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The High Potential of Hemp

Regular contributor Mark Becker separates the facts from the fiction.

Hemp has always had trouble stepping out of the shadow of marijuana. Hemp is closely related to marijuana because it contains microscopic amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's mind-altering effects. Plus, taking hemp supplements or eating hemp foods won’t jeopardize your next drug test. The health benefits of hemp are so profound that people are beginning to ignore the antiquated stereotypes of this versatile plant.

Hemp is the same plant as marijuana. Its scientific name is "cannabis sativa." For thousands of years hemp was used to make dozens of commercial products like paper, rope, canvas, and textiles. In fact, the very name "canvas" comes from the Dutch word meaning cannabis, which is marijuana. Yes, real canvas is made from cannabis!

Many years ago, hemp was unjustly banned. However, hemp has recently been rediscovered as a plant that has enormous environmental, economic, and commercial potential. Check out the following fascinating facts:

The potential of hemp for paper production is unbelievable. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, one acre of hemp can produce four times more paper than one acre of trees! A wide range of paper products can be produced from hemp, including computer paper, stationery, cardboard, envelopes, toilet paper, and even tampons.

Paper production from hemp would eliminate the need to cut down millions of trees! Millions of acres of forests and massive areas of wildlife habitat would be preserved.

Trees must grow for 20 to 50 years after planting before they can be harvested for commercial use. Hemp grows 10 to 20 feet tall and is ready for harvesting within four months after it is planted. Hemp can be grown on most farms throughout the U.S. Forests require huge areas of land that is rarely accessible. Substituting hemp for trees would save forests and wildlife habitats and would eliminate the erosion of topsoil due to logging. Reduction of topsoil erosion would also reduce pollution of lakes, rivers, and streams.

For years the mainstream media has alluded to the health benefits of hemp. The hemp seed is loaded with omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids that have significant cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits. Dietary supplement and functional food suppliers and marketers need to seriously think about including hemp when considering new product launches. Hemp seeds are nutty in flavor and breathe life into salads, desserts, yogurts, cereals, and breads. Hemp seeds can be used in protein powders, milk, butter, and even soap.

The U.S. outlawed hemp farming in 1958, which is a shame for so many reasons. Hemp thrives without pesticides, purifies the soil around it, and kills weeds. The U.S. is the only country that bans industrial hemp farming, quelling what could be an agricultural and financial boon for our troubled economy.

As previously mentioned, hemp provides profound health benefits:

--The protein and fiber in hemp combine to slow digestion, which prevents spikes in blood sugar. A diet rich in hemp promotes digestive health.
--When sprinkled on your cereal or fruit at breakfast, hemp protein and fiber promote satiety.
--The omega-3 fatty acids in hemp helps prevent and fight heart disease, as well as cancer, depression, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, ulcers, diabetes, hyperactivity, and other conditions. Hemp seeds are one of the few omega-3 sources found in plants.
--The omega-6 fatty acids found in hemp stimulate skin and hair growth, help to maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and promote cognitive function.
--Hemp seeds contain all nine of the essential amino acids (like flax), which improves muscle control, mental function, and normal body maintenance of cells, muscle, tissues, and organs.
--Hemp is a high protein seed that also contains vitamin E and trace minerals.

According to Men’s Health, hemp seeds became widely available in February of 2014 after the passage of H.R. 2642, also known as the Farm Bill. This legislation allows hemp to be grown in bulk for academic and agricultural research, which may legitimize commercial production very soon. Although hemp has very promising health benefits, more human studies are still needed to demonstrate the real-world health benefits.

The decades-long prohibition against growing hemp in the U.S. may not last much longer, paving the way for more research. This will not only create potential revenue highs for suppliers and marketers of hemp, it will go a long way toward providing a legitimate health option for consumers.

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