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What is Hemp & How Does it Work

It would be easy to pass it off as just another weed, but the truth is, it’s far from weed (and being a weed) and is one unique herb that...

It would be easy to pass it off as just another weed, but the truth is, it’s far from weed (and being a weed) and is one unique herb that has been utilized for multiple purposes for thousands of years with CBD being one of the more popular cannabinoids among recent decades.

It is environmentally friendly, can be used to make materials for construction or clothing, to support people’s well-being and clean up radioactive material. There isn’t much that hemp can’t do with it’s over 50,000 different modern uses. 

what is hemp uses

In New Zealand we’ve been farming hemp more aggressively after legislation was passed back in 2008. Since then, the NZ hemp industry has seen an incredible surge in materials and products made from hemp. 


In this article we’ll explore hemp's uses and applications in brief, including its recognition for nutritional benefits, and how CBD or whole-plant hemp products work within a physiological system in the body to bring balance to multiple systems and functions to highlight how hemp works directly with the body to alleviate various conditions.

While the hemp industry in New Zealand has experienced a recent renaissance, the future holds exciting possibilities that could benefit kiwi’s in countless ways from farming hemp for export trade, to supporting local farmers and communities by providing building materials, textiles, clothing and timber alternatives while supporting the health of our families.

hemp industrial uses nz

What exactly is hemp?

Hemp is an annual plant commonly found in the Northern Hemisphere; it is part of the Cannabis sativa family. There are three species of the hemp plant: Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of marijuana, is the main difference between the different species.

cannabis strains fact

Is hemp a drug?

What this means, is that while marijuana is typically associated with a psychoactive effect, hemp is an entirely different strain of the plant, providing no psychoactive effect at all. This is because marijuana strains range anywhere from 10-20% THC and hemp comes in at a legal limit of less than 0.3% THC. 

What is hemp and why is it illegal?

Marijuana in some countries is considered an illegal drug after the farm bill was passed. Industrial hemp on the other hand, was legalized to grow in New Zealand in 2008, with hemp seed oil being one of NZ's most popular hemp-based products as information and news on the planet continues to spread among people.

marijuana what is hemp

So if you’re driving around the backroads of New Zealand country and you see what appears to be a Cannabis crop, don’t think you’ve just stumbled across an MJ crop like in the movie The Beach. Just leave the plants for the kiwi farmers who know how to farm it and rely on the hemp crop to feed their families.

hemp vs trees

Hemp is exceptional in its variety of uses, so it has been grown for both industrial and consumer purposes. It is used to make a variety of products and has been noted for its medicinal benefits. Interestingly, the word “sativa” means useful in Latin.

Hemp has the “longest and strongest” natural fiber produced by any plant, which is used to create more than 25,000 different products, including paper, clothing, rope and canvas. Hemp fibers can also be used for building materials and a variety of composite materials. The fibers, which are found in the stalk of the plant, are harvested by hand, which reduces the environmental impact that comes from conventional processing.

hemp history

Hemp is one of the oldest crops and its farming, harvesting, and use dates back more than 10,000 years long. Cords made from hemp dating back prior to 8000 BC were discovered in Taiwan. As early as 6000 BC, hemp was cultivated in China for its hemp seed and oils for use in food.

Writings about hemp dating back to 600 BC were discovered in India, noting the “intoxicating effects” of the resin were well read. The plant was viewed as having a divine connection and some even considered it to have “magical powers.” Some cultures believed the plant was a gift from a higher power and was highly regarded in early cultures.

buy hempseed nz nutrition facts

Hemp was recognized early on for having medicinal benefits in addition to cultural and spiritual uses. Herbalists noted that it was beneficial in treating disease, illness, infections, and other disorders. The leaves were used to make medicinal teas.

What is hemp used for medically?

In 1621, The Anatomy of Melancholy was published and recommended hemp to treat depression. In 1764, The New English Dispensatory encouraged topical application to treat skin inflammation. In 1839, W.B. O’Shaughnessy reported that hemp was effective in treating epilepsy and tetanus. He noted that a tincture of hemp was used for pain relief.

In the Americas, cultivation of hemp was mandated by European colonists due to its noted value. In 1606, Britain began growing hemp in Canada and then in Virginia in 1611. Hemp was already growing in the Americas, and the Native Americans helped the colonists cultivate these plants.

native americans hemp grow

England actually threatened to impose punishments on colonists to ensure they grew hemp crops. To ensure dependence on England, the colonists could not use or process hemp. Hemp was mainly used as an export, until colonists boycotted English products and began weaving their own fabric from hemp. After the American Revolution, the American paper industry developed and used hemp paper as a major means of communication.

countries growing hemp nz new zealand china united states canada

Currently, many countries grow hemp for commercial use across the continents of Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States are the main countries engaging in the research of hemp’s uses. 

China is the largest exporter of hemp in the entire world for the paper and textile industries. Canada produces and exports more hemp seeds than any other country. They produce high-quality seeds that are non-GMO and free of pesticides. The United States currently imports 60 to 90 percent of its current hemp from Canada. 

Europe’s focus has been on production for industrial uses, like automobiles and building materials. Overall, the United States is far behind its contemporaries in utilization, application, and appreciation of the hemp industry. Many countries see hemp for its true value and potential.

Hemp is able to produce high-quality products, has less of an environmental impact than other crops and comparable products, and is boosting financial revenue in the countries where it is grown and processed. 

hemp future new zealand aotearoa nz

As education and awareness continue, the restrictions and stigmas unfairly associated with hemp are expected to diminish further in New Zealand.


benefits of hemp nz

Hemp has a large role in assisting in the regulation and activation of what some would say is the most important system of physiology in the body: the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS was discovered in mid-1990 by researcher Dr. Ralph Mechoulam. It was found that the ECS is an integral part of our physiologies responsible for maintaining order and balance across all other systems of the body from the circulatory, digestive and reproductive, to the nervous system and hemp plays a crucial role.

hemp endocannabinoid system facts

The ECS produces compounds called endo-cannabinoids which play a vital role in early human growth and development. These endocannabinoids assist in the healthy balanced functioning of all vital systems of the body. When the ECS becomes inactive through being overstressed or undernourished, other systems of the body can fall into disorder, leading to an array of debilitating health conditions.

An extensive Ministry of Health report in 2008 had this to say about the ECS:

"A unique system, critical for our health, and in all of our main organs and tissues. It is responsive to system demand and environmental conditions."


hemp cannabinoids

Hemp provides compounds called phyto-cannabinoids, which have been shown to provide multiple benefits to the body both on their own, and by working through the ECS. Some parts of the hemp plant contain cannabinoids, and other parts do not. This is why not all hemp products are created equal.

An example of this would be hempseed oil used for cooking found on supermarket shelves versus a full spectrum hemp oil containing an array of beneficial plant compounds including cannabinoids, fatty acids and terpenes.

hemp terpenes nz

On our website blog we strive in making the latest evidence-based peer-reviewed research easy to read, on hemp’s and CBD effectiveness with multiple bodily conditions ranging from endometriosisfibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis to back paincardiovascular disease and bipolar just to name a few.

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