Hemp, or Cannabis sativa L. is one of the world’s oldest crops and also one of the first three crops in Finland, along with buckwheat and barley (1). Hemp is classified along with hops in the Cannabaceae, a family of hemp plants.
Hemp has been used as a medicinal plant and food for thousands of years. In addition to them, hemp has once become known as an important raw material, e.g. in the manufacture of textiles, ropes, paper, insulation and lamp oil. Today, hemp is used to make thousands of different products, from food to cosmetics and biocomposites etc. Until the 20th century, 75-95% of the world’s paper was made from hemp. Hemp produces excellent pulp and paper, which could still replace a much slower-growing forest today. (2)
Hemp in Finland
Hemp has been cultivated in Finland for thousands of years. The first signs of hemp cultivation in Finland date back to 4800 BC. The tradition has probably spread to Finland from China together with the skill of making buckwheat and earthenware. Hemp grows very well in the Finnish climate, as Finland’s dry spring, bright summer and suitable soil types promote hemp growth. (3)
In the past, most Finnish farms had their own field plot reserved for hemp. Hemp had such a significant value that during its heyday, e.g. In Häme and Savo, as much as a third of the field was hemp. Hemp was used as food and its fiber was used to make everyday commodities. Hemp seeds have also been used to make porridge in Finland. The seeds have been roasted and made into tahini-like paste and roasted rye or buckwheat flour has been added to the mixture.
The fact that according to the National Land Survey of Finland there are more than 100 places in Finland called hamppulampi (Hemp Pond) also says something about the prevalence of hemp. Hemp has been soaked in water bodies to facilitate fiber handling, and the names Likolampi and Liinalampi also refer to the historical use of hemp (and flax) in the area. (4)
Industrial hemp, oil hemp or just hemp?
Especially in Finnish, terms referring to hemp can sometimes cause confusion. How are hemps different? The simple answer is that there are no differences and they all mean the same plant. There is only one term for hemp in Estonia and it is “kanep”, regardless of whether it is hemp or cannabis.
When we talk about hemp in general, it often means fiber hemp or so-called oil hemp, both of which are of the same species as Cannabis sativa. Fast-growing fiber hemp is grown for its fiber and lower-growing oil hemp for seed production. Oil hemp (Finola) blooms faster and its seeds have time to ripen even in the short summer in Finland.
Cannabis sativa is also used in industry as industrial hemp. The name is descriptive, as hemp can be used to make things like plastic, concrete, clothing, food, medicine, biocomposite, ropes, fabrics and more. Hemp is also an excellent soil improvement plant that cleanses the soil and sequesters carbon dioxide many times over the forest. The benefits of hemp are therefore incomparable and it is probably the most versatile plant of all that exists.
In fiber and oil hemp varieties, the intoxicating ingredient of hemp or THC(tetrahydrocannabinol) is very low or almost non-existent. Usually less than 0,2 %. With such a low THC content, the plant cannot be used for intoxication purposes. In contrast, these industrial Cannabis sativa plants often contain well over other cannabinoids such as CBD. CBD causes the opposite reaction to THC.
Cannabis is also hemp, although the intoxicating properties of hemp are strongly associated with the word cannabis. Cannabis indica, which is also used as a medicinal cannabis, can contain several tens of percent THC, which has strong intoxicating effects.
Hemp is one of the most successful plants, as it thrives in a wide variety of climates and conditions. Different varieties of hemp are the most processed of all the world’s plants. Thousands of strains with unique characteristics can be found on internet sites listing hemp varieties. The different strains differ from each other e.g. growth pattern, size, effects, cannabinoid profile, odor, taste and color.
Strains are constantly being crossed at an accelerating rate. You can read more detailed information about the different varieties on the websites listing hemp strains.
Hemp is divided into three different subspecies: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. When different hemp species are crossed, a so-called hybrid strains. Based on the appearance of hybrid varieties, it is difficult to deduce the characteristics and effects of the plant, as they can vary significantly. Indeed, the species of Cannabis indica, which grows low and has wide leaves, may have the exact opposite effect when crossed, as is generally the case in terms of growth and appearance.
