The conversation around hemp today focuses mainly on cannabis used as an intoxicant. However, few understand how versatile the useful plant hemp actually is.
Hemp is a versatile plant with enormous potential. It is one of the oldest crops that humans have used for thousands of years for a variety of purposes. Hemp can be used as food, medicine and as a raw material for many industrial commodities.
However, the ban has been holding back the use and exploitation of industrial hemp on a larger scale for decades. When hemp was banned worldwide for the first time under the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1962, it also forced the use of fiber, food and medicine for decades in many countries around the world.
The cultivation and use of industrial hemp withered for a moment to almost non-existent. It was not until the mid-2000s that hemp products slowly returned to clothing and food stores and pharmacies.
The world’s oil and fiber hemp is now being used to an increasing extent, as the manufacturing industry needs new sustainable raw materials for processing. Unfortunately, its cultivation is still illegal in many countries.
In this article, we will explore useful hemp and the opportunities it offers.
What is a useful hemp?
Useful and industrial hemp refers to varieties belonging to the hemp genus ( Cannabis Sativa L. ) that are cultivated for industrial purposes. These varieties have no intoxicating properties at all , so useful hemp should not be confused with cannabis used as an intoxicant and medicine .
The world’s oil and fiber hemp is now being used to an increasing extent, as the manufacturing industry needs new, sustainable raw materials for processing. The cultivation and processing of hemp has grown into a business worth billions in a short time. In 2017, the market size was estimated at about $ 3.9 billion .
What is useful hemp used for and what can be made from it?
Hemp is a plant that can be used to make up to 25,000 products . It is used as a raw material in the textile, automotive, paper and construction industries, as well as in food and cosmetics. Every part of the plant, seeds, inflorescences, leaves and stems can be utilized.
Different varieties of hemp have been bred for different uses. Utility hemp varieties can be divided into two categories: fiber hemp varieties and oil hemp varieties.
- Fiber hemp is cultivated because of the strong fibers obtained from its stems and its woody interior, i.e. the headboard . They are used to make textiles, fabrics, ropes, paper and building materials.
- Oil hemp is grown because of the seeds and the oil they contain. They are used as food and, for example, in the manufacture of cosmetics.
Hemp is a plant that produces a large amount of high-quality biomass in a short period of time. It can grow to more than four meters in a few months and produce up to 15 tons of dry matter per hectare . Hemp stalks contain cellulose and fibers, which have many industrial applications.
The stems consist of the so- called fiber of the outermost layers , as well as a wood- like interior , i.e. a headline .
The outermost layer of hemp stalks consists of long and strong so-called fibers. For example, textile products are made from this high-quality fiber and biocomposites are made from the cellulose it contains.
Originally, hemp was cultivated only for such fibers, and the head was seen mainly as a waste product. Today, however, many uses have also been developed for it. The headboard is utilized, for example, as a building material and as animal bedding.
Hemp is a durable, ecological and diverse natural fiber that is ideal for textile production. It is a soft, warm and up to three times more durable material than cotton fabric, which offers many advantages over other natural fibers and synthetic materials currently in use.
Hemp was the most widely used textile fiber in the world until the early 20th century. It is estimated that by the 1920s, about 80% of all clothing was made from hemp . The textiles made from it were also important in shipping at the time, as they were durable and well tolerated by salty seawater.
The use of hemp in textiles is becoming more common. Today, there is a growing range of different textiles and clothing made from hemp, such as home textiles, jeans, shoes and bags.
Advantages and advantages of hemp textiles:
- Ecology – Hemp’s ecological footprint is significantly smaller than cotton. Cultivation requires significantly less water, and no harmful pesticides at all.
- Durability – strong fibers – Hemp fabrics are durable and do not lose their shape easily.
- Antibacterial – Material that is very suitable for sensitive skin. It is a good alternative, for example, as a bedding material for people suffering from acne or atopic skin.
- Breathability – Due to the porous structure of the fibers, hemp fabric is a breathable material. It stays cool in hot and warms in cool weather. Thermal insulation is better than any other fabric.
Hemp concrete is a porous, breathable, well-sound and heat-insulating material made from three raw materials: hemp-headed, limestone powder and water . As the water dries out, a structure that becomes harder and stronger over time remains. Hemp concrete offers an ecological and sustainable alternative to normal building materials.
However, it needs a separate frame to carry the loads and acts mainly as an insulator of the structure. Hemp concrete is a healthy alternative, for example, for wall structures and floor and ceiling insulation.
Hemp concrete is a really fireproof material as it cannot be easily ignited. It also does not mold, as the lime in it makes hemp concrete very alkaline. Domesticity and carbon neutrality are also its strengths.
Paper and packaging materials
The cellulose contained in hemp can be utilized in the manufacture of packaging materials and paper. Hemp is one of the oldest raw materials used in paper production. The oldest surviving hemp papers are over a thousand years old.
Before the 20th century, about 75-95% of the world’s paper was made from hemp , until in the early 20th century wood replaced it. Today, up to 95 percent of the paper produced in the world is made from wood.
However, hemp has some advantages over wood, such as:
- Pulp content – Hemp has a higher pulp content than wood, which contains less than 50 percent cellulose and up to 30 percent lignin in papermaking. Fiber hemp stalks contain about 65-70% cellulose .
