Hemp 101: 5 Key Questions Answered

Do you have questions about hemp?

With it's many uses and rich, complex history, you surely wouldn't be the first!

Here at Calyx Organics, we like to keep things straight forward, which is why we've put together a quick guide to answer some questions you may have about the history and uses of this incredible plant.

 

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1. What is hemp?

Know formally as Cannabis Sativa, hemp is the varietal of this plant that contains very low amounts of THC. It is non psychoactive, and can be cultivated for a wide array of uses.

With optimal care and attention, hemp plants can grow to be very strong and durable, making it ideal for farming in many climates and conditions across the globe. In fact, this plant is indigenous to several parts of the world, including Asia, the Middle East and North America. Hemp also requires less water than many competing crops, such as cotton, and has a much shorter growth cycle.

For thousands of years, this tenacious plant has been a crucial part of human history, and it's many uses span across industry, culture and time.

So now you may be wondering...where did it all begin?

 

2. When was hemp first used by humans?

As new information emerges, the answer to this question changes.

Researchers continue to find evidence of hemp's presence in human civilization well before the common era, such as a scrap of Mesopotamian cloth dating back to 8000 BCE.

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"Like the holy shroud, we preserve ancient italian hemp clothes to study their durability over time and to make precious garments." by Alberto Ziveri is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / cropped from original

 

In China, hemp has been continuously used for nearly 6000 years, the longest known continued use of any culture. There is evidence of the Chinese cultivating hemp for cloth on an industrial level as early as the 28th century BCE.

Nearly three thousand years later, China would use hemp to create the first iteration of paper, in approximately 150 BCE. A short time after that, a Buddhist text created in the 2nd or 3rd century would become the first known text to be written on paper made partially from hemp fibers.

Throughout the course of human history, hemp has without a doubt played a key role in some of our most important moments. 

Now you may be wondering...

 

3. How else has hemp been used historically?

Because of its ability to thrive in many climates, hemp and its various biproducts quickly became ubiquitous. By implementing the right farming techniques, hemp could be cultivated and processed  to meet a wide range of humanity's needs on a large scale, without the challenges of competing crops, such as cotton or flax.  

In addition to a long list of goods and products, hemp has also helped nourish humanity for thousands of years. Nutritionally, it packs a punch.

Food products made with hemp are high in protein, fiber, and omega fatty acids, as well as many other vitamins and minerals. For this reason, it has been a staple food source in many cultures throughout history. Both humans and animals have benefited from consuming this nutritious plant. 

Hemp has also played a major role in medicine. Egypt, China and India are some of the first known cultures to have utilized hemp in this way, using it to treat ailments such as arthritis, insomnia, depression and chronic pain. These ancient methods date back to thousands of years before the common era, and many persist to this day.

And finally, hemp served as a very crucial component in ship building. The fibers were used to create rope, sails and nets that are much stronger and more salt resistant than the alternative material, flax.

hemp-canvas-sails-cannabis

Fun fact: The word 'canvas', as in the canvas sail of a boat, is derived from the word 'cannabis'

 

4. How is hemp used in the modern era?

Hemp continues to make itself more useful than ever!

As humanity's knowledge has expanded, so has our ability to innovate with this versatile resource. Here are a few examples of the ways in which hemp has been used in the last few decades:

Harvested hemp stocks can be turned into a plant-based fuel source, often referred to as "biofuel". The plant fibers are shredded, heated and fermented to produce cellulosic ethanol. The ethanol is then purified and distilled into the final product, hemp bio fuel. 

Hemp seeds provide an excellent source of lean, plant based protein for vegans and meat eaters alike. A single hemp seed contains about 25% protein, and very little fat. These seeds can be incorporated into salads, smoothies, and many other foods. Hemp based protein powder is also widely available. 

"Hempcrete" is just one example of how hemp can be processed into various materials used in construction. Often combined with lime or sand, the resulting bio-composite is lighter weight than concrete, and less brittle. It also acts as a natural insulator. 

While traditional plastic can take centuries and longer to break down, plastic made from hemp begins decomposing in as little as a few months. With the alarming rate at which plastic trash has begun to impact eco systems around the globe, making the switch to hemp based products becomes more and more urgent. Almost any product made from traditional plastic can also be made from hemp. 

And finally...

 

The Eco Lotus Elise debuted on July 23, 2008 at the British International Motor Show in London, UK. Photo by Lotus.


5. What is the difference between hemp and cannabis?

Despite the use of two different terms, hemp and cannabis come from the same plant.

Cannabis Sativa has many strains, some of which produce very low levels of THC. These strains are what is commonly referred to as “hemp”. In the US, Cannabis Sativa plants can have no more than 0.3% THC present in order to be considered hemp under the current laws.

From a scientific perspective however, Cannabis Sativa is one plant, with many strains.

 

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Cannabis Sativa in its early stages of growth 

 Thank you for reading!

There is so much more to say about this amazing plant, we could never hope to cover it all in just one post! Look forward to an ongoing series that dives deeper into hemp's history, uses and much, much more.

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