The Many Uses of Hemp

Hemp is one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops.1 Historical records show that cultivation of hemp dates back to 8,000 BC, and it is still grown for a number of purposes today.1 To be designated as hemp, a Cannabis sativa plant must contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).2 The hemp plant is coarse and green and a member of the Cannabaceae family.

Each part of the hemp plant possesses unique properties.3 As we begin to explore the many uses of hemp, let’s go over the different properties of the seeds, stalks, roots, and leaves of this plant.


Hempseeds may be found in several forms such as a nut, a cake, or as an oil.4 Regardless of the form, hempseeds are full of omega-6 fatty acids.

The nut form is also loaded with protein and is often used in vegan “dairy” products, cereals, and protein powders.4

The cake, meanwhile, is generally used in animal feed. It’s also an important part of hemp flour—a popular alternative to traditional flour.4

Hempseed oil is an extremely versatile form of hemp. Low on the comedogenic index, it doesn’t clog pores and is, therefore, found in many cosmetic and personal care products. In addition, the oil is frequently added to natural paints, as well as to certain salad dressings and snack food items.3,4

Hemp stalks

Hemp stalks are composed of a hurd, the bast fiber, and bark. The hurd is the soft fleshy part found inside the stalk. It is often used in mulch, insulation materials, and animal bedding.4,5

The bast fiber is the inner part of the bark and is used to manufacture durable items like textiles, carpet, rope, netting, and canvas. If you see garments or shoes made with hemp, it’s likely the bast fiber that was used to make them.4

The outer part of the bark, which is also the outermost layer of the stalk, is used for biofuel production, cardboard, or paper.4,5

Hemp roots

Though hemp roots lack the commercial appeal of the stalks and the seeds, they are important from an environmental standpoint. Specifically, research has shown hemp roots may help to remove common toxins and pollutants from the soil, including some harmful metals.4

It’s worth noting, though, that the hemp plant may absorb these toxins through the roots, and, as organically grown hemp is typically cultivated without pesticides, organically grown hemp may be a healthier option.4

Hemp flowers

Hemp flowers, or leaves, include phytocannabinoids, synergistic compounds, and organic compounds called terpenes. These ingredients have been studied to offer clinical benefits; in fact hemp leaves have been used as a natural remedy for thousands of years.1,4

Today you might find hemp flowers in perfumes, tinctures, extracts, and supplements as well as used in mulch and composting.4

Other practical applications of hemp

Farmers can cultivate the entire hemp plant if they choose. Though some uses of hemp were described above, some more commonly known applications are discussed below and include: 4,5

  • Building materials

Hemp is incorporated into many building materials, including those used to manufacture homes, cars, and electronics.6 The plant is used as a key ingredient in certain biodegradable plastics, wood-replacement products, and special blocks known as “hempcrete.”7

  • Fiber

As discussed, hemp’s bast fiber is used to produce fabrics and textiles like rope, paper, and canvas.8 The plant’s fiber is incredibly versatile. 

  • Food

You’ve probably seen hemp—or at least some variety of hemp—at your local health foods store. Hempseeds can be used to make vegan milk, while the leaves of the hemp plant can be added to salads.9 The seeds feature a nutty taste and can be eaten raw, sprouted, ground, or dried.

  • Personal care

From soaps and shampoos to moisturizers and detergents, hemp is found in a variety of cosmetics and personal care products.10 

  • Biofuel

Oil from the seeds and stalks of the hemp plant can be made into biofuels including biodiesel.11 Sometimes referred to as “hempoline,” biodiesel is used to power engines.12 This process, however, requires quite a bit of hemp. Nonetheless, for a plant that’s been grown over millennia, this is pretty remarkable!

For more information on hemp and general wellness topics, please visit the Metagenics blog.


  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – The Thistle Staff. 2000;13(2). MIT. Accessed May 7, 2019.
  2. Johnson J. Medical News Today. Accessed May 7, 2019.
  3. North Carolina Department of Agriculture Staff. North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Accessed May 7, 2019.
  4. Healthy on Hemp Staff. Healthy on Hemp. Accessed May 7, 2019.
  5. Small E et al. 2002:284–326. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
  6. Raynes-Goldie K. Accessed June 17, 2019.
  7. Arrigoni A et al. J. Clean. Prod. 2017;149:1051–1061.
  8. Andre CM et al. Front Plant Sci. 2016;7:19.
  9. Ware M. Medical News Today. Accessed June 17, 2019.
  10. Johnson R. Congressional Research Service. Accessed June 17, 2019.
  11. Buckley C. UConn Today. Accessed June 17, 2019.
  12. Buckley C. Accessed June 17, 2019.

Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team

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