Hemp – the wonder plant

Hemp has been in the news a lot lately. Being from the “Cannabis Sativa” family, hemp sometimes generates a bit of unfair controversy and some misunderstandings merely by association. So, what better time to discover the truth about this remarkable plant than this Hemp History Week from 3-9th June.

Hemp is a plant with a whole bunch going for it. It’s one of the oldest food crops grown and consumed by ancient cultures all over the world, and it is also one of the earliest textile fibres, with hemp cloth dating back 8,000 years, found in tombs in ancient Mesopotamia. It has strong agricultural roots even in the UK – in 1533 King Henry VIII made hemp cultivation compulsory by law. Farmers were forced to grow ¼ acre of hemp for every 60 acres or face a fine. Taxes could even be paid in hemp as it was coveted so much.

These days growing industrial hemp delivers huge environmental benefits. According to the British Hemp Association, one hectare can absorb around 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the soil and plant – more than any other commercial crop or forestry.  Its extensive roots can improve soil health, by locking in nitrogen and binding the soil to reduce erosion. Crops are robust and strong and its dense canopy of leaves means weeds cannot grow easily, thus eradicating the need for pesticides and herbicides.

Farming industrial hemp offers economic benefits to communities who can utilise parts of the plant for food, food supplements, paper, construction, textiles and biofuel industries. 

Hemp also has excellent nutritional properties.  The seeds are gluten-free and a source of vitamins, minerals antioxidants, fibre, essential fatty acids and amino acids which contribute to a healthy body and mind. CBD (cannabidiol) is also a key compound that is extracted from hemp which has been reported to have a wealth of health benefits.  These oils are said give the user a feeling of relaxation which filters into the muscles and the brain and helps overcome social anxieties and depression, enable better sleep and some say it can even help with pain relief.  The CBD oil we use in our Humphrey’s juice drinks range come from organically sourced hemp.

Finally, it is important to point out the difference between hemp and marijuana plants which both come from the cannabis family – hence the likely reason for confusion. Marijuana contains much higher levels (15-40%) of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that gets you “high”. By contrast hemp contains very low levels of THC (around 0.2% or less). So both cannot be placed in the same category in terms of use as a recreational drug. At Humphrey’s, we believe more education and awareness is required to clarify these key differences.  Look at the big picture and there really is a lot to like about the hemp plant!