Wednesday, September 12, 2007

second installment of "Ode to Hemp"

Hemp also is deeply woven into our American History: Did you know 
that the first American Flag was made out of hemp, and Christopher
Columbus' sails were hemp (hemp makes a perfect fabric for sails due
to it's incredible durability and it is also resistant to mold).
Because it is great for sails it also makes a wonderful fabric (and
natural choice) for a shower curtain; I have a hemp shower curtain
that has lasted many, many years. Read on for more interesting and
fun hemp facts from the Hemp page (at

What is hemp?

Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) is a "bast" fiber plant similar to flax or
ramie that is harvested for its fibers and seed. The plant is tall,
and thin and grows from 5 to 15 feet in height. It is primarily grown
in Europe, Asia, South America and Canada.

What is hemp used for?

All kinds of things! Coarse hemp fibers and yarns are woven into
cordage, rope, carpets, burlap, sacking, and heavy-duty tarpaulins.
It can also be woven into durable high quality textiles for clothing,
curtains, upholstery, shoes, backpacks, and towels. Other uses of the
fibers include particle board and paper. The seeds are used for
health foods, edible oils, biodiesel oil, paint, soaps, cosmetics,
cremes, and a host of other products.

How long has hemp been in use?

The use of hemp can be traced back to 8000 BC in the Middle East and
China where the fiber was used for textiles, ropes, and fishnets, the
oil for cosmetic purposes and the seeds for food. The Columbia
History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry
is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC. Hemp
has been used to produce high quality paper for centuries.

Where is hemp grown?

Today, hemp is grown around the world but primarily in Europe, Asia,
South America and Canada. In the United States, it is illegal to grow
hemp except by special permit, which is a rarity. This situation is
the result of politics related to protecting the interests of cotton
and tree growers and misinformation about industrial hemp's psycho-
active effects. Strangely though, Americans were encouraged to grow
hemp during the Colonial era and during World War II.

Can hemp be used as a drug like marijuana?

No. Although both plants are from the species cannabis, industrial or
fiber hemp contains virtually no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol),
the active ingredient in marijuana. For this reason, one cannot get
high from smoking hemp.

How difficult is hemp to grow?

Hemp will grow almost anywhere, requires little fertilizer, resists
pests and crowds out weeds, therefore it is a crop that is relatively
easy to grow and does well as an organic crop. The plant grows
quickly, requiring only 70 to 110 days to maturity.

How environmentally friendly is hemp?

Very! Hemp requires no pesticides or fertilizers and much less water
than other crops. Hemp grows quickly (70 to 110 days) producing crops
once a year, unlike trees which take many years to grow to a usable
size. Hemp uses minimal nutrients from the soil and hemp's long roots
aerate the soil, leaving it rich for future crops. Hemp fiber can be
used to make a stronger wood substitute for paper, fine cloth, canvas
and can be whitened using less environmentally harmful chemicals than
are used to make paper from trees.

What are some other ecological advantages of hemp?

The oils of the hemp plant have been made into both biodegradable
plastics and ethanol fuels. Both of these uses of hemp oil would be
more ecologically sound when compared to using their petroleum
counterparts because most petroleum-based plastics are not
biodegradable and the burning of petroleum-based gasoline, unlike
biomass (plant) fuel, is a major cause of air pollution.

How does hemp compare to cotton?

Hemp fabrics are stronger, more absorbent, more insulative, and more
durable than cotton and they don’t stretch out of shape. Natural
organic hemp fiber "breathes" and is biodegradable. Hemp will produce
1500 pounds of fiber per acre, whereas cotton will produce only 500
pounds per acre!

What are some other historical tidbits about hemp ?

-The original Levi’s were made of hemp cloth

-The first Gutenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper.

-Christopher Columbus' sails and ropes were made from hemp.

-The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were printed on
hemp paper.

-Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper.

-The first American flag was made out of hemp.

-George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp.

-Rudolph Diesel designed an engine to run on hemp oil.

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