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What can Hemp be Used for?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hemp, or cannabis, is a plant that is currently legally prohibited in the United States of America. This is because some strains of the plant include delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which, when ingested or smoked, can produce mind altering effects. Refined hemp products, however, can legally be imported to the United States from other countries. Before importing any of these products, however, shoppers should be sure that they can be successfully cleared by customs and are within their legal jurisdiction to import.

The plant has many uses that have nothing to do with recreational drug use. Its fibers are incredibly strong, and they can be used to make strong, long-lasting rope, paper, clothing, as well as other fiber-based products. The strain of cannabis that produces THC does not have strong fiber and is not applicable for use in these products.

Extracted hemp oil has uses in both cooking and industry, and it can be used as a base for beautiful paints. Edible seeds are sold in small quantities in health food stores in North America, and they can also be purchased via mail order. In keeping with the above caution, because some forms are illegal in the United States, shoppers need to make sure that the products that they are ordering are perfectly legal, especially if they are buying them from another state or country.

Hemp seeds are comparable to sunflower seeds in their nutritional properties. They can be used in baking, added to waffles, and combined with cereal and granola. Some health food companies process the seeds in order to create a nutritious protein powder, and they also contain Omega-3 fatty acids. While hemp seeds are very nutritious, their dietary values can be replaced by other foods. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example are present in many kinds of fish, especially salmon.

Because of industrial value of hemp fibers, many American horticulturists and farmers are working to overturn the ban on this plant in the United States. At the present, refined fibers must be grown in and imported from other countries. The process of importation, of course, incurs taxes that can be prohibitive to some consumers and manufacturers. Many American farmers, horticulturists, and economists feel that it would make great sense to grow it locally in order to decrease the base price of the fiber and, therefore, make it more accessible to American manufacturers.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"

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Discussion Comments
By amypollick — On Apr 20, 2012

@anon262734: No, you can't get high on hemp that is used for industrial purposes (fiber, oils, etc). But marijuana *is* hemp. It's all cannabis. It depends on which kind you're discussing: cannabis indica, cannabis ruderalis or cannabis sativa, which is marijuana. But it's all hemp.

Kind of like Buicks and Chevrolets are both General Motors cars.

By anon262734 — On Apr 20, 2012

I hate how people talk about hemp and marijuana as if they're the same thing. You cannot get high on hemp.

By Tomislav — On Sep 05, 2011

@runner101 - I have not heard of any such ban lifted here in North Carolina, but we mostly have tobacco farms and pig farms from what I know of, so we may not have the farmer backing for such a ban. (Actually fun-fact at some points in the pig raising there are more pigs in North Carolina than people).

In what I have read it is farmers of other crops such as soybeans and corn that would like to have the option of raising hemp because of the many products it could make.

I think it would be nice to grow hemp here in the United States, because one of the many complaints is that our country does not make products any longer just imports them.

While this is an exaggeration, because I live around cities that used to make fabric or textiles and so I see the many closed textile factories, I would like to see the label "Made in the US" more.

By runner101 — On Sep 04, 2011

Before this article, hemp made me think of jewelry (in particular hemp bracelets and necklaces as they were quite the rage when I was in middle school).

After reading this article I feel now as though we have all missed out on products that could be here, if not for this ban.

Maybe because I have heard so much talk for years about legalizing medical marijuana, that I missed the discussions on lifting the ban on this strain of hemp, which can be used to make goods.

Are there any states where hemp for product creating is legal?

By golf07 — On Sep 04, 2011

When I was looking for an alternative to soy protein powder, I discovered hemp protein powder. This powder is used the same way I used any protein powder, and is full of protein and nutrition.

I will add a scoop of this powder to my smoothies or just about anything I put in the blender. The Nutiva hemp brand of protein powder I buy also contains fiber, so I am getting fiber as well as protein.

I don't mind the taste of the protein, but when it is mixed in with other foods, I can't even taste it. I am still getting the good nutritional benefits from it without using a soy product though.

