What is Hemp? A Beginners Guide to Understand Hemp
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What is Hemp: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp is frequently associated with Marijuana, another strain of the same species. While they are botanically the same plant species, they are genetically distinct strains of cannabis. The two are distinguished by their use, chemical composition, and Hemp Cultivation methods.
Learn more about Hemp vs Marijuana : Hemp vs Marijuana : Everything You Need to Know
Hemp is grown for various products, including nutritional supplements, foods and beverages, personal care products, fabrics and textiles, paper, construction materials, and other manufactured and industrial goods.
Hemp is a tall, aromatic annual herb. It has hollow stalks except at the tip and base of slender cane-like stalks. Hemp leaves are palmate in shape, and the flowers are small and greenish-yellow in color.
Hemp flowers that produce seeds grow in elongate spike-like clusters. Female plants make these. On male plants, pollen-producing flowers form multi-branched groups.
Why Use Hemp?
After What is Hemp? Let’s discuss Users must understand why they are switching to hemp. Is it because you’re fascinated by this wonder crop, or are you motivated by the experiences of others? Are you just curious, or do you genuinely believe in its nutritional and renewable properties?
Answering these questions narrows down the hemp products that interest you and allows you to make a more informed decision. For example, if you’re looking for hemp for its nutritional value, you might prefer hemp seed oil, hemp hearts, or hemp seed powder.
If, on the other hand, you like the rugged and raw look of hemp fibre, you’re more likely to purchase hemp accessories.
Origin of Hemp
Hemp is thought to be man’s first domesticated crop. It was one of the first fibres spun into fabric. Let us examines the history of hemp, from its historical origins to its earliest applications to its classification as a Schedule-1 drug.
Hemp’s History and Early Uses
According to research, hemp originated in Central Asia. Hemp cultivation for fibre purposes was first documented in China around 2800 BCE. It then spread to Mediterranean countries during the early Christian era before applying to the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. Chile began growing hemp in 1500, and a decade later, North America joined in on the action.
The earliest evidence of hemp use dates back to 8,000 BC in Taiwan, where People used hemp cords to make pottery. According to archaeology reports, traces of hemp cloth were discovered in Mesopotamia around the same period.
It was around 6,000 BC, Hemp oil and seeds was used as a food source in China around 6,000 BC, and evidence of hemp textiles was discovered in the same region around 4,000 BC. At the same time, hemp was used as a weapon in China.
Beyond Food and Fibre
The first 4,000 years of hemp history show that the plant’s various uses were almost exclusively limited to China and some parts of the Middle East. China invented the first hemp-based paper around 200 BC. They achieved this by crushing the hemp fibres, mixing them with bark, and adding water. Buddhist texts from the second and third centuries AD are the oldest documents written on hemp paper.
Though China kept this invention hidden until the 5th century, it eventually made its way to other cultures. However, the actual value came when China included it in the Gutenberg Bible—the world’s most expensive and translated book.
When the plant caught the attention of American entrepreneurs, it opened a new path in the hemp industry. Hemp was now the second most commonly used material for boat construction. During this time, China continued to use the plant and its various ingredients to treat various illnesses and as a source of nutrition.
Several folk remedies and ancient medicines mention the healing properties of the hemp plant’s leaves, seeds, and roots. For example, people traditionally used hemp seeds and flowers to treat difficult childbirth, rheumatism, insomnia, arthritic joints, and convulsions.
Growing Popularity of Hemp
Moving forward to the Middle Ages, hemp became a significant crop with significant economic and social value. It met a large portion of the world’s food and fiber needs. For example, hemp ropes were popular in sailing ships due to their three times the strength of cotton and resistance to saltwater. Until the 1920s, hemp was used to make 80% of the world’s clothing.
It was only a matter of time before the crop spread to other parts of the world and infiltrated every aspect of life. The Hemp Industries Association was founded in 1994 when forty companies gathered in Arizona to form the Hemp Industries Association. This faculty’s goal was to promote hemp and define product standards, like the trade organizations that promote cotton, wool, and linen. Hemp eventually became the most versatile crop, with applications in food, taxation, clothing, and other areas.
