If you’ve ever walked past a suitably hip market stall you’ve probably seen a whole array of items made from hemp. From baskets to bags to body lotion, the uses of it are endless. It’s been lauded as an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic fibres, yet it’s been banned in the USA since the 1930’s. If you’re confused though don’t worry - we’ve got you covered.
What is Hemp?
Hemp, or industrial hemp as it’s sometimes known, is a fast-growing subspecies of a plant called Cannabis sativa. Normally it’s spun into hard wearing fibres that are woven or pressed to make all sorts of materials, a use that dates back at least 10,000 years. Historically these fibres were used in producing fine papers, rope for mighty battleships and, more recently, bedding for less mighty bunnies. Oh, and its oil has a whole range of cosmetic benefits too.
Wait, did you just say *Cannabis* sativa?
Yes, technically speaking hemp belongs to the same family as it’s more infamous ‘whacky’ cousin, however it contains virtually none of the same psychoactive chemical. To put it into perspective, marijuana contains 5-30% THC (the compound that gives it its properties), hemp on the other hand only contains 0.3%. Not that the Americans took notice of course, riding a wave of hysteria that still prevents farmers growing hemp in all but 16 states.
So if I set fire to my laundry basket…
No. Just no.
Important question: Can I eat it then?
Absolutely! While it’s not advisable to nibble on your laundry basket, there are a frankly ludicrous number of delicious hemp products out there, acting as a great vegan source of protein. Among these are, hemp milk, protein powder, bread, burgers and even hummus. CBD oil, extracted from the flowers of the plant, is perhaps the most exciting thing to come out of hemp and can be used as a supplement or a dressing during meal times. It’s thought that it has the perfect balance of >omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, reflective of that already in the body. This helps in boosting heart health as well as brain function.
Meanwhile hemp oil can be extracted by pressing the seeds of the plant. This oil can be mixed with CBD oil or used for cooking by itself, however it also finds a pretty niche use in the manufacture of soap bottles. Needless to say, don’t eat those.
And those cosmetic benefits?
CBD is the main compound that fascinates researchers (apart from THC, obviously). This is mainly because it seems to have a whole range of scientifically proven benefits, on the inside and outside. When it comes to cosmetics, CBD helps to soothe the skin, proving effective at reducing swelling and inflammation. It doesn’t just stop there though; the hemp oil it’s used with is packed full of the antioxidant vitamin E and vital minerals such as zinc, calcium and magnesium. All of these act together to boost skin health and maintenance, leaving behind a flawless glow.
Why is it becoming so popular?
In addition to the benefits listed above, hemp is gaining popularity as people become more aware about their environment and the need to be sustainable. Industrial hemp can be grown in many climates and, once used, can be recycled or broken down naturally. It also requires 50% less water to grow than the equivalent amount of cotton. That said, the lyrics to ‘hemp-eyed Joe’ don’t tend to flow as well.
This doesn’t come at a cost though. Fashion companies are recognising the fact that hemp is durable, practical and stylish - just ask Adidas, who use it to make their much vaunted range of trainers. Likewise, skincare companies are finally moving away from harsh synthetic ingredients and are embracing the natural health benefits of hemp extracts. It’s something we’ve embraced too at Optiat, using local English hemp husks as a base for our wonderful range of face masks.
So the next time you’re faced with the choice, think about it: who knows, this information might even come in… hempful… sorry.