The Top 5 Benefits of Hemp-Based Products
Hemp is being embraced by some of our oldest and newest industries because it can be manufactured into practically anything, from paper to clothing, auto parts to building materials, plastics to cosmetics, even 3D printing filament. Most people know hemp has been used to manufacture many different products, but not everyone is aware of why hemp should be used to make those products over other alternatives. Aside from bringing new jobs and economic opportunities, integrating hemp into every day products has been shown to improve our health and help our environment.
Here are the top 5 benefits of hemp-based products:
1. Hemp is nutritional and medicinal
Yes, you can eat hemp! Hemp seeds, hemp protein powder, hemp seed cooking oil, hemp milk, even hemp butter is available at grocery stores or online. If you’re not familiar with hemp seeds, they can be purchased in two forms: with and without the shell. Both are edible and delicious, but differ in texture:
Whole (or unhulled) hemp seeds means with the shell. They’re crunchy (similar to sesame or flax seeds), and the shell is an excellent source of fiber.
Hulled (or shelled) hemp seeds are much easier to chew. They’re also known as “hemp hearts,” which indicates the crunchy outer shell has been removed. Unfortunately, since the majority of fiber is in the shell of the hemp seed, most of that nutritional benefit has been removed too.
Hemp seeds are considered a superfood due to their incredible nutritional benefits including significant amounts of vitamin E, potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. The seed’s plant-based protein is actually a complete protein because it offers every single amino acid the human body needs to survive. In 3 tablespoons of hulled hemp seeds, there’s approximately 10 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, so sprinkling even a small amount on a meal goes a long way. Combining hemp seeds and water in a blender makes a dairy-free hemp milk. Pureeing hemp seeds in a food processor makes a gluten-free hemp flour for bread and pasta lovers.
When hemp seeds are cold pressed (similarly to olives), they’re broken down into either a dark-green oil (Hemp Seed Oil) or into a dark-green powder (Hemp Protein Powder).
Hemp protein powder is a fine, flour-like consistency; in about 4 tablespoons, there’s 7-13 grams of fiber, 13 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of Omegas 3 & 6, and a significant value of potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Unlike hemp seeds, the protein powder doesn’t have much of a taste, so it’s easily incorporated into smoothies and baked goods without compromising flavor.
Hemp Seed Oil is described as the most balanced seed oil because it’s rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and all 21 known amino acids. Omegas 3, 6 and 9 help the body process fat, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system. A 2007 study revealed that hemp seed oil can also help prevent heart diseases and relieve cancer treatment side effects due to the high concentration of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Aside from being used as a cooking oil, hemp oil can also be found in beauty products; studies that indicate it can improve eczema and skin inflammatory symptoms such as dryness, itching and irritation. Facial and body lotions and cosmetics containing hemp oil have been known to prevent moisture loss, calm redness and, because the oil is antibacterial, it can even reduce acne.
The hemp flower (or bud) also contains a high concentration of CBD (cannabidiol). Research has shown the most common medicinal uses for CBD include decreasing inflammation, stress, anxiety, pain, and improving sleep. CBD oil and can be manufactured into a variety of products (from bath bombs to massage oil).
2. Hemp products are biodegradable
One of the most visible non-biodegradable products is plastic; that’s because 91 percent of all the plastic we produce isn’t being recycled, and different types of plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Scientists have discovered that the overwhelming majority of plastic won’t break down completely—it breaks down into microplastics which can last indefinitely. Microplastics have now been found in oceans and rivers and the digestive systems of fish and other wildlife all around the globe; the average American ingests at least 74,000 microplastic particles every year, mostly stemming from the food we eat.
Since hemp is plant, it’s biodegradable, and it’s being sourced as a solution to plastic. Currently, corn and soy are being used mainly for compostable bags and bio-degradable plastic bottles. However, hemp-based bioplastic is on the rise because it doesn’t rely on any petroleum-based means of production. It’s the newest source of green packaging, especially since the biomass (what’s used to make hemp plastic) is what’s leftover after the plant is harvested for nutritious hemp seeds or CBD oil.
3. Hemp products are sustainable
One of the best examples of hemp’s economic durability and environmental sustainability is when it’s manufactured into an all-natural textile. While many people choose to donate their used clothes as a way to recycle them, a significant amount of clothing and other textiles still winds up in the trash. Sheets, towels, footwear, pillowcases, t-shirts and jeans make up about 8% of annual landfill waste in the U.S., which amounts to approximately 11 to 14 billion tons of waste every year.