The major crisis for hemp arose in the 1930s because of the propaganda created by companies entrusted with the new petroleum-based synthetic textile industry. They saw the hemp industry as the enemy, and the US government, under the influence of these companies, proposed prohibitive tax laws and levied an occupational excise tax on hemp dealers.
It was in September 1937, after which the US government banned hemp production altogether. The Canadian government followed the American government and prohibited production under the Opium and Narcotics Act on August 1, 1938.
The rest of the world followed soon after. Eventually, hemp was scheduled as a narcotic drug. Its production, trade, and consumption were prohibited or highly governed by strict guidelines.
The rest of the world quickly followed. As a result, hemp was eventually classified as a narcotic drug, and its production, trade, and consumption were prohibited or heavily regulated.
Is Hemp Illegal
Though hemp contributed to the United States’ victory in World War II, the prohibition on growing the plant persisted after the war. Moreover, its link to marijuana cursed it with the fate of a narcotic drug.
Despite its solid commercial track record, it could not persuade the Controlled Substances Act to distinguish between hemp and marijuana. As a result, industrial hemp was classified as a Schedule 1 drug, making its cultivation and use illegal.
Origin of Hemp in India
Before the compilation of the Atharvaveda, cannabis was considered one of the five sacred plants in Hinduism. Cannabis is lexicalized as charas (resin), ganja (flower), and bhang in local linguistics (seeds and leaves). The cannabis Sativa plant was one of many plants used to make soma during the Vedic period. The plant and its numerous therapeutic benefits are mentioned in the Rigveda, Atharvaveda, Ayurvedic, and tantric texts.
Things changed for Indian hemp when the British Parliament enacted a cannabis tax in 1798 to reduce cannabis consumption. However, while these attempts were made in 1838, 1871, and 1877, and again in 1961, the International Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs classified cannabis as a hard drug. When the Indian delegation objected, the treaty established a strict definition of cannabis. India agreed to limit Indian hemp exports.
The treaty gave India 25 years to crack down on recreational drugs. By the end of this period, the Indian government had passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. This act prohibited the production and sale of cannabis resin and flowers. It allowed the use of cannabis leaves and seeds and directed states to regulate the latter.
The Great Legalisation Movement of India attempted to re-legalize cannabis in India in 2015. However, multiple ministers supported decriminalizing cannabis in India for industrial and medicinal purposes.
Despite these restrictions, the National Policy on NDPS continued recognizing cannabis as a biomass and fibre source. Cannabis cultivation for industrial and horticultural purposes is legal in India.
In July 2019, the Delhi High Court agreed to hear a petition filed by the Great Legalisation Movement Trust challenging the NDPS Act’s classification of cannabis as “arbitrary, unscientific, and unreasonable.”
Note: It is critical to distinguish between decriminalisation and legalisation. Cannabis legalisation refers to removing all legal prohibitions on the plant. Cannabis use, possession, and sale would no longer be illegal if legalized. Cannabis decriminalisation is still illegal, but authorities will not prosecute someone for possessing less than a certain amount.
Hemp and its Various Uses
So far, we’ve seen that hemp has various applications in various industries. This chapter delves into all the different products that can be made from hemp.
Hemp Used in Textiles
Hemp is a classic, not a trendy new fabric. Since antiquity, hemp has been used as a fabric. It is quickly becoming the fabric of choice in today’s environmentally conscious fashion market.
The hemp textile industry now includes businesses of all sizes. Today’s designs feature pure, 100% hemp in its natural off-white colour. However, hemp is also being blended with cotton and silk by manufacturers. While blending reduces the strength of a hemp product in comparison to a pure hemp product, it provides better moisture-wicking and a lower price.
Hemp is being used by an increasing number of eco-friendly clothing companies. For example, Used Rubber, a San Francisco-based company that makes recycled rubber belts, bags, and accessories, has added hemp as the first fabric to their line.
Look and Feel
Many people think hemp looks like a burlap. When it comes to hemp fabric, the strength and coarseness are determined by how the fibre is spun and woven. Weavers can incorporate hemp into various materials, from canvas to fine linen. Hemp fabric can be made softer than cotton if adequately processed.
