Hemp is a natural fiber product of the Cannabis sativa plant which have been specifically bred to yield long fibers. Cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes has been undertaken for thousands of years, and hemp was used to manufacture rope, canvas, paper, and clothing until alternative textiles for these purposes were discovered.
Traditionally, hemp has been a very coarse fiber, which made it well suited to rope but less than ideal for clothing designed to be worn against delicate human skin. Advances in breeding of the plants and treatment of the fibers have resulted in a much finer, softer fiber, which is ideal for weaving into clothing. While hemp clothing in the late 20th century came to be associated with fringe movements, it was once widely utilized as a textile: the word canvas, for example, is related to Cannabis, one of the original components of canvas.
As of 2006, it was still very difficult to grow industrial hemp in the United States, due to the plant's confusion with marijuana. Though the two plants are members of the same species, they have been bred to achieve different ends, and industrial hemp does not contain enough tetrahydrocannabinol to make it a psychoactive substance. The growth of industrial hemp in the United States is heavily regulated, although the neighboring nation of Canada grows commercial amounts of the plant product.
In addition to providing useful fibers, hemp seed also has high nutritional value, and the plant can be used to make biodegradable plastics, some fuels, and a variety of other things. While hemp is unlikely to save the world, as many proponents are fond of saying, it is an underutilized vegetable resource. Hemp is rich in healthy fats and some vitamins, depending on how it is grown. As a result, it is frequently used in skin salves and balms, as well as in nutritional supplements.
Hemp clothing tends to be strong, insulating, absorbent, and durable. This durability makes it well suited to garments that will see hard wear, because hemp fibers can last up to three times longer than cotton fibers. Most frequently, hemp clothing is woven, although the fibers tend to form chunkier threads than other natural textile components like cotton. Hemp can also be used in knits.
Untreated hemp fiber is pale blonde in color and takes dye well. Many hemp textile products are colored with plant dyes, which gives hemp an undeserved reputation for being dull in color. In fact, hemp can be dyed as vividly as other textiles like cotton.
Hemp, or cannabis, is a plant that is currently legally prohibited in the United States of America. This is because some strains of the plant include delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which, when ingested or smoked, produce mind altering effects and intoxication. Refined hemp products, however, can legally be imported to the United States from other countries. Before importing any hemp products, however, be sure that they can be successfully cleared by customs and are within your legal jurisdiction to import.
Hemp, of course, has many uses that have nothing to do with drug use. First of all, hemp fibers are incredibly strong. The fibers can be used to make strong, long-lasting rope, paper, clothing, as well as other fiber-based products. It is important to note that the strain of cannabis that produces THC does not have strong fiber and is not applicable for use in the above-mentioned products.
Extracted hemp oil has uses in both cooking and industry. In fact, hemp oil can be used as a base for beautiful paints. Edible hemp seeds are sold in small quantities in health food stores in North America. They can also be purchased via mail order. In keeping with the above caution, because some forms of hemp are illegal in the United States, make sure that the products that you are ordering are perfectly legal, especially if you are buying them from another state.
Hemp seeds are comparable to sunflower seeds in their nutritional properties. They can be used in baking, added to waffles, and combined with cereal and granola. Some health food companies process hemp seeds in order to create a nutritious protein powder. Hemp seeds also contain Omega-3 fatty acids. While hemp seeds are very nutritious, their dietary values can be replaced by other foods. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example are present in many kinds of fish, especially salmon.
Because of industrial value of hemp fibers, many American horticulturists and farmers are working to overturn the ban on hemp in the United States. At the present, refined hemp fibers must be grown in and imported from other countries. The process of importation, of course, incurs taxes that can be prohibitive to some consumers and manufacturers. Many American farmers, horticulturists, and economists feel that it would make great sense to locally grow hemp in order to decrease the base price of the fiber and, therefore, make it more accessible to American manufacturers.