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Hemp Basics

Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel. The bast fibers can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp, but they are commonly blended with other organic fibers such as flax, cotton or silk, to make woven fabrics for apparel and furnishings.

The inner two fibers of the plant are more woody and typically have industrial applications, such as mulch, animal bedding and litter. When oxidized (often erroneously referred to as "drying"), hemp oil from the seeds becomes solid and can be used in the manufacture of oil-based paints, in creams as a moisturizing agent, for cooking, and in plastics. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix as well. A survey in 2003 showed that more than 95% of hemp seed sold in the European Union was used in animal and bird feed.

Hemp As a Food Source

Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, sprouted, or made into dried sprout powder. The leaves of the hemp plant can be consumed raw in salads. Hemp can also be made into a liquid and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk, hemp juice, and tea. Hempseed oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids. In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products, mostly driven by growth in demand for hemp seed and hemp oil for use as ingredients in foods such as granola.

In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) treats hemp as a purely non-food crop, but with proper licensing and proof of less than 0.2% THC concentration, hemp seeds can be imported for sowing or for sale as a food or food ingredient. In the U.S., imported hemp can be used legally in food products and as of 2000, was typically sold in health food stores or through mail order.