What is a hemp plant?

Hemp plant

How does a hemp plant look like?

Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is a bushy, fast-growing herb which can reach a height of up to 4 m. The leaves are grey-green, usually up to 12cm long, palmate with 3-9 lanceolate leaflets with a serrated margin. The flowers aren't very decorative, and they are green and clustered. It is a 'dioecious' plant which means that individual plants either have female or male flowers. It originates in the Indian subcontinent, but it spread from China to France and from Russia to Africa.

The reputation of the hemp plant: is it good, or is it bad?

Hemp produces a substance that became socially controversial in the early part of the 20th century: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),which as well as having many medicinal attributes, has been used as a recreational drug. In recent years breeding and selection have resulted in cultivars low in THC, or variety with no THC at all. Consequently, hemp is once again being considered by governments as a useful crop.

Did you know?

  • One of the oldest relics of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.
  • It can be used in the fashion industry. Hemp is six times as strong as cotton, much more resistant to weathering and wear, and more lustrous and absorbent. It is also much more environmentally friendly to grow.
  • Hemp growing became popular in Britain under the Romans and continued into the mid-1940s. In the 16th century, Henry VIII even made hemp cultivation obligatory. He was interested in it for making rope, which is totally understandable, just think of the many ships in those days.
  • Besides using hemp for making ropes, it has provided raw materials for paper, textiles (e.g. clothing, bags, canvas for tents), medicine, oil and much more over the centuries. It is one of the most useful multi-purpose crops of the world. The seed can be used as well: it provides protein, can be consumed as food. It's even used in the car industry.
  • It is illegal in most countries because the leaves of the high-THC types can be dried and smoked to provide a mild narcotic. However, cultivars which are low in THC or contain no THC at all don't have that effect and are legal to use.
  • If you want to see the plant, the best place to go to is Eden Project's Biomes and gardens, where hemp plants are surrounded by an artistic hemp fence.

A short history of Hemp and Cannabis (Marijuana)

It can be traced back to the ancient world, as it was used in religious ceremonies to induce a trance like state.

Then records show as early as the 1st century, that it was used in China for medicinal purposes. The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes then spread across to other countries like India and the MIddle East. With different parts of the Hemp plant used for a variety of purposes.

It was linked in the 19th century as being used to for recreational use in the Napoleonic war as a pastime for soldiers and to ease anxiety before battle.

hemp seeds with a wooden spoon

The hemp plant was used in many herbal remedies and treated a variety of conditions and ailments.

In the early 20th century, cannabis was banned in the UK and many other countries for recreational use and negative connotations were attached as risks of taking this in unmeasured doses caused high levels of addiction and fatalities.

It became popular again in the 1960’s, but the Misuse of Drugs Act came into force in 1971 which classified marijuana as a Class C drug although it has been upgraded to a Class B drug since then.

Now, cannabis is more popular with smokers than non smokers for the benefits that it can bring. It is, however, becoming more acceptable with education to take parts of the Hemp plant that are legal and still experience some of the benefits without breaking the law and also without the negative connotations.

This is why buying from a reputable source is essential.

What parts of the Hemp plant can be used for

Although there have been limited clinical trials, there have been many reports on social media platforms that give good feedback of the benefits of using the Hemp plant/ CBD (Cannabidol).

Hemp oil (made from the seeds of the Hemp plant) can be used in cooking as an oil and also to flavour popular dishes such as pasta and salads. It is full of natural nutrients, than can assist in a healthy diet.

Hemp oil can be used to manufacture certain types of plastics, which is better for the environment and completely natural as well as sustainable.

It is a natural moisturiser, ideal to use in creams and lotions to protect against premature aging and fighting acne. It also does not clog your pores, so it allows your skin to breath and reduces the risk of daily grime blocking your pores and causing spots.

hemp oil and seeds on a table

Some other benefits include:

  • Hormonal balance
  • Prevention of some cancers
  • Pain management
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Regulating blood sugars

CBD (Cannabidol made from flowers, stalks and leaves with higher amounts of cannabidiol)

Has been linked to:

  • Uses in Cancer treatments (the presentation and also the symptoms) and nausea symptoms
  • Anxiety and stress relief
  • Reduce the progression of neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s) and seizures
  • Decrease pain and inflammation
  • Boost cardiac health and
  • Decrease the risk of diabetes to name a few benefits.
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