The fourth annual NoCo Hemp Expo this past weekend featured more than 130 vendors and 60 speakers, all sharing information about this amazing plant. Here are ten things we learned about hemp, from its history to its modern-day applications.
1. Hemp enriches the soil where it's grown.
Hemp has such deep roots that it can easily grow in many different types of soil and terrains. It even holds the soil together, and increases its microbial content. Once the plant is harvested, the stem and leaves are so nutrient-filled that many farmers put what they don't use back in the soil, which rejuvenates it and resultes in an even bigger yield the next year.
2. Hemp absorbs toxic metals.
Hemp has shown it can eliminate toxins and radioactive material from the environment. Scientists planted it at Chernobyl and found that hemp conducted phytoremediation and removed chemicals from the soil better than any other plant.
3. It wasn't always banned.
Hemp wasn't prohibited in the United States until the 1950s. During WWII, when supplies of Japanese-made hemp were cut off, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started the "Hemp for Victory" campaign, creating a thirteen-minute video to promote hemp growing in the United States. The crop was needed to make everything from rope to sails for ships. The word "canvass" is rooted in the world "cannabis," according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council.
4. Hemp seed contains a nutrient that's also in breast milk.
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Hemp seed contains an oil that's rich in gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is also found in breast milk. Hemp seed oil has other omega-3 and 6 fatty acids as well, which makes it more healthy than most varieties of vegetable oil.
5. We can build cars with hemp.
In 1941, Henry Ford displayed a car that was made out of soybean, hemp and plastics; it was lighter than steel and withstood ten times the impact...without denting. Hemp's popular for home building because walls made from hemp are rot-free, pest-free, mold-free and fire-resistant. Oh, and they can last up to 500 years. Hemp plastics are also completely biodegradable.
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6. Hemp can also be used as fuel for a car.
The oil from hemp seed can be converted into biodiesel that's biodegradable and non-toxic; the fermented stalk can be made into ethanol and methanol. Although there are more efficient fuel alternatives, hemp is good in a pinch.
7. Hemp can reduce carbon emissions.
Hemp can not only replace some of the causes of carbon emissions, hemp can eliminate carbon emissions. Hemp has such a high carbon-dioxide uptake that it creates a process called carbon sequestration, which captures emissions. Every ton of hemp eliminates 1.63 tons of carbon, according to Hemp Inc.
8. Hemp prevents deforestation.
Hemp can be used as source material for wood and paper; one acre of hemp can produce as much paper a year as four acres of trees, according to the Hemp Technologies Collective.
9. Hemp can also help eliminate world hunger.
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Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritionally dense foods; they're a protein and contain amino acids and vitamins. They can also be made into oil or flour.
10. Our country was founded on hemp.
The U.S. Constitution was written on hemp paper. Thomas Jefferson, who cultivated a hemp farm, once said, "Hemp is of the first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country." Colonial farmers were required to grow hemp in the 1700s.