Hemp is a term that refers to strains of the cannabis sativa plant — the same plant used to produce marijuana — that contains low levels of the psychoactive compound THC. The current threshold in the United States is below 0.3% THC concentration.
Hemp is the future
Because hemp is naturally lower in THC, it is often the source of CBD used in many CBD products. Hemp-derived CBD can be used in many products available to consumers, such as foods, oils, lotions, capsules, and cosmetics. There is even one medicine that has been FDA-approved to treat rare seizure disorders.
“CBD is different from THC because it does not produce the psychoactive ‘high’ effect that THC causes when consuming marijuana,” says Olson. “As a result, CBD can give consumers many of the positive health benefits of the cannabis sativa plant, but without any of the side effects that have caused marijuana to be classified as an illegal drug in many parts of the country.”
The numerous health benefits of the hemp plant and hemp-derived CBD products have created a massive market for these products. According to market findings from Yahoo! Finance, the hemp-based products market was estimated to be valued at $2.6 billion in 2022, and is expected to grow to $3.9 billion by 2031.
Still, given that hemp-based CBD and marijuana are derived from the same plant, the regulatory framework surrounding hemp and CBD is understandably complex. Hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act, but for hemp to be considered a legal crop by the USDA, it must test under the 0.3% threshold for THC. This requires a sampling and testing process, and if the result comes in above that maximum threshold, the product is considered a controlled substance and must be disposed of according to USDA procedure and policy.
Hemp products for human and animal use
Many companies have begun to incorporate hemp into food products in forms such as hemp seed oil, hemp seeds baked into pastries, or even raw hemp seeds added to foods such as salads or oatmeal. Some even use hemp seeds as the basis of a dairy replacement product, which can be used as a milk substitute, a cheese substitute, or even a protein powder. The use of hemp as a food additive or alternative is due to its nutritional value, being a great source of protein, healthy fats, and magnesium.
Many skincare products also use hemp oil as an ingredient, thanks to its moisturizing, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. While many skincare products containing hemp are standard beauty products used to maintain one’s complexion, these products also have exciting potential as a treatment for conditions such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and more.
However, it isn’t just humans who can benefit from the power of hemp-derived products. In fact, there are many hemp-derived CBD pet care products on the market that can be administered to pets for various conditions, such as pain relief or anxiety management.
“Much like CBD provides a calming effect to humans, administering a pet-sized dose of hemp-based products to your four-legged friends can help provide them with the same type of relief,” says Olson. “Other products might help with their mobility or immunity.”
Hemp productions and sustainability
Hemp also has some exciting applications beyond consumption, such as use in fabric. Those passionate about sustainable fashion have recently begun to advocate for the increased use of hemp-based fiber in clothes and textiles. Hemp is a much more sustainable option than other textile crops because it generally requires less herbicide and pesticide use and consumes up to 50% less water than cotton, making it a much healthier crop in regard to overall soil health.
Other sustainable hemp-based products include hemp-based bioplastics and building materials. Hemp-based bioplastics are non-toxic and natural, making them a great alternative to traditional plastic for virtually any use. The use of these products can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste humans create. Similarly, hemp-based building materials — such as hempcrete — are far less environmentally destructive, yet offer the structural integrity needed for success.
Some researchers are even looking at hemp as a potential source of alternative energy in the form of hemp-derived biodiesel. The seeds of the plant — the most often discarded part — contain oils converted to biodiesel in a study with 97% efficiency, even with the possibility of being used at a lower temperature than any other biodiesel on the market. When combined with the ease and reduced strain with which the hemp plant can be grown, this makes hemp an exciting potential source of renewable energy.
With the many potential applications hemp products have — both for human consumption and use as a sustainable material — this plant truly is the future for several industries. “There are so many ways the hemp plant can be used,” Olson concludes. “We hope to continue supporting these innovators in finding new applications for this incredible plant.”