Hemp: A Helpful Plant
written By leah kahan
illustrated by kezia setyawan
When you hear “hemp farm,” what do you first think of? One often associates hemp with the recreational use of marijuana. However, this limited view of the cannabis-based crop excludes its other uses. Hemp seeds have a myriad of benefits.
For example, hemp seeds and hemp oil are often used as a nutritional supplement for protein and other important minerals that our bodies need. Suppose you didn’t eat fish — your body may lack important nutrients that certain hemp seeds could replace.
This also appeals to concerns surrounding overfishing and chemical contamination that affect our environment. With a smaller demand for fish in our diets, the fishing industry could decline, potentially fixing the world’s fish depopulation problem and reducing the harmful pollution produced by fish farming.
In the same way humans benefit from the nutritious aspects of hemp, animals can too. In fact, vegetarians often encourage the inclusion of hemp in pet food because hemp seeds contain fatty acids called linolenic acid and alpha linolenic acid that — if combined in a correct ration — provide health benefits to animals.
The minerals in hemp are also commonly used in lotions and body care products. These minerals are advantageous for many cosmetics including skin care, hair products, and more. Some examples include Hempz Couture Intense Moisture Mask, Nature’s Gate Hemp Velvet Moisture Body Wash, Oyin Honey Hemp Conditioner, as well as other body lotions and scrubs.
Hemp is also used to produce paper. Using hemp in paper production doesn’t require toxic bleaching chemicals. Also, hemp only takes months to regenerate in a field, unlike trees, which can take up to 30 years, and it lasts hundreds of years without decomposing. These benefits may help us take a step in the right direction toward ending deforestation.
Hemp is returning to the fabric industry as a main source for clothing, and even rope material. Prior to the boom of the cotton industry, hemp was used to manufacture fabric and textiles, like denim Levi jeans and the first American flag. Hemp is more easily grown, while cotton is difficult to grow as it requires more moderate climates and more water.
Hemp is making a comeback in the energy field as a type of fuel and has been used as an alternative to fuel in Europe for the past 20 years. When petroleum was introduced in the ‘70s, the use of hemp in lamp oil phased out. Its original purpose has expanded to the creation of biofuels, which are used to replace gasoline in diesel engines. These biofuels are renewable and therefore less hazardous to the environment because they produce less greenhouse gases, which pollute the air.
Another goal of environmentalists today is to replace plastic as the main source of our everyday materials — and hemp is once again the answer. Although it hasn’t been widely used in the past, manufacturers have rediscovered it as an alternative to plastic due to an increased awareness of hemp’s sustainability, and it is growing in popularity.
While the association of hemp with marijuana is not false, it is not the complete picture. In Canada today, the cultivation of hemp has been long accepted. Will it be accepted in the United States at a federal level?
In a press release in January, United States Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) stated that “allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agricultural industry.”
Although the future of hemp production is unclear, what should be clear is hemp’s full story — and how, with increased awareness and production, it can provide solutions that stretch across a myriad of industrial environmental issues today.