Cannabis: not just for smoking

    The versatility of hemp

    By Hailey Hill
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    Infographic by Mikko Mananghaya.

    In recent years, the scientific community and society at large have increasingly accepted cannabis as much more than a recreational drug. Specifically, hemp, a variety of the cannabis sativa plant, has been found to be extremely versatile and is involved in the creation of thousands of products people use every day.

    It is important to understand hemp is vastly different than the marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes. Marijuana used in the medicinal and recreational fields contains the compound tetrahydrocannabinol, usually referred to as THC. Although both are derived from the cannabis sativa plant, hemp only contains a miniscule amount of the psychoactive compound (you cannot get high from hemp) and has separate, versatile uses from the marijuana flower that is typically associated with cannabis use. A lack of understanding of these differences is common, which explains the stigma that hemp products are still subject to.

    This stigma is gradually being erased as more information is released about the health benefits of the hemp plant. According to cannabisreports.org, hemp is “high in essential fatty acids and amino acids,” which “are important to your diet;” therefore, many people are starting to incorporate hemp into their diets. Hemp seeds are a great source of these nutrients and can be a healthy snack just like any other seed or nut. Hemp can also be used for salad oils or ground up to make flour and oil for baking.

    Hemp is primarily used for its oil, a key ingredient in many body lotions and has recently been proven to be especially beneficial for skin. Hemp oil is great for skin because it contains “high amounts of omega-3 and gamma-linolenic acid oils, known as Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs),” according to wisegeek.com. Recent research has shown the EFAs “help prevent moisture loss in the skin and may play a regenerative role in the skin aging process.” Some claim hemp oil can even reduce the appearance of wrinkles on faces. Brands such as Hempz lotion have recently become popular because of these healing qualities of the hemp oil found within the lotion formula.

    Hemp oils and lotions are also an attractive buy for many because they are natural products; consumers do not have to be concerned about what chemicals are being absorbed into their skin. Hemp oil is actually safe to ingest as well, so while it is still unwise to consume body lotions, it won’t poison a consumer if it is accidentally ingested, either.

    Hemp can also be used as an eco-friendly material in the manufacturing of a variety of items, including pet beds, backpacks, bags and even clothing. Some clothing brands are beginning to look to hemp as an alternative to cotton, as it “is an eco-friendly crop that requires little water and no pesticides for growth, and it renews soil after each growth cycle,” states healthyhempoil.com. This potential for a sustainable, renewable resource is crucial as climate change continues to be a growing concern in industries around the world.

    The versatility of hemp holds much promise for medicinal, cosmetic and consumer goods, and only further research will tell to what extent we can reap the benefits of the plant.

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