How is Hemp Even Better Than Trees for Producing Oxygen? — (2023)

Article Written by Vishal Vivek, Co-founded Hemp Foundation

Let us start from the skeptics’ position. Till the other day, hemp was marked an illegal drug plant, a kin of the narcotic cannabis or marijuana. Now suddenly the whole world is claiming that hemp is planet Earth’s most miraculous plant. Does sound like a hoax, right?

Decoding the Hemp Enigma

It is a legitimate doubt to have unless one knows the full story of hemp. Let us get that bit cleared first. It is true that hemp cultivation was prohibited in most countries across the globe for much of the 20th century. It still is, in many countries.

It is only in recent times that some countries have started taking cautious baby steps in decriminalizing hemp cultivation. That is the reason behind this apparently sudden upsurge of interest in hemp. The plant itself and its miracle qualities are not “sudden” by any long shot.

Hemp happens to be one of the earliest plants that human beings started using first and then cultivating. History tells us that the first use of hemp can be traced back to the neolithic age. Humans started using hemp some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, that is.

The oldest history of hemp cultivation dates back to about 5,000 years ago, as per records available in China. This easy-to-grow plant is a wonder plant, indeed, with an incredibly wide range of benefits to offer. The entire plant is of use to human beings, with solid environmental benefits as a bonus.

Hemp is Not a Drug

From nutrition to building material, from clothing to biofuel, from ship sails to bioplastic - you name it and some part of the hemp plant can yield that. But yes, this is not an omnipotent divine plant. It cannot give you a high.

Why was the plant banned then? By an act of human omission, or commission, or both. The only crime of hemp is that it belongs to the same plant species as the drug cannabis or marijuana: Cannabis Sativa L.This species relationship led to its criminalization.

The narcotic cannabis has high levels of a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known simply as THC. This is the psychoactive chemical that gives marijuana its mind-altering capacity. THC presence in cannabis varies from 7.5 to 10 percent, or even higher.

THC presence in hemp, on the other hand, is limited to 0.3 percent or lower. That is why hemp lacks the psychotropic property of its cannabis kin. A failure to note this vital difference had led to hemp being declared contraband.

A plant in human use since ancient times dropped out of human initiatives, probably causing a lot of harm to the environment in the process. With the recent revival of its legitimacy, the multifaceted benefits of hempseed sare resurfacing in human discourse.

Hemp and Oxygen Production

One of the many claims being made about hemp relates to the plant’s capacity to produce oxygen. There are claims that one acre of hemp can produce oxygen equal to 25 acres of forest. How true is the claim?

The response to this apparently simple question is more complicated than it seems. It has to do with several different factors that we need to systematically understand. A quick brush-up of the oxygen-producing process will be of help in that.

How Plants Produce Oxygen?

The simple answer is: through photosynthesis, the process plants use to produce their own food. The term photosynthesis simply means “making things with light”. Plant roots absorb water and nutrients from the ground. Some plants can absorb water from the atmosphere also.

The energy for photosynthesis comes from sunlight. Chlorophyll and carotenoids present in the green leaves of plants can absorb energy from the sun. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through invisible holes called stomata.

Then, by a series of chemical reactions the carbon dioxide is broken down and reassembled to form glucose, using the energy gathered from sunlight. Oxygen is produced as a byproduct of this process. Plants do not need the oxygen present in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis.

So, plants store a little oxygen for respiration at night when no sunlight is there. They release the rest. So, the two important factors in oxygen production are the leaves with chlorophyll and carotenoids, and carbon dioxide absorption capacity.

More Leaves, More Oxygen?

It sure seems so. Since oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis, the leaves with the chlorophyll and carotenoids should be the most important plant part in the process. Big plants with more leaf area and a higher number of leaves should produce more oxygen than any smaller plant.

Hemp is definitely a much smaller plant with a smaller leaf area and considerably less number of leaves. So, it becomes difficult to believe that hemp can actually produce more oxygen than trees.

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Not Quite So Simple

In that simple assumption above, we forget the other important factor in the oxygen production process: carbon dioxide. It is the oxygen molecules in that gas that combines with the excess water inside the plant body to produce oxygen. So higher carbon dioxide absorption capacity is also a critical factor.

There is enough evidence to demonstrate that hemp plants have exceptionally high carbon dioxide capacity. According to several scientific articles, one hectare of densely-grown hemp for fiber use can absorb 22 tons of carbon dioxide.

Combined with the possibility of growing two crops a year, it means hemp grown in one hectare can absorb 44 tons of carbon dioxide in a year. This high carbon absorption capacity contributes considerably to the humble hemp’s oxygen-producing ability.

