In 2018, the United States legalized the industrial production of hemp through the Farm Bill after virtually outlawing it with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Before this time, hemp was a legal and highly prized crop throughout the United States. Today, the U.S. is the third largest producer of hemp in the world. To be legal under federal law, hemp must contain no more than 0.3% THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).
While hemp has a complicated history in the U.S., it has long been used for a variety of purposes throughout the world. For example, the hemp plant has been cultivated in China for more than 6,000 years. Today, hemp is used in a variety of ways throughout the world, including right here in the United States.
From construction materials to biofuel, hemp is being used to make products, boost health and wellness, and even clean up the environment. Want to learn more? Keep reading to learn about the global uses of hemp.
What Countries Grow Hemp?
Hemp, a species of the Cannabis Sativa plant, can be grown in a number of environments. Ideally, hemp is grown in well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral soil (ph 6.0 to 7.0). A hardy plant, hemp can be grown in a range of climates – which means that it can be grown almost anywhere in the world.
Hemp is currently grown in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Hemp-producing countries include:
- South Africa
- United States
These countries (and others) grow hemp for a variety of purposes, from fiber for rope and cloth to food products like hemp seed oil to CBD. Each country has its own laws regarding industrial hemp production, with some countries (like Ecuador) allowing hemp with as much as 1% THC to be cultivated, while others (like Lithuania) limiting THC content to 0.2%.
The global market for hemp is valued at $5.56 billion, and is projected to grow to as much as $27.72 billion by 2028. The top hemp-growing countries include:
- United States
- North Korea
Importantly, because of the different standards for growing hemp around the world, there are strict rules about importing hemp seeds and plants into the United States. While hemp products can be imported to the U.S., they may not comply with American laws and regulations surrounding hemp, such as THC content.
How Is Hemp Used Around the World?
Hemp was first cultivated during the Sung Dynasty in China, in around 500 AD, for use in making cloth or textiles. The plant was then exported to Europe around 1,200 BC, where it spread throughout the world. Pieces of hemp cloth have been found in archeological digs throughout the world, including in Mesopotamia (Iran and Iraq) dating back to 8,000 BC.
Hemp quickly became one of the most important crops in the world. In fact, hemp was so important in the United Kingdom that in 1535, King Henry VIII passed a law that required all homeowners to sow ¼ of an acre or be fined. In the United States, it was grown in nearly every state from Massachusetts to California.
Traditionally, hemp was used to make products such as:
- Fiber for rope
- Natural medicines
- Printing ink
- Paints and varnishes
Today, scientists and entrepreneurs have found even more innovative uses for hemp, both in the United States and around the world.
For example, hemp is being used to clean contaminated soil. In places that have toxic or polluted soil, such as Chernobyl, the roots of the hemp plant can absorb harmful chemicals – making the land safer and potentially allowing other plants to flourish there again. This type of bioremediation is possible because hemp is such a resilient and hardy plant.
In other countries, such as the UK, hemp is being used as a form of biofuel. To make this fuel, known as cellulosic ethanol, the harvest hemp plant is shredded, heated with chemicals to release the cellulose, treated with enzymes and then fermented. The resulting environmentally-friendly fuel can be used just like biofuels made from corn or sugarcane.
Hemp is also being used to create a 100% biodegradable type of plastic. While hemp plastic isn’t new (Henry Ford designed a car made of hemp plastic in 1941), it is becoming more popular globally because this product is strong, versatile, nontoxic, and biodegradable.
In countries throughout the world, including the U.K., hempcrete – a composite material that can replace concrete – is becoming a popular building material. Made from a mix of hemp hurds and lime, sand or pozzolans, it can be used for construction and insulation. Hempcrete is easier to work with than concrete, and is ideal for most climates.
The recent rise in lumber prices has also spiked an interest in alternative sources for wood. Hemp wood is a revolutionary new building material. Hemp is cheaper and faster to grow than trees. One acre of hemp can produce the same amount of cellulose fiber as four acres of trees. This makes hemp a more affordable source for lumber. Hemp wood is better for interior building than exterior building, but it could still help to alleviate demand for lumber that is causing price spikes.
Another intriguing use of hemp has been developed in Canada, where hemp fibers were turned into carbon nanosheets, which can be used as electrodes for supercapacitors. This product can store energy better than traditional nanosheets, and costs far less at $500 per ton as opposed to $2,000 per gram. Hemp-based nanosheets could be used to power houses, cars, and other products.
Of course, hemp can still be used in many of the traditional ways. Hemp fiber is a great eco-friendly way to make clothes, as hemp does not require as much water to grow as cotton and is fast-growing. Clothing made from hemp is longer-lasting and often higher in quality than clothes made from synthetic fibers.
Hemp seeds and hemp oil continue to be used as a great source of nutrition for people and animals alike. With tons of vitamins and fatty acids, foods made using hemp seeds (sometimes referred to as hemp hearts) and hemp seed oil are highly nutritious. Hemp seeds are often found in bird seed mixes, and can also be used to supplement livestock feed.
One of the best uses for hemp continues to be as a source of cannabidiol (CBD), a naturally-occurring compound that has been linked with a number of health and wellness benefits. Once extracted from the hemp plant, CBD can be infused into oils, creams, lotions, or even added to edible products.
Hemp is a plant with nearly limitless potential. It is environmentally-friendly, highly nutritious, and can even help us clean up our soil. This plant hasn’t just played an important role in our past – it promises to be a major source of innovation in the future, both in the United States and around the world.
Interested in Adding Hemp to Your Diet? Start Here.
There is a lot to like about hemp – particularly when it comes to the potential health benefits of this plant and its compounds. If you want to give hemp a try, CBD products may be a great option for you.
When purchasing CBD, look for products that are made from hemp grown in the United States so that you can be sure that it will contain no more than 0.3% THC and be fully legal. Because hemp has the capacity to absorb harmful chemicals from the soil, it is also critical to only purchase CBD products that have been independently tested by a third party laboratory, with results available for your review. That way, you can check for the presence of contaminants as well as the levels of THC and CBD in the product.
At Green Wellness Life, we aren’t doctors and cannot diagnose or treat any condition. Instead, we offer our own insight into CBD as well as the latest scientific research. We only sell CBD products made from American industrial hemp that have been independently tested for quality and purity.