What is Hemp? 

Since CBD was made legal in the UK in 2018, there’s been an explosion of interest in the hemp plant. The conversation is still growing as many people become more aware of its benefits, wide number of uses and its long history. But before we talk about how hemp seeds and hemp oil can be used, we should probably discuss one major question – what is hemp? Let’s dive in.

For starters, the plant is part of the botanical class of the Cannabis Sativa cultivars. It is grown for many purposes including industrial materials and food. It is also one of the most sustainable materials due to CO2 absorption and soil remediation capabilities. Although it is one of the most versatile and widely used plants, many people remain unaware of its influence. If you look closely, you’ll see this jack-of-all-trades botanical is a crucial component to the foundation of our modern society.

What is the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis Plants?  

Understanding the differences between the two plants is a major step.  By appearance the leaf structure and stem are fairly similar, which makes sense as the the plant is part of the cannabis family. The plant also has an easily identifiable exterior with a long fibrous stalk and thin leaves concentrated at the top and can grow up to twenty feet tall. 

It is a member of the Cannabis Sativa family, but it’s different to the well-known marijuana plant. Unlike marijuana, these plants have a low concentration of THC and a higher amount of CBD. THC is the psychoactive compound which can be taken recreationally to achieve a mind-altering high but is also thought to medicinal qualities. Whereas CBD is often consumed for those using it for health and wellness.

However, the one key characteristic in determining the difference between said plants, is that a hemp plant is one that is 0.3% THC or less while a cannabis plant contains 0.3% or more THC. It might just be one of the most understated wonder plants, due to its incredibly diverse usage as well as significance in our society.

That’s right. From the plant’s CO2 absorption qualities to its flexibility as a material, the variety we can use it’s different parts is unbelievable. From hemp seeds to hemp oil, it really is a jack of all trades.

What are the Benefits?

It is actually one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, alongside bamboo. Its speedy growing process means it sequesters lots of CO2 from the atmosphere whilst it also provides lots of carbon and sugars to the soils. These qualities alone mean that just growing it is sustainable. 

The fact that materials can be created that replace cotton and wood amongst others at the same time, potentially make it the most important plant in the natural world. Whether its hemp rope or hemp bedding, there’s always a use.

What are Uses?

Because of its versatility, the crop is used across multiple industries. A jack of all trades, for sure.

Hemp Clothing 

The sustainable fashion movement is rapidly growing, and hemp clothing is crucial. Now people care about where their clothes are from, who made them, and the impact they are having. And one thing is for certain: the plant’s fibres is the ultimate sustainable material. 

In fact, the crop was one of the first plants to be spun into fibre. It was used by a variety of cultures, and today, many brands still use the plant in their clothes, shoes and accessories. Even big companies like Levi’s are getting in on that act and manufacturing hemp clothing with said materials. Hemp clothes are a great sustainable fashion choice because the material long-lasting, fast-growing and antibacterial. 

Industrial Textiles like Hemp Rope

The durability of the plant’s fibres make it ideal for creating industrial products. Whether it’s hemp rope, nets, paper and carpets you’re likely to see the material involved in weaving and production of all sorts of useful things about the house and beyond.  And yes, that includes sleep too. Hemp bedding is one of the most common uses of the material. 

Food & Drink like Hemp Seeds

Vegetarians and vegans may enjoy a diet rich in hemp seeds. The seeds are naturally rich in protein and contain all nine amino acids! You can sprinkle these seeds on your meals, bake them into cakes and bread, or create hemp milk, which makes a delicious dairy alternative.

People also enjoy the leaves of the plant in their tea or ground down in salads or porridge.

Use in CBD

Another modern use for the plant is deriving CBD, something we’ve gotten rather good at. The plant is rich in the cannabidiol compound that has become a must-have health and wellness treatment in recent years. The emergence of CBD is surely one of the biggest benefits of the  plant. The plant’s compound is extracted to help improve our health and wellness. Mee uses this derived CBD to enrich users’ daily lives. You can take a look at our organic CBD products here.

The History 

The earliest records of the plant’s cultivation date back over a staggering 12.000 years. While it has been identified that the indigenous growth of this plant emerged across the Northern Hemisphere, scholars believe that the first people to cultivate it came from Central Asia. That’s still before the medicinal benefits of hemp where actually discovered.

Settlements across Central Asia were using the plant for a wide variety of other means, such as weaving clothes, making pottery, textiles as well as substituting papyrus – yes, that’s right! In those pre-paper days! It makes one wonder just what sort of ancient documentation and historically significant records were recorded using the material.

Over the next 500 years, its cultivation started to spread outside of Asia. Spreading through the Middle East, India and Egypt. Eventually reaching Europe in around 800BC according to historical records. This begs the question, just how much longer was it around before it was written down and documented?

In the 1600s Native Americans were cultivating the plant which grew wild in Virginia. They used it predominantly for clothing, rugs and shoes. The US government even made the cultivation mandatory in order to dissociate themselves from their British Colonials, they even paid taxes in Hemp. Back in 1533, England did the same thing under Henry VII, imposing fines on farmers if they didn’t grow it.

An article published in the magazine: Popular Mechanics, described the plant as ‘the next billion dollar cash crop’. However, as it always goes, just a year earlier, the ‘Marijuana Tax Act’ of 1937 declared the possession and cultivation of hemp illegal. Whilst medical marijuana was still legal, it became incredibly expensive to produce. Not to mention the endless regulation and endless paperwork that proceeded.

The Plant Today

Nevertheless, its farming is now legal in the US and the UK. However, most of these plants will be harvested from expansive farms, but it can be grown in even the least fertile of soil. Currently, Canada has the highest concentration of hemp plants, followed by China and France.

After all, there’s a reason hemp has been used for centuries. No longer do you need to ask the question “what is hemp,” because now you know, from hemp oil to hemp milk to hemp bedding, it really is one of the world’s most remarkable plants.