For our purposes, hemp is the plant called “cannabis sativa.” There are other plants that are called hemp, but cannabis hemp is the most useful of these plants. In fact, “cannabis sativa” means “useful (sativa) hemp (cannabis)”. Hemp is any durable plant that has been used since pre-history for many purposes. Fiber is the most well known product, and the word “hemp” can mean the rope or twine which is made from the hemp plant, as well as just the stalk of the plant which produced it.
Cannabis is the most durable of the hemp plants, and it produces the toughest cloth, called “canvass.” Canvass was widely used as sails in the early shipping industry, as it was the only cloth which would not rot on contact with sea spray.
The cannabis plant also produces three other very important products which the other hemp plants do not produce in usable form:
Hemp seed is suitable for both human and animal foods. The oil from the seed can also be used as a base for paints and varnishes.
Hemp pulp is used as fuel and to make paper and other fiber products including fabrics and building materials.
The medicinal oil is prepared as a tincture or admixture of the sticky resin in the blossoms and leaves of the hemp plant, and is used for a variety of medicinal purposes.