The Many Uses of Hemp
Hemp is an extremely versatile crop and was once one of the most widely grown industrial plants in America. It is one of the earliest plants known to be domesticated by man, with some evidence dating as far back as the Neolithic Age in China. Despite being grown for the past 12,000 years by mankind, growing hemp has been prohibited in the United States for decades. Initially it was refined for applications such as paper, textiles, and rope typically made from the fiber of the plant. As mankind’s ability to refine the plant has evolved, so to have its uses. Today, construction materials, health food, biofuels, plastic composites, and an overwhelming myriad of other things can be made from hemp. In fact, according to one source, hemp can be made into over 25,000 different products.
The most popular form of hemp based construction is hempcrete. Hempcrete is a type of building material that is made from the inner core of the plant typically known as the ‘shiv’. The shiv has high silica content which allows it to bind with lime (a property only hemp has when comparing it with other natural fibers). Once properly mixed, hempcrete becomes an extremely versatile building material. In can be used for insulation, flooring, walls, roofing, and it has a variety of other building applications as well. The mixture is roughly three times more resistant to earthquakes than concrete, is more pliable, and weighs approximately a seventh or an eighth of its counterpart. In addition to this, the use of hempcrete actually has a negative carbon footprint. In theory, approximately 165kg of carbon could be absorbed by 1 meter of hempcrete wall.
So can you drive your car with hemp fuel? Hemp can essentially make two different types of fuel, hemp biodiesel, and hemp ethanol/methanol. Hemp biodiesel is made from pressed hemp seeds, whereas hemp ethanol/methanol is made from fermented stalks. With approximately 8,000 lbs of hemp seed per acre, roughly 300 gallons of hemp seed oil can be acquired. Using vegetable oil for fuel dates as far back as 1895 when Dr. Rudolf Diesel created the first engine that was able to do so. The fact that we have access to a renewable fuel source at our disposal is astounding when you look at how consistently we continue to use nonrenewable fuel options. One reason that hemp is illegal may be due to the fact that it is a major threat to major oil companies.
While people have been eating hemp seeds for some time, it wasn’t only until semi-recently that they began to be hailed as a ‘superfood’. Hemp seeds have more than 30% fat, containing two essential fatty acids known as linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Hemp seeds are also an excellent source of protein, with more than 25% of the calories in hemp seeds coming from protein. Hemp seeds also contain all 20 known amino acids which aid in digestion. These include the 9 essential amino acids which our bodies cannot naturally produce. Hemp seeds have also been tied to improving immune function as well as normalizing cholesterol levels.