Properties of Hemp Fibre
Hemp fibre bundles can be up to 15 feet long. In contrast, cotton fibres are only about 34 inches long. As a result, hemp has eight times the tensile strength and four times the durability of cotton. In addition, hemp fabric can be machine washed and dried. While it wrinkles like natural linen, it is incredibly absorbent and dyes beautifully.
As a result, it is an excellent choice for towels, diapers, and baby clothing. In addition, hemp has potential markets in table linens, upholstery fabric, and high-quality linen.
This fabric does not shrink and is highly resistant to pilling. In addition, because hemp fibres are long and robust, hemp fabric is very soft and long-lasting.
Furthermore, because hemp fabric is lightweight, it is highly breathable. It effectively allows moisture to pass from the skin to the atmosphere and is thus ideal for hot climates.
Mold, mildew, and harmful microbes are also resistant to hemp fabric. It softens with each wash and is more environmentally friendly than other fabrics.
Hemp Used In Making Paper
By allowing the reintroduction of plant-based papers, hemp can significantly contribute to the global economy and ecology. Since the mid-1800s, humans have used trees to make paper. Previously, cloth rags and annual crops like papyrus and hemp were primary paper sources.
Hemp paper is a type of paper that is made entirely or primarily of pulp derived from industrial hemp fibres. Making paper from hemp begins with the breakdown of the bast fibres in the plant’s outer stem layer. As a result, a pulp slurry is formed and molded into the desired shape and size. The process is similar to that of producing paper from wood pulp, but it is more environmentally friendly.
Properties of Hemp Paper
Fibre paper is a thin, brittle, challenging, and rough material. Hemp hurds has a similar chemical composition to wood, making them an excellent alternative raw material. Hemp paper is actually of higher quality than wood paper.
Hemp paper is more durable and retains its colour and texture for extended periods. It is recyclable 7-8 times and produces more pulp per acre than trees. Ten trees have the same amount of paper as one acre of hemp. And it only takes 4-5 months to grow.
Hemp has a higher cellulose content (around 85% versus 30% in wood) and a lower lignin content (5-24% versus 20-35% in wood)—both of which contribute to hemp paper’s superiority over timber. The cellulose content gives paper strength, and lignin needs to be removed from the pulp before processing it into paper.
Products Derived from Hemp Seeds
The hemp plant seed is the most valuable part of the plant. It contains a high concentration of nutrients and essential fatty acids, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammation properties, making it an excellent wellness and skincare supplement.
Hemp seeds are high in the two most important essential fatty acids, linoleic (LA; omega 6) and linolenic acid (LNA; omega 3). The seeds contain at least 30% oil in a 3:1 ratio of LA and LNA. This proportion is ideal for the human diet.
Hemp Oil is derived from hemp seeds and is a far healthier and more wholesome alternative to other vegetable oils high in trans fats. Hemp seed oil can be used to shallow fry and sauté foods and make a more nutritious salad dressing.
Skincare Made from Hemp
Many skincare and personal care products now contain hemp seed oil as an ingredient. Because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties, it is reshaping the organic cosmetics industry.
Numerous hair and skin care products contain hemp seed oil as the primary ingredient. Many brands combine them with other natural therapeutic oils to enhance the effects. Hemp lip and massage balms are widely available on the market today. New products are released that combine hemp with strawberry and peppermint flavours daily.
How does hemp help in Pain and Inflammation? Massage balms and lotions made with hemp seed oil and other anti-inflammatory agents can help relieve inflammation and localised pain while keeping the skin moist.
Hemp Clothing and Accessories
The hemp plant can be used to make valuable products. For example, hemp fibre makes various accessories, including bags, wallets, hats, and footwear. In addition, it can be tailored to almost any clothing type when spun into fabric.
Hemp shirts and dresses appear to be the most popular. They are, however, not the most popular. Even better, a variety of hemp clothing is a way to live a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
Hemp fabric is more breathable and anti-bacterial than any other fabric. Choosing hemp fabric for your body is thus a wise decision—bags, hats, and wallets are made from hemp. Similarly, hemp fibre is more robust and more durable.
