One of the most interesting things about hemp is just how versatile this plant is. With the possible exception of soy, there is probably no other crop that can be turned into so many different products.
Legal industrial hemp contains almost no THC and thus can't be smoked (well, it can, but at best you'll just get a headache).
However, it contains significant amounts of a related substance called cannabidiol (CBD). The market for CBD is skyrocketing at the moment because it has a lot of medical potential which is only just discovered in its
fullness. CBD-based medicines have already been approved in some countries for treating pain in multiple sclerosis patients and as an anticonvulsant for
epilepsy. Many other uses, e.g. against psychological disorders, are currently being investigated.
The probably most versatile part of the plant are the fibres in the stem. We use them for making textiles - but they can do so much more. Canvases used for painting used to be made of hemp - in fact, the word "canvas" is derived from "cannabis". In seafaring, hemp was used for millenia to make tows and sails because the fibres are extremely strong. As a matter of fact, the United States lifted the ban on hemp during World War II because it needed hemp for its navy. The government even produced a propaganda movie to make farmers grow hemp again.
The fibres can also be used to make paper, as insulation material for construction, for fleece to grow cress and similar plants, plumbers prefer them to seal pipe threads, and they can be used to reinforce plastics. The fibres are so strong that they are even used in the automotive industry to strengthen car parts. Our friends at the Hanffaser Uckermark factory are currently doing research on using hemp fibres to construct high-performance elements like helicopter doors. Moreover, the cellulose from the fibres can be used to make bioplastics, including cellophane and rayon.
The wooden parts inside the stem - called shivs - are used mostly for animal bedding, but also for construction purposes.
The hemp plant also produces seeds that are used for food. In quite a few countries, you can already buy hemp seeds in supermarkets, and they also make a very tasty oil. Hemp oil, moreover, serves as a basis for cosmetics, paints, varnishes, solvents and other products that today are usually based on petroleum. That competition is actually one reason why hemp was banned, but we'll cover that in a later post.
The leaves can be used for infusions or CBD extraction, while the roots can have their uses for making spirits. So in the end, not only can you make a wide range of products from hemp, you can also use just about every part of it to make something. All while it's pretty much organic by nature.