Hemp truly is a wonder crop and in 1938 Popular Mechanics published an article calling hemp the next “billion dollar crop” and estimating there to be more than 25,000 known uses for hemp. Whether the claim of 25,000 uses is an exact estimate or not, the point still remains: the entirety of the hemp plant can be used to make just about every consumer product you can think of, including food and beverages, clothing and accessories, automotive, building materials (including hemp concrete or “hempcrete”), paper, bioplastics, and much much more.
The hemp plant can essentially be broken down into 4 parts—the flower, seed or grain, fiber (bast), and hurd—each of which has its own uses.
A. Hemp Fiber (Bast)
When you slice a hemp stalk in half, you will notice a long, string-like band running the length inside. This is hemp’s famous bast fiber, which is nature’s strongest occurring fiber and, when harvested correctly, is actually stronger than steel. The stalk and its fiber can be used to make:
- Construction materials
- Flooring (stronger than oak!)
- Fiberglass substitute
- Bagging, and much more.
B. Hemp Hurd
Hemp hurd is the soft inner core of the hemp plant stem that resembles a woody core. Hemp hurd can be used in essentially two forms: as untreated and unrefined chunks for a wide array of industrial and everyday products like cement, insulation, and fiber board, as well as in pulp form, which can be used to make biodegradable plastics that are more easily broken down and recycled. Hemp hurd is highly absorbent, rich in cellulose, and has great thermal and acoustic properties. Due to these properties, hemp hurd is ideal for use as a naturally occurring and environmentally friendly substitute for:
- Building materials like hempcrete,
- Paper absorbent animal bedding
- Biodegradable garden mulch
- Fiber Board
- Printing Newsprint
C. Hemp Seed (Grain)
Hemp seeds are probably the most popular consumer application of hemp because it’s so nutritious, with Medical News Today referring to hemp seeds as a superfood. Hemp seeds are regularly compared to other superfoods like flax and chia seeds because they are one of the most nutritious foods available in nature, easily digestible by the body, can independently sustain human’s dietary needs, and contain essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6) which help maintain our immune system and cholesterol levels. Hemp seeds are typically hulled and can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, made into milk, and are even used to make protein powder.
The seed is mainly used in dietary products but can also be pressed and made into an oil that can be used in a wide array of consumer goods, including:
- Animal feed
- Salad dressing
- Oil Paint
- Printing ink