton on the other hand is responsible for 50% of the world’s pesticides. Hemp cultivation has also been documented as being able to lift heavy metals from polluted soil.
And to top it all off, hemp is able to produce bio-degradable plastics, can been transformed into a clean power source and detoxify nuclear waste. Considering these environmental benefits, especially compared to other plants and products, why wouldn’t we replace anything we could with it?
Why on Earth not??
So if this plant is so amazing in its uses and for the environment, why aren’t we using it? Well, we actually are using it, hemp is making a comeback, little by little. In the past three years, commercial success of hemp has grown considerably. There are of course a number of conspiracy theories that have been developed to explain why it was forgotten in the first place. However, from facts there can be developed a general motive. In the 20th century the inexpensive and revenue raising hemp replacement materials were discovered. Things like cotton, trees and petroleum replaced hemp and many other sustainable materials in the manufacturing lines from the beginning of the industrial revolution to this day. It can be seen that there was a deliberate corporate scare campaign to demonize and eliminate hemp as potential competition for their products by linking the plant with marijuana and defying the facts to the public.
Some of these being that there are over 2,000 different varieties of Cannabis, of which only 10% have the
high level of THC to make it Marijuana, any of the well-known benefits of using hemp and the little known fact that in 1962 the United Nations omitted Cannabis Hemp from any bans at all. It was the relentless government sponsored ‘marketing’ that gives Cannabis Hemp its link to drugs, even today. And why weren’t other drug producing plants like poppies outlawed? Because these plants did not pose a competitive threat to the interests of big business.
This earth had degenerated to a frightening point over the last century and although a lot of us may not be aware, we actually are overwhelmed by problems. Greed needs to be transcended, and changes need to happen. Hemp for humanity!
Nutritional Health & Healing
Hemp is a highly nutritious, not to mention delicious food source. The most famous hemp seed consumer was Buddha himself, who ate them during his’ fast of enlightenment’. Hemp is the only plant so far discovered that contains all of the essential fatty acids and amino acids required by the human body. Its fibre also contains vitamin E and Trace minerals. Hemp seeds also have a balanced ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats and can be a great supplement for fish if you’re a vegetarian or worried about chemical contamination. All these essential nutrients affect a variety of body functions including metabolism, the skin, mood and behaviour, the brain and the heart. Hemp seed can be turned into hemp seed oil, butter, hemp milk and even flour. The variety of food applications is endless. The oil is also becoming increasingly popular in body lotions, soaps, skin, hair and cosmetic products for its beneficial oils and emollient properties.
Hemp has the capacity to replace petroleum as a source of energy. The plant grown for the production of biomass fuels can provide all gas, oil and coal energy needs and could end dependency on fossil fuels. Hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialised growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. In fact 95% of the organic matter converted will be usable fuel. It is a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Hemp is the number one producer or biomass. Biomass has an extremely high heating value, which means virtually no residual sulphur oxides or ash are released during pyrolysis or combustion. It also has a closed CO2 system and the process does not result in any net CO2 being added to the atmosphere. Industrial geniuses like Henry Ford, who created a car to run on ethanol made from hemp, have long recognised the value of biomass fuel, calling it ‘the fuel of the future’. It would only take about 6% of contiguous United Sate land area put into cultivation for hemp biomass to supply all current demands for oil and gas while maintaining a neutral carbon system.
Using hemp construction materials is not only healthy for the outdoor environment but also for the indoor environment. The production behind it is virtually carbon footprint free and the chemical residual is pretty much non-existent. Hemp is an extremely compatible material for many industries due to its production of three raw material, baste fibre, the hurd and the seed. The long fibres in hemp means that construction products will be stronger and lighter than its counterparts. The plant can be made into construction products such as concrete, plaster, insulation, flooring, medium density fibreboard, oriented strand board, beams, studs and posts. Some countries such as France are now widely using hemp alternative construction materials in most of their home building. Other great things about hemp construction materials are that they have: a high thermal resistance, low air infiltration, adaptable to humidity, durable and recyclable when the time comes, cost-effective and finally, hemp construction material produce a beautiful aesthetic finish to any building.
Before the late 1800’s 80% of all paper was made with hemp fibres. Then deforestation began. It has been outlined that hemp could replace 70% of all tree pulp paper, including corrugated boxes, computer paper and paper bags. Over a 20 year period, one acre of hemp will produce as much pulp for paper as four acres of trees would. Because of its long fibres, the paper from hemp is more durable and environmentally friendly; hemp paper is able to be recycled 5 times more than wood paper and is superior in strength, folding endurance and is known to last for hundreds of years longer. Because of its low lining content, hemp paper requires little chemical input during production. As it is naturally bright, there is no need for chlorine bleach which produces extremely toxic dioxin and it uses 80% less sulphur-based acid. Paper mills now in place would need almost no conversion in order to switch from wood to hemp pulp and it would cost a third of the price to produce. Changing to hemp-based paper could reduce deforestation by half.
Hemp can be made into a variety fabrics, textiles and rope and was, for thousands of years, the principal component of almost all things produced in these categories. The oldest known fabric was woven from hemp and the first Levi original denim jeans were also made from it. Hemp produces one of the strongest, most durable natural soft-fibres on earth. The fibres used for this production are recyclable, unlike petroleum-bases synthetic fibres. An acre of hemp will produce 2-3 times more fibre than cotton and is more durable, warmer and absorbent than cotton. Hemp clothing will ‘breath’ due to the porous nature of the fibres, so the cloth stays cooler in warm weather and retains heat in the cooler weather (all natural insulation). The clothing also naturally stops up to 95% of the sun’s UV light. It is has strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, which give it a high resistance to mould and water damage. Even Calvin Klein supports the use and said that he believes that hemp is going to be the fibre of choice in both home furnishing and fashion industries in the future.