Cannabis sativa, which grows as an annual, long and thin-leaved, ripens slowly and has a much longer growing season than Cannabis indica. It likes heat and needs a lot of light. Sativa has been widely cultivated in the equator and grows to an average height of 3 meters, but at its best the species can grow up to 7 meters. It can take up to 3-4 months for the inflorescence to mature and the flowers are, on average, considerably smaller and less dense than in the indica species. Sativa is lighter in color than Indica and has an energizing effect. Cultivation of Cannabis sativa has been popular, especially in Mexico, Africa, Thailand and Colombia. (3)
Hemp has been grown in Finland since at least the Iron Age. Ancient hemp pollen has been found in the bottom sediment of Lake Huhdasjärvi in Kouvola, which is 2500-4800 BC.
Studies show that the yield of fiber hemp varies. On average, fiber in Finland produces about 4000-8000 kg of dry matter per hectare. At certain latitudes, a peak of 7000-15000 kg per hectare has been reached at best. However, less fiber is obtained, on average 1000-2000 kg / ha.
Cannabis indica is a low-growing hemp species that thrives in barren soils. It is characterized by thick leaves and rapid flowering. It is darker in color than sativa. Indica is grown e.g. for the manufacture of medicinal cannabis and hashish. It was originally cultivated in Afghanistan, Tibet and Morocco, from where it has spread all over the globe. (3)
Indica usually stays less than 2 meters tall and its flowers can mature in as little as 6-8 weeks. The inflorescences are larger and denser than Cannabis sativa and have a good resin on their surface to protect the plant from the harsh environment. The effects of indica can be described more as a bodily and calming experience than sativa. (3)
Wild hemp Cannabis ruderalis grows wild in the roadsides of Ukraine and Russia. Ruderalis is characterized by its small size, stiff and short stem, and the light green color of the leaves. The size of the ruderalis is usually less than half a meter or even shorter. (3)
Ruderalis is crossed with indica and sativa species, as ruderalis is a so-called autoflower, ie it blooms automatically regardless of the length of the light cycle. By crossing, Cannabis ruderalis with indica or sativa you will get automatically flowering hemp varieties with indica and sativa effects and yield.
Usually the ruderalis starts flowering as early as 3-4 weeks after germination and its inflorescence matures in 10-12 weeks. Other hemp species also need a dark phase to begin flowering, but ruderalis blooms even when the plant is always in the light. (3)
Carbon-neutral hemp construction is becoming more common in the world. The use of ecological hemp concrete has also become more common in Finland in recent years, as it is a versatile and incomparable building material that is easy to manufacture. All you need is water, lime and hemp fiber.
Hemp concrete (hempcrete) is made from the head of the fibrous hemp, ie the woody interior of the plant. The lime and water are mixed in and the result is a very breathable, light, concrete-like structure. The mixture does not need any other binders. Hemp concrete is also a much more ecological alternative to ordinary concrete. Hempcrete naturally insulates and evens out humidity and temperature fluctuations in buildings. (5)
Benefits of hempcrete:
- carbon neutral
- energy efficient
- mold resistant
- water resistant
- pest resistant
- good insulation
- lasts 100 years
Hemp has been cultivated for millennia and its use has almost disappeared, at least in Finland. The cultivation of hemp and also the use of hemp fiber have seen new growth in Finland in recent years. Globally, hemp is currently experiencing a new era of prosperity and new commodities of hemp are constantly entering the market.
Fiber from hemp is utilized in industry e.g. in reinforced plastics, biocomposites, in addition to which it replaces many synthetic substances. Hemp is also used for energy production, as a cover and as a bedding.
In Central Finland, a particularly large amount of hemp was once cultivated even when flax came and displaced hemp in different parts of Finland. Later synthetic fibers displaced by the rest of the textile industry, which uses hemp as a raw material.
Fiber hemp flowers and leaves contain cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has the opposite effect to THC, i.e. it is antipsychotic, which is why burning fiber hemp does not cause intoxication (6).