From another perspective, botanists inform us that plants with C4 photosynthesis are more efficient in carbon dioxide absorption than their C3 counterparts. This difference is because of a process called photorespiration in C3 plants which makes them breathe even while sunlight is available.

Breathing in light is different from the normal pattern and plants emit carbon dioxide when they breathe, not oxygen. Hemp is C4, with no photorespiration. That also makes it more efficient in oxygen emission.

Other Significant Variables

The photosynthesis rate of plants decreases as they age. Big trees with considerable leaf area and richness in the number of leaves also live much longer than hemp. However, their capacity to produce oxygen decreases with age as the photosynthesis process slows down.

Hemp, on the other hand, is a fast-growing plant that can grow up to four meters in about 100 days. It then gets harvested before it has had time to grow old. The capacity of hemp to produce oxygen does not deteriorate, therefore. This is another critical factor that makes hemp cultivation more effective than agroforestry in oxygen production.

What Does It All Add Up To?

As per scientific publications, a tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year and can trap up to one ton of the gas by the time it is 40 years old. A direct comparison is not possible, therefore.

There are other complications also since the exact variables are not clearly defined. There is no known study to date that has actually measured the oxygen produced by a hectare of trees, to compare it with the capacity of hemp. However, evidence suggests that the scale is tilted towards hemp.

One acre of hemp will produce more oxygen than one acre of apple trees, all other variables remaining the same. That alone can make hemp the winner in this debate.


Author Bio

Vishal Vivek, Co-founded Hemp foundation, the company deals in hemp clothing wholesale, to increase awareness about the most misunderstood plant on the planet. He believes that we can fight climate change, water crisis and plastic pollution with Hemp.Times Group recognized him as a legendary entrepreneur and published his biography in "I Did IT- Vol 2" at the age of just 30!

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Does hemp produce more oxygen than trees? ›

There is no known study to date that has actually measured the oxygen produced by a hectare of trees, to compare it with the capacity of hemp. However, evidence suggests that the scale is tilted towards hemp. One acre of hemp will produce more oxygen than one acre of apple trees, all other variables remaining the same.

Why is hemp better than trees? ›

In addition to being 10 times stronger than wood fiber, hemp is four times stronger than cotton. Industrial hemp is lighter and less expensive to process than wood. One acre of hemp planted for 40 years has 400% more usable fiber than one acre of trees through their 40-year lifecycle.

Does hemp absorb more CO2 than trees? ›

Industrial hemp has been scientifically proven to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop and is therefore the ideal carbon sink. In addition, the CO2 is permanently bonded within the fiber that is used for anything from textiles, to paper and as a building material.

Is hemp more efficient than trees? ›

The production of hemp paper absorbs more carbon dioxide than tree paper because hemp plants absorb more carbon dioxide than trees grown for paper do. In fact, hemp has been scientifically proven to absorb more CO2 than any forest or industrial crop.

Does hemp convert CO2 to oxygen? ›

Industrial hemp uses solar energy to convert atmospheric CO2 to hydrocarbons and water. In addition, O2 procuded. This absorptive CO2 is released back into the atmosphere only when the hemp is composted or burned.

Does hemp purify the air? ›

Hemp removes pollution from the air

Airborne pollution is one of the most devastating types of pollution for human (and animal) health. But hemp is here to save the day! Hemp absorbs an incredible amount of carbon dioxide and can also remove other pollutants from the air.

What plant produces the most oxygen in the world? ›

One type of phytoplankton, Prochlorococcus, releases countless tons of oxygen into the atmosphere. It is so small that millions can fit in a drop of water. Prochlorococcus has achieved fame as perhaps the most abundant photosynthetic organism on the planet.

What plant releases the most oxygen? ›

What are the Highest Oxygen-Producing Plants? The highest oxygen-producing plants include Boston ferns, weeping figs, aloe vera, spider plants, gerbera daisies, areca palms, peace lilies, golden pathos, money plants, and snake plants.

What plant absorbs the most CO2? ›

Bamboo: THE solution against greenhouse gases

Indeed, thee bamboo absorbs 5 times more greenhouse gases and produces 35% more oxygen than an equivalent volume of trees! It has a very important CO2 retention capacity since one hectare of bamboo grove can capture up to 60 tons of CO2 each year.

Does hemp remove carbon from the atmosphere? ›

“The production of Hemp is carbon negative, which means it absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere during its growth than is emitted by the equipment used to harvest, process and transport it.”

Is hemp good for climate change? ›

Research suggests hemp is twice as effective as trees at absorbing and locking up carbon, with 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of hemp reckoned to absorb 8 to 22 tonnes of CO2 a year, more than any woodland.

Why don't we use hemp instead of trees? ›

Costs. Production costs are about four times higher than for paper from wood since the infrastructure for using hemp is underdeveloped. For the most part, hemp paper is used for specialty applications and not for mass applications such as printing, writing and packaging paper.

