Hemp, commonly industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species. But it is different from the intoxicating forms of cannabis we are aware of.
This article focuses on the 101 of hemp–what hemp is, what are its uses, and where to buy hemp products in India.
What is hemp?
Hemp is the oldest domesticated crop known to man. Mankind has been using hemp for paper, textiles, and cordage since antiquity.
The prime purpose behind the cultivation of hemp is to put into use its various derivational products.
With the advent of technology, hemp can today be refined into paint, biofuel, insulation material, animal feed, and biodegradable plastic.
The seeds of the plant have high nutritional value and serve, in different forms, as a staple food in themselves and a healthy addition to other dishes.
Hemp 101 fact: Different parts of the hemp plant are used to make different products. The seeds give us hemp hearts, hemp seed oil, and hemp protein powder.
The leaves and flowers are used to make therapeutic products such as CBD oil and tinctures.
The stem is used to extract fibre which is then processed into fabric, plastic, or even eco-friendly leather.
Is Hemp Intoxicating?
Hemp is a non-intoxicating variety of cannabis. That is to say, the compounds present in hemp do not cause psychoactive behaviour in the body.
The main chemical compound (cannabinoid) in hemp is CBD which is non-psychotropic in nature. CBD does not have an intoxicating effect on the body but healing, therapeutic benefits.
CBD is extracted in the form of oil and then further modelled into different products such as tinctures, edibles, and beverages to make its use and consumption easier.
People around the globe use CBD to get relief from pain, manage stress and anxiety, and induce a sense of calm in the body.
Hemp seeds—which are the prime source of hemp-based food items—are independent of cannabinoids and, therefore, do not cause any intoxication in the body.
Hemp 101 fact: Hemp is rich in the cannabinoid CBD which has manifold therapeutic benefits on the body.
THC vs. CBD
THC and CBD are two of the 118 identified cannabinoids (plant chemicals) present in the cannabis plant. The easiest way to understand their functioning is to liken them to medicines.
Just the way we have a go-to medication particularly for pain and another one for fever, THC and CBD are different chemicals that react differently in the body.
THC causes a heightened sense of euphoria in the body i.e. the high. But CBD does not.
Different varieties of cannabis contain THC and CBD in different amounts which is why not all cannabis gets you high.
THC is present in abundance in marijuana—a variety we commonly use for recreational purpose. Hemp, however, contains CBD in principal amounts which is a non-intoxicating chemical.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana are two different species of the cannabis plant just like beagle and bulldog are two different species of dogs.
But unlike these two dogs, hemp and marijuana have close physical resemblance. A more apt analogy would be Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso.
It is only when you look closely, physically and chemically, that you are able to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.
The major component in hemp is CBD. It does contains THC but in very low amounts typically less than or equal to 0.3%).
Marijuana, however, has THC as the prime cannabinoid. An average batch of marijuana contains about 5-20% of THC content. Some premium marijuana strains may contain 25-30% of THC.
Because of these chemical compositions, hemp and marijuana are grown for completely different purposes. The cultivation of marijuana is majorly for recreational and medicinal purposes.
The main purpose of hemp cultivation is industrial use of its derivatives.
To the normal eye, the difference between the appearance of hemp and marijuana is not evident. But if we look closely, the two plants show noticeable differences.
For instance, the leaves of marijuana are often broad, a tight bud, or a nugget with organd hair. Hemp leaves are more likely to be skinnier and concentrated on the top.
Observing from a distance, marijuana appears to be a short, fat bush whereas hemp is typically skinnier and taller.
The cultivation environment for hemp and marijuana differs contrastingly. Marijuana requires a carefully-controlled, humid, and warm atmosphere to grow properly. Its typical growth cycle of marijuana is 60-90 days.
Hemp can grow in varied climates in a more flexible environment. It’s typical growth cycle is 108-120 days.
Hemp 101 fact: Hemp and marijuana are never grown together. Hemp plants ruin the pollens of marijuana thus diluting its psych activity.
Is Hemp Legal?
Cannabis, in general, has had the attention and interest of many people all over the world. To an average person’s knowledge, cannabis is illegal.
But different jurisdictions take different stands. This is usually because of the THC content in the cannabis variety. For instance, since hemp has less than 1% of THC levels, the majority of the countries have legalised the use of 0.2% of THC levels.
This, obviously, does not play well for marijuana because it has ridiculously high levels of THC. Marijuana is still illegal in most parts of the world.
In India, for instance, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) banned the production and sale of cannabis flower and resin. But, it permitted the use of leaves and seeds.
The National Policy on NDPS recognises cannabis as a source of biomass, high-value oil, and fibre. Therefore, cultivating cannabis for horticultural use or for making industrial hemp is legal in the country.
Hemp 101 fact: The government of India also encourages research and cultivation of cannabis with low THC content.
What are the uses of Hemp?
Hemp is primarily and actively used for industrial purposes. Hemp was among the first plants to be spun into usable fibre about ten thousand years ago. Archaeological evidence also supports its presence in mankind’s earliest innovations.
Hemp 101 fact: Hemp was a major component in the 600-year-old Gutenberg Bible.
It’s one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and can produce commercial items such as clothing, textile, paper, paint, insulation, food, animal feed, oils, and more.
In the present scenario, hemp is being used all over the world to produce a wide range of CBD products.
Hemp as Food
Hemp seeds are a storehouse of nutrition. The seeds and the oil extracted from them are edible. They can be consumed raw or sprouted, grounded into hemp meals, or made into dried powder.
Hemp seeds also make protein-rich and gluten-free vegan milk. These contain about 75% of salt-soluble globulins and about 25% of water-soluble albumin as the primary storage proteins.