Hemp fiber is more durable than steel
Due to its strength, hemp fiber, which is also called the most sustainable vegetable fiber in the world, has once been one of the most important raw materials in Finland, e.g. in the manufacture of ropes, string, nets and textiles.
Hemp fiber is incredibly strong and even stronger than steel. When measuring strength, the main focus is on the tensile and compressive strength of the material. Tensile strength is the ability to withstand stress and compressive strength is the ability to withstand compression. Hemp fiber has been proven to be more durable than steel in both. (7)
Hemp fiber is lightweight and that is one reason why it is used to replace other heavy materials. Due to its lightness and durability, hemp fiber is used e.g. as a building material for car doors.
Hemp fiber vs. cotton
Hemp is a much more durable choice than cotton!
- Hemp needs to grow about 50% less water than cotton
- Hemp enriches and improves the soil. Cotton does not.
- Hemp produces 2-3 times more fiber than cotton.
- Hemp fiber is many times stronger and more durable than cotton.
- Hemp does not need pesticides for pests or plant diseases. Hemp is inherently resistant to them. Cotton cultivation requires harmful chemicals and pesticides.
- Note! Almost 10% of all agrochemicals and 25% of insecticides come from the cotton industry.
- In addition, hemp fabric breathes better than cotton. (8)
Hemp (for oil)
- Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is a traditional food and fiber plant with a long tradition in Finland as well.
- It produces a lot of seeds containing good quality omega-3 fatty acids from which hemp seed oil can be squeezed. The seeds can be eaten as is and are also sold pre-peeled, roasted, grounded and protein flour. Hemp seeds can be used to make a wide variety of foods such as spreads, hefu (hemp tofu) and hemp milk. Seeds and hemp oil can be used in a variety of ways in cooking and baking.
- The seeds are obtained by cold-pressing hemp seed oil, which contains >80% of polyunsaturated fatty acids and a lot of essential omega fatty acids (3, 6 and 9) and gammalinolenic acid. It is not recommended to heat hemp seed oil above 160 C degrees.
- This kind of hemp does not have intoxicating properties as it has a THC content of less than 0.2 %.
- Hemp seed contains an average of 33 % fat, 25 % of protein and 3 % of carbohydrates. In addition to these, seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidants, minerals, phytosterols, and vitamins.
- Hemp seeds contain a remarkable amount of high-quality protein that contains all the essential amino acids.
- Valuable oil from hemp seeds is also used in cosmetics. Hemp oil is especially good if you are irritated, atopic dermatitisor dry skin.
- The average yield of seeds per hectare of hemp is about 500-1000 kg. (9)
Hemp is a soil improvement plant that cleanses the soil
Hemp is an excellent choice for soil remediation due to its high biomass, deep pile roots and rapid growth. Studies show that hemp can be used to clean the soil of chemicals, heavy metals and even radioactive toxins! (10)
Hemp was planted around Chernobyl by the Ukrainian Academy of Agricultural Sciences to remove cesium-137 from radioactive soil. This early attempt led to numerous studies around the world to investigate how hemp can clean up badly contaminated soil. (10)
In 2001, a group of German researchers found that hemp grew well in soils containing the highly toxic heavy metal cadmium. As hemp grew, most cadmium was found to accumulate in the leaves. Contaminated plants could be destroyed by burning to safely remove contaminants. This was potentially a more cost-effective option for cleaning lightly contaminated areas than the usual expensive process of digging all the soil out and removing it. (10)
Cultivating fiber hemp can reduce the amount of weeds and can help defeat even downy brome. Modifying the hemp biomass back into the field increases the amount of humus and makes the soil fluffier. Hemp acts as an excellent crop and has a high precursor value.
History of hemp
- The world’s first fabrics were made from hemp as early as 8000-7000 BC. (2).
