Significance of Industrial Hemp; Facts
Hemp is the common name for high growing varieties of the Cannabis plant and also its 3 major products; fiber, seed and oil. The hemp can then be refined into numerous products such as hemp oil, hemp seed foods, resin, rope, wax, pulp, cloth, fuel and paper. Other variants of the Cannabis herb are used as sources of the recreational drug called marijuana. As a result, such variants are illegal. However the distinction between the industrial hemp and the variants used to produce marijuana is very clear. Industrial hemp is very high growing while its illegal counterparts are low growing. The content of the psychoactive drug compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in industrial hemp is very low, while in the variants used for marijuana production, THC content is quite high. The Cannabis plant is illegal in most but not all countries around the world. Where the plant legal, it is grown under stringent regulations that limit the amount of THC in the hemp to less than 0.3% or 10 micrograms per gram. Therefore where the hemp is grown for industrial purposes it is bred for as little THC as possible.
The cultivation of the hemp plant goes way back, for centuries it has been grown for its fiber which has diverse applications in making ropes, clothing and paper. When man began his seafaring adventures, hemp was used to produce canvas, rigging and sail cloth. Up and till the early 20th century, hemp was one of the major sources of textile fiber. However in the 1930’s the America banned the Cannabis plant because of the discovery of the hallucinogen THC in its leaves and flowers. In 1961, the United Nations Single Convention on narcotic drugs banned the plant internationally. In addition to the ban, increased crop diversification by hemp farmers, the increased usage of wood products and the development of synthetic materials to replace hemp products all served to further the decline of hemp cultivation into obscurity.
In the 90’s however, many countries around the world began to realize the huge potential that the hemp plant possessed as its uses grew exponentially. As a result, countries such as Canada legalized hemp growth under a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which oversees the regulated growth, production, sale and movement, processing and export of industrial hemp and all its products.
The hemp plant consists of hemp seeds, a long bark fiber, the woody stem core, a copious amount of foliage and a floral bract. The plant has numerous uses both industrial and food based, and can be used to produce over 25,000 commercial products. The hemp seed is used as animal seed. When whole it can be used as bird seed or fish bait and when processed into press cake it makes an excellent livestock feed. The foliage can be made into silage and extracts from the leaves are used in the manufacture of insect repellants. Hemp oil is used for meal and food based purposes. The oil has myriads of applications in numerous healthcare products and nutraceuticals. It can be processed into numerous dietary supplements and confectioneries such as granola bars, baked goods and non dairy hemp milk which has omega 3 essential fatty acids and proteins just to mention a few. It’s also used in body care products such as lotions and perfumes and cosmetics.
Hemp fiber has the most industrial applications of all. There are 2 kinds of hemp fiber, the hemp bast which is the outer surface of the hemp stalk and the hemp hurds which is the inner woody portion of the hemp stalk. The bast has the longest fibers which can be woven into textiles. The hemp hurds on the other hand have short fibers thus cannot be woven. The hemp fiber therefore is used in the manufacture of ropes and cords of a wide range of tensile strengths, textiles of all forms, various materials used in the construction industry and last but not least, paper. The hemp bast is combined with other textiles such as silk, flax or cotton to make textiles suited for both furnishings and clothing such as upholstery, carpets, mats and fine textiles. The hemp hurds which cannot be woven into cloth are used for more purposes such as animal bedding and mulch owing to their excellent absorbent abilities. These fibers also have many uses in the construction industry where they are processed into products such as hempcrete, biodegradable plastic composites, thermal insulate and various automotive amalgamates in car interiors such as dash boards and door paneling. Paper from hemp bast has many applications which include making cigarette paper which commercially is the most lucrative of the hemp products, bank notes, technical filters, numerous body hygiene products and cosmetics, specialty paper such as art canvas paper and tea bags.
The hemp plant is set to continue to play a huge role in many areas of production and manufacturing even as it is put under increased acreage owing to the gradually relaxing stringency of the Cannabis ban all over the world. To learn about the Significance of Industrial Hemp Facts
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