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Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Along with bamboo, hemp is among the fastest growing plants on Earth. It was also one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 50,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, rope, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
Although chemotype I cannabis and hemp (types II, III, IV, V) are both Cannabis sativa and contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they represent distinct cultivar groups, typically with unique phytochemical compositions and uses. Hemp typically has lower concentrations of total THC and may have higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which potentially mitigates the psychoactive effects of THC. The legality of hemp varies widely among countries. Some governments regulate the concentration of THC and permit only hemp that is bred with an especially low THC content into commercial production.
The etymology is uncertain but there appears to be no common Proto-Indo-European source for the various forms of the word; the Greek term κάνναβις (kánnabis) is the oldest attested form, which may have been borrowed from an earlier Scythian or Thracian word. Then it appears to have been borrowed into Latin, and separately into Slavic and from there into Baltic, Finnish, and Germanic languages.
In the Germanic languages, following Grimm's law, the "k" would have changed to "h" with the first Germanic sound shift, giving Proto-Germanic *hanapiz, after which it may have been adapted into the Old English form, hænep, henep. Barber (1991) however, argued that the spread of the name "kannabis" was due to its historically more recent plant use, starting from the south, around Iran, whereas non-THC varieties of hemp are older and prehistoric. Another possible source of origin is Assyrian qunnabu, which was the name for a source of oil, fiber, and medicine in the 1st millennium BC.
Cognates of hemp in other Germanic languages include Dutch hennep, Danish and Norwegian hamp, Saterland Frisian Hoamp, German Hanf, Icelandic hampur and Swedish hampa. In those languages "hemp" can refer to either industrial fiber hemp or narcotic cannabis strains.
Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. The bast fibers can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp, but they are commonly blended with other fibers, such as flax, cotton or silk, as well as virgin and recycled polyester, to make woven fabrics for apparel and furnishings. The inner two fibers of the plant are woodier and typically have industrial applications, such as mulch, animal bedding, and litter. When oxidized (often erroneously referred to as "drying"), hemp oil from the seeds becomes solid and can be used in the manufacture of oil-based paints, in creams as a moisturizing agent, for cooking, and in plastics. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix as well. A survey in 2003 showed that more than 95% of hemp seed sold in the European Union was used in animal and bird feed.
Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into hemp meal, sprouted or made into dried sprout powder. Hemp seeds can also be made into a slurry used for baking or for beverages, such as hemp milk and tisanes. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids.
In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs treats hemp as a purely non-food crop, but with proper licensing and proof of less than 0.3% THC concentration, hemp seeds can be imported for sowing or for sale as a food or food ingredient. In the US, hemp can be used legally in food products and, as of 2000, was typically sold in health food stores or through mail order
A 100-gram (3+1⁄2-ounce) portion of hulled hemp seeds supplies 2,451 kilojoules (586 kilocalories) of food energy. They contain 5% water, 5% carbohydrates, 49% total fat, and 31% protein. Hemp seeds are notable in providing 64% of the Daily Value (DV) of protein per 100-gram serving. Hemp seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber (20% DV), B vitamins, and the dietary minerals manganese (362% DV), phosphorus (236% DV), magnesium (197% DV), zinc (104% DV), and iron (61% DV). About 73% of the energy in hemp seeds is in the form of fats and essential fatty acids, mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic, oleic, and alpha-linolenic acids. The ratio of the 38.100 grams of polyunsaturated fats per 100 grams is 9.301 grams of omega‑3 to 28.698 grams of omega‑6. Typically, the portion suggested on packages for an adult is 30 grams, approximately three tablespoons.
The amino acid profile of hemp seeds is comparable to the profiles of other protein-rich foods, such as meat, milk, eggs, and soy. Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores were 0.49–0.53 for whole hemp seed, 0.46–0.51 for hemp seed meal, and 0.63–0.66 for hulled hemp seed.
Despite the rich nutrient content of hemp seeds, the seeds contain antinutritional compounds, including phytic acid, trypsin inhibitors, and tannins, in significant concentrations.
