For thousands of years’ people have recognised the value of hemp. From the Aztecs to the Native Americans the plant has been utilised for a variety of purposes, including pain relief and consumption. And yet today the usage of hemp has been marginalised, even criminalised. Here are five game-changing uses for hemp that we are not taking advantage of.
One of the biggest concerns facing humanity in the 21st Century is the depletion of our planet’s natural fossil fuels, with some estimates indicating that if we continue at our current rate, we may completely deplete our supply by 2088.In the years before fossil fuels, however, hemp was used for lamp oil, it was slowly phased out when petroleum-based fuels were introduced.
There is evidence that hemp could be used as a sustainable alternative to diesel and petrol based fuels, a group of renewable fuel advocates put this to the test in 2011 when Grayson Sigler and Kellie Ogilvie drove a car 11,000 miles from Toronto to Washington D.C, powered only by hemp fuel.
4Clothes And Textiles
Hemp has a long history of being utilised as a fabric, in fact, the first ever American flag, sewn by Betsy Ross in 1776 was sewn out of hemp, and the word “canvas” comes from the Latin word for hemp.
Hemp began to wane in popularity as a clothing and textile material when the cotton industry was founded, but hemp advocates have noted that hemp is a much more hardy and resilient plant than cotton, needing much less water and maintenance. As well as this, hemp can grow without the need for as many industrial pesticides needed to sustain large growths of cotton, and can also withstand repeated washing better than cotton, and therefore hemp based fabrics have a longer life span.
Hemp was also one of the main products used in the creation of rope, due to its strength.
Hemp has long been used as a building material; with research showing that ancient Egyptians used the plant in the construction of huts, and they even hammered hemp fibre into cracks between rocks in quarries to break them into smaller pieces that could then be transported to the pyramids.
Today hemp based materials, such as Hempcrete, are used to build homes. The hemp-based materials themselves are lightweight, waterproof, fireproof and, thanks to hemps natural properties the material naturally repels insects and pests.
One of the largest threats facing nature at the moment is deforestation, and one of the leading causes of deforestation is to create pulp and satisfy the world's need for paper. It’s estimated that between 3-6 million trees are cut down every single year, which leads to loss of wildlife and also accelerates climate change.
For these reasons, many have put forward hemp as an alternative to wood for paper production. Hemp can be cultivated much more quickly than trees, and it can be grown in much larger numbers. Also, because hemp has much more cellulose than wood fewer chemicals need to be used to treat it, and paper made from hemp is stronger than paper made from wood, with a much longer lifespan, also it does not yellow or crack as time goes on.
Currently hemp makes up around 0.5% of annual pulp production each year, but some paper suppliers are starting to switch, and the Living Tree Company in Oregon have begun to distribute hemp infused paper, with their motto being, “The paper you choose says as much about you than the image you print on it”.
It has long been known that hemp has many medicinal properties, and various cultures throughout history have used it in a variety of different healthcare roles, and yet today the usage of hemp in a therapeutic setting remains a highly controversial subject.
Hemp contains large amounts of the amino acid arginine, which breaks down in the body as nitrous oxide which enhances proper blood flow and helps to keep the arteries free of plaque. Research has also shown that hemp seed oil can be useful for the treatment of eczema.
Unlike most moisturising products which are made from saturated oils, hemp based moisturisers do not contain them, and as such they can be better absorbed into the skin/hair, allowing for effective treatment of dry skin and hair.
As well as this hemp helps to aid digestion because it contains both soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibres slow down the digestion process, decreasing the chances of indigestion, while insoluble fibres do not dissolve and are better for the digestion and movement of food. Fibre also plays a large part in maintaining a healthy skin and heart.
Hemp is also a natural anti-inflammatory, and it is very effective in treating joint pain as well as anxiety.