Parts of the hemp plant and their uses

Parts of the hemp plant and their uses

Since ancient times, agriculture has played a massive role in human society. It has led to the establishment of ancient states, the improvement of trade and the growth of populations. 

(Agriculture has been essential to humans since ancient times)

Some of the plants  that played a significant role in the ancient world are wheat, peas,rice, and hemp. 

In this article, we are going to focus on one of the most important plants of the ancient and modern world, hemp. We are going to dive into hemp, specifically looking at the parts of the hemp plant and their uses. 

(A hemp field in Côtes-d'Armor, Brittany, France (Europe's largest hemp producer) by Barbetorte) 

Let’s dive in. 

History of hemp

To fully appreciate the modern-day uses of the hemp plant, we need to look at its history. What did people in ancient times use the hemp plant for? Where was it grown? And was it a useful plant? 

According to archaeologists, hemp was probably first grown in 8000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia. The oldest hemp remnants were hemp cords used in pottery.

The Chinese were among the first ancient societies to recognize the importance of hemp. According to Lu Shi, a historical document from the Song dynasty, Emperor Shen Nung taught his people to grow hemp for cloth. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that China has the longest continuous history of hemp cultivation spanning more than six millennia. Other countries with a long history of Hemp cultivation include France and Russia. 

Hemp was also vital to ancient Indian communities. It was so important that it was mentioned in the sacred text, the Atharvaveda, as one of the five sacred plants. 

Historians believe that Europeans learned of hemp in 1200 BC, and from there it spread to the rest of the ancient world. In North America, historians believe that hemp was present long before the arrival of the Europeans.  This theory is supported by the words of Jacques Cartier who said that the land was, “frill of hempe which groweth of itselfe, which is as good as possibly may be scene, and as strong.” 

Uses of hemp in the ancient world

In the ancient world, the Chinese were pioneers of finding unique ways to use hemp. One of the ways they used it was in the creation of cloth fabric. Archaeologists have found hemp fabric that was dated back to around 8000 BC. The ancient Chinese also used hemp to make ropes, fishnets, as food and in folk remedies. 

In most folk remedies, they recommended using the leaves, seeds and roots. They were commonly used for painful childbirth, rheumatism, dysentery, and convulsions. The Chinese also discovered how to make paper from hemp. 

Hemp was also crucial to the ancient Egyptians as hemp cloth was discovered in the tomb of Pharaoh Alchanaten at El Amarona. During the reign of Ramses III, apothecaries suggested using hemp for ophthalmic reasons. 

In 1100 BC hemp was essential to the Carthaginians as they used it in their ships, ropes and medicines. Apart from the Carthaginians, Vikings also used hemp in their boats. 

During the Middle Ages, hemp had vast social and economic significance because it supplied most of the fibre they used. Hemp was so important that King Henry VIII passed a law in 1535 requiring all landowners to plant hemp on ¼ acre or be fined.

In later years, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law requiring landowners with at least 60 acres to plant hemp. Queen Elizabeth’s decision inspired King Philip of Spain to order that hemp be grown all over his empire. During this period, hemp was primarily used to make fibre, Hemp seeds were also cooked and eaten alongside other grains. 

It would seem that our ancient relatives had a great grasp on the importance of hemp. 

Parts of the hemp plant

Now that we have looked at the history of the hemp plant let's look at the parts of the hemp plant. 

The significant parts of the hemp plant are the:

  • Seeds
  • Flowers
  • Leaves
  • Stalks
  • Roots

Hemp seeds

Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, are small brown seeds that come from the hemp plant. These seeds have a wide variety of uses such as in food, lotions and shampoo. 

Hemp seeds are used as food because they contain a wide variety of nutrients. 

