About Hemp

hemp plants soak
in the pond a bit...
cooling off
麻ひたす池小ささよ涼しさよ
asa hitasu ike chiisasa yo suzushisa yo
-Issa Kobayashi  (小林 一茶), A Haiku, 1803
 

Introduction

 
Hemp fabric has been around for a very, very long time. In this article we have tried to detail some of the reasons why it is of immense value to us and to the planet. We also hope to explain why we love it. One of the biggest reasons for our love is also one of the simplest:
Every piece of hemp fabric is unique.
 
Snowflakes, at first glance, appear to be the same. Completely uniform and lacking detail and identity. It is only upon closer inspection that you realise each segment has it’s own, distinctive characteristics. Our hemp products share this same quality. Look closely and you’ll see that no two pieces of hemp fabric are alike.
There is calming beauty in that.
Hemp shares a lot of its visible and tactile attributes with linen.The nubs, slubs and wefts found on every moon canopy hemp product makes your product completely one of a kind. Nubs and slubs are a normal characteristic of hemp and all other bast fibers. They're caused by the structural make up of the fibre and the weaving process of the fabric and should not be misidentified as pulls or faults. In an increasingly uniform world, having something that is unique to you is becoming rarer by the day. We hope you cherish and embrace the uniqueness of your hemp products as much as we do.
 
At moon canopy we believe that there are many reasons why we should all be using hemp products in our daily lives. Hemp is renowned for a multitude of uses. We can't detail all of them here as it said that the hemp plant has over 50,000 applications, that would be a very long article. We absolutely value every single one though and we hope reading this short piece will inspire you to do more reading on the topic. Instead of listing the many thousands of options the hemp plant gives us, we have decided to try and explain why we love hemp so much. Articulating the origin of love is seldom straightforward. So we thought it best, in the interests of clarity and succinctness, that we organise how our appreciation formulated from these three categories. Historical. Scientific. Environmental.
 

Historical


 

 
 

The ancient Chinese character for hemp (má) shows two plants under a canopy.

 

 

Hemp has been cultivated by humans for millennia. Recent archaeological discoveries on the Japanese Oki Islands show the earliest known evidence of human hemp usage, dating back to 8000 BC[1]. Hemp originated in Mesopotamia, East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It was relied upon heavily in these regions and is believed to have been amongst the first materials used in the invention of paper [2]. It has written representations on ancient Chinese bronze inscriptions. Evidence suggests that, as well as paper, it was also used for a variety of applications such as textiles and medicine[3]. Although the earliest data suggests widespread usage of hemp among populations throughout the indigenous areas mentioned above, it quickly spread to neighbouring regions and cultures including the Scythians and the Dacians. Traders and travellers gradually facilitated the wider spread of hemp to other parts of the world, where it was welcomed for its hardiness as a crop along with it's multitude of uses. Very quickly the word got out and hemp could be found, in some form or other, in just about every population throughout the globe.
 
This is just a brief snapshot into the known origins of human hemp usage. There are many other examples of cultures and empires throughout history harnessing hemp as a technology to improve quality of life. We find it incredible yet also calming and reassuring that our ancestors from all over the planet trusted hemp with so many aspects of their lives. Every time when waking up in our hemp bed sheets we don't just swoon over its soft, tactile nature, we are also bestowed with an ethereal feeling of connection to our history. Our ancestors relied on hemp to provide them with comfort and warmth and we can see why. We feel it too. It is heartening to see more and more people discovering how much hemp can help them, how it can help the people around them and how its cultivation can have a direct and tangible positive impact on the well-being of our planet. This is a strong driving force behind why we at moon canopy want to be a part of bringing hemp back into the modern era and back into everyone's lives.

Scientific

 

 
 
An early depiction of hemp in the ancient scientific manuscript Vienna Dioscurides
 
Science has been at the heart of human technological development ever since we learned to harness the power of fire. Fire gave us a significant advantage over other species in the natural world. Cooked food increased the bio-availability of nutrients and also made foods more easily digestible which, many believe, contributed to early hominids dramatic increase in brain size and function [4]. This led to improvements in tool development and refinement as well as accelerating other aspects of cognition. All this meant early humans spent less time; foraging, scavenging and digesting their findings and could therefore dedicate more time to other endeavours. The path for our ancestors to think, learn and grow was established. With such a humble beginning in mind, it's both amazing and somewhat alarming to look at the world we live in today.

