Originating in central Asia, hemp (Cannabis Sativa) was brought to Europe before the middle ages and spread throughout north America in the 1600s. Since this time hemp farming has expanded, and is now grown in at least 47 countries around the world, including every state in Australia.
What actually is hemp?
Hemp is classified as an aromatic herb but when it is fully matured it can grow to reach up the five metres in height. Consisting of a slender stalk with palmate leaves and small flowers that are yellow and green in colour, hemp is a versatile plant with many benefits. One of the benefits of hemp is how readily it lends itself to sustainable farming processes. Being a highly durable plant, hemp requires minimal pesticides and can adapt to many different types of soil. On top of this, hemp requires less water than many other plants and can be turned into many different products.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is a great oil alternative due to its essential fatty acids and anti-inflammatory properties. This oil can be used for cooking purposes and as a skincare product to improve eczema and acne. The Omega 3 and Omega 6 properties in the oil can enhance your immune system, help to reduce the risk of heart disease and assist brain function, while hemp seed oil has also been known to alleviate pain, reduce some mental health challenges and improve sleep. As the this oil comes from the seed and not the leaf or stem, it doesn’t contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound that can cause a person to experience a ‘high’.
While CBD (short for cannabid) oil is also known for ingredients other than THC, in contrast to hemp seed oil it is extracted from the stalks, leaves and flowers of a hemp plant and has therapeutic uses. Legalised in Australia in 2016 and available via a doctor’s prescription, there has been a lot of recent media coverage about CBD oil and how it may reduce chronic pain amongst other chronic conditions. Along with this, CBD oil has been known to help a range of conditions, including depression, anxiety and PMS.
With a similar appearance to linen, hemp fabric has grown in popularity due to it being environmentally friendly, durable and affordable. When compared to conventional cotton, hemp uses around 50 per cent less water to farm per season, providing a sustainable fabric alternative. This fabric produced is long lasting, biodegradable, and versatile.
This part of the plant is located at the inner core of the stalk and can be used as a sustainable building supply. Hemp hurd can be processed and turned into: Hempcrete (an alternative to concrete), hemp paper, hemp plastics; as well as animal bedding and kitty litter.
Hemp seeds have received praise due to their nutritional value, and remain a convenient and accessible ‘superfood’. Being high in both protein and fibre, hemp seeds are a great addition to any meal and have the added benefit of being gluten free!
With so many ways to incorporate hemp into your life, what hemp product are you most excited to try?
By Zoe Moffatt