Hemp has a ton of uses which were pushed to the back burner during cannabis prohibition. In the last couple decades the world has been returning to hemp production, with the 2018 US Farm Bill opening a wider market in the US for new products. One of the more interesting and emerging uses of hemp can benefit those who lost a limb. New technology for hemp prosthetics is on the horizon; here’s what there is to know about the new world of hemp body parts.
Hemp prosthetics are another showing of the versatility of the hemp plant, and the better options it can offer as compared to standard treatments. We’re an independent news publication which specializes in cannabis and psychedelics reporting. Keep up with us by subscribing to THC Weekly Newsletter, and you’ll also get prime offers on products like edibles, vapes, and tons of other cannabis paraphernalia, which also includes cannabinoid compounds. Please remember, *cannabinoid compound products are not for everyone, and we do not advise that anyone purchase a product they are uncomfortable with!
What is hemp?
The term ‘hemp’ generally refers to the cannabis plant, but specifically those plants that have a lower amount of cannabinoid THC, and a higher amount of cannabinoid CBD. The cutoff for what designates hemp is defined by local laws. For example, the US has a .3% limit, as does the EU now, while Switzerland maintains 1%. Sometimes the definitions are less about CBD vs THC, and more about simply high-THC vs low-THC.
High-CBD hemp plants are known for being more fibrous, and are the better pick for many industrial applications, like making paint and wood finishing oil, for paper products, plastic products, clothing, and building materials. Hemp pushes up against long-standing industries run by large corporations that feed a lot of money to government representatives. For this reason, though hemp often provides a stronger, more environmentally friendly, and safer option to other currently popular methods, its taking time to really pick up.
There are a few aspects to hemp that make it such a great material for different purposes. Hemp fiber is derived from the stem of the plant and is considered a ‘bast fiber’. It has a high insulation value, meaning it can keep in warmth or cold in opposing seasons, while also offering UV protection. Hemp doesn’t require the use of chemical herbicides or pesticides (though some cultivators use them anyway), and will actually return nutrients to soil so as not to overuse it. Double the amount of hemp fiber is cultivated from one hectare of land than cotton, and requires much less water.
Uses of hemp
Hemp is used with lime to create hempcrete, an alternative to concrete with less environmental impact. Hempcrete comes with the ability to absorb CO2, be moisture-resistant, act as an antimicrobial, and provide a high thermal capacity. The same plant can be made into an oil for finishing wood, or oil-based paint by adding pigments to it. It can be processed into cruelty-free leather, and it can even be made into a bio-degradable plastic material, which could technically answer the growing plastics problem of today. Hemp can be used as a paper product without cutting down trees, which includes everything from toilet paper to packaging materials to the paper we write on. And there’s even information out there for using hemp to make batteries!
Hemp is also a great ingredient for make-up, skin creams, hair-care products, and other cosmetic goods. It can be used medically for skin ailments, or to simply make things look better. It offers a toxin-free way to improve a person’s physical appearance, without the many chemicals that go into standard make-up products. And it’s chock full of beneficial nutrients for the skin. According to Georgetown University Medical Center’s Dr. Tina Alster:
“Sufferers of serious medical skin conditions and those who are seeking innovative skincare options can benefit from topical CBD use… Anti-inflammatory properties associated with CBD are beneficial in treating such dermatologic conditions as acne, psoriasis and eczema due to reduction of dryness, irritation and redness. CBD-containing creams, oils, gels and serums not only moisturize and soothe the skin but are also showing encouraging results in relieving pain caused by certain skin disorders.”
Beyond these uses, we know that hemp offers medical benefits in many categories. From helping to stop people form wasting away from cancer or AIDS, to treating cancerous tumors, neurodegenerative diseases, spastic disorders, psychological issues, pain issues, hormonal imbalances, blood pressure and blood sugar problems, and a range of other disorders.
The issue of lost limbs
We talk about a lot of medical conditions, which usually involve the idea of taking a medication. However, hemp has medical uses beyond actual medication. When a person loses a limb, or has a congenital disorder that results in the absence of a limb, (or a grave medical issue with one), there aren’t a million options for what comes next. How common is this issue?
