Hemp, Marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, has more than 50,000 known uses and more are discovered regularly. It can grow in different climates and typically takes 3-4 months to mature. Generally, almost all parts of the pant are used; its leaves, flowers, seeds and stems; meaning that it produces very little waste. Its uses vary from nutritional and medicinal purposes for humans and animals to cosmetic, textile, automobile, agricultural, home and office and industrial applications.
As far as nutrition is concerned, hemp seeds are a superfood. They contain all essential amino acids, a wide variety of fatty acids, minerals, fibre and vitamins. They can be consumed whole, ground or cold compressed for their oil. They have anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-convulsing properties for both humans and animals alike and are being incorporated into various foods and supplements. Hemp is also used to make Cannabidiol (CBD) oil which stimulates the Endocannabinoid system (ECS) of both animals and humans and. The ECS serves in regulating a lot of body processes.
In the beauty industry, hemp is being used in the sustainable fashion and textile industry. The bast fibre from hemp is sturdy and is being used to make sweaters, coats, shoes, jewellery, bedsheets, blankets, curtains, and even reusable diapers for children. For animals, it makes durable chew toys, collars and leashes. It is also being incorporated into cosmetics for example in making sunscreen, soaps, detergents, lip balms, lotions and shampoos most of which are hypoallergenic.
In agriculture, hemp is being used as animal bedding because it has excellent insulating properties. It is also being used as mulch around many crops to prevent erosion, insulate the soil and even to reduce how often the farmer needs to water their plants as it can carry up to four times its weight in water. Hemp is also used in intercropping by farmers to prevent weeds from growing, to discourage pests and to make the soil fertile again. It serves to reduce the costs of herbicides and pesticides. Furthermore, it can be used for bioremediation and can be used to clean up the soil, water and air.
In the automobile industry, hemp can be used as a biofuel which produces less waste than fossil fuel. This fuel can also be used to make bioplastics which are biodegradable. There are cars whose bodies are being constructed entirely from bioplastics particularly hemp and they seem to be much stronger than steel. In the manufacturing industry, hemp’s bast fibre is being used to make paper, chairs, ropes and supercapacitors. Furthermore, it is also being used in the construction industry to create sustainable bricks and insulating materials.
Hemp use began a long time ago in ancient civilisations, stopped when countries started to ban cannabis, and is slowly coming back now that the ban is being lifted. It is possible that we are only at the beginning of finding all the uses of this fantastic plant. Compounded by the fact that it is replacing some non-biodegradable items with sustainable items, it is safe to say that hemp is going to be the cash crop of the future.