  


  
 
 

Mágū (麻姑) is considered to be the ancient Chinese goddess of hemp. She was the symbolic protector of women and associated with the elixir of life. 

 

What's even more fascinating to us at moon canopy is that, as we discussed above, hemp has been with us for a significant part of this journey through history. But why? What has made hemp stand the test of time? We believe the answer is in the composition of the hemp fibres and their natural characteristics. Hemp fibre is strong, three times stronger than cotton[5]. It is also one of the longest bast fibres, making it very versatile. This makes it ideal for use as a textile for clothing, rope, sails, storage and even shelter. Its durability ensures its longevity. Something that is very attractive to us at moon canopy (more on that below). Another of hemp's natural properties is that it is antimicrobial, as shown in tests done by SGS  [6]. In a world where conventional medicines were in their infancy, the ability of hemp to prevent the spread of microbes in the home would have been very beneficial to our ancestors. As well as microbes, hemp also prevents the growth and spreading of fungi and rot. This makes it an excellent natural material to use in wet environments too, which must have had a whole host of benefits. This inspired us to develop our own version of the hemp shower curtain (the product is still in development so be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get notified when we are ready to bring it to market.) Hemp fabric also offers protection from 95% of all UV light, providing protection from the sun [7]. With hemp being a naturally breathable fabric, we are able to shield ourselves from harmful rays while still keeping cool.

With scientific advances being made everyday, it is exciting to learn about new and interesting ways that hemp is being used. Hempcrete seems to be a great natural and sustainable building material that actually continues to sequester Co2 from the atmosphere even after it has set [8]. If you or your company are using hemp in an interesting or diverse way then please get in touch, we’d love to hear about it.

 

Environmental


 

 
 

Fibres of the hemp plant

 

The positive impact of growing industrial hemp on our planets ecosystems is multifaceted. There are so many key points to mention that it’s hard to know where to begin. We will keep it simple. Here is a brief overview of some of the major points that we have found along with a short explanation and a link to the relevant literature.

 

Hemp is a carbon sink. It has been shown that industrial hemp farming can capture more CO2 from the atmosphere than any forest or commercial crop per hectare per year[9][10]. This has obvious benefits in helping to reduce carbon emissions and to decrease the human impact on climate change. If more people purchased hemp products, the knock on effect in the global supply chain could make a significant difference in the amount of carbon captured per year.


Soil regeneration and weed suppression. A 2014 article published in the scientific American stated that “Generating three centimetres of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue then all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years..” That has catastrophic ramifications for global agriculture and food supply. 95% of the worlds food supply is grown in topsoil [11]. Hemp has been proven to eliminate the growth of weeds which reduces the need for harmful chemicals. Hemp has also shown that, due its deep root system, greatly reduces top soil erosion. It also returns a significant amount of its biomass to the soil naturally, feeding nutrients back into the ground, vital for the longevity and sustainability of arable land. Including hemp in a crop rotation system would have a huge impact on soil regeneration [12].

  Hemp will produce a higher yield than other comparative fibres. For example, 1 hectare of hemp will produce a yield of 4 - 12 tonnes depending on growing conditions. Flax, the plant that gives us linen, will yield 1.5 - 2.0 under the same conditions [13]. Cotton produces an average yield of 2 - 4 tonnes per hectare [14].  Cotton is very water and pesticide dependant. It takes roughly twice the amount of water to produce cotton fabric compared to hemp meaning that no matter which part of the supply chain you focus on, hemp has a much lower environmental cost [15].

Hemp has been shown to have a positive impact on the biodiversity of the region in which it is grown. It increases the amount of species in the area when compared to other mono-culture crops with an especially increased number of Bees and Birds [16]. Bees are crucial to any ecosystem that they inhabit [17]. Dwindling Bee numbers on a global scale would be devastating [18]. It is extremely important to make sure their preferred environments are healthy and diverse. Knowing that hemp contributes to their survival was yet another factor we considered when founding moon canopy. 

This section could be much longer. We thought it best to leave it there. It's important to note that there are many studies currently ongoing into the benefits of hemp across all it's forms and we will endeavour to update this article as and when we learn more. If you come across some interesting information related to hemp, or you are conducting your own studies, then please feel free to share it with us, we'd love to learn more! Click here to get in touch. Thank you for taking the time to read this. We hope the information contained here will inspire more people to welcome hemp into their lives.

 

moon canopy.