The majority of these fabrics are synthetic blends—made with polyester, nylon, and acrylic— and synthetic fibers are essentially plastic because they’re made from petroleum (oil/fossil fuels). They’re also bleached, dyed and printed on with other chemicals before they’re sold in stores, and all those chemicals can add contaminates to the soil.
Since hemp fiber has been used to make rope for centuries, hemp fabric is often thought of as a coarse material. However, it’s actually one of the most durable all-natural textile fibers that can be spun into a smooth fabric similar to silk. Since hemp fibre is about 10 times stronger than cotton, textiles containing hemp also last much longer.
- Hold shape without stretching (which is why they’re ideal for jean material)
- Have anti-microbial properties (making work-out clothing mold-resistant)
- Are a porous fiber, meaning it “breathes” and responds to body heat (stays cool in warmer weather and retains heat in cooler weather)
- Naturally resist UV light (which is something synthetic fibers do)
- Retain dye and colors better because the porous fiber absorbs more water than other fabrics, including cotton.
- Blend well with other fabrics so it can be used for countless products, including shoes, blankets, and apparel. This can help bring additional environmental efficiency to a variety of apparel.
Hemp is also more environmentally sustainable when compared to other natural fibers such as cotton. Cotton uses four times as much water as hemp to grow, even though hemp grows at a much faster rate. Plus hemp doesn’t require the use of pesticides to grow. Although cotton is grown on only 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, the cotton industry accounts for 16% of all insecticides used worldwide (these chemicals can easily wash out of soil and pollute rivers and groundwater).
4. Hemp products use less chemicals
Hemp products are typically made with less toxic chemicals. One of the best examples of this is in paper and building materials made from wood. The stalk of the hemp plant contains an absorbent substance known as hemp hurds or shiv; farmers use hemp hurds for animal bedding, but it’s also used as a building material and pulp for paper:
- Hemp paper is naturally much brighter than tree-based paper, so it requires less chemical bleaching. Hemp paper is also more stronger than paper made from wood, and it holds printing color and texture much longer. Plus, more paper can be made from hemp than from trees due to how fast hemp grows; it’s estimated that over the span of 20 years, 1 acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4 – 10 acres of trees.
- Hempcrete is a lightweight, durable building material similar to concrete. It’s naturally mold-resistant, fire-resistant, and pest-resistant. It also sequesters carbon (stores carbon dioxide) rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. It’s often used as a insulator to regulate the moisture and temperature in homes, renovate old buildings made of stone or lime, and it can be molded into blocks to build or reinforce walls (since hempcrete isn’t as brittle as concrete, it doesn’t crack as easily or require expansion joints/repairs).
- Hemp seed oil (or hemp wood finish) is also an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based oils used to to stain decks and wooden furniture. It’s UV resistant, waterproof, and low VOC.
Hemp fiberboard can be used in place of wood particleboard or MDF fiberboard. which is why it’s typically used for kitchen cabinets, shelving, molding, and doors. These products are more less toxic than wood-based products because hemp requires less chemicals in the manufacturing process.
Most building materials contain formaldehyde, which is a chemical used to produce fiberboard, plywood, paper products, paints, MDF pressed-wood products, glues, stains and resins; the colorless, flammable gas is released from these products into the air over time. High levels of formaldehyde exposure can cause eczema, breathing issues, and even some forms of cancer. Choosing hemp building materials—none of which contain formaldehyde—is one way to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals inside your home.
Since the lumber and building materials for home construction is the top use for trees (and there’s approximately 15 billion trees cut down every year), choosing hemp also helps decrease deforestation. The average tree can take 40 (or more) years to grow while hemp reaches full maturity within a few months.
5. Hemp reduces carbon emissions
No matter what product you buy, if it contains hemp, then there’s a good chance it has much less of an impact on the environment than other products, and on a larger scale, it’s helping to reduce our carbon footprint.
In general, plants breathe in carbon dioxide, but because hemp grows faster than most plants, it has one of the fastest if not the fastest CO2 conversion rate. Researchers estimate that each ton of hemp absorbs 1.63 tons of CO2, which means it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases. Even after the entire manufacturing process, hemp products typically have what’s known as a net zero carbon footprint. This means that more carbon dioxide was still removed from the environment (while the hemp was growing) than the amount of carbon produced from making the product.
These are just some of the many benefits of hemp!
Jen Hobbs is the author of American Hemp. Her forthcoming book Cooking with CBD is available for preorder and scheduled to be released nationwide in June 2020. Her family owns and operates Nature’s Nectar, a CBD extract facility in O’Fallon, Missouri.