Health Benefits of Hemp
There are many health benefits of hemp, and these are listed below:
Hemp seeds, in the form of oil, become a convenient and healthy addition to our lives. For example, cold-pressed hemp seed oil can be used as a healthy salad dressing or as a replacement for cooking oil.
It is also a massage oil for nourishing the skin and scalp. Hemp oil is now the primary ingredient in many cosmetic products such as creams, balms, shampoos, and body cleansers. It is primarily due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties.
Because of its naturally rich nutritional culture, hemp is commonly referred to as a superfood. As a result, hemp foods are becoming increasingly popular on supermarket shelves and in natural food stores worldwide.
Hemp seeds and oil are edible and beneficial medicinal and cosmetic supplements. Hemp seeds are safe to eat in their raw, sprouted, and powder forms. These can also be turned into a liquid and used in baking or beverages like hemp milk.
Salad dressings, waffles, granola bars, chips, pasta, nutrition bars, bread, cookies, frozen dessert, and cold-pressed oil supplements are some other hemp food products that are currently popular around the world.
All essential amino acids and fatty acids are found in hemp seeds. It is also a complete protein found in the plant kingdom. Hemp seeds have a crude protein content of 26-31%, 5-10% fat, 12% natural fibre, and 10% moisture.
Hemp nuts, like most other oilseeds, contain oil (44%), protein (33%), dietary fibre, and carbohydrates (12%). The nut also contains vitamins, phytosterols, and trace minerals.
The nutritional advantage of hemp over other edible oils is due to the composition of its oil, which includes healthy fatty acids, and its protein, which consists of all of the essential amino acids.
Hemp as a Source of CBD
Industrial hemp is the most abundant source of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that interact with the human body’s Endocannabinoid System to alter body functions.
When people smoke marijuana, this interaction is what causes the high. On the other hand, the high is caused by another cannabinoid known as THC.
The two most important cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Despite belonging to the same family and being present in the same plant, the percentage of each varies between cannabis species and strains.
For example, marijuana contains a high concentration of THC, whereas hemp contains a high concentration of CBD.
Why Use CBD?
CBD’s effects appear to be beneficial to the human body. CBD is primarily a relaxant and interacts with the body in the opposite way that THC does. While THC produces euphoric effects, CBD calms the body and aids in the relief of pain and stress.
An increasing number of scientific studies support CBD’s therapeutic effects on the body. The most prominent of these are those that relieve inflammation and neuropathic pain.
Many people are turning to CBD as an alternative to harsh pharmaceuticals to treat medical conditions like depression, anxiety, and epileptic seizures. In addition, studies have shown CBD to help with metabolic syndromes, autoimmune disorders, neurological diseases, skin diseases, gut disorders, and cardiovascular function.
How Does Hemp Benefit the Environment?
Deforestation is one of the most severe consequences of the paper industry. Nearly 27,000 species of life become extinct yearly due to the 296 million acres of forest we have destroyed in the last 20 years.
Alternative to Trees
Our demand for wood-derived products such as paper, building supplies, and fuel is increasing due to globalisation and technological advancement. Unfortunately, to make paper, approximately 40% of trees are destroyed.
Hemp, in this case, provides a ray of hope not only by producing more paper with less plant material but also by enriching the soil and better preparing it for subsequent crops. While hemp is not the only tree-free fibre option, it is the best.
Hemp as a Renewable Resource
During today’s global climatic and environmental crisis, sustainable ecological agriculture demands a return to traditional multi-crop cultivation. Hemp is arguably the best choice for this purpose for various reasons.
Hemp is a plant that degrades quickly. As a result, its disposal presents almost no waste management issues. The plant requires less fertilizer than other fibre crops. Because it has virtually no natural predators, pesticides are not necessary.
Hemp is a Low Maintenance Crop
Hemp is a low-maintenance crop that thrives in most climates. Its deep tap-root system prevents soil erosion and, unlike other significant crops, does not deplete soil nutrients.
