Cannabis plants, especially those grown for fiber, have been around since before the 12th century. The term “hemp” is used to refer to cannabis that contains 0.3 percent or less of THC by dry weight. Hemp, also known as Cannabis sativa, is a plant of the Cannabaceae family that is cultivated for its bast fiber or edible seeds. Hemp is sometimes confused with cannabis plants that are used to make marijuana and hashish.
All three products contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects on humans. However, the strain of cannabis grown for hemp has only small amounts of THC compared to those grown for marijuana or hashish production. Hemp is grown in temperate zones as an annual crop from seed and can reach heights of up to 5 meters (16 feet).Hemp fiber is used to make bioplastics that are recyclable and biodegradable, depending on the formulation. Shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, are sold as a health food and can be eaten raw; they are usually sprinkled in salads or mixed with fruit smoothies.
Hemp can also be used as an alternative to wood pulp in some cases; it is often used in papermaking and is a sustainable alternative to fiberglass insulation in buildings. The novel material “hempcrete”, a composite made of hemp and a lime binder, can be used similarly to traditional concrete in no-load applications. The cultivation of hemp for fiber was recorded in China as early as 2800 BC and was practiced in the Mediterranean countries of Europe at the beginning of the Christian era, spreading throughout the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages.