hemp fields

Everything you need to know about European hemp

Mostly grown for its seeds, fiber, or core (part of the stem), today hemp is opening up to new textile applications. Learn about the secrets of European hemp, from its agriculture background and history to new developments.

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The different classifications of hemp

Hemp is grown in Europe, the world's second largest producer (France number 1), after China. Its bast fibers are used in paper products or the textile industry, and its core is prized in building construction. A superfood, its seeds are also popular as an ingredient beauty products.


Cannabis sativa

Also known as hemp or cultivated hemp, Cannabis Sativa is an herbaceous perennial plant of the Cannabinaceae family, which also includes hops. Originating in Asia, it is one of the earliest domesticated plants in the world. It is characterized by large stems, leaves separated into long, toothed leaflets, and very rapid growth: plants reach maturity within three months on average. In the bast fiber family, hemp contains over 75% cellulose and 10-12% lignin (compared with 60% and 30% respectively for wood). Selected for its low THC* content (<0.3%), Cannabis sativa is the species grown in Europe for industrial hemp.

The Alliance and Cannabis sativa, a multifaceted industry showing rapid growth

Currently, the Alliance for European Flax-linen & Hemp is working on organizing the hemp sector, which has often directed its growth towards non-textile segments, in order to develop an additional offer of plant fiber. Historically, the Alliance has focused mainly on the technical applications (e.g., composites) of the natural fibers of Cannabis sativa.

A highly framed European culture

Hemp is subject to drastic French and European regulations (harmonized since 2004). These only allow varieties in the European Union that contain less than 0.3% THC. Seeds used for cultivation must therefore be certified and listed in the European catalogue. Each bag of seeds thus bears an official label from the SOC (official control service). Each year, in August, the THC level is checked in 30% of cultivated areas via samples sent to the laboratory.

Cannabis indica

Also known as Indian hemp or marijuana, Cannabis indica is a subspecies of Cannabis sativa. Originally from the Himalayas, it is a shorter plant with wider leaves, and an even shorter flowering phase (45-65 days). It is also different from sativa because of higher THC* content, placing it outside regulatory framework. In France, its cultivation and “recreational” use are illegal.
*THC : tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive substance.

Hemp, a plant with many uses

From the seed (hempseed) to the stalk (core) by way of the fiber and flower, everything in the hemp plant has its use! It is no wonder that this Swiss knife of plants is so popular in food, cosmetics, textiles, paper products, and construction.



This is the name given to the seeds produced by hemp. Known for its exceptional nutritional qualities, this superfood is consumed at the table in the form of whole or shelled seeds, flour, oil, or food items (hemp does not contain any known allergens). The cosmetics industry is also interested in hemp oil for its hydrating properties. As for aviaries and fisheries, they are also large consumers of hempseed: it is a favorite food of birds and fish alike!


copyright Alliance La Chanvrière

The fibre

For centuries, it has traditionally been used in ropemaking and to produce special paper, but also in textiles, in which it is currently experiencing a resurgence. Hemp fiber is also used in insulating wool and composite materials, such as bio-based plastics.


copyright O. Proctor

The core

This is the central part of the stalk, the woody part of the plant. It is used as garden straw and in animal litter. It is also becoming increasingly popular in construction (lightweight particle boards, hempcrete, etc.) thanks to its ability to insulate, as well as its temperature and energy performance.


Organic powder

This powder (or dust), which occurs during decortication, is made up of fiber particles, the core, or mineral substances. It is normally used as a source of (green) energy, especially in compressed form as granules or bricks, but also as compost in the manufacture of compost.


copyright Alliance La Chanvrière


Since December 29, 2022, the Council of State has allowed the sale of flowers and raw hemp leaves with maximum THC content of 0.3%. This cannabidiol has no psychoactive effects and is mostly used as a pain reliever for medicinal purposes and to improve well-being.

The environmental properties of hemp

  • zero irrigation hemp

    0 irrigation*

    *barring exceptional circumstances

  • zero waste hemp

    Zero waste

    From seed to stalk, flower, and debris (dust), nothing is lost, and everything is processed in the production of hemp fibers.

  • Rotation crop

    Rotation crop

    A spring crop, hemp fits well in a rotation with fall crops. Generous, he leaves a land of excellent quality to his potential successors.

  • GMO-free


    Cannabis sativa, cultivated within the framework of European legislation, is guaranteed to be GMO-free.

  • Mainly mechanical processes

    Mainly mechanical processes

    The process of transforming straw into fiber is entirely mechanical. It therefore does not require any chemicals.

source : Terres Inovia Institut Agricole

Hemp, an ancestral fiber

Ever since the Neolithic, humans have used this rustic, beneficial plant to advance civilization. A journey through the history of hemp takes us to the earliest paper and medicinal texts, sea exploration, and the green revolution.

  • Herodotus statue
    copyright Pixabay

    500 B.C.E (around)

    Herodotus describes the steam baths of the Scythians, who took hemp seeds and placed them on burning stones. As they burned, the hemp seeds gave off a very strong steam, which they used as a bath.

  • Invention of paper made from hemp

    62 - 117 (between)

    Invention of paper made from hemp. This technique was developed by a Chinese craftsman, Tsai-Lung, for the Chinese emperor. After the Battle of Samarkand (751), this method of producing hemp-based paper was transmitted to the West.

  • Gutenberg - first Bible printed on hemp paper


    Johannes Gutenberg's "42-line Bible", the first Bible printed on hemp paper. With this work, the famous German printer marks a turning point in the history of printing.

  • Declaration of Independence of the United States printed on Hemp paper


    Declaration of Independence of the United States on 4 July 1776. Hemp paper is used for its publication.

  • hemp replaced by wood in paper production

    1850 (onwards)

    Under the coal age, Canada and the United States - which have extensive forest resources - begin to replace hemp with wood in paper production. The same was true of the famous "Nîmes" fabric, which gave rise to denim, initially made from hemp. Then, with the advent of cotton and petrochemicals, hemp cultivation gradually declined in Europe.

  • France is the main producer of hemp in Europe


    France is the main producer of hemp in Europe. The plant is experiencing a worldwide revival of interest due to its many environmental virtues. The modernity of hemp also lies in its contribution to the development of innovative bio-based materials. Hemp fibres are used in the manufacture of thermal and acoustic insulation, as well as in the creation of light and strong composite materials. It is also becoming increasingly popular in the field of eco-construction.