Hemp is a remarkable and versatile plant with a long history of use around the world. Here, we’ll discuss hemp benefits, history, uses and more.
by James Han
Hemp has exploded in popularity in recent years as the powerful benefits of cannabidiol, or CBD, have become more widely known.
The truth, however, is that hemp has been one of the world’s most important industrial crops for thousands of years, with uses ranging from fashion to food to paper and more.
On top of that, different parts of the hemp plant, with their profiles of essential amino acids and healthy fats, offer nutritional benefits beyond CBD that can help build your cells.
In this article, we’ll put a spotlight on this remarkable and versatile species, including a quick history of its cultivation, its uses across ancient and modern cultures, and hemp benefits you may not know.
A Quick History of Hemp
Hemp, or Cannabis sativa, is a stout, dark green annual herb that grows well in temperate zones and can reach 16 feet in height. It’s often confused for the cannabis plant that is more commonly known as marijuana, though hemp is actually non-intoxicating. Though archeologists have found evidence of hemp use in ancient Mesopotamia, the most well-documented artifacts we have of a continuous history of hemp cultivation come from China, where the crop has been harvested for more than 6,000 years. In fact, China invented the world’s first paper by pounding and disintegrating hemp fibers around 150 B.C. Hemp seeds were also a staple grain of early Chinese civilization.
By the middle ages, hemp became a crucial plant around the world, supplying food and fiber for many countries — to the point where 80% of clothing in the U.K. was made from hemp up until the 1920s. In North America, hemp production — which was labor intensive before the innovation of farm technology — has been sidelined for centuries, with cotton as the darling crop instead. The 2018 Farm Bill declassified hemp as a drug and made it an agricultural commodity, making it legal (and much easier) for farmers to get the licenses necessary to grow hemp themselves.
The Best Uses of Hemp
Hemp has an astonishing number of practical uses, both historical and contemporary. What makes it special is its rapid growth — the plant is ready to harvest only 120 days after it’s planted — and its ability to flourish in low-maintenance conditions with little water and no pesticides.
Plus, there’s little waste: Almost every part of the plant, including the stalks, can be used. Hemp makes for a superior and sustainable paper source that’s more durable than tree-based paper, and is also an unparalleled source of textiles, shoes, rope, paint, varnish, biofuel, insulation and more. Hemp essential oil — or CBD oil — is also a well-studied and popular derivative of hemp.
Hemp Benefits You Don’t Want To Miss
Purchasing hemp paper, clothing, shoes and more is a far more eco-friendly alternative to buying standard petroleum- or tree-based options, but there are also many benefits to consuming various parts of the plant. Here are four of our favorite hemp benefits.
1. Hemp Can Help Your Body Stay Balanced
How does hemp oil make you feel? CBD, a potent molecule in hemp, interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for helping you stay balanced despite environmental stressors. It’s a powerful botanical on its own, but even more effective when used to amplify other natural essential oils. You can find ingestible blends that target specific needs — such as greater focus, relaxation, digestion and more — or topical rubs that soothe stiff and sore muscles.
2. Hemp Seeds Are a Great Source of Protein
Whether you’re on a plant-based diet or looking to get more protein into your life, hemp seeds are a healthy, affordable source of vegan protein. Unlike many other protein-rich plants, hemp offers all the essential amino acids your body needs to help build and repair cells. Just 2 to 3 tablespoons contain 11 grams of protein, and the seeds’ nutty, pleasant flavor makes them easy to add to smoothies or sprinkle on top of salads.
3. Hemp Seeds Are Full of Healthy Fats
Hemp seeds are also rich in healthy fats, particularly linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3), which can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system strong. In fact, hemp seeds contain more than 30% fat.
4. Hemp Oil Is High in Vitamin E
Hemp oil, also known as hemp seed oil, is processed from hemp seeds (as opposed to CBD oil, which is derived from the flower). Hemp oil rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help combat free radicals in the body. While it can be a great addition to your diet, be on the lookout for confusing product language from brands that might try to market hemp oil as CBD oil. You’ll know that the item contains CBD if you see words like “hemp extract” or “CBD extract” listed in ingredients as well as the exact milligrams of active CBD per serving or tincture printed on the bottle.
How To Incorporate Hemp Benefits Into Your Life
Thanks to the surge of recent interest in hemp products, it’s easy to find hemp-based options online for many of your household needs. You’ll need to specify “hemp” in your Google search, but what you’ll discover is an abundance of hemp paper, bed linens, notebooks, sidewalk surfers, underwear, yoga pants and more. You can also easily swap pantry and kitchen items with hemp replacements: The next time you add protein powder to your grocery list, opt for hemp protein instead, or add hemp protein bars, hemp milk, hemp seed butter and even plant-based hemp seed burgers to your meal rotation.
At The Root of it All CBD, our favorite way to incorporate hemp into our daily routine is with essential oil tinctures amplified by CBD that can help you sleep better or have more energy, as well as lotions infused with hemp essential oil that can soothe and restore your skin. Making small changes in your life with hemp is an easy way to live more eco-consciously and reap the benefits of this extraordinary plant.
For more information on the benefits of hemp, CBD and general wellness insights, check out our blog.
James Han is a writer, editor and content strategist based in Los Angeles. When he’s not deep in a Google Doc, you can find him reading, watching films and taking long walks.
Britannica - Hemp
The Thistle (MIT) - The People’s History, Volume 13, Number 2
Healthline - 6 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Ministry of Hemp - 82 Real Life Amazing Hemp Products To Try Today