Beyond Beauty: What is Hemp Used For?
In spite of it’s 3,000+ years of use by humans, these days there’s a LOT of misinformation and confusion about the hemp plant, and exactly what is hemp used for. It’s probably safe to assume (since you’re here on our website!) that you’re aware that hemp seed extract is a highly effective ingredient in skin and beauty products, but there are many other ways this wonder plant benefits humankind.
In this month’s blog, we break it down for you into the uses, benefits and potentials for the humble hemp plant and ingredients derived from it. We love the groundswell of interest in our signature botanical, and can’t wait to see it crop up* in more and more categories and products in the future.
*Yep, we couldn’t resist a hemp farming pun 🙂
What has Hemp Historically Been Used For?
For nearly 3000 years, hemp was the largest agricultural crop on the planet, and was used in a variety of different industries. It has been used in one form or another for much longer – as far back as the 28th century BC, where it was believed to be used in China to create clothing.
As one of the fastest growing plants on Earth (along with bamboo), hemp has been used to produce fibre, paper, clothing, lighting fuel and medicine. It has been found in tombs used as swaddling cloth or funeral shrouds as early as 4000 BC. More recently, hemp experienced its heyday in Europe due to the central role it played in the 17th century sailing industry.
Due to being virtually tear-proof and very strong even when wet, almost all ship’s sails plus rigging, ropes, nets, flags and sailor’s uniforms were made from hemp. Well into the 18th century, hemp fibres – along with flax, nettle and wool – were the key raw materials used for European textile manufacturing.
So, what led to hemp’s downfall? In a word, cotton. Innovations in the cotton spinning process saw this crop take over as the main source of textile fibre worldwide. Combined with a downturn in sailing and the new preference for making paper from wood, it paved the way for hemp to become a less valued and eventually inessential crop.
What is Hemp Used For These Days
In the past decade or so, we’re happy to say that hemp has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance. In our modern world, hemp is used to make loads of things – from skincare and beauty products to rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel.
You’ll find hemp in detergents, printer inks and even car interiors. Hemp flowers, leaves, seed, seed oil, and protein are used as food and/or medicine. We have personally experienced the benefits of hemp oil in treating symptoms related to some skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and acne rosacea.
Plus, being rich in linoleic acid (which significantly reduces total cholesterol as well as “bad” cholesterol), hemp oil can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease when included in a healthy diet.
The stigma which has haunted hemp in recent decades is gradually lifting. Unlike its sister plant cannabis, hemp contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), less than 0.3%. It is legal to sell hemp and hemp products in the U.S. however laws in Australia are lagging behind. As recently as 5 years ago, using CBD or hemp seed extracts was still illegal in Australia – read more about this in our earlier blog.
Today, industrial hemp can be legally grown in all Australian states and territories, with THC limited to below 1 per cent in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland, and 0.35 per cent in other states. The future of hemp farming looks rosy, and we can look forward to the day when everybody once again knows the answer to the question of ‘what is hemp used for’!