The question of industrial hemp and its possible benefits has been pondered by many governments in recent years. Not only has the international debate around cannabis legalization has caused a newfound awareness for the Cannabis Sativa plant as a whole, but also, the current state of agriculture as well as the food industries have prompted environmental activists to seek new responsible methods for growing versatile, transformable crops.
Industrial hemp, currently unauthorized in many countries, used to be widely grown all over the world. But for many reasons that mostly have to do with its psychoactive cousin, the multi-purpose crop has stopped being among the most beneficial natural resources used by humans during the last couple centuries.
Yet, this decision is far from being anecdotic; indeed, it is hard to ignore the multiple uses that can be made of hemp in many major industries that are currently in need of sustainable solutions to survive.
Hemp fibers have always been used by human civilizations; their strength, absorbing qualities, and resistance to
pests and diseases have made them an ideal material for textiles. This discovery was put into practice in many ancient civilizations, but the diversification of it did not stop there. For centuries, hemp fibers have been used for the manufacturing of construction materials, cordage, and paper. It is even possible nowadays to still find books made out of hemp paper, notably finest-quality Bibles.
Hemp fibers are also used in combination with other plant-based fibers to create bio plastic and composite materials. Like numerous other types of bio plastic, hemp plastic is biodegradable. This constitutes an undeniable asset when considering the tremendous amounts of non-recyclable materials that get discarded on a daily basis everywhere on the planet, an asset that could make hemp fiber an important item in the Costa Rican plan of being the first carbon neutral country by year 2021.
There have been many discussions around hemp oil as of late, especially in the food and health communities, since hemp has recently been dubbed a “super food”, along with other vegetables and seeds. The main reason why that is – besides its wonderful nutty, grassy taste – is the high nutritional value of it, due to its 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. In other words, a perfect match with the balance required by the human body, with only one tablespoon per day covering an individual’s needs in said essential fatty acids.
For this same reason, hemp oil is also used in body care products, namely in body and face lotions, creams, balms, as well as in hair care items. The highly moisturizing and anti-aging properties of hemp oil make it an unavoidable natural ingredient. By extension, hemp oil is also used to treat mild skin conditions such as eczema, not as a topical remedy, but ingested daily.
The “super food” trend could not have carried on without considering hemp seeds. Indeed, there are multiple ways to consume them. They can be eaten in many different states, including raw, grounded and sprouted, but can also be incorporated in hemp-based tofu, butter, flour, or milk.
As hemp seeds are also rich in proteins, they are heavily used in the health and sports communities, as well as in the vegan community, as protein powder.
There is an almost infinite number of reasons why industrial hemp can be a sustainable solution to many environmental and economic issues encountered by most countries, including Costa Rica. Hemp plants are extremely sturdy, and can grow in virtually any type of climate. They are resistant to pests, can be grown several years in a row in the same location, and can thrive in almost any type of soil.
And while the economic benefits brought by all the aforementioned applications of hemp are fairly evident, the environmental impact of growing hemp on a large scale and on a long term basis could make the greenhouse effect currently affecting the planet on many levels, a thing of the past.
The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San Jose, Costa Rica