Hemp – What is it and what is it used for?

Hemp is a plant that is used as food, medicine and as a raw material for many industrial commodities.

When people talk about hemp, many people come to mind first. This is a pity, because in reality hemp is much more than just a drug.

However, few know how versatile a plant it really is. The industrial uses of hemp as well as its wide-ranging medicinal properties deserve more attention. In this article, we will explore hemp and all of the above uses.

What is hemp?

Hemp ( Cannabis sativa ) is a diverse crop belonging to the hemp family, which has been used as a source of fiber, oil, food and medicine for thousands of years.

It is a fast-growing and strong plant that produces a large amount of high-quality biomass in a short time. Hemp can grow to more than four meters in a few months and produce up to 15 tons of dry matter per hectare .

Every part of the plant can be utilized.

  • The seeds provide oil and nourishment
  • The stems produce high-quality cellulose and fibers
  • Inflorescences contain numerous compounds with medicinal and narcotic properties

Hemp can be divided into industrial hemp and cannabis based on the chemical composition and uses of the plant .

Industrial hemp

Industrial hemp (also called commercial hemp ) refers to varieties grown for industrial purposes. These have no intoxicating properties at all , and useful hemp should not be confused with cannabis used as an intoxicant and medicine.

The cultivation of hemp species with a THC content of less than 0.2% is approved by the European Union for industrial purposes.

Hemp is increasingly used in the manufacturing industry, for example in the textile, automotive, paper and construction industries, as well as in food and cosmetics.

With the global demand for renewable and recyclable fiber products, hemp cultivation and processing has grown into a billion-dollar business in a short period of time .

Industrial hemp can be divided into oil and fiber hemp species .

Fiber hemp

Varieties that are cultivated for the fiber and cellulose contained in the stems are called fiber hemp. The raw materials contained in these stems have many uses.

The most common fiber hemp products include:

  • Textiles – Hemp is a durable, ecological and diverse natural fiber that is ideal for textile production. Today you can find e.g. home textiles, jeans, shoes and bags made of hemp.
  • Hemp Concrete – The woody interior of the stems, the end, is used in the manufacture of hemp concrete. It is a porous, breathable, highly sound and heat insulating material that offers an ecological and durable alternative to traditional building materials.
  • Biocomposite – Hemp-based biocomposites are used especially in cars and boats. Car manufacturers such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes and Honda use hemp composite in dashboards and door panels.
  • Paper – The cellulose contained in the stems can be utilized in the manufacture of paper and packaging materials. Hemp is one of the oldest raw materials used in paper production.
  • Litter – Hemp head litter is used to make litter for horses, cats, rodents and many other animals.

Oil hemp

Varieties that are grown for their seeds are called oil hemp. Hemp seeds and the oil they contain are utilized e.g. as food, cosmetics and fuel.

  • Nutrition – Nutritious hemp seeds are a holistic food ingredient. They are an excellent source of plant protein, good fats and dietary fiber.
  • Cosmetics – Hemp seed oil is used in cosmetics such as body fats, moisturizers, lip balms, shampoos and soaps.
  • Biodiesel – Hemp seed oil can also be utilized as a feedstock for biodiesel. Oil hemp yields ~ 784 liters of biodiesel per hectare .

Cannabis

Hemp varieties used as intoxicants and medicines are called cannabis. In Finland, all hemp plants with a THC content of more than 0.2% are classified as cannabis. The cultivation of hemp for drug use and the possession, import, sale and distribution of cannabis are prohibited.

Cannabis has both narcotic and medicinal properties. Its main effect is sedative, ie a suppression of central nervous system function, often accompanied by relaxation, calmness and pleasure .

The most common short-term psychological effects include:

  • euphoria
  • increased appetite
  • revitalization of the flow of thought
  • sensory sensitization
  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • blurring of time
  • local memory impairment

The most common physical effects include:

  • muscle relaxation
  • pain relief
  • dry mouth
  • heart rate increase
  • redness of the eyes
  • feeling cold or hot hands / feet

However, the effects are very individual. The mode of use, the dose size, the variety used, the environment, the mood during use and previous experience play a major role in how the user experiences the effects.

The effects of cannabis are due to the active compounds contained in hemp. Hemp contains more than 400 different compounds , the most important of which are phytocannabinoids and terpenes .

More than 100 phytocannabinoids have been identified in hemp plants, the best known of which are THC and CBD

  • THC , or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main cause of the narcotic effects of cannabis. It is also known to have anti-inflammatory, pain and nausea-relieving and appetite-boosting properties.
  • CBD , or cannabidiol, is a compound known to have e.g. analgesic, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. To date, the strongest evidence has been obtained for the ability of a compound to reduce severe epileptic seizures.

Another important group in terms of effects are terpenes, ie compounds that give plants their characteristic aromas and scents. Terpenes have many known medicinal properties.

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