Hemp fiber has been used extensively throughout history, with production climaxing soon after being introduced to the New World. For centuries, items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials were made from hemp fiber. Hemp was also commonly used to make sail canvas. The word "canvas" is derived from the word cannabis. Pure hemp has a texture like linen. Because of its versatility for use in a variety of products, today hemp is used in several consumer goods, including clothing, shoes, accessories, dog collars, and home wares. For clothing, in some instances, hemp is mixed with lyocell.
Hemp as a building construction material provides solutions to a variety of issues facing current building standards. Its light-weightiness, mold resistance, breathability, etc. makes hemp products versatile in a multitude of uses. Following the co-heating tests of NNFCC Renewable House at the Building Research Establishment (BRE), hemp is reported to be a more sustainable material of construction in comparison to most building methods used today. In addition, its practical use in building construction could result in the reduction of both energy consumption costs and the creation of secondary pollutants.
The hemp market was at its largest during the 17th century. In the 19th century and onward, the market saw a decline during its rapid illegalization in many countries. Hemp has resurfaced in green building construction, primarily in Europe. The modern-day disputes regarding the legality of hemp lead to its main disadvantages; importing and regulating costs. Final Report on the Construction of the Hemp Houses at Haverhill, UK conducts that hemp construction exceeds the cost of traditional building materials by £48per square meter.
Currently, the University of Bath researches the use of hemp-lime panel systems for construction. Funded by the European Union, the research tests panel design within their use in high-quality construction, on site assembly, humidity and moisture penetration, temperature change, daily performance and energy saving documentations. The program, focusing on Britain, France, and Spain markets aims to perfect protocols of use and application, manufacturing, data gathering, certification for market use, as well as warranty and insurance.
The most common use of hemp-lime in building is by casting the hemp-hurd and lime mix while wet around a timber frame with temporary shuttering and tamping the mix to form a firm mass. After the removal of the temporary shuttering, the solidified hemp mix is then ready to be plastered with lime plaster.
Hemp is classified under the green category of building design, primarily due to its positive effects on the environment. A few of its benefits include but are not limited to the suppression of weed growth, anti-erosion, reclamation properties, and the ability to remove poisonous substances and heavy metals from soil.
The use of hemp is beginning to gain popularity alongside other natural materials. This is because cannabis processing is done mechanically with minimal harmful effects on the environment. A part of what makes hemp sustainable is its minimal water usage and non-reliance on pesticides for proper growth. It is recyclable, non-toxic, and biodegradable, making hemp a popular choice in green building construction.
Hemp fiber is known to have high strength and durability and has been known to be a good protector against vermin. The fiber has the capability to reinforce structures by embossing threads and cannabis shavers. Hemp has been involved more recently in the building industry, producing building construction materials including insulation, hempcrete, and varnishes.
Hemp made materials have low embodied energy. The plant can absorb large amounts of CO2, providing air quality, thermal balance, creating a positive environmental impact.
Hemp's properties allow mold resistance, and its porous materiality makes the building materials made of it breathable. In addition, hemp possesses the ability to absorb and release moisture without deteriorating. Hemp can be non-flammable if mixed with lime and could be applied on numerous aspects of the building (wall, roofs, etc.) due to its lightweight properties.
Hemp is commonly used as an insulation material. Its flexibility and toughness during compression allows for easier implementation within structural framing systems. The insulation material could also be easily adjusted to different sizes and shapes by being cut during the installation process. The ability to not settle and therefore avoiding cavity developments lowers its need for maintenance.
Hemp insulation is naturally lightweight and non-toxic, allowing for an exposed installation in a variety of spaces, including flooring, walling, and roofing. Compared to mineral insulation, hemp absorbs roughly double the amount of heat and could be compared to wood, in some cases even overpassing some of its types.
Hemp insulation's porous materiality allows for air and moisture penetration, with a bulk density going up to 20% without losing any thermal properties. In contrast, the commonly used mineral insulation starts to fail after 2%. The insulation evenly distributes vapor and allows for air circulation, constantly carrying out used air and replacing with fresh. Its use on the exterior of the structure, overlaid with breathable water-resistive barriers, eases the withdrawal of moisture from within the wall structure.
