What is Hemp and its Commercial and Health Benefits?

hemp field

Hemp is a versatile plant with many commercial and wellness benefits. As one of the world's oldest cultivated crops, it has a long and advantageous history for people and the environment. Most consumers are aware of CBD, the most popular compound in hemp. However, the bountiful plant contains over 540[1] naturally occurring phytochemicals, including more than 140 phytocannabinoids with similar benefits to CBD. You might not realize it, but the statement about hemp being a plant with thousands of uses wasn't an underestimate. Keep reading to learn more about the many benefits of the 5,000-plus-year-old hemp plant.

The Difference Between Cannabis and Hemp

Many people think there are huge differences between hemp and cannabis. However, hemp is a variety of cannabis. The two major variations separating the two plants are the THC and CBD levels. Hemp is rich in CBD, containing between 10% and 25% of the popular compound. It also contains 0.2% THC, which is the intoxicating phytocannabinoid. The small amount isn't enough to produce a "high." On the other hand, cannabis has copious amounts of THC, with some strains boasting over 25%. In other words, hemp is the non-intoxicating variant of the cannabis plant.

Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis, Hybrid: How Do These Subspecies Differ?

cannabis hemp indica sativa ruderalis hybrid

Cannabis has three primary subspecies. Indica, Sativa, and Ruderalis. Additionally, breeders have added the hybrid to this list. The difference between the various subspecies is mainly shape and growing conditions. However, many CBD consumers note the different flowers produce distinct effects. For example, some state the Indica relaxes them more, while the Sativa is energizing. Unfortunately, there's no research to validate these claims. 

When asked about these claims, Dr. Ethan Russo, one of the world's foremost experts on cannabinoids, explained[2],

"There are biochemically distinct strains of Cannabis, but the sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility. One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology. The degree of interbreeding/hybridization is such that only a biochemical assay tells a potential consumer or scientist what is really in the plant. It is essential that future commerce allows complete and accurate cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles to be available."

Instead, he considers the best classification between cannabis species is based on chemical makeup. So, for example, it's better to say "THC-dominant" Or "CBD-dominant." Additionally, as breeders develop new phenotypes, you'll see plants dominant in other cannabinoids, such as Delta-8 THC or CBC. Another possibility in the near future is more focus on the terpene profile. Terpenes play a significant role in hemp, and the effects of extracts and other products made with the plant's various compounds.


As mentioned above, the differences are purely physical. Indica plants are short and bushy, with thick stems and wide leaves. Also, they tend to have dark-green leaves. The subspecies of cannabis have a shorter flowering period, making it more ideal for cooler growing regions. As a result of the reduced growing time, it produces thick flowers.

A few popular Indica hemp strains include:

● Space Invader
● Abacus
● Bubba Kush


Sativa plants grow taller and skinnier than the Indica variety. They have thin, finger-like leaves and a long stalk compared to Indica plants. The added height adds to the different flower growth. It has large buds that are less dense than the Indica's flowers. Sativa takes a few weeks longer than Indica to grow, allowing a more prolonged flowering period. In addition to the longer growing time, the tall, skinny nature of the Sativa makes it exceptionally well suited for saving on space.

A few popular sativa Strains include:

● Lemon-Aid
● Elektra
● Fuji


Botanists and cannabinoid specialists know less about Ruderalis. However, the species is a natural auto-flowering plant. Sativa and indica varieties that grow naturally start flowering based on the plants maturity instead of the photoperiod, this has been termed as“autoflowering” . What makes Ruderalis different from Sativa and Indica is it doesn't require a specific amount of sunlight to start flowering, which is excellent for hemp producers in cooler climates. Additionally, Ruderalis naturally contains less THC than the other subspecies and higher levels of CBD.

The strains available for ruderalis are all hybrid. Some top options include:

● Royal Dwarf
● Northern Light Automatic
● Solomatic CBD


A hybrid is a split between one or more other cannabis varieties. On the rare occasion, you'll find a 50/50 crossbreed. However, most are 60%/40% and 70%/30%. Additionally, although Ruderalis is one of the three main hemp species, it's not commonly found in hybrids.

However, in the UK autoflowering genetics are in high demand due to the cooler climate and now major producers are offering a growing range of hybrids that especially incorporate Ruderalis to create plants that: have a short flowering cycle, smaller height ideal for indoor grows and the ability to have multiple harvests within the same grow session.

Our brand RUDERALEX® has been named after the cannabis Ruderalis variety, for its contribution to the highly sought after traits amongst cannabis growers.

