What is hemp? A guide to the hemp plant

Last Updated on June 12, 2020 by Maxwell Harris

Hemp or industrial hemp is an incredible plant species that has played a crucial role in the life of humanity. It’s a low-intoxicating variety of the Cannabis Sativa L, and its cultivation dates back to the ancient times. Over the years, the plant has played a vital role in human existence by its ability to produce essential products. With the current demands for natural products, the hemp cultivation industry is recording a renaissance as most enterprises are turning to hemp-based products. But what is hemp, where does it grow? What are the uses of industrial hemp? Dive in further to get answers to these questions and more.

What is Hemp?

The industrial hemp plant is one of the most ancient domesticated crops known by man and has been used extensively in the paper and textile industries. It’s a very stunt, erect, and aromatic herb with slender hollow tips and base. It has broad compound leaves with a palmate shape. For the female plant, you will notice small greenish-yellow flowers and some spike-like clusters on the pistil. In the male species, pollen-producing peaks form groups on the stamina.

hemp plant

This cannabis plant variety contains negligible amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and thus can’t get you high. Most people cultivate it as an industrial variant valued for its natural healing properties, the leaves, seeds, hurd, and the fiber. In terms of cultivation, the plant can thrive in most conditions except in extremely desert or high mountain areas. It grows best in warm weather regions with well-drained soil that is rich in organic substrates. To get the best yields, avoid areas with high rainfall and get your soil tested for potassium, phosphate, and sulfate levels. In relatively stable conditions, the plant grows in approximately 108 to 120 days.

Hemp cultivation is not particularly hard. You can cultivate your industrial hemp outside or inside, and it requires little fertilizers and pesticides. Although the hemp plant is drought tolerant, it will help if you continuously irrigate it, especially in the first few weeks. At maturity, you will start to notice hemp seed heads growing upwards, exposing the seeds to air dry. At this point, your plant is fully mature for harvest. Despite being a cannabis Sativa species, the industrial hemp plant differs from other cannabis varieties in terms of functionality, composition, cultivation process, and applications.

How is Industrial Hemp different than other Cannabis plants

There are many varieties of cannabis, categorised in 3 species: cannabis Sativa, cannabis Indica and Hybrid cannabis. Hemp falls into the Sativa category. While all cannabis plants may look similar, they have distinctive characteristics. In terms of the visual appearance, the hemp plant has slender leaves that are less densely clustered compared to the broad and bushy leaves of marijuana. Hemp also grows taller and narrower to develop robust manufacturing fibers with fewer branches in the upper sections. The hemp plants grow near together and do well in varying climates. In contrast, the other cannabis plants need ample space between each other with careful cultivation processes to provide more sunlight, air, to allow rapid buds sprouts.

While different cannabis varieties contain high intoxicating compounds with hyperactive effects, hemp has low levels of THC. Therefore there is a clear difference between hemp and marijuana. industrial hemp, as suggested by its name is mainly cultivated for industrial purposes while marijuana and other cannabis varieties are sort of for recreational and medicinal purposes. The THC component also affects the legality of each plant in different countries in Europe, as well as the United States, and due to its usage and amount of THC in marijuana, its cultivation is only legal in certain countries. On the other hand, industrial hemp is typically standard in most states though each country provides different laws concerning its production, sales, transportation, and usage. The allowed THC content in most countries is 0.2 percent, and the use of its products in food, lotions, oils and other products, is entirely legal in most regions.

The 3 most important things to remember are:

  • industrial hemp and marijuana are not the same things
  • hemp cannot get you high, as it does not have enough THC in its content
  • industrial hemp is legal almost everywhere in the world and it’s used in a variety of industries.

Legality in the United States

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which is focused on the agricultural and farm benefits, cultivation industrial hemp was legalized across the United States. Nonetheless, this farm bill allowed the cultivation of only the cannabis Sativa L , therefore growing other cannabis varieties, often referred to as marijuana is still illegal without a special permit. This farm bill was a blessing for many farmers across the United States as it provided a much-needed boost of the hemp industry.

Hemp uses

The plant is grown as a renewable source of raw materials incorporated in numerous production activities. Here are several applications that make the hemp plant so variable in different industries.

Hemp is used to make Fiber

The plant produces longer and rigid fiber that appears in green, yellow, gray, or dark brown colors and is thus rarely dyed. The thread is widely used in the manufacture of ropes, yarns, cables, coarse fabrics like canvas, and artificial sponges. Some companies further process the fiber to make linen-like fabrics or recyclable bioplastics.

Hemp seed is a Superfood

Hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious and are a great source of magnesium, essential oils, fiber, and proteins. You can eat them raw, sprinkle them on salads, or blend with fruits for a healthy smoothie. You can also make hemp milk from the hemp seeds and use it as an alternative to daily milk recipes. They also contain beneficial oils with unsaturated fatty acids, and the leaves will make a perfect addition to your salads.

Hemp is used for Building Materials

The plant has a soft inner core, the hurd that is highly absorbent with excellent thermal and acoustic properties used to make a variety of building materials. In simple forms, it is perfect for the manufacture of various industrial products like cement and insulation papers. In pulp form, it manufactures biodegradable plastics and wood replacements that you can easily recycle. Hurd materials are ideal for the manufacture of electronics, cars, houses, and the hemp concrete has gained vast popularity as a natural alternative with perfect insulation and low carbon footprint properties.

Hemp seed and hemp stalks can be used to make Biofuel

Hemp seeds and hemp stalks oil are an excellent source of biofuels. The so-called Biodiesel, also known as “hempoline” is  used to power various engines with a low smoke point.

Body & skincare products

The oil also contains a substantial amount of skin-friendly vitamins and amino acids, making it a vital ingredient in several skincare products.

Hemp oil is also known to have nourishing effect on the hair.

Difference Between hemp and CBD

The difference between hemp and CBD is substantial since cannabidiol comes from the hemp plant. The hemp is a natural feedstock, while CBD is derived from hemp as a biochemical compound, meaning that hemp must be grown to obtain CBD. Hemp is rich in omega-3, fatty acids, vitamin E, antioxidants, and minerals, thus adds nutritional value to foods. CBD, on the other hand, is an isolated extract of one active chemical compound of cannabinoid. Some forms of CBD are usually edible, and others are used as a pain reliever to joints, arthritis, muscle aches, and reduces inflammation in skin conditions like rosacea and eczema. You obtain hemp oil by cold pressing the seeds that don’t contain cannabinoids while to get CBD oils; you need to cannabinoid-rich flowers. Although you can extract CBD from any other part of a plant, it’s highly concentrated on the flowers. Unlike THC, CBD is not used for and cannot get you high.


We hope we have managed to answer the question “What is hemp?” and brought some clarity into the topic. Growing hemp plants is an excellent venture with a vast profit margin if you do it correctly. The growing demand for biodegradable alternatives will make a significant impact on the industry, and the plant may even play more roles in humankind in the future. You can be sure to reap the fruits, whether you grow it for fiber, seeds, cannabidiol, or any other economic hemp uses.

Learn how to grow hemp at home in our dedicated guide.

1 thought on “What is hemp? A guide to the hemp plant

  1. Your mode of telling the whole thing in this post is actually good,
    every one be capable of simply understand it, Thanks a lot.

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