- Ecology – Hemp pulp requires fewer chemicals because it has a much lower lignin content than wood.
- Growing time – The fastest tree species grow to maturity in about ten years. Hemp, on the other hand, is finished in 110 to 130 days.
However, production costs so far are so high and availability so low that hemp is not used in the mass production of printing and writing papers. In addition, production requires different equipment than wood-based cellulose. Today, hemp is mainly used in the manufacture of specialty papers.
Plastics and composites
Hemp can be used to make substitutes for oil-based plastics. Although plastics made from 100% hemp are still a rarity, hemp-based biocomposites are already in use in many places.
A composite is a combination of two or more materials in which the materials work together but are not dissolved or fused together. They are used in cars and boats, for example.
Many major automakers such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes and Honda use hemp composite in dashboards and door panels, for example. Biocomposites made from hemp are used in cars because they do not make sharp corners when broken down. They are also light, durable and recyclable.
The head of hemp is used to make bedding suitable for many animals, such as horses, cats and rodents. It does not contain any harmful substances, as no pesticides are used in hemp cultivation.
Hemp bedding is characterized by high absorption power, antibacterial properties and the ability to neutralize strong odors. It is also an ecological, abundant and low-cost bedding material.
Oil is a variety that is cultivated because of the hemp seeds and the oil they contain. They are used, for example, in food, cooking, cosmetics and even as a biofuel. Hemp seeds do not contain any narcotic or prohibited ingredients and are perfectly legal. They can now be found in the selections of several grocery stores and supermarkets.
Hemp seeds for food
Gluten-free hemp seeds are an extremely versatile food that has been used as food for both humans and animals for thousands of years. They are one of the most nutritious seeds in the world and due to their nutrient density they are a real superfood.
Hemp seeds are a holistic food because they contain all three macronutrients. Typically, hemp seeds contain more than 30% oil and about 25% protein, as well as high in dietary fiber and vitamins.
Hemp seeds are a great source of plant protein and contain all the essential amino acids for the body as well as plenty of dietary fiber, vitamins and trace elements.
As you might expect, oil-based hemp seeds are high in fat. They have an oil content of 30 to 35% , a large proportion (about 80%) of which are polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Hemp seed oil is an exceptionally rich source of two essential fatty acids (EFAs), linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). These are in hemp seed oil in a rare 3: 1 ratio considered perfect for humans.
Hemp seeds are a great source of high quality, easily digestible and well absorbed plant protein. Unlike many other plant proteins, hemp seeds contain all nine essential amino acids for humans.
Dietary fiber, ie non-absorbable carbohydrates
Hemp seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which is important for humans. They contain about 30% carbohydrate, most of which, or 24%, is unabsorbed by the body.
The seeds contain both water-soluble and water-insoluble fibers. Both fiber types are beneficial for health.
Minerals and vitamins
The seeds are rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and phosphorus. In addition, they contain vitamins E, B1, B2, B6, and D.Nutritional value of hemp seeds (in shell)
Nutrient content / per 100 g
Energy: 2 048 kJ (489 kcal)
Protein: 24.8 g
Fat: 35.5 g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids: 29.8 g
Saturated fatty acids: 2.5 g
Carbohydrate: 33 g
Sugars: 2.7 g
Dietary fiber: 27.6 g
The seeds go well with porridge, yoghurt, smoothies and salads, for example. They are also used to make various fractions, such as oil, shell crumbs and protein powders, as well as drinkable products, such as hemp milk and beer.
Hemp seed oil can be used as such as a salad dressing or as an additive in smoothies. It can also be used to make various sauces, spreads and mayonnaise.
Hemp oil in skin care and cosmetics
Hemp oil is a natural and environmentally friendly skin care product that is utilized in skin care both by eating and locally by applying it directly to the skin. Due to its skin-friendly properties, it is currently used in many cosmetic and hygiene products, such as body lotions, moisturizers, lip balms, shampoos and soaps.
Hemp seed oil is a great source of skin-friendly essential fatty acids (EFAs). These fatty acids are essential for healthy skin as they have anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties .
In addition, hemp seed oil is also rich in vitamins important to the skin, such as vitamins E, B1, B2, B6, and D.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin, promoting the growth and regeneration of healthy skin tissue and protecting it from external stresses such as UV radiation and air pollution. B vitamins, on the other hand, prevent the skin from becoming too oily, as well as reduce the formation of pimples.
Hemp oil has a comedogenic rating of 0, meaning it does not support skin pores. Many sensitive skin have found it to be a great help for skin problems.
Also worth mentioning is the environmental friendliness and naturalness of hemp compared to many traditional skin care products. They often contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment, such as triclosan and microplastics. Many products also use mineral oils from crude oil.
Benefits of hemp seed oil for skin care:
- a good source of essential fatty acids
- rich in vitamins important for the skin
- effective skin moisturizer
- natural – does not contain harmful chemicals
- environment friendly
- comedogenic rating 0 – i.e. does not support skin pores
Biodiesel from hemp oil
Biodiesel is a fuel equivalent to diesel refined from renewable natural raw materials. Biodiesel is produced by esterifying vegetable or animal fats with alcohol.
Hemp seed oil can also be used as a feedstock for biodiesel. Hemp seeds have an oil content of 30-35% and produce about 207 liters of fuel per hectare .