Some popular hemp hybrids that are close to or even include:

● Amnesia Haze Automatic
● Stress Killer Automatic CBD
● White Widow
● Chemdawg
● AK-47

History of Hemp in the UK

Believe it or not, hemp has a long history in the UK. However, it is mostly used in textiles and for wood substitutes. Research shows the plant was a premium crop from 800 to 1800 AD[3]. For many years, even past the 1800s, its use for sails, rope, and fishing equipment was well-known. Hemp is one of the strongest fibres known. The plant is easy to grow and offers natural protection from saltwater and mould.

Another interesting UK fact is that in 1535, the king Henry The Eighth, issued an act requiring all landowners to grow ¼-acre of hemp. Failure to comply with the law resulted in a fine.

A little-known fact about the War of 1812[4], is that one of the direct causes of the conflict was over hemp. Napoleon was determined to cut off Russia's access to hemp plants. The British supply from Russia was vital to the country's war effort, providing raw material for maintaining the Royal Navy[5]. Fast forward a little over 150 years to 1971. Cultivating hemp in the UK now requires a license. The law also limited the use of industrial hemp to fibre and seed.

The Many Uses of the Hemp Plant

In addition to its durability and strength, hemp is better for the environment than all synthetic and most other natural raw materials. The uses for the plant are nearly limitless, from textiles, paper, and construction materials to biofuel, bioplastic, and even animal bedding and feed. These benefits don't even include the wellness advantages of hemp's unique compounds, such as CBD.


Cotton replaced hemp production because it's softer. However, it's a dirty crop that uses excess water and needs plenty of insecticides and herbicides to grow. Hemp's terpenes produce a natural defence against bugs and other predators. When those compounds are no longer necessary to protect the plants during the cultivation process, they provide wellness advantages. Additionally, hemp plants grow close together, and the roots take up ample space, reducing the room for invasive weeds to interrupt progress.

Hemp clothing fell out of fashion when cotton and synthetic materials offered softer and more comfortable items. But scientific and technological advances have fixed these problems by blending hemp with organic cotton for a smoother, longer-lasting, and more durable clothing. Additionally, hemp offers natural UV protection[6], which provides a significant advantage over synthetic fibres that use sprayed-on protection from ultraviolet light, which can wear off.


>Hemp producers can use their crops for multiple purposes. Flowers are used for food supplements, the stalks and stem fibres are useful for replacing paper products. The world cuts down millions of trees for paper every year. Hemp production could cut that in half without reducing the planet's precious paper stock. When mature, hemp stalks contain about 65% of cellulose, more than trees. Additionally, you can recycle hemp paper seven to eight times, compared to three to five times[7] for wood pulp, reducing the need to cut down more trees for paper.

However, it's not just paper. Anything you can make with wood, you can build with hemp fibre. As a result, there's a growing demand for construction materials. The strong and durable hemp fibres are ideal for safe and solid construction, which is not a new concept[8]. For example, in France, a 6th-century bridge abutment is still standing.

Hempcrete is a growing building material in more ways than one. The plant-based concrete uses hemp herds and provides natural mould and mildew resistance properties. Although Hempcrete isn't suitable for retaining walls, it still offers impressive insulating properties from heat, cold, and noise.

In addition, growing hundreds of hemp fields for textiles, paper, and construction materials are better for the environment than cutting down trees and planting new ones.

"A hectare of hemp absorbs four times more CO2 during its lifetime than the same tree forest area."


Oil isn't an infinite source. Unfortunately, the world is running out of it, and it will become scarce over the next few decades. Well, maybe that's fortunate because fossil fuels are harmful to the ozone layer. Biofuel isn't a new concept[9]. Henry Ford came up with the idea in the early 20th century. Ford's famous Model T could operate on petrol or hemp biofuels. You don't even need biomass from flowers to create biofuel. Seeds can make viable diesel fuel.

You don't need to convert a vehicle's engine to adapt to biofuel. Hemp biofuel works without problem in any diesel engine. Additionally, it has a 97% conversion rate, which is excellent. Studies show that farmers can take plants with pesticides and other contaminants and turn them into enough energy to operate their entire farm on a few acres. At the same time, they clean the soil so another crop can go into that location after the hemp harvest.


