A lot of people mistakenly think of marijuana as a recreational drug, but it is, in fact, a versatile plant with so many uses. Since ancient times, people have been using the cannabis plant and its different parts to improve daily life. But until now, many of us have no idea on the extent of its usefulness.
To understand the importance of a cannabis plant, we must know its influence in the past. For example, some parts of the world survived hunger due to marijuana seeds. Back then, they used it to make porridge known as gruel. Not only that, but the plant also served as the primary material for making clothes and almost all other things in the past. Even until about a century ago, most of the world’s maps, sails, ropes, and even the Bible, were made from the plant’s fiber.
Cannabis is a fast-growing plant from the Cannabaceae family which originated from Central Asia. This annual flowering herb was traditionally used as a treatment for illnesses. Even in modern times, the cannabinoids from the plant proved to be useful for some patients. Unfortunately, due to limited research, it is not easy to use the plant as a drug. But as more people become aware of its benefits, more studies are now being made today.
Before we look at its uses, though, let us first learn about its parts. At the same time, we will learn about the role of each part or structure of cannabis. Once we have a rudimentary understanding, then we can explore its uses in a variety of ways.
As the popularity of cannabis soars with so many people asking to legalize the use of marijuana, now is a good time to explore the full potential of the plant.
Parts and Structures of a Cannabis Plant
It is incredible seeing how the different parts of cannabis plants are put into use in a variety of ways. As of now, there are over 50,000 commercial usages for some part of the plant.
An old crop called Hemp has been in use to make paper and textiles for thousands of years. In fact, the oldest relic of human industry is a scrap of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.
What is Hemp?
The non-psychoactive variety of a cannabis plant is also known as industrial hemp. Because it has less than 1% THC content, it cannot get anyone high. Instead, people use hemp to make materials for industrial purposes.
To be specific, the hemp’s fiber is the part used to make composite materials. Some of the reasons it is ideal for industrial applications is that it is durable, long, and easy to detach from the plant. Most important of all, it is an easy-to-grow crop that thrives in a severe climate and resists pest infestations.
What Is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?
Both hemp and marijuana come from the same type of cannabis but they are so different when it comes to its use and cultivation. In essence, hemp is for making things, while marijuana is for drug use.
Why is Hemp Illegal?
It started in 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act made it difficult to grow and sell all kinds of hemp. Then in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act declared hemp illegal to use. That is the reason why the United States has to import hemp from Europe or Canada. In effect, the prohibitions made people forget the industrial uses of hemp. Even worse, many people have come to identify hemp with the dangers of marijuana.
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Can Hemp Return to Industry?
Thanks to the 2014 US Farm Bill, hemp can now be grown as long as it is for research and development. After many years of absence, farmers are now getting reacquainted again with hemp and realizing its uses. Best of all, scientists think hemp is the answer to the energy crisis.
2. Male Plants and Female Plants
Male plants have only a small quantity of THC, and some do not even produce THC at all. The female plants, on the other hand, contain higher amounts of THC. Furthermore, they also have resin glands on its leaves which contain a good concentration of pure THC.
Because of the lack of or non-existent THC, growers avoid male marijuana plants if it is cultivated for consumption. Besides, they also disrupt the THC production of female cannabis plants.
Marijuana is the strain that contains the psychoactive component. It has undergone various breedings, cross-breedings, and in-breedings, which is why there are thousands of strains today. Marijuana strains include Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis.
THC is the primary component in marijuana that makes it enticing. It is notorious for its mind-altering effects and mood changes. It is for that reason that marijuana is still illegal in most countries and states. But due to the anecdotes of its benefits, there are now more scientists studying its effects with a focus on its medicinal use.
In Spanish, Sensimilla means ‘without seed.’ As such, it refers to the unpollinated female flowers that have not grown seeds. They are the most valuable to marijuana growers because of their very high THC content. Also, they contain over 60 known cannabinoids equal to the CBD.
Contrary to popular belief, CBD is not made by the plant. It is the by-product of the oxidation of certain cannabinoids. According to European standard, the acceptable level is 0.2% THC and an equal percentage of CBD. In Canada, the standard is 0.3%. Most of the marijuana strains today contain a far higher percentage of THC.
Hemp seeds are not only edible, but they are also nutritious and healthy for humans and animals. For many years, before the ban, it was the staple food crop for most of the world as it was easy to grow. Some literature even mentions that Buddha consumed one hemp seed a day during his ascetic period. Also, fishers use the seed as bait.
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Uses of the Cannabis Plant
From the past to the future, the cannabis plant continues to remain useful to humans and even animals. To better understand how useful marijuana plants are, here are some of its uses.
It’s difficult to imagine a cannabis plant as a source of food, but that is precisely what it was centuries ago.
Animal Food. Hemp seeds are for birds as oats are for horses. As such, we have come to know hemp seeds as raw bird food. It is likely the most common use of hemp seed in the United States.
Human Food. For many centuries, hemp seed served as the main ingredient in food for most parts of the world. People cooked it as porridge or baked it into bread and cakes to stave off hunger.
Food Oil. Hemp seed oil was commonly used in Europe until it hemp was prohibited. Regardless, there have been numerous studies showing its health benefits such as controlling cholesterol level.
From ancient times, people have used hemp material is creating and building almost anything. Now that hemp is legalized, it can once again serve as materials for industrial applications. Now, people are finding new ways to use it in creating new things.
As hemp undergoes a massive revival, scientists are starting to see its many uses. One of its most interesting use is as an alternative to fossil fuel and coal.
The current sources of energy cause pollution which affect the world’s climate. Cannabis, on the other hand, can be safely turned into biomass.
