What I Learned About The Incredible Edible Hemp While In Chile

February 11, 2021

One of the things I look for in my travels is the way different cultures and societies value different resources. It is fascinating how over countless generations, cultural traditions in one country can become so distinct from another country. 

Before the pandemic, I was lucky enough to take a trip to Chile and I learned something that fascinated me. Chile, it turns out, is one of the world’s largest cultivators of hemp, outpaced only by China, the United States, France, and Canada. Hemp, as you may know, is a cannabis plant that has been used for thousands of years all across the world. 

As you may also know, hemp is useful for a wide variety of functions beyond just the production of marijuana. In fact, hemp may be one of the most important crops in history and has been used for industrial applications as well as the production of clothing, tools, food, and many other uses in cultures all over the globe. Incredibly, China was using hemp as early as 5,000 B.C.

While in Chile, I became kind of obsessed with the awesome powers of hemp, so I have decided to put together a list of non-marijuana hemp uses:

Food

Hemp has a long history as a healthy food source and that tradition continues today. You can find all kinds of hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, hemp milk, and hemp tea. One company, Plant Based Foods, has even created a hemp-based burger.

Many nutritionists and health experts say that hemp is a superfood, a dense all-natural source of vitamins and minerals that can be added to smoothies, yogurt, salads, acai bowls, and pretty much anything you can think of. 

The best part about hemp-based foods is that they are healthy for both your body and the Earth as a sustainable protein. A great example is sprouted hemp seed hearts, which are eco-friendly and high in essential omega fatty acids, fiber, and protein. 

Clothing

Hemp has been used in clothing and textiles for thousands of years. You can use it for fabrics, garments, even ship sails and rope. While in the 20th Century it got overshadowed by cotton and synthetic fibers, hemp is making a big comeback and many fashion designers are turning to it as a renewable resource with a dramatically lower carbon footprint than other garment materials. 

There are entire fashion lines and brands specializing in hemp-based fashion garments. Check it out, maybe you will find your next wardrobe!

Plastic

If there is one material on this Earth we need less of, it is plastic — or, at least, non-biodegradable, petrochemical-based plastic. Our ocean is full of plastic and it adversely affects ecosystems all across the planet. Not only is hemp-based plastic stronger, but it is also vastly better for the Earth than the alternatives. 

There are reports that Henry Ford once made a car out of hemp plastic, which is thought to be 10 times stronger than the steel-based material used by automakers at the time. 

Construction

Hemp has been a well-known material used in the construction industry and is widely thought to be a leading candidate for green housing and sustainable architecture. Hemp can be used to imitate and replace wood, concrete, plastic (as mentioned above), bricks, and even insulation and panels. 

A good example of this is “hempcrete,” which is a concrete alternative that is seven times stronger, half the weight, and three times as elastic. Currently, it is pretty expensive, but the cost is expected to go down in the coming years. 

Alright, well there’s my little rant about hemp. My trip to Chile was amazing for a variety of reasons, but one of them was definitely learning more about the history of hemp, as well as its incredible array of uses around the world. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, too. Look it up for yourself and you will see how incredible hemp is. I have a feeling you are going to be seeing a lot more hemp-based products in the coming years!

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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