Hemp produces four times more fibre per acre than other crops. In addition, it absorbs heavy metal contaminants from the soil as it does so. As a result, hemp acts as its mulch, shading out weeds and reducing the need for expensive herbicides. The field is virtually weed-free for the next crop after hemp harvesting.
Substitute to Cotton
Cotton, today’s most famous cash crop is the pesticide king. While cotton improves our lives in various ways, the environmental cost of cotton cultivation is incalculable.
Cotton consumes approximately 26% of the world’s pesticides and grows on 3% of the world’s arable land. In addition, it is a demanding crop that requires extensive irrigation and consumes more than 7% of annual fertiliser consumption.
Cotton cultivation in developing countries continues due to a desperate need for a cash crop.
Meanwhile, food crops are neglected, causing people to go hungry while depleting natural resources.
Cotton monoculture on a large scale around the Aral Sea in Russia has caused the sea to shrink, drastically changing the regional climate.
Hemp, on the other hand, has few insect enemies and is naturally resistant to weeds. As a result, it is a better candidate than cotton for producing high-quality, sustainable, and organically grown fibre.
Ecology of Hemp: Conditions to Grow in India
Ecology studies the interaction between organisms and their biophysical environment, including biotic and abiotic components. We have listed how hemp interacts with other members in its environment and the environmental conditions for growing hemp.
Industrial hemp is a one-of-a-kind plant. It is one of the fastest growing plants and requires little or no pesticide. Ideal locations for a profitable hemp harvest are away from the equator and closer to the poles. Avoid steep altitudes of more than 400 metres above sea level. Hemp requires flat fields with good per-location, hot days, and cool nights. Hemp can be grown on just one hectare of land.
Industrial hemp is a versatile crop that can thrive in various soil conditions. The crop prefers sufficiently deep and well-aerated soil with a pH of 6 or higher, in addition to retaining moisture and nutrients.
Very rich black mollisols, brown steppe, and brown rendiza soils have a favorable water balance, good water permeability, and a high nutrient-accumulation potential.
Phosphorus, sulphur, and calcium levels should be medium to high (greater than 40 ppm), good (greater than 5,000 ppm), and not excessive (less than 6,000 ppm). Hemp may react negatively to herbicides found in the soil. However, with time, we can develop a reasonable yield of hemp.
We should not consume hemp grown in soil containing high levels of Cadmium. A well-irrigated area is ideal because it allows the plant to access water while also keeping it from drowning. The roots will grow to a depth of 15 to 30 cm in an ideal growing environment, such as the one described above.
How to Prepare Soil for Growing Hemp
Careful and firm seedbed preparation is required for the uniform germination of hemp seeds. Drilling and conventional seedbed preparation are ideal methods. Seedlings will not emerge uniformly if the seeds are planted at a depth greater than 2 inches. No-till systems frequently produce good results.
It is beneficial to use tillage methods that retain precipitation, maintain porosity, incorporate nutrients, and keep the smooth surface.
Nutrients for Growing Hemp
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for hemp. Hemp is a nitrophilic crop that requires a constant supply of readily available nitrogen during the vegetative period. The first 6 to 8 weeks are the most demanding for nitrogen uptake. An extreme excess of nitrogen, on the other hand, can reduce fibre quality and quantity.
Hemp requires less than one-third the nitrogen and one-twelfth the phosphoric acid that cotton does.
Potassium and Phosphorus are the following most essential nutrients for hemp. They are necessary for good elasticity, a tensile strength of fibre cells, and quality. These nutrients are consumed during the flowering and seed formation processes.
Hemp necessitates a lot of moisture. Therefore, temperate weather with distinctively hot summers and cold winters is ideal for hemp cultivation.
The perfect temperature range for hemp growth is 19°C to 25°C. Hemp is relatively resistant to cold temperatures, withstanding frosts as low as -5°C. Plant seeds can germinate at temperatures ranging from 1°C to 3°C. However, hemp requires much heat to mature, especially the earlier varieties.
