It’s not just the single cannabinoid we know as CBD extracted from hemp that makes the plant so great. On the contrary, us humans have discovered countless ways to utilize hemp throughout the past few thousand years.
From biofuel and literal plastic to building materials and food, hemp has a massively diverse number of applications. Today, we wanted to bring hemp front and center and let its other uses shine in the spotlight, so we compiled a list of its many versatile functions.
- Nutrition and Food
CBD products aren’t the only thing commonly ingested that comes from hemp. On the contrary, hemp is made into or as an ingredient for protein powders, hemp food supplements, and other edible products. Rich in heart-healthy fats (Omega-3s and Omega-6s), CBD-rich hemp oils help promote general wellness and overall health, especially for the heart, brain, and even the skin.
Hemp seed oil typically contains no or a negligible level of CBD or other cannabinoids, as it’s made purely from the seeds of the hemp plant. However, even hemp seed oil can come packed with vitamins and nutrients that our bodies crave.
Up until cannabis prohibition hit the western world from the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, with exception to the propaganda and other regulations leading up to that point, the hemp plant had been used as a paper material for thousands of years.
As the lumber industry and the lumber side of the paper industry grew, though, hemp became a notable threat to their profits. Influencers towards the end of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century staunched the use of hemp when they helped create the propaganda of widespread fears about hemp’s effects.
You don’t ever have to question again whether you want paper or plastic – because with hemp, you can have both and still be doing the environment a justice. A bio-friendly alternative, plastic made from hemp is free from the toxic chemicals used to make the plastic more commonly made with fossil fuels.
More durable than regular plastic, Henry Ford tested a car body made out of plant material that included hemp all the way back in 1941 to prove how strong it was compared to more commonly seen materials – by swinging an axe down onto it!
Though his attempts were noteworthy, the plant car wasn’t put into mass production. Instead, plastic using toxic chemicals became the commonplace option, with cars being produced in-mass with steel and other metals.
It wasn’t until industrial hemp became legal again, recently, that we started seeing viable hemp plastic alternatives on the market again – and it’s a sight we’re certainly glad to see. Social acceptance of the hemp plant grows more each day, so we’re excited to see a world that uses alternative and sustainable hemp options for their plastic materials.
Speaking of material, hemp can also be turned into a variety of different fabric materials. Since hemp may possess antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties, hemp can be turned into a hypoallergenic (and even stylish!) fabric that works for many situations.
It can also remain soft and warm while maintaining a superior durability to more common textiles. We’re happy to see hemp fabric brands now that the 2018 Farm Bill has legalized industrial hemp for commercial use. There’s no telling what’s to come of a future where we can utilize hemp for so many different purposes.
- Insect Repellent
When using the proper combination of natural ingredients with hemp-derived extracts, the formula can double as an insect repellent alternative. There are now even hemp extract bug repellents specifically formulated to stop bugs in their tracks – with a special focus on mosquitoes, AKA the peskiest of all the insects.
Even hemp plants, in their raw form as they grow, often carry a reputation for being pest-free, though they’re actually just naturally pest-tolerant. Regardless, when paired with other natural ingredients that work well to fight off pests and insects, it makes for a potent repellent that gets the job done without harming crops or the environment.
- Batteries – Wait, Batteries?
That’s right – hemp can even potentially function like a battery.
Researchers are at the University of Albert in Canada are hypothesizing that hemp may be both more inexpensive and more efficient as a material for batteries. They discovered that the stalk from a hemp plant is wood-like and pulpy in the center, which can be used to create supercapacitors by converting into the appropriate type of carbon nanomaterial for the job.
(Just to jog your memory, a supercapacitor can charge and discharge within just seconds. They can’t store a lot of energy just yet, but hemp may be able to increase its efficient and capacity – and in the most eco-friendly way possible.)
- Entire Airplanes?
Okay, maybe not entire airplanes – but almost entire airplanes, as in a solid 75% of the entire operation. A Florida-based manufacturer was contracted by a Canada-based hemp company to build the first hemp plane ever, with a Kickstarter egging the entire process on.
The hemp company, in question, has made hemp wave paddleboards and other hemp-based products that go above and beyond what most people see the plant utilized for. We love to see innovative brands take advantage of the many uses hemp has, so this is a refreshing sight to see.
- Alternative to Concrete
Also known as HempCrete, this unique type of building material goes to show the virtually unlimited possibilities the cannabis plant has to offer. As an effective, durable concrete alternative, the product is known to be flexible, lightweight, waterproof, and even fireproof. We see smart businesses every day start to incorporate or offer hemp building products for their customer base, and we’re excited at the potential that hemp may actually replace concrete altogether one day.
- Building Materials
Beyond concrete, hemp can be turned into a plethora of housing materials, from piping, to bricks, to insulation. As hemp grows on the market (no pun intended), we see intuitive brands make the switch to hemp so they can start taking advantage faster than the impending crowd to come.
Not only is it extremely durable, but hemp is also free of dangerous or toxic chemicals, and it’s self-insulating. In fact, a hemp housing material will absorb more carbon that it will release throughout its lifetime, making it a perfect insulation material for a home, office, or any type of building in between.
Maybe less surprising than some of the other items on our list, hemp can be turned into a high-quality and effective soap product. Most soaps are crafted with oils and fats that are meant to react with the lye in the formula. Hemp soap, on the other hand, is made from the seeds of the hemp plant, avoiding tallow, lard and palm oil as the primary ingredient.
Since hemp has natural antibacterial properties, it’s already ideal for a soap. A high-quality hemp soap will also be free of triclosan and other harmful additives that are known to dry the skin out. The hemp seeds used are also often packed with vitamin E, to help reduce UV damage, and vitamin A, a well-known antioxidant.
The Future of Hemp
No single crop is the answer to the environmental and economic distress our world is constantly plagued with. Hemp, however, provides a shining glow of optimism that we can turn things around for mother earth.
The innovative uses we’ve seen show there’s a promising, positive push, and we picture a future where hemp is used as the eco-friendly alternative for big-name companies all across the planet. BMW has already started integrating hemp fibers into their cars – there’s not telling what’s possible when it comes to the potential with hemp.
The technologically innovative future we’ve all been waiting for is fast approaching, just in time for a world that’s desperately trying to embrace more renewables resources that don’t take 20 years to grow and more sustainable agricultural practices. Industrial hemp allows for a single field of crops to match up with miles of land from an inferior material.
Now that cannabis prohibition, at least on the hemp side, is coming to an end, we’re delighted to see the groundbreaking, trailblazing hemp products that are spicing up the economy and making waves across countless industries. The paper, plastic, fuel, and a tremendous number of other markets are already being influenced industrial hemp’s efficiency and durability, and we can’t wait to see how this changes those industries for the better.
We learned there’s not a lot hemp doesn’t have the potential to do, when converted into the right material. Possibly the most versatile herb on the planet, hopefully this guide has given you some deeper insight as to what the hemp plant is truly capable of.