- For at least 3,000 years, hemp was the most popular crop on earth and the most important product in agriculture. Hemp had thousands of different uses. In the past, most commodities were made from hemp, such as fabrics, medicines, papers, perfumes, and lamp oil. (2)
- Hemp was once an invaluable raw material in the United States, where it was used to make banknotes, flags and bibles. Indeed, the “founding father” of the United States and former President Thomas Jefferson have said “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”
- Hemp was able to pay taxes in the United States from 1631 until the 19th century (11).
- Originally, Levi’s branded jeans were made from hemp fabric because the pants needed to be durable enough. Until the 19th century, hemp fiber was still the most widely used natural fiber in textiles, sails, ropes, cords, etc. (2).
- Hemp pollen has been found in the bottom sediment of Lake Huhdasjärvi in Kouvola (Finland), which is dated to 2500 – 4800 B.C. based on radiocarbon measurements.
- Still in the 800 A.C. In Europe, too, the need for hemp was so great that Charles Frank the King of the Franks enacted a law calling for its cultivation (3).
- In the late 1930s, the United States enacted a drug ban on all varieties of hemp. The ban therefore also applied to hemp grown for fiber and oil, although they were not suitable for substance abuse due to their low THC content. The ban was lobbied by the forest and petroleum industries in particular, as it was in their interest to centralize production for themselves. Due to the prohibition act, several uses of hemp were temporarily almost completely forgotten. During World Wars, man-made fibers displaced hemp as a raw material for factories.
- During the 1950s, with the proliferation of cheap cotton products being imported, hemp cultivation practically ceased in Finland. By the 1960s, there were only a few home farms left. (5)
- It is only in recent decades that hemp has made a spectacular comeback and taken its rightful place in the western construction, textile, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. The use of medicated cannabis is also permitted in several countries, at least by prescription. The legalization and decriminalization of the active ingredients of hemp is increasing at an accelerating pace across the globe. As the current pace continues, the future of hemp looks very green.
- Transfarm Oy. 2021. Hyötyhamppuyhdistys ry:n hamppufaktaa – älä sekoita viihdekannabista raittiisiin serkkuihinsa. https://www.epressi.com/tiedotteet/maatalous/hyotyhamppuyhdistys-ryn-hamppufaktaa-ala-sekoita-viihdekannabista-raittiisiin-serkkuihinsa.html. Referred to 24.05.2022
- Ihalainen, J.K. Hamppu Suomessa – Katsaus kuituhampun viljelyyn ja valmistukseen Suomessa. http://www.palladiumkirjat.fi/hamppu.htm. Referred to 25.05.2022
- Vanha-Majamaa, A. 2018. Kannabiskirja. Helsinki. Kosmos.
- Maanmittauslaitos. 2020. https://www.maanmittauslaitos.fi/. Referred to 23.05.2022
- Malvisalo & Luotola. 2020. Aitomaaseutu.fi. Hampun tuotannon ja käyttömahdollisuuksien esiselvitys. https://www.aitomaaseutu.fi/media/Hampun-tuotannon-ja-k%C3%A4ytt%C3%B6mahdollisuuksien-esiselvitys-30-05-2020.pdf. Referred to 24.05.2022
- Eeva Hannula. 2016. Yle. Kuituhamppubisnes kurottaa korkealle – suomalaista luonnonkuitua viedään autoteollisuuden käyttöön Hollantiin. https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-8890322. Referred to 25.05.2022
- Vivek. V. Hemp Foundation. 2019. Is Hemp Really Stronger Than Steel? How? https://hempfoundation.net/is-hemp-really-stronger-than-steel-how/. Referred to 25.05.2022
- Neville. M. 2019.. Hemp vs Cotton: 5 Reasons Why Hemp is a Better Choice. https://wamaunderwear.com/blogs/news/hemp-vs-cotton. Referred to 25.05.2022
- Finola. Nutrition. https://finola.fi/nutrition/. Referred to 24.05.2022
- Pelger. L. 2020. Mother Earth Living. Cleaning Our Toxic World with Hemp. www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/cleaning-our-toxic-world-hemp-zm0z20szbut. Referred to 25.05.2022
- Herer J. 2015. Keisarilla ei ole vaatteita! Books on Demand.