Industrial hemp prefers a mild climate, a humid atmosphere, and at least 25-30 inches of rain per year. Because rainfall is unpredictable, it is advantageous to take advantage of early soil moisture. Additional irrigation becomes necessary if the plant is dry in the first few weeks.
Seeds and Plant Breeding
Fresh, bright, clean, plump, and glossy seeds are ideal for optimal hemp growth. Test for fertility if the seeds are more than 2 years old. The best time to seed hemp is determined by weather and climate conditions. Following plant rotation, hemp can be seeded two weeks before corn if favorable soil conditions exist. At the same time, it is critical that seeding not begin until soil temperatures reach a minimum of 6°C to 8°C.
When growing hemp for fibre, it is best to seed as early as possible, whereas seeding should be done later to minimise stalk height when increasing hemp of grain.
Varieties are classified into three types:
- Male and female flowers develop on the same plant in monoecious varieties.
- Dioecious varieties: when male and female flowers grow separately.
- Female dominant sorts arise from pollinating dioecious female plants with monoecious plants. In general, hemp plants are dioecious.
Hemp germinates fast when planted in well-drained, fertile soils with near-optimal temperature and moisture conditions. In this condition, it grows to a height of 30 cm in 3 to 4 weeks, providing 90% ground shade. Because of the lack of light in the soil, this condition is ideal for weed suppression.
Twitch grass can be suppressed by rapidly growing hemp (with a final population of 200 to 250 plants per square metre). Weed suppression, on the other hand, is not a permanent condition. Weeds may appear in the same field the following year if alternate crops are planted.
Weed suppression is less effective when hemp is grown for grain. Weeds may appear in the same area the next year if alternate crops are planted. The lower plant population and increased branches allow more light to penetrate the soil, assisting weed seed germination.
Diseases and Pests
Hemp plants are susceptible to various pathogens, including fungi, bacteria, nematodes, viruses, and other pathogens. These diseases frequently cause reduced fibre quality, stunted growth, and, in extreme cases, plant death.
Heliothis, Red-Shouldered Leaf Beetles, Lucerne Flea, and Green Veggie Bug are the most common pests in fibre hemp crops. These infections are common in clay soils and areas that receive a lot of water.
Nematodes, particularly root-knot nematodes, can be found in hemp root systems in cropping soils. This infection has the potential to reduce plant yield significantly. Fungi are the most common pathogens in the Southern Hemisphere. Yellow leaf spot, hemp canker, grey mold, downy mildew, fusarium wilt, and fusarium stem canker are a few examples.
Hemp’s THC levels usually inhibit most viruses. However, spider mites and hemp russet mites are two mites that can attack the hemp plant. In addition, birds can be a pest to hemp during the early stages of germination, especially for seed crops.
Hemp in India – History, Legalities and New Horizons
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of India prohibits producing and selling cannabis flowers and resin. This prohibition was enacted in the mid-1980s. However, hemp had previously been widely grown and harvested.
The problem is that hemp is a member of the same plant family as marijuana. However, it does not have the same negative impact as its well-known cousin: Marijuana is derived from a female Sativa plant and contains psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), consumed to produce a “high.”
In contrast, hemp contains less than 0.3% THC and does not produce the same effect.
There has been a misconception about the possible impact of THC in hemp. Unfortunately, India stands among the highest consumers of drugs (by number) – next only to the USA – thus leading to a ban on hemp cultivation.
The state government of Uttarakhand has become the first in India to grant a permit for hemp cultivation. Hemp can be grown legally if THC is less than 0.3%. The other state that has legalized hemp cultivation in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, may soon join us as the third state.
However, there is no prohibition on conducting hemp research, for which we can obtain a license easily anywhere in India. What if someone defies the hemp cultivation ban? It may attract crop destruction/burning.
However, there are encouraging signs, such as the formation of the Indian Hemp Association and the pioneering efforts of a few entrepreneurs.
Even though only a few states have legalised hemp cultivation, a good start has been made. Other state governments would benefit from following suit. Entrepreneurs must also look for new ways to capitalise on this miracle crop. The day is not far off when hemp will propel the Indian economy forward!
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