  • Proteins- Hemp seeds are an essential source of proteins. According to FoodData Central, in every 30g of hemp seeds (3 tablespoons), there's 9.47g of protein. The average man requires 56g of proteins per day while the average woman requires 46g of proteins per day. This means that the average man would need 18 tablespoons of hemp seeds to get the required daily protein intake. The average woman would need 15 tablespoons of hemp seeds. And the best thing about hemp seeds is that they provide all nine essential amino acids. 
  • Unsaturated fats- Hemp seeds are an essential source of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid. 
  • Fibre- The shell of the hemp seed is an essential source of fibre, and that’s why people are advised to buy hemp seeds with the shell intact. However, even hemp seeds without the shell can provide the body with a significant amount of fibre. 
  • Vitamins- Some of the vitamins found in hemp seeds include Vitamin E and Vitamin B-6. 
  • Minerals- Some of the minerals found in hemp seeds include magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. 

(Whole hemp seeds by Jonathunder)


Hulled hemp seeds by Luděk Kovář 

Hemp flowers

If you are into CBD, then you most likely know about hemp flowers. They are produced by mature hemp plants containing high concentrations of flavonoids, terpenes and cannabinoids. 

According to research, you can harvest 1000 to 2000 pounds of hemp flowers from a single acre.

The hemp flowers are primarily used to produce cannabinoid products for health and wellness products. 

Hemp leaves


Hemp leaves by Rick Proctor

Hemp leaves are some of the most popular parts of the hemp plant. They frequently appear in t-shirts, chains and hoodies.

Hemp leaves are primarily dried to create wellness products such as hemp tea and CBD products. You can also eat raw hemp leaves as they can provide you with some essential compounds such as CBDa, terpenes and chlorophyll. 

Hemp stalks

Hemp stem showing fibers by Natrij 

The stalks of the hemp plant are some of its most useful parts. There are two important parts of the hemp stalk, the bast and the shiv. 

To get to the bast, you have to slice the hemp stalk in half and extract it carefully. It is a long, string-like band that has high tensile strength. Tensile strength refers to the resistance a material has to break under tension. Bast fibre is primarily used in clothing, making paper and construction. 

The shiv, also known as the hurd or woody core, is the soft inner part of the stalk. It has several properties that make it a significant material; these include:

  • Highly absorbent
  • Great thermal properties
  • Great acoustic properties
  • Rich in cellulose

The shiv can be used in two different ways:

    1. Untreated and unrefined chunks- In this form, the hurd is used in several industries such as paper, insulation and cement.
  • Pulp- In this form, the shiv is used to make biodegradable plastics. 
  • Hemp interior thermal insulation blocks

    Hemp roots

    When we think about parts of the hemp plant, we might overlook the roots. However, this would be a grave mistake because hemp roots have a lot of value. 

    Ancient societies valued hemp roots because they believed that the roots had medicinal value. The ancient Chinese used hemp roots as a diuretic, a substance used to increase the production of urine, and also to stop haemorrhaging in women after they had given birth. 

    Hemp roots were also popular among the ancient Romans. According to Pliny the elder, hemp roots was used to treat joint stiffness, gout and burns. 

    In the modern era, there have been several attempts to study the clinical properties of the cannabis plant.  Some of the researchers who worked on the subject include Natasha Ryz, David Remillard and Ethan B. Russo. 

    In 2017, they published a paper where they looked at the efficiency of hemp root for treating inflammation and pain. They concluded that the current data supported the ethnobotanical and historical claims made about the roots of the hemp plant. They suggested that there was a need to reexamine whole root preparations using modern scientific techniques. 

    Apart from having medicinal properties, hemp roots have several essential nutrients such as choline which is essential for healthy cell membranes.

    Some questions on the parts of the hemp plant:

    1. What are aerial parts of the hemp plant?

    Aerial parts of the hemp plant are those that are exposed to the air. These include the seeds, flowers, stalks and leaves. 

    1. What part of the hemp plant is used to make CBD?

    CBD oil is made from the flowers, leaves, stalks and stems of the hemp plant. 

    1. What part of the hemp plant has the most CBD?

    CBD oil is primarily concentrated in the flowers of the hemp plant. 

    Final thoughts

    The hemp plant is a versatile plant with limitless potential. At the moment, we are only scratching the surface, and we believe that hemp will play a significant role in our future. 

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