In addition, hemp seeds are rich in dietary fibre, B vitamins, and dietary minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus.
Nutritional Breakdown of Hemp
Hemp nuts contain oil, protein, dietary fibres, carbohydrates, vitamins, phytosterols, and trace minerals.
That is to say, hemp’s nutrition comes from its oil (that contains healthy fatty acids) and its protein (that contains all essential amino acids).
Essential Fatty Acids
Hemp oil offers the optimal ratio (3:1) of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. This ratio plays a vital role in reducing inflammation thus providing relief from pain and irritated skin.
The major omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in hemp oil are Linoleic Acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) respectively. LA and ALA are responsible for managing inflammation, blood clotting, and immune system in the body.
In a typical 2500 calories per day diet, LA and ALA intake should be 9-18 and 6-7 grams per day. 3-5 tablespoons of hemp oil makes this easily possible.
Super Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Hemp oil also provides a substantial amount of the rarer super polyunsaturated fatty acids—gamma-linolenic acid and stearidonic acid. A regular supplementation of these in the body aids in the reduction of symptoms of atopic dermatitis and other skin disorders.
Saturated and Trans Fatty Acids
Hemp oil contains less 10% saturated fatty acids and zero trans fatty acids. Trans-fat raises the bad cholesterol level in the body increasing the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Hemp oil contains higher amounts of tocopherols, a constituent of Vitamin E, than most other edible oils. The Vitamin E makeup in hemp oil helps the body in fighting degenerative conditions.
And its anti-oxidant properties help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, and certain types of cancer.
Hemp seeds are a complete source of protein with their perfect amino acids composition and protein structure. Hemp protein is 33% albumin and 67% Edestine. This structure is closely similar to proteins manufactured in our blood.
This makes hemp protein easily digestible. It is also free of anti-nutrients and thus does not interfere with protein uptake.
Common Hemp Food Items
Because most of hemp’s nutrition is in the seeds, hemp-based food items are mostly different forms of seeds. These include:
Hemp Hearts: which are de-hulled hemp seeds i.e. their outer shell has been removed. Hemp Hearts have a nutty taste and can easily be sprinkled on top of cereal, porridge, pancakes, and the likes as well as added to smoothies and shakes.
Hemp Seed Powder: also hemp protein powder which is hemp seeds crushed into a fine granular powder. This has a more earthy flavour with a soft texture. Hemp protein powder makes a healthy addition to shakes, paranthas, cakes, and brownies.
Hemp Seed Oil: hemp seeds crushed together to extract oil from them. Unrefined hemp seed oil has a strong, pungent taste and can be used to shallow fry and sauté veggies and chickens.
Hemp as Building Material
Hemp in combination with lime makes concrete-like blocks to serve the purpose of insulating material in construction. These materials have been used in electronics, cars, and houses since the 20th century.
The industrial use of hemp has nurtured the development of hemp ropes and hemp concrete. These help in building eco-friendly homes.
Developments in the uses of hemp have also pointed us towards solving one of the major problems of today—plastic. Hemp Plastic is completely biodegradable and more sustainable than conventional plastic.
Hemp plastics can be recycled infinite times. It is versatile in the sense that it can produce anything from water bottle, toys, and furniture to bags, electronics, and car parts.
Hemp 101 fact: Hemp plastic is also 5 times stiffer and 2.5 times stronger than traditional plastic.
Hemp as Biofuel
The oil made from hemp seeds can produce biodiesel and the complete fermentation of the plant can yield alcohol fuel. Filtered hemp oil is used to power diesel engines. The biodiesels made from hemp are sometimes called hempoline. By fermenting the whole hemp plant, we can make alcohol fuel as well.
Producing vehicle fuel from hemp is easier and less complicated than the conventional biodiesel and biogas.
Hemp as Clothes and Accessories
Hemp fibre can be spun to different degrees to produce fabric resembling in texture from canvas to silk. Because the cultivation of hemp is more sustainable than cotton, hemp clothes provide an eco-friendly alternative.
Hemp fabric is also anti-bacterial, UV-resistant, and more breathable than traditional fabrics.
The pulp from the fibres of the hemp plant can also make paper that has more lignin fraction and high tear resistance and tensile strength.
Hemp 101 fact: Because hemp can grow in 4-6 months’ time and in a relatively smaller space, it offers a viable solution to deforestation for paper.
Hemp as a source of CBD
CBD is a therapeutic chemical compound present in the cannabis plants. The hemp plant contains CBD in the most amount and is, therefore, the sole building brick of the CBD industry.
Hemp buds, leaves, and flowers are used to extract CBD in the form of oil which is further modelled into products such as tinctures, capsules, edibles, and beverages.
Other Hemp Inventions
Hemp by-products create an increasing number of usable products. Knotting hemp twines together through the practice of macramé yield hemp jewellery such as bracelets, necklaces, and anklets.
Hemp can also create animal bedding and horticultural mulch.
As a mop crop, hemp helps in extracting impurities from wastewater.
When grown in dense volumes, hemp functions as a smother crop to kill tough weeds. This decreases, to some extent, the use of herbicides.
What is the Future of Hemp?
Hemp is slowly re-rising to fame. Multiple industries, from environmental groups to health professionals are beginning to realise hemp’s potential. It is sustainable, environment-friendly, and highly nutritious.
Hemp is primarily being used as a source of CBD. But that can be a good thing as the recognition of CBD can shed much-needed light on to the other uses of hemp. With the growing need and acceptance of CBD, and its pan-industry practicality, the future of hemp looks promising.