Hemp plant – Fascinating facts and far-fetched fallacies
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The humble hemp plant, one of the fastest growing biomasses on earth, is also one of the earliest crops ever to have been cultivated by man. The hemp plant has a long and illustrious history, providing us with fibres for textiles, paper, rope and more.
Hemp has been used to treat a variety of medical ailments across all the major continents for thousands of years. It is not time that you learned more about this important crop?
I was going to do just that – But then I got high…
Not on hemp, you didn’t. Fact – The hemp plant differs from marijuana in that is does not produce a “high” when smoked or consumed. This is because hemp plants do not contain sufficient THC, the psycho-active ingredient found in cannabis plants, to affect humans. You cannot get high from hemp.
The hemp plant has both proven medical and environmental benefits to offer. Over 30 countries grow hemp on a legal and industrial basis. Yet hemp cultivation remains banned in numerous countries. Given the benefits of hemp, why the controversy?
You can pick your friends, not your family
Fact – both hemp and marijuana belong to the cannabis family. This fact is responsible for much confusion because, unlike hemp, you can get high from marijuana.
Marijuana, the hemp plant’s cannabis cousin, has been used both recreationally and in religious rites for millennia. Daily, millions of people across the globe will make use marijuana for recreational purposes, it being perfectly legal across several states. Although marijuana has proven to be less dangerous than both alcohol and tobacco, persecution of this plant continues.
Even though the two are different plants, hemp has received a bad reputation merely through its cannabis association with marijuana. The result has been an unfortunate situation, one to the detriment of society.
In the interests of countering some of the negative stigma attached to the hemp plant, I have listed some cool facts below for you to enjoy.
Refusal to grow hemp was once punishable by law. Mandatory cultivation laws were enacted in numerous states across America. Between the years of 1763 and 1769, failure to grow hemp would have landed you (two weeks?) in a Virginia gaol.
In 1850, the state of Kentucky produced over 40 000 tons of hemp. Hemp was the leading cash crop for many states right up until the 20th century.
Varnish and paint used to be made from hemp seed oil. The practice, which continued up until 1937, saw America use over 58 000 tons of hemp seeds for paint in 1935 alone.
In what could be considered a blow to the environment, the US government reneged on initial commitments. The US government of 1916 envisioned a situation whereby all paper from 1940 onwards would come from hemp plants. It was hoped that the cutting down of trees would be unnecessary.
Government studies show that 1 acre of hemp equals 4.1 acres of trees. The cultivation of hemp requires far less water and can be harvested in a fraction of the time it takes for timber to mature. Sadly, we continue to destroy our remaining forests with reckless abandon.
Henry Ford built an environmentally friendly car made almost entirely out of hemp. This vehicle was designed to run on hemp fuel and crash tests showed the hemp-plastic panels to be 10x stronger than their steel counterparts. There is also a photograph depicting Ford standing proudly in front of his vast fields of hemp.
At one stage, from 1631 through to the late 1800’s, you could pay your taxes to the US government with hemp. Imagine doing that today! “Yes Mr Tax-man, here is my tax payment, two truck loads of a fast growing weed which I pulled out from my back yard.” That would be something! Can you imagine the stupefied look of surprise you would receive if you tried it? Don’t. Just don’t.
Up until the mid 1820’s, 80% of all clothing, bedding, linen, fabrics etc. was made from hemp. Prior to 1950, 90% of all ship sails, rigging and rope was made from hemp and hemp canvas.
Hemp oil contains more Omega 3 than fish oil. Hemp contains high levels of an easy to digest protein, making it ideal for high performance athletes.
There is more to the hemp plant than what first meets the eye. For far too long the medical benefits hemp has to offer, have been ignored. With dozens of applications, from paper to plant based bio-plastics and fuel, to food and environmental benefits; for us to refer to it as a humble hemp plant, is incorrect. Surely, this gift from nature to humanity should be hailed as Hero Hemp!
Author: Andrea Durrheim