You don't need to go far without seeing how bad oil-based plastics are harmful to the environment. But there's another answer. Bioplastics made with hemp are biodegradable and sturdy. Companies around the world are already producing these safer materials for various uses. Overall, the bioplastic market[10] is expected to grow to USD 19.93 billion by 2026.
James Eicher, the co-founder of Sana, a California-based packaging company, explained in a March 2021 article in Packaging Gateway[11] the current state of bioplastics using hemp for packaging materials.
"What we’re trying to do is recognize the need to move away from corn as a mono-crop in the US and as a feedstock for bioplastics."

The article went on to explain,

"In Europe, where France is the predominant producer of hemp, the hemp packaging industry is as yet non-existent. However, the European Industrial Hemp Association is promoting it as a potential application and says the sector is becoming more organized and has “'great opportunities ahead.'"


CBD is an excellent compound that's beneficial for people and animals. The large assortment of phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and essential fatty acids within the trichomes is highly nutritious. Every part of the plant offers wellness benefits, from the roots and seeds to the leaves and flowers.

The most nutritious part of hemp is the seeds, which female plants only produce.

Three tablespoons or 30g of hemp seeds, hulled, include[12]:

● 9.48g of protein
● 2.6g of carbohydrates
● 1.2g of fibre
● .45g of sugar
● 21mg of calcium
● 2.38mg of iron
● 210mg of magnesium
● 360mg of potassium
● 495mg of phosphorus
● 2.97mg of zinc
● .15mg of vitamin C
● 0.384mg of thiamin
● .085mg of riboflavin
● 2.76mg of niacin
● .018mg vitamin B-6
● 0.24mg of vitamin E
● 1.38g total fatty acids (Omega 3, 6 & 9)

However, hemp products haven't been regulated since before 1997. As a result, they don't fall under the novel food laws. So, by law, companies can't market any part of hemp as nutritional.

The Bioaccumulative Properties of Hemp & Cannabis

cannabis hemp crop field

The hemp plant provides bioaccumulative properties[13]. Its strong roots pull all chemicals from the soil. While this is advantageous for nutrients, it's also the reason hemp farms need to pay strict attention to the soil's composition. Nutrient-rich land is ideal for growing a bountiful crop for CBD and wellness use. However, the disadvantage of these powerful roots is that they're strong enough to remove everything, good and bad, from the soil.

Additionally, it has phytovolatilization properties. It can release the toxins absorbed through the roots. The contaminants discharge into the air through the leaves. These advantages are excellent for cleaning heavy metals and other toxins from the soil. Growing industrial hemp that won't be used for CBD or other food supplements can prepare land once unsafe for food crops.

Plus, cultivators don't have to discard the hemp used to clean the land. Instead, cultivators can use the plant's stalks for manufacturing rope, building materials, and paper products that people or animals won't ingest.

Hemp farmers can use hemp as a rotational crop to clean the soil between seasons. For example, the plant requires little to no pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers to grow. Then, the following year, after growing hemp, the cultivator can move another crop into that space and have nutrient-rich soil that's contaminant-free.

Current Hemp Laws in the UK

The UK has some of the strictest regulations for hemp in the world. While this might frustrate some brands, it's helping solidify the public's confidence in CBD and hemp compounds for safety. In 2019, the country designated CBD[14] as a novel food that requires additional scrutiny. In 2021, it updated the law to include more restrictions and requirements to sell hemp items in the UK. For example, businesses must apply for authorization to gain legal access to the market. These regulations ensure all labels are accurate, each batch is contaminant-free, and all products contain 0.2% THC or less.

CBD Flower Isn't Legal in the UK

cannabis hemp flower bud

The one thing holding the UK back from being a leader in the hemp industry is CBD flower. Cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and the other compounds in hemp are found in the trichomes. These are tiny growths on the plant's stalk, stems, leaves, and flowers. The highest concentration of trichomes is on the flowers. While other parts of the plant, minus the roots and seeds, contain some potent compounds, it's more economical to take the wellness compounds from the flowers. Hemp is such a valuable plant that the remaining stalk, stems, and leaves won't go to waste. The same goes for the roots and seeds. Each piece of the popular plant is beneficial.

Benefits of Expanding Hemp Laws in the UK

CBD and food supplement regulations in the UK outshine much of the world regarding safety and oversight. However, expanding the laws to allow whole plant production while keeping the strict rules and safety regulations in place can provide so much more for the wellness of the overall population.

CBD brands are already checking the quality and purity of their plant extracts. Flowers wouldn't change this process. Allowing hemp flowers and even increasing the THC levels to match other countries, such as Switzerland with up to 1%[15], can benefit the UK in many ways. The nation allows flowers for smoking and biomass, which increases the potency of their popular CBD products.