Why don't we use hemp instead of wood? ›

Compared to wood fiber, hemp offers a four to five times longer fiber, which results in very strong paper. Unfortunately, the paper industry's processes have been optimized to turn wood pulp into paper and so do not work well with the extra-long hemp fibers.

What is the weakness of hemp? ›

Wrinkles Easily: Hemp tends to wrinkle easily. As a result, this fabric requires extra care when washing and drying. Cost: The price of these fabrics is a major disadvantage. One of the reasons for this is that hemp fabric is not as mainstream as other fabrics like cotton.

What does hemp do to your lungs? ›

CBD and its impacts on a protective peptide show that the cannabinoid may reduce lung inflammation and damage. Findings from a recent study reported that cannabidiol (CBD) may improve lung structure and create a potent anti-inflammatory effect through the regulation of apelin, a natural peptide.

What plant is best at converting CO2 to oxygen? ›

Pothos is the best indoor plant for oxygen because of its high rate of conversion. It was able to show a 6.5 percent decreased carbon dioxide in an experiment, where the CO2 content was reduced from 454PPM to 425PPM, resulting in higher oxygen levels.

What plant converts CO2 to oxygen the fastest? ›

1. Pothos. Pothos is the number one indoor plant for oxygen due to its fast conversion rate. In an experiment, it was able to show a 6.5% reduction in carbon dioxide, where it decreased the CO2 content from 454PPM to 425PPM, thereby increasing the oxygen levels.

Is hemp used to clean up Chernobyl? ›

Since 1998, hemp has been successfully used to remove soil contaminants from agricultural lands that were heavily contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster [56]. In 2008, in an Italian farming region contaminated by a nearby steel plant, hemp was grown to leach pollutants, such as dioxin, from the soil [57].

Does hemp deplete the soil? ›

As with most commercial crops, industrial cultivation of hemp depletes the soil of key fertilizing compounds such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Producing all that biomass requires significant inputs of water and runs the same risks of soil erosion as other industrial plants.

What does hemp do to the soil? ›

The Benefits of Hemp

As a cover crop, hemp enhances soil health by shading out weeds—reducing the need for synthetic herbicides—and adding diversity to crop rotations, improving soil health. Hemp is also versatile in the market, with thousands of uses for its seed, oil, and fiber.

Can toilet paper be made from hemp? ›

Hemp toilet paper is, as the name implies, toilet paper made out of hemp. The process of turning hemp into toilet paper is pretty straightforward, and a lot less toxic than making conventional toilet paper. To make hemp toilet paper, after being harvested, hemp cellulose fibers are turned into a pulp.

Why is the hemp plant illegal? ›

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970

Per Purdue University, the CSA named Hemp as a Schedule 1 controlled substance due to it being a cannabis derivative, categorizing it alongside illicit drugs like heroin and ecstasy.

Is hemp the next big thing? ›

As an agricultural commodity, hemp is booming. According to the 2018 U.S. Hemp Crop Report, hemp more than tripled in acreage across the country, fueled in large part by the federal legalization included in the 2018 farm bill.

What plants do astronauts use for oxygen? ›

Plants can metabolize carbon dioxide in the air to produce valuable oxygen, and can help control cabin humidity.
Plants grown in space include:
  • Arabidopsis (Thale cress)
  • Bok choy (Tokyo Bekana) (Chinese cabbage)
  • Super dwarf wheat.
  • Apogey wheat.
  • Brassica rapa.
  • Rice.
  • Tulips.
  • Kalanchoe.

How many plants are needed to sustain one human? ›

According to scientists, one leaf produces around five millilitres of oxygen per hour. So, it will need around 300-500 plants to provide oxygen to one person.

Which plant gives more oxygen outdoor? ›

Peepal Tree

One of the most popular trees that emit oxygen in the air is the Peepal tree. While most trees release oxygen only in the presence of sunlight, peepal tree emits some amount of oxygen at night too.

What plant helps you sleep? ›

A valerian plant will look beautiful in your bedroom thanks to its small pink and white flowers. Aside from the sweet scent, valerian plants have been used for centuries to help with sleep problems including insomnia. Inhaling the scent of valerian root has been shown to induce sleep and improve the quality of sleep.

Which plant absorbs oxygen at night? ›

Tulsi is another name in the list of plants that give out oxygen at night. The leaves of tulsi emit a characteristic scent that can soothe nerves and help reduce anxiety. Having a tulsi plant in the home, balcony or near the window allows to sleep better at night.

Which plant give us oxygen at night? ›

Aloe Vera. The Aloe Vera is among the most famous and best-loved house plants that release oxygen at night. While looking like a cactus, Aloe Vera is a member of the Asphodelaceae family.