By sunshined — On Sep 03, 2011

I have always liked the natural simplicity of hemp jewelry. There is a lady who is at many of the local craft shows who makes and sells her own hemp jewelry.

I always stop by her booth to see if she has anything new. She is quite creative and makes some of the most unique hemp bracelets and necklaces I have ever seen.

When I think of hemp jewelry, I usually think of a casual style, but she has some pieces that are ornate and dressy. These look like they take more time to make, but I always get compliments on them when I wear them.

By letshearit — On Sep 03, 2011

@wander - What I like most about hemp clothing has little to do with its organic nature. To be honest, I just like things that are produced locally, with good old-fashioned American labor.

What ever happened to America being a country that actually produced goods?

When I went to the store last time, pretty much everything was made in China or some other Asian country. I literally couldn't find anything produced at home.

I went online and there are dozens of small businesses selling hemp products, that actually give jobs to locals. I think if we want to support local jobs we should buy more products like hemp. I suppose something has to be trendy for us to bother with it anymore.

By wander — On Sep 02, 2011

Hemp is a great material for clothing as it is strong and long-lasting. There are a lot of environmentally friendly companies that are producing hemp clothing to reduce their overall impact on the environment.

I really think that organic clothing is going to be the next big thing. People really like to feel like they are contributing to the well-being of our planet, and little things like shopping smart make people feel engaged.

One of the things I really like about hemp clothing is that it really looks just like any other piece of clothing you'll buy. Despite some people being against hemp, it really is just like cotton in my opinion.

By jholcomb — On Sep 02, 2011

One use for hemp not a lot of people may be aware of is in cloth diapers! A hemp diaper will absorb more, inch per inch, than any other natural or synthetic fiber you can get.

These are often made of organic hemp combined with organic cotton. The only disadvantage is that hemp absorbs more slowly than other options. The ultimate combination is to have microfiber on top, which absorbs very quickly, and have hemp underneath as it holds more.

By nextcorrea — On Sep 01, 2011

I grew up in pretty rural part of Kentucky and there was a farm not far from us that produced hemp for industrial purposes. I'm not sure where they sent it off to be processed but eventually it was turned into rope and paper and all the many other things that hemp can be used for.

I was a kid so I'm not sure exactly how this farm was able to operate inside the boundaries of the law. For all I know they were outside of it. But no one in the area complained and my parents especially had no problems with the hemp farm. My parents grew a number of fruits and vegetables themselves and I think they were connected to the land enough to know that hemp is just another crop. The issue has been obscured by people in Washington, but when you see a hemp plant growing up out of the ground you realize that there is no cause for alarm.

By whiteplane — On Aug 31, 2011

I have a great recipe for hemp seed cookies. I tried them over at a friend's house and I loved them so much that I just had to get the recipe.

They are a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie kind of batter but they have hemp seeds and dried cranberries instead of chocolate. The sweet cranberries and the rich nutty hemp seed makes for an incredible combination.

I had to buy the seeds online which was a pain in the neck because who really wants to buy food online? Still, they were relatively inexpensive and I only use them to make these cookies so they will last for a while.

By Ivan83 — On Aug 30, 2011

Hemp is, quite literally, a miracle plant. The potential uses and applications of this amazing natural product are so wide and varied and yet we insist on ignoring them because of the ridiculous attitudes we have about drugs in this country.

Let me clarify. I am no great fan of marijuana. I haven't used it in years and honestly tend to find the whole culture of it annoying. But it is because we have such prudish notions about drugs and intoxication in this country that hemp, a perfectly safe plant with no narcotic effects, is banned for its minor association with marijuana. This is lunacy. This is walking backward! We have turned our back on a product that could be used to clothe and heat the world. Hopefully in the future we will get some of our sanity back.

By drravenstar — On Nov 02, 2007

I am trying to find out at which temperature does hemp oil oxidize or become rancid?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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