Meditation & Health #20-Nature’s Gift of Hemp
Nature’s Gift of Hemp
BY CARAL GOH
Hemp is a plant that has been cultivated for millennia. Farmers have long favored hemp, as this naturally pest-resistant crop requires no pesticides and little or no fertilizers.
The fact that it needs a modest amount of water helps to reduce soil degradation and means that hemp can grow in drought climates. What’s left after harvesting breaks down into the soil, returning almost 70 percent of itself to the earth as valuable nutrients.
With its deep root system, it aerates the soil and prevents soil erosion. Hemp grows so quickly, uniformly and densely that its foliage smothers weeds and other plants. Hence, no herbicides are necessary.
Unlike corn, soy, cotton and wheat, hemp does not require any form of chemical spraying. It is an incredibly versatile plant, with uses ranging from clothing to skincare to food. Hemp is a shining example of Mother Nature’s generosity.
The Misunderstood Plant
Advocates of hemp are quick to point out that it should not be confused with marijuana. Although both hemp and marijuana originate from the cannabis sativa plant, the former does not contain significant levels of THC, the substance that creates the marijuana high. In other words, hemp is not a drug and should not be associated with drug use.
Unfortunately, despite its eco-friendly nature and many virtues, widespread cultivation is still prohibited in the United States. Small hemp-growing pilot projects are permitted in only a few states. Entrepreneurs who wish to promote the wonders of hemp products often come up against obstacles because of the incorrect association between their products and marijuana.
Although big-box stores sell some hemp products, notably hemp seeds, which are a nutrient-dense superfood, smaller hemp-focused companies struggle to market their products. Greater awareness of hemp and its value is needed, in particular among governmental, bureaucratic and Internet regulators.
The Healthy Fabric
The stalks of the hemp produce the longest and strongest natural fiber. A very useful plant, hemp can be manufactured into thousands of consumer products: clothing, cosmetics, organic face and body care, food, paper, fuels, ropes, sail canvas, awnings, carpets, and many more. Hemp can serve as a planet-healing alternative to many of the environmentally detrimental things we use in daily life.
The weaving of hemp fiber into fabric for use as garments began 10,000 years ago. The processes have remained mechanical rather than chemical, benefiting the environment, society and wearers.
Pollution from textile factories is an ongoing environmental disaster. The world’s waterways have fallen victim to the toxic chemicals used in the mass production of clothing. The carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting toxins spewed by textile factories are also found in clothing. Two-thirds of garments tested by Greenpeace contained hazardous chemicals. In addition to those chemicals being absorbed through the skin, they are released into the environment every time the toxic clothing is laundered. In contrast, hemp is not treated with chemicals and therefore does not contribute to water pollution or health concerns.
A worldwide campaign is underway promoting toxin-free fashion. Consumers wield tremendous power — whenever you purchase a garment, you are making an environmentally impactful choice. Hemp is ideal both from a perspective of ecological wellness and of functional fashion. Hemp fiber is not only strong, durable and able to hold its shape, it provides warmth, comfort and softness. In the 19th century, Levi Strauss made the very first pair of jeans out of hemp.
Hemp clothing can handle both the gentle and regular wash cycle in cold to warm water with soap powders or liquid detergents. However, use a laundry bag for delicate hemp articles. A fabric softener is not necessary since the fabric becomes softer and more comfortable with each wash. If there is a stain on a hemp garment, treat the spot with soap. Never bleach it. Alternatively, put it under the sun to lighten the stained area.
Hemp clothes dry quickly as the material is porous. There is no need to use a dryer; instead, hang to dry to conserve energy. When line drying in the sun is not possible, tumble dry on low heat until slightly damp. Drying it thoroughly will destroy its flexibility and natural moisture, causing it to become brittle. Avoid wringing as the fibers may break.
The exceptional qualities of hemp make it a superior clothing choice. With its longer, stronger, more absorbent, more mildew-resistant properties, hemp keeps you warmer in winter and cooler in summer than cotton. It has the ability to block out the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, making it less prone to fading than cotton. Hemp also has antibacterial properties that could help fight infections in hospitals.
This amazing plant can be made into a variety of fabrics. When blended with the soft elasticity of cotton or the smooth texture of silk, it becomes a vast range of eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing garments.
Earth’s Multifunctional Gift
Hemp has the power to alleviate suffering and promote wellness on a variety of fronts. Paper made from hemp could potentially reduce deforestation, and processing the pulp requires fewer chemicals than other pulp-to-paper products. In Europe, hemp is an ingredient used in household cleansers as an alternative to harsh chemicals. The cosmetics industry makes good moisturizing use of hemp oil in lotions, hair care products and makeup.
As a food, hemp is a true superstar. Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritionally complete foods, containing all the essential fatty acids and essential amino acids necessary to human health. This single plant source has essential amino acids in such an easily digestible form, or in as perfect a ratio. The seeds are a good source of dietary fiber and offer more and better-quality proteins than soy without the health-damaging elements of soy. Hemp oil is a healthy choice which boasts more essential fatty acids than other oils.
Whether worn against the skin or enjoyed as a tangy salad dressing, hemp has been offering its nourishment for generations. Modern society should offer thanks to this ancient multitasking plant.
Hemp products begin on the farm with farmers who work tirelessly to bring this gift to fruition. When eating hemp seeds or putting on an Earth-friendly garment, remember to offer gratitude for their toil.
As long lasting as hemp clothing can be, it will one day no longer be wearable. Completely biodegradable, it returns to the earth leaving minimal ecological footprint. At the same time, farmers keeping their land in organic, sustainable condition help bring peace to Mother Earth and health to current and future generations.
We are reminded of Buddha’s teaching on compassionate frugality: He urged monks and nuns to make their robes from “pure cloth” with gratitude and the knowledge that nothing ceases to be; it simply transforms, recycles, reincarnates.