Switzerland's laws have been slowly evolving. The non-EU country set the 1% CBD rule in 2011[16]. However, even the EU is softening its stance on whole flower products with more THC. In Oct. 2021, the union increased the THC level from 0.2% to 0.3%, matching the U.S.

EIHA President Daniel Kruse explained the decision to reporters [17],

"This is a historic moment for our industry, for our farmers, for a green future, and for all Europeans. Finally, the EU has a level playing field again with the global industrial hemp sector."

How Much is the Cannabis Market Worth?

A hemp and cannabis market combined could benefit the UK immensely. Experts forecast the industry to explode over the next several years, surpassing North American sales. Prohibition Partners estimates the cannabis market in Europe will hit €3.2 billion by 2025[18]. The organization forecasts the increase will accompany legal access to adult-use cannabis with higher THC percentages than the hemp subspecies in several European countries, including Switzerland, Netherlands, and Germany.

The figure also includes the UK expanding medical access for patients by 2024 to represent a large portion of Europe's population with a path to medicinal cannabis.

In general, the market for medical-grade hemp and cannabis products produced with high-quality flowers containing more THC is growing worldwide. In December 2018[19], the U.S. president signed the updated Farm Bill into law, legalizing hemp cultivation, distribution, sale, and use across the North American country.

These changes include all the compounds found in the plant, including up to .3% THC. As a result, even in states with strict cannabis laws can access hemp flowers and potent extracts made with biomass. Additionally, these improved regulations will have the hemp market in the U.S. reaching USD 36 billion by 2026[20].

But that's not all. As of 2021, over half the U.S. states [21] allow some form of cannabis, including more than 17 with recreational adult-use laws. Overall, the numbers for North America will increase with recent legalization in Mexico and continued legal access throughout Canada.


This report is only a tiny preview of the benefits of whole-plant hemp legalization in the UK. By increasing production, research, and funding, the possibilities are nearly endless. Hemp is an amazing plant that offers use for every single part, from the root and seeds to the stalk, stems, leaves, and flowers. Additionally, the financial advantages can boost the economy throughout the UK and help the country join the benefits other countries are already experiencing from expanded hemp laws.



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  2. Piomelli D, Russo EB. The Cannabis sativa Versus Cannabis indica Debate: An Interview with Ethan Russo, MD [Internet]. Cannabis and cannabinoid research. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.; 2016 [cited 2021Jun7]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5576603/
  3. History of Hemp Cultivation in Britain [Internet]. Indian Hemp and the Dope Fiends of Old England. [cited 2021Jun8]. Available from: https://www.ukcia.org/culture/history/hmpukhis.php
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  6. Sensi Seeds. Using Hemp as Sunscreen: Natural Sun Protection? [Internet]. Sensi Seeds. 2020 [cited 2021Jun8]. Available from: https://sensiseeds.com/en/blog/using-hemp-as-sunscreen-natural-sun-protection/
  7. Price S. Changing European hemp policy. Health Europahttps://www.healtheuropa.eu/changing-european-hemp-policy/107188/ [2021, accessed June 10, 2021].
  8. Not Just a Pipe Dream: Hemp as a Building Material by EmilyPollock. Engineering.comhttps://www.engineering.com/story/not-just-a-pipe-dream-hemp-as-a-building-material [accessed June 10, 2021].
  9. Driving Toward a Greener Future with Hemp Biofuels [Internet]. Cannabis Tech. [cited 2021Jun8]. Available from: https://www.cannabistech.com/articles/driving-toward-a-greener-future-with-hemp-biofuels/
  10. Fortune Business Insights. Bioplastics Market Size to Reach USD 19.93 Billion by 2026; to Increasing Demand from Food and Pharmaceutical Industries; Says Fortune Business Insights™ [Internet]. GlobeNewswire News Room. Fortune Business Insights; 2021 [cited 2021Jun8]. Available from: https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2021/01/29/2166634/0/en/Bioplastics-Market-Size-to-Reach-USD-19-93-Billion-by-2026-to-Increasing-Demand-from-Food-and-Pharmaceutical-Industries-Says-Fortune-Business-Insights.html
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Please note that this article was written by a 3rd-party author who is a specialist on the topic of CBD, hemp and cannabis. Any information or recommendations contained within this article, are independent to the opinion of RUDERALEX CBD and our employees. We make no claims for any of our products, please read our disclaimer for additional information.