According to the Hanger Clinic, a prosthetics products and services provider, more than two million people living in the US have lost a limb, and another whopping 28 million are in danger of losing a limb. It’s expected that the number of active limb lost cases will rise to 3.6 million by 2050. As per the Amputee Coalition via Hanger, there are about 185,000 amputations in the US yearly.
Lost limbs are the result of several different issues. The most common reason is vascular diseases like diabetes, blood clots, and peripheral arterial disease, all of which effect blood flow. 54% of amputees result from these problems. This is important because the incidence of diabetes is rising, mainly due to bad eating and exercise habits, which led to a massive 42.2% of the population weighing in at obese levels as of 2017-2018.
Another 45% are from trauma issues. These stem from workplace injuries, car accidents, military experiences, or other occurrences that cause trauma to the body. Under 2% of amputees are cancer related, and occur when tumors in bone or cartilage do not respond effectively to treatment. The incidence of congenital issues is low, with approximately 1,900 babies born yearly in the US with limb problems, although this doesn’t always result in amputation.
What’s the deal with hemp body parts?
The company Human Plant Solutions is looking to integrate the worlds of hemp and prosthetic limbs, to create a better option for those who need this kind of medical device. According to company CEO Sam Spallitta, via the Denver Channel “In general, I think that there are a lot of ways for a company like mine that really wants to provide solutions, especially customized solutions with innovative materials.”
In reference to how this is better than standard options of today, Spallitta continued, “Everybody hates carbon fiber. You’ve got to wear a suit and full respiration and still with all that PPE on. I don’t care what ventilation you have you’re still going to be covered in that carbon dust, which is extremely dangerous to work with and really just not comfortable.”
In terms of the growing and use of hemp for these parts, company COO Rod Kreie explained, “We’re contacting and meeting with different people to try to create a network that will allow us to grow and process our own hemp and a fiber that we can use not just for these devices but what we think will become the standard for making prosthetics in the entire industry.”
Currently, the hemp fiber used for the prosthetics is manufactured in other places, but as cultivation increases in the state of Kansas, where the company is based, this will hopefully change. The company isn’t just looking to help those in need of a prosthetic, but the farmers who cultivate the plant to do it, as well.
Company founder Kyle Trivisonno, a board-certified prosthetic technician, explained why hemp is a beneficial material, saying, “Having something that moves and kind of transitions with their gate cycle is kind of an ideal property” for a person with a prosthetic limb.
How the idea started for hemp prosthetics
In an article from August 2021 in Hutch News, Trivisonno further explained that “Hemp is cheaper and less caustic… It’s a more sustainable material.” Trivisonno should know, he’s built over 1,000 prosthetics, mainly using acrylic resin, carbon fiber, thermoplastics and fiberglass. He echoed how creating prosthetics from conventional materials is caustic work for manufacturers. And how hemp is just as strong, and more flexible, which makes it the natural material of choice for this venture.
Using hemp also means manufacturers have less dependence on materials like carbon and petroleum-based products, which is better for the environment in general. Plus, hemp prosthetics are lighter in weight than current options, and also less corrosive.
It was Trivisonno’s idea to investigate using hemp for a leg prosthesis back in 2017. The leg was a success, and went to Trivisonno’s friend Marc Dunshe, who lost his leg in a dirt-biking accident. Dunshe has used the hemp prosthetic since that time. Trivisonno took the idea, and partnered with Sam Spallitta to create Human Plant Solutions.
The idea gained traction quickly, and was awarded a scholarship via the GoCreate business incubator which took place at Wichita State University, in Kansas. The city of Newton, Kansas stepped in next, seeing the potential in the company. It offered Human Plant Solutions 180 days of rent-free time to work at the Newton County Airport, to help the fledgling start-up get on its way. As of the 2021 writing, the company has also partnered with engineering students from the University of Kansas to create a running blade for pediatric amputees.
Human Plant Solutions and its ability to create hemp prosthetics technology highlights yet another avenue for the hemp industry, and yet another way to improve lives. Hopefully this idea will spread to other industries, giving more people with a range of issues, safer and more sustainable ways to treat their problems.
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