Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, it’s now legal again to grow industrial hemp in the United States. This is good news for farmers, but even better news for environmentally-minded shoppers, because hemp is one of the most valuable and versatile plants on the planet.
Hemp has been a major part of American life for centuries — in fact, growing hemp was actually required by law when the first colonies were founded. Now that it has shed the stigma that was attached to it during the 1930s, hemp is ready to take its place in the sun (and on store shelves) once more.
Here are seven of the most surprising and exciting uses for hemp today.
People have been making clothes from hemp for at least 10,000 years. As a fiber, hemp is the ideal candidate for making clothes: it requires half of the water needed to grow cotton, it doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides for growth, and it’s a zero-waste product. This makes it both environmentally friendly and highly profitable. But what about the clothes themselves? Well, they’re light, durable, and three times stronger than cotton.
Hemp paper, which was invented thousands of years ago in China, has a long and illustrious history. When it reached Europe in the 13th century, it became the material of choice for any serious printing project. The Declaration of Independence was printed on it — and so were Bibles, a practice that continues today according to Forbes. It’s stronger and more durable than paper made from wood.
Why are skin care brands rushing to add hemp-based lotions to their lineups? It’s because hemp is highly effective at moisturizing the skin and preventing wrinkles. Hemp lotions are now used to treat a number of different skin conditions, from acne to eczema, and some also have anti-aging effects.
It may surprise you to learn that hemp is also super nutritious, but it’s true. The plant is packed with essential fatty acids which are vital to the body’s health and wellness. They aid the absorption of vitamins and minerals, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system. Both animals and humans can get these health benefits by eating raw or cooked hemp seeds.
Hemp can also be used as a biofuel. The seed oils from the plant are put through a complex extraction process, yielding a potent fuel that can be used to power cars, tractors, and other vehicles. Hemp-based biofuels are currently being explored as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Hemp plastic is yet another example of how innovative farmers and engineers have harnessed the properties of the hemp plant to create elegant solutions to current environmental challenges. Hemp plastic is both biodegradable and recyclable, making it much less of a threat to wildlife than traditional plastics.
Today, building materials such as “hempcrete” are becoming increasingly common as people seek more environmentally friendly products for home building projects. You can find hemp on the inside of those houses, too, in the form of hemp-based paints, wallpapers, and sealants.