Hemp has been cultivated for millennia, with its fibres and stalks used in ropes, clothing, construction materials, paper, biofuel, plastic composites and more. Production of hemp has soared as countries have begun to legalize its cousin marijuana. Whilst both are varieties of cannabis sativa, hemp contains negligible amounts of THC — the substance in marijuana that is intoxicating – so you can't get you high from it. In March of this year,
US Sen Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp as an agricultural product. The Hemp Farming Act has been approved by the Senate, and if it gets support in Congress, hemp would be removed from the federal list of controlled substances and allow it to be grown and sold as a normal agricultural product.
This loosening of restrictions would deliver a host of benefits - its use in agriculture is far more cost effective when compared to other crop as it relies on low-cost fertilisers and pesticides. It has great potential in terms of building insulation and could replace oil-based alternatives such as polyurethane foam. Fundamentally, the plant is hugely versatile and virtually generates no waste. Critically for bio-markets, the plant offers a viable alternative to current environmentally harmful products, as hemp biomass can be turned into gasoline, methane and methanol.
Nutritionally, hemp offers a number of plant-based alternatives, such as hemp milk and can also be used in industrial material and fabric production. Its innovations include walling and insulation purposes that have the added benefits of superior thermal performance and carbon negativity; plastic for functions ranging from single-use to automotive components; textiles used for technical as well as apparel and is found to be several times more sustainable than cotton and cheaper to produce; and in electronic applications such as in super-capacitors as a replacement of graphene. Furthermore, innovative hemp-based businesses could establish a well-rounded circular economy, which could mean additional benefits for the entrepreneur by way of carbon finance and government subsidies.
And to focus on how hemp has such huge potential for products, we look at five innovative companies already using hemp:
Ritter Sport – the German chocolate producer has released a new product named Schoko & Gras (Chocolate & Grass) of which 7.5% is comprised of toasted hemp seeds. Ritter Sport Brand Manager Beth Foreman says that from a cultivation standpoint, hemp requires “minimal care, and it is adaptable to grow in most climates”. The brand advocates hemp seeds as a superfood and follows the release of two other superfood/vegan-based chocolate bars made with quinoa and amaranth respectively.
“This is a great example of an enlightened major player who understands the potential for hemp in foods,” Daniel Kruse, the CEO of Hempro Int. which provided the hemp seeds for the bars, said, according to Hemp Today.
The Body Shop – has long stocked a number of hemp products. Their best-selling Hemp Hand Protector is designed to restore moisture for up to 24-hours and uses hemp oil which offers a number of health benefits for the skin. Many essential fatty acids can be found in the oil such as Omega 3,6 and 9 which are similar to the lipids found on our skin. This result’s in the oil offering anti-inflammatory benefits and can help to heal skin conditions
Amur – a New York based clothing brand marketed as eco-friendly and sustainable. It focuses on the production of fashionable clothing that does not come at the expense of the environment. All materials are sustainably sourced. The company use natural fibres in their materials. They combine silk and cotton fabrics with hemp. Not only is the production using hemp environmentally friendly but it offers a number of anti-bacterial benefits. Hemp hurd is a by‐product of the hemp plant during hemp fibre separation. Studies suggest that the presence of hemp hurd inhibits the growth of bacterium such as E.coli
Perricone MD – launched a hemp-based skincare line in 2017 named CBx for Men. The products are formulated with phytocannabinoids, which are antioxidants. They are extracted from the mature stalk of the hemp plant. The line addresses men's key skin concerns including excess oil production, sensitivity and irritation related to shaving. In addition, the products address core skincare concerns such as dehydration, fine lines and uneven skin tone.
Chris Caires, Chief Innovative Officer, Perricone MD, says, "After carefully vetting a variety of active ingredients, we chose to use phytocannabinoids, non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from the cannabis sativa plant, as the key ingredient in the CBx for Men collection. Phytocannabinoids are known to help stressed, oil-prone skin feel soothed, healthy and refreshed, making them an ideal ingredient for men's skincare. Aside from skincare, phytocannabinoids have been used to address a variety conditions such as chronic pain and sleeplessness as well as skin conditions such as acne."
Black Mountain – established in 2007, focuses in natural building products in the green building sector. Products contain 95% natural fibre content. NatuHemp is one of its primary insulation materials, marketing the product as biodegradable and non-toxic, derived from waste straw left at the end of the hemp seed harvest. Black Mountain use up to 90% less manufacturing energy compared to alternative insulation products. At the end of a building’s life, the hemp fibre is biodegradable or it can be incinerated to provide further energy. Black Mountain has a natural insulation factory based in the UK, and boasts that it is one of the most modern in Europe while achieving one of the lowest energy consumptions.
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