What is a Biomass?
Biomass is an organic material that can be used as fuel. Typically, a plant can become methane, methanol or petrol. As it turns out, unlike fossil fuel, cannabis is a clean biomass material. As such, we can have the energy we need without spilling toxic wastes on the environment.
An estimate of 90% of the energy produced from fossil fuels could come from biomass. Decades ago, Henry Ford’s first Model T ran on methanol petrol produced from hemp. Hence, it is not far-fetch to think of the new generations of vehicles that will be powered by a cleaner energy source.
Bricks and Plastics
Hemp is such as versatile material that it can be pressed into a variety of shapes or forms. Because of that, it can replace wooden materials. Best of all, it is flexible, yet more durable than timber, and friendlier to the pocket and the planet.
In France, it was common to make furniture and beams from the herds of hemp. In fact, archaeologists found a 1,200 years old bridge in Southern France made from hemp. At present times, many houses are already built from hemp bricks.
Plastics for pipes, plumbing, and even water bottles are now also made from hemp. This material, also called bioplastics, is stronger and lighter than regular plastic. But what’s great about it is that making these pipes do not cause as much pollution. Similarly, aside from hemp oil, Henry Ford opted to use hemp plastic for the body of his Model T car.
It is hard to imagine that there was a time when most of the world used hemp seed oil to light up the night. It is said that it burns with an even light and does not produce the sooty side effects of modern oils. Also, it can also be used as a lubricant.
Paint and Varnish
For hundreds of years, master artists used hemp seed oil to make paints and varnishes. Some of the famous works of art that use hemp oil paint on canvas include Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Incidentally, cannabis in Dutch also means canvass.
Until about 1883, around 75% to 90% of the paper in books, maps, bibles, banknotes, and newspapers, were made from hemp. First used since the first century AD by the Chinese, hemp paper was also used in Europe since the 5th.
Not only is the use of hemp in making paper less dependent on trees, but it can also be ready for use in 3 to 6 months compared to 30 or more years for trees. Also, making it requires no dangerous chemicals which can harm the environment. Best of all, hemp papers will outlive even the best quality wood pulp paper or papyrus paper.
In the past, about 90% of clothes, nets, rope, flags, and sails came from cannabis. Even nappies and towels came from the same source. Moreover, sailors who explored the world used shoes and socks from cannabis fibers.
Later, when jeans became popular, manufacturers used hemp to make them. For instance, the original hard-wearing Levi jeans used the cannabis plant as its primary material. Hemp was so popular that in 1938, Popular Mechanics called it the “standard fiber of the world.”
To compare, clothes made from hemp are more durable yet softer than those made from cotton. And while the cotton plant requires much pesticide and fertilizer, hemp is easy to grow and is more resilient and resistant to pests.
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3. Recreational Uses
Today, the impression is that cannabis is widely used for recreational purposes. As mentioned earlier, the THC level is responsible for its psychoactive effects. Naturally, smoking the plant’s form with the highest THC gives the most “high.”
This form is what most people who like to smoke cannabis like the most due to its high THC concentration. In essence, smoking hashish can get people a more intense high compared to smoking the buds.
While it is enjoyable for some people, smoking hash comes with a precaution. Research shows that it might cause psychosis or altered behaviors, and it is harmful to the lungs. That’s why it is still illegal in many states.
For now, the studies are so limited that it’s hard to know exactly how dangerous it is. Furthermore, it is also hard to find out what dose is safe for consumption, and what strain is suitable.
Before the ban in the 1940s, marijuana was widely used as treatment. Now, the medicinal use of cannabis remains promising yet controversial. Marijuana activist has been lobbying for its legalization, and there are already some studies supporting their arguments.
With a clearer understanding of its benefits and potential pitfalls, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use. However, due of limited research data, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only approved two cannabinoid pills so far.
Hemp fibers have antibacterial properties according to some studies. For instance, it could be used to produce surgical devices with inherent germ-killing properties. More recently hemp powders showed antibacterial properties against Escherichia coli – a common bacteria that can make some people seriously sick. With more research, it appears that we can look forward to more medication from marijuana.
Cancer and AIDS Adjunct Drugs
The U.S. FDA recently approved its first THC-based medications. Two adjunct drugs for chemotherapy and AIDS are now legally given to patients.
Adjunct medicines are useful in reducing the side effects of drugs. Dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet) lessen nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. Also, they stimulate appetite in AIDS patients with wasting syndrome.
Childhood Epilepsy Drug
The CBD in marijuana is also helpful in controlling seizures in children. As an experimental drug, its results are impressive. In fact, one such drug is nearing US FDA approval this year.
Historically, people use cannabis to treat mild to severe pain. With the ban, opioid became the choice of drug for severe pain. The downside is that opioid is highly addictive, and can cause respiratory arrest.
Now, more studies suggest that marijuana is a safer and a far more efficient painkiller. That means that patients now have an alternative to the more hazardous opioids. Even more interesting is that cannabis can also lower the side effects of opioid therapy.
Cannabis is the Most Versatile Plant on Earth
Considering the many uses of cannabis, it is easy to see that it is indeed one of the most versatile plants ever known to man. First, it serves as an excellent source of nutrients not only to humans but also to animals. Next, it is a tough industrial material that provided almost everything people needed in the past. Also, it is a traditional potent drug that helps some people relax. Finally, with the help of modern science, cannabis is turning out to be the drug of choice for some ailments.
The banning of cannabis was a big reason why most people have not heard of all these astounding uses. But with the help of research, the present society finally gives value to this plant. In essence, cannabis is turning out to be a multi-purpose material that not only shaped the past but will also influence the future.