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What Is Hemp?

The cannabis plant has many uses—but perhaps one of the most “practical” (or at the very least, legal) byproducts is hemp. Hemp is specifically bred from a variety of Cannabis Sativa that is known for having very long fibers. Entire civilizations have been using it to make anything from baskets to rope to even clothing. Hemp seeds are nutrient dense and used as food in many countries including Canada. It is legal to import hemp as a product in the United States but not to grow it. Hemp has also been used to make canvas (in fact, canvas’ etymology is linked to the word ‘cannabis’).

Hemp, however, had its drawbacks. Though it was readily available its fibers tended to be quite rough—which didn’t really matter if you were making it into rope, but was uncomfortable against the skin. However, people didn’t have much choice until the Industrial Revolution, when they developed alternative textiles. Eventually, they also built machines that could further refine hemp fiber so it would be softer and finer. Modern hemp clothing is not only more comfortable, but it has proven to be quite durable and absorbent—making it the ideal fabric for “work” or “outdoor” clothing. Studies show that hemp will last three times longer than cotton! Its insulating quality is also a plus for those who live in cold climates. In fact, hemp knits are quite popular, though the “weave” tends to be chunkier than cotton knits.

While most people think of hemp as a “drab” fabric, due to its original pale-blonde color, many companies treat it with plant dye to create deep, rich shades. Other industrial uses for hemp seed include the manufacturing of plastics. Some companies also use it as an ingredient in skin creams and diet supplements.

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