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Breaking Down Hemp: The Stem

Hempco LogoHempco Admin
4 Mins. Read

The reason hemp is known to be such a versatile plant is because of the fact that the entire plant can be used to make a range of different products - all of a very high quality. 

Here we’re going to take a look at the stalks of the plant. The stalk is one of the most useful parts of the cannabis plant as it seemingly has the widest range of product possibilities. 

What Is Contained in the stalk?

Hemp stalks are most commonly broken down into two main parts: Bast fibres and the hurd. 

The great thing is that both are used in the manufacturing of different products, so just from the stalk we’re able to produce raw materials for a wide array of industries.  But we’ll get to that later! 

First, we’re going to take a closer look at the main components that make up the stalk.

  • Bast Fibres

Bast fibre is also known as phloem. is collected from the inner bark of a plant’s stem. This part of the stem essentially functions as the ‘skin’ of the plant, as it functions as a conductor of water. 

They are also responsible for the strength and flexibility of the stalks, enabling hemp to grow up to 15 ft. tall. The colour will vary between cream, grey, green, brown or black based on the type of processing used on the plant to separate the fibres from the hurd.

  • Hurd

The hurd is the woody inner part of the plant’s stem. It possesses a high cellulose content and is very absorbent. It is extracted using a hemp decorticator that separates it from the bast fibres.

Though much attention goes to the fibres, it has a lot of uses when it comes to non-woven items. 

Next, we’re going to take a look at some popular hemp products made from these that you might use or see regularly!

What can be made from bast fibres?

  • Textiles

This is one of the most widely spread uses of bast fibres. The textiles gotten from the cannabis plant have ranged from low-quality peasant clothes to ceremonial attire donned by rulers.

Going as far back as 800BC, ancient Chinese have applied this material in the production of clothing. Though hemp was usually relegated to the textile of the masses. 

Aside from clothing, bast fibres from hemp were also used to make things like bandages, bedspreads and to create ropes. It was also applied in the making of footwear.

  • Paper

This is one of the by-products of hemp that is currently sparking a lot of interest. 200 years before the production of paper from wood in China (the nominal invention of paper), the paper had already been produced from hemp.

In fact, one of the most notable uses of hemp paper was in making the first copies of the Bible. 

Both the long and short bast fibres can be used in papermaking. It is thin, tough, and better daily use, and easier to manufacture than traditional pulp paper. 

To put the cherry on top, it can be done through a completely organic process. 

  •  Bioplastic

Did you know a number of the first plastics were produced from organic, biodegradable, non-petroleum sources. 

One thing we all know is it is not like that today. 

But the good news is that bioplastics are making a comeback.  Now, hemp cellulose (from the fibers) are being used to make several man-made materials such as rayon, cellophane, and a number of other common polymers.

Although 100% of hemp-based plastics are very rare, there are “composite bioplastics”. This means that hemp can be used in conjunction with other plants to make plastics. As a result of their strength and durability, they are now being used to manufacture consumer goods. 

What can be made from hemp hurd?

  • Hempcrete

Hempcrete a biocomposite made up of as little as three simple components: hemp hurd, lime, and water.  Hempcrete may also often contain added sand or pozzolans.

As the name suggests, it can be used as a building material basically anywhere that concrete can be.   Hemp was most notably used in constructions of the awnings in the Colosseum in Ancient Rome. 

It is regarded as easier to work with than regular lime composites. It is an excellent moisture regulator and insulator and is good for building in most climates. 

  • Animal Bedding

When it comes to animal bedding, hemp is starting to gain traction.  Animal bedding is considered ‘good’ when it possesses certain qualities such high absorbency, a neutral odour, and of course affordability. 

These are qualities hemp hurd contains. 

To make animal bedding, hemp hurd is simply mulched into a straw-like texture. It can absorb two times what standard wood shavings absorb, making life easier for livestock. It is also a natural pest repellent. 

Have you ever used any products listed here that have been made from parts of the hemp stalk?  What do you think?  We'd love to hear your thoughts!