In addition, the insulation doubles as a sound barrier, weakening airborne sound waves passing through it.
In addition to the absorbed CO2 during its growth period, hemp repeats during the creation of the concrete. The mixture hardens when the silica contained in hemp shives mixes with lime, resulting in the mineralization process.
Hemp is most used as concrete (hempcrete) in building construction due to its lightness (roughly seven times lighter than common concrete). The building material is made of hemp hurd (shives), hydraulic lime, and water mixture varying in ratios. The mix depends on the use of concrete within the structure and could differ in physical properties. Surfaces such as flooring interact with a multitude of loads and would have to be more resistible, while walls and roofs are required to be more lightweight. The application of this material in construction requires minimal skill.
The most common variation of this building style is hempcrete; made of concrete-like blocks. Such blocks are not strong enough to be used for structural elements and must be supported by brick, wood, or steel framing. In the end of the twentieth century, during his renovation of Maison de la Turquie in Nogent-sur-Seine, France, Charles Rasetti first invented and applied the use of hempcrete in construction. Shortly after, in the 2000s, Modece Architects used hemp-lime for test designs in Haverhill. The dwellings were studied and monitored for comparison with other building performances by BRE. Completed nine years later, the buildings were found to be one of the most technologically advanced structures made of hemp-based material. Following the discovery, it pioneered hemp's use in UK construction. A year later the first home made of hemp-based materials was completed in Asheville, North Carolina, US
Separation of hurd and bast fiber is known as decortication. Traditionally, hemp stalks would be water-retted first before the fibers were beaten off the inner hurd by hand, a process known as scutching. As mechanical technology evolved, separating the fiber from the core was accomplished by crushing rollers and brush rollers, or by hammer-milling, wherein a mechanical hammer mechanism beats the hemp against a screen until hurd, smaller bast fibers, and dust fall through the screen. After the Marijuana Tax Act was implemented in 1938, the technology for separating the fibers from the core remained "frozen in time". Recently, new high-speed kinematic decortication has come about, capable of separating hemp into three streams; bast fiber, hurd, and green microfiber.
Only in 1997, did Ireland, parts of the Commonwealth and other countries begin to legally grow industrial hemp again. Iterations of the 1930s decorticator have been met with limited success, along with steam explosion and chemical processing known as thermomechanical pulping.
Hemp is usually planted between March and May in the northern hemisphere, between September and November in the southern hemisphere. It matures in about three to four months.
Millennia of selective breeding have resulted in varieties that display a wide range of traits, e.g. suited for a particular environments/latitudes, producing different ratios and compositions of terpenoids and cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, CBN...etc.), fiber quality, oil/seed yield, etc. Hemp grown for fiber is planted closely, resulting in tall, slender plants with long fibers.
The use of industrial hemp plant and its cultivation was commonplace until the 1900s when it was associated with its genetic sibling a.k.a. Drug-Type Cannabis species (which contain higher levels of psychoactive THC). Influential groups misconstrued hemp as a dangerous "drug", even though hemp is not a recreational drug and has the potential to be a sustainable and profitable crop for many farmers due to hemp's medical, structural, and dietary uses.
In the United States, the public's perception of hemp as marijuana has blocked hemp from becoming a useful crop and product," despite its vital importance prior to World War II. Ideally, according to Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the herb should be desiccated and harvested towards the end of flowering. This early cropping reduces the seed yield but improves the fiber yield and quality. In these strains of industrial hemp* the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content would have been very low.
The seeds are sown with grain drills or other conventional seeding equipment to a depth of 13 to 25 mm (1⁄2 to 1 in). Greater seeding depths result in increased weed competition. Nitrogen should not be placed with the seed, but phosphate may be tolerated. The soil should have available 89 to 135 kg/ha of nitrogen, 46 kg/ha phosphorus, 67 kg/ha potassium, and 17 kg/ha sulfur. Organic fertilizers such as manure are one of the best methods of weed control.