The word ‘hemp’ might be familiar to many, but too often it becomes lumped in with marijuana and cannabis. In fact, while part of the cannabis plant family, hemp has its own unique properties that have yielded a range of exciting uses throughout history, and even more so today. Did you know, for instance, that the first recorded use was in Neolithic China, with traces of its fibres found on prehistoric pottery?
Given its long history, it seems bizarre that many of us have neglected this highly versatile plant for so long. After all, you can find hemp not just in everyday textiles like clothes, shoes, but beauty products and even biofuel.
To pay homage to this versatile plant, we’ve narrowed down four products that you might not have expected to find contain hemp, and are all the more effective for it.
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Oil made from hemp, aka hemp seed oil, comes from the titular plant, which, like marijuana, is a subspecies of cannabis. However, unlike its cousin, it contains next to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical compound that gives people a recreational high. Instead, hemp oil can be used to reduce blood pressure and stress, among other uses.
Many people confuse hemp oil with cannabidiol (CBD) oil, but these are different substances. While CBD oil uses the flowers, leaves and stalks of the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp oil is produced from its seeds.
TRIP clarifies that, “these do not contain CBD, but they still have an abundant selection of nutrients, fatty acids, and beneficial bioactive compounds” despite not having any concrete impact on relieving stress and anxiety — “the main reason people choose CBD oil”. Rather, hemp oil is noted for being rich in unsaturated fats and amino acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6.
Elsewhere, hemp has been sought after for its potential to relieve dryness of skin and other irritations. This is because of its fatty acid content, which is known to nourish the dermis. Hemp-infused skin oil is therefore able to hydrate without blocking up your pores, and influence your sebum levels in order to make the skin less oily. In this way, it makes your complexion less likely to produce acne.
Hemp seed oil has also been used for anti-ageing products, as its nutrients can similarly help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. There’s also now hemp-based creams on the market which can take the edge off more chronic issues such as psoriasis.
Again, these products harness the fatty acid in hemp, such as omega-3 and omega-6, which can have an anti-inflammatory effect. As Tegoder explains, these “help to build stronger skin that is more resistant to bacterial infections and also has antimicrobial properties which prevent growth of yeast”.
Hemp fabric is a textile made from the stalks of the Cannabis sativa plant, and has been cultivated for thousands of years. The plant has been specifically bred to be stronger and more fibrous, intentionally reducing the amount of THC in crops to do so. The hemp stalks have two layers: an outer that consists of bast fibres (or ‘skin’) and a woody pith (the softer, spongier tissue inside). Only the outer bast fibres are used to make fabric.
However, as Sewport points out: “since much legislation around the world doesn’t make a distinction between THC-rich marijuana and hemp, which has practically no THC, the global economy doesn’t take advantage of the benefits of hemp to the degree that it could”.
Yet we do see the highly breathable, lightweight hemp fabric used more and more, for instance, in clothes, duvet covers and towels, particularly because of its greater durability and absorbent qualities compared to cotton. As the most sustainable fabric out there, hemp can regrow up to three times a year, and last three times longer than cotton.
In the same way that the fibrous qualities of hemp stalks are used to make durable and sustainable clothing, paper has long been produced from these properties of the plant. Some argue that hemp paper just makes better paper, pure and simple. In fact, the very first paper in the world was made from the plant, as Ministry of Hemp reminds us.
However, beyond being an ancient practice, hemp paper can help form a part-solution to the CO2 emissions caused by the deforestation involved with making traditional paper. Canex explains that, as the theory goes, “over a 20-year cycle, one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as [four to ten] acres of trees. This significant maximisation of resources could significantly decrease the areas of deforestation necessary to maintain supply”. In addition, whereas wood pulp can be recycled three times over at most, hemp materials can be reused up to twice this amount.
What’s more, your average tree takes about 20-80 years to reach maturity. The hemp plant? They’re all grown up in about four months. Although society is going increasingly paperless, next time you need something to write or print on, scout around for a store that sells this special paper.