How much CO2 does hemp absorb? ›

According to a Cambridge University researcher, a hectare of hemp can absorb between 8 – 15 tonnes of CO2. In comparison, forests capture 2 – 6 tonnes only depending on the type of trees, region, etc.

What tree cleans the air the best? ›

Summary: Conifers are generally better than broad-leafed trees at purifying air from pollutants. A new study shows that the best trees for air purification depend on the type of pollutant involved. Conifers are generally better than broad leafed trees at purifying air from pollutants.

What plant eats the most carbon? ›

The live oak is the most efficient carbon capturing tree, it being able to sequester some 10,994 CO2 equivalent over its lifetime.

What naturally removes carbon from the atmosphere? ›

1) Trees and Forests

Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air naturally, and trees are especially good at storing CO2 removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis.

How much CO2 does 1 acre of hemp absorb? ›

Every acre of hemp can potentially store 2-3 tons of carbon in the soil, Dobson said. If you multiply that by 3.67, an acre of hemp can potentially remove 7.34-11.01 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Is hemp stronger than carbon fiber? ›

But, surprisingly, hemp fibres have greater tensile strength than even carbon fibre. Graphene is another material with incredible tensile strength. Discovered in 2004, this form of carbon has a thickness equivalent to an atom. In addition, it is about 100 times stronger than steel.

What are the negative environmental impacts of hemp? ›

Performance areas where industrial hemp may have higher average environmental costs than comparable raw materials result from the use of water and fertilizer during the growth stage, greater frequency of soil disturbance (erosion) during cultivation compared to forests and some field crops, and relatively high water ...

Why hemp is the future? ›

Hemp is often cited by sustainable fashion advocates as a fibre of the future because it can drive positive outcomes for the land where it's planted. In the right region, it grows with minimal inputs like fertilisers and pesticides, and without irrigation.

What are 5 ways hemp can save the planet? ›

The widespread use of industrial hemp could result in numerous environmental benefits, including but not limited to: (1) less reliance on fossil fuels, especially from foreign sources; (2) more efficient use of energy; (3) less long-term atmospheric build-up of carbon dioxide; (4) forest conservation; (5) agricultural ...

Why did America stop using hemp? ›

Federal policies, tightened by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, virtually banned the production of industrial hemp during the war on drugs. According to an industry group, "the 1970 Act abolished the taxation approach [of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act] and effectively made all cannabis cultivation illegal".

Is hemp actually good for the environment? ›

Hemp is an amazing plant. It uses a fraction of the water needed to grow cotton, every part is useful and it absorbs more carbon dioxide per hectare than other crops and most trees. Cultivated for thousands of years, the eco-friendly plant can be used in food products, biofuels, textiles and even building materials.

Was the Bible written on hemp paper? ›

In 1456, Johannes Gutenberg came out with the printing press. The first book, the Bible – ironically enough – was printed on hemp. The Gutenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper.

Does hemp produce oxygen? ›

The capacity of hemp to produce oxygen does not deteriorate, therefore. This is another critical factor that makes hemp cultivation more effective than agroforestry in oxygen production.

Why is hemp the best? ›

The vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in hemp seeds can provide some significant health benefits. For example, hemp oil is rich in vitamin E, which is useful for helping keep your immune system functioning. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping reduce free radicals that can cause cell damage in your body.

Is an acre of hemp equal to 4 acres of trees? ›

One acre of hemp is roughly equal to four acres of trees. To grow one acre of full-grown hemp takes about 20 weeks, whereas growing one acre of full-grown trees takes 20 years.

Can hemp replace trees? ›

Hemp Grows Very Fast.

Compare that to trees which take 20-80 years to grow sufficiently to use for paper making. So theoretically one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four to ten acres of trees over a 20-year cycle.

Is hemp a nitrogen fixer? ›

Because it is a legume, sunn hemp pulls atmospheric nitrogen and puts it into the soil – a process called nitrogen fixation. This leaves the soil with more nitrogen (a necessary nutrient for crops) than before the sunn hemp was grown.

What plant absorbs the most CO2 per acre? ›

Bamboo: THE solution against greenhouse gases

Indeed, thee bamboo absorbs 5 times more greenhouse gases and produces 35% more oxygen than an equivalent volume of trees! It has a very important CO2 retention capacity since one hectare of bamboo grove can capture up to 60 tons of CO2 each year.

Why is hemp not widely used? ›

Lack of Subsidies

Many countries, including China and Canada, have invested heavily in hemp. Unfortunately, the United States has not yet subsidized hemp production. Without this level of government investment, it is unlikely that hemp will replace other materials on a large scale in the near future.


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