The misunderstood member of the cannabis family. Hemp has been used for thousands of years to feed, clothe and heal vast numbers of people. One of the first plants to be domesticated, hemp's use by humans is as long as it is diverse. Banned across the globe for most of the 19th century, the skills and techniques honed to harness this plant are slowly being re-learned.
Most people might not know that hemp was on board the First Fleet to Australia as a cargo “for commerce”. It was seen to be an essential aspect of the survival of the new colony and a staple commodity. Some historians think that the original plan for New South Wales was to cultivate a new hemp colony rather than to resettle convicts! Cannabis wasn't viewed in the same way it is now and was a vital tool in making sails, cables and rigging for the ships that spread globalisation.
Early this year, Bloomberg reported that over 200,000 acres of hemp had been licensed to grow in the USA in 2019. Which is a number up from around 25,000 two years ago. It is not just the US that is seeing itself through a hemp craze. Countries such as China, Greece, Jamaica, Africa, Australia and many throughout south America are also pushing for more significant deregulation and access to grow this diverse plant.
What parts of hemp can we eat?
The hemp plant has an extremely dense nutritional profile and can be turned into a wide variety of food products. Hemp seeds can be processed for their oil or eaten whole, can be ground down into protein powder and even turned into a milk substitute.
Since changes to the Australian Food Standards Code permitted the sale of low-psychoactive hemp seed food came into effect in November 2017, hemp has become widely known as a superfood. Hemp Seed Oil contains two essential fatty acid: Omega 6 and omega 3. They are crucial because the human body cannot make them on its own, so we need to consume them from our diet. These two omegas are essential in maintaining cell membranes, reducing inflammation and keeping our hearts healthy (amongst many many others).
Hemp protein powder is made by crushing hemp seeds into a fine powder. It is classified as a complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids that humans must get from food. Being a plant-based protein, it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike and is easier digested than other animal proteins. Oil – check, protein powder – check, but what about milk? Hemp milk is plant-based and sits in the same category as cashew, soy, oats and almonds. Free of lactose and gluten, it is used increasingly as a tasty alternative to cow’s milk! Hemp milk also works to lower blood cholesterol and ease inflammation.
Ok, so we can eat it, what else?
Hemp is not just limited to eating, however. It can also have significant impacts on the quality of the soil it is planted in. In a process called bioremediation, the hemp plant can filter out toxins and accumulate heavy materials in the soil around it. This has ground-breaking potential to be planted in heavily polluted areas and filter out toxicity in the environment. Scientist Ilya Raskin, a member of a team that tested hemp’s ability to accumulate heavy metals from soil in contaminated fields near Chernobyl said that the results showed the experiment to be a success, and that hemp showed strong phytoremediation properties. This has widespread applicability to replenish damaged farmland around the globe, while also providing food for the millions of people that struggle with lack of nutrition and lack of access to fertile farmland. Hemp is nothing less than a saviour of humanity. A miracle plant that will revive depleted soils, mitigate the threat of climate change, and re-establish the harmonic balance between humans and the environment.
Not sold on the diversity of the hemp plant? Check out our Hemp Flour and Hemp Protein here. They are rich in fibre, a good source of iron and calcium and also contains a variety of other nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin E.