Hemp is the traditional English name for the Cannabis plant in reference to its industrial uses, namely the fibers of stems and branches and the seeds.
Hemp fibers make a very strong and durable material when entwined. This is the reason that until the coming of plastics hemp was the top material for rope and also for the making of sails and canvas (abbreviation of "cannabis"). All these products have to resist great tensions and extreme conditions with a minimum of wear and tear.
Given the durability and the fast growth of the plant, hemp was a big industry in Europe until sails became obsolete with the introduction of the steam engine and then again when plastics came into the picture.
But hemp rope and canvas are still being produced and hemp industrially cultivated. The (typical western European) variety used for fiber grows into six meter high plants. Both male and female plants are used and the amount of THC is close to nil.
the seeds are mainly used for their nutrient oil, but also mixed with other seeds as bird fodder (to make them sing better, no doubt :p).
Hemp seed as a nutritional resource
Non-drug varieties of Cannabis, commonly referred to as hemp, have not been studied extensively for their nutritional potential in recent years, nor has hemp seed been utilized to any great extent by the industrial processes and food markets that have developed during the 20th century.
Technically a nut, hemp seed typically contains over 30% oil and about 25% protein, with considerable amounts of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Hemp seed oil is over 80% in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and is an exceptionally rich source of the two essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid (18:2 omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (18:3 omega-3).
The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (n6/n3) in hemp seed oil is normally between 2:1 and 3:1, which is considered to be optimal for human health. In addition, the biological metabolites of the two EFAs, gamma-linolenic acid (18:3 omega-6; ‘GLA’) and stearidonic acid (18:4 omega-3; ‘SDA’), are also present in hemp seed oil.
The two main proteins in hemp seed are edestin and albumin. Both of these high-quality storage proteins are easily digested and contain nutritionally significant amounts of all essential amino acids. In addition, hemp seed has exceptionally high levels of the amino acid arginine.
Hemp seed has been used to treat various disorders for thousands of years in traditional oriental medicine. Recent clinical trials have identified hemp seed oil as a functional food, and animal feeding studies demonstrate the long-standing utility of hemp seed as an important food resource.