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Hemp vs. flax: similarities and differences

Both hemp and flax are wonderful, strong, eco-friendly bast fibers. This article looks at the differences as well as their identical properties.

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Cotton and synthetic fibers such as nylon and spandex are so readily available that many have forgotten hemp and linen.

This material was used for thousands of years in the manufacture of clothing until cotton plantations in the United States brought it out of the spotlight. The progress of chemistry, after World War II, was the final nail in the coffin.

Recently, there has been a revival of sorts. Unusual uses for flax and hemp are being explored.

Although both have a long history and were popular long before the modern era, there are significant differences between them.

I make a comparison that covers every aspect thoroughly.

A brief history of flax and hemp

Linen is a wonderful textile material made from the flax plant.

The flax fibers are processed to provide the material of linen, which is used to manufacture the luxurious and flexible white tablecloth and bed linen.

Linen suits were very popular in the early days of the 20th century, but have lost their popularity since the advent of polyester threads.

do you know The first evidence of flax, found in southeastern Europe, is 30,000 years old? It goes back to the Stone Age when Fred Flintstone lived!

Cannabis does not have to be outdone. It has a history that predates agriculture. Evidence of cannabis use was found, in 5000 BC, in China.

It was also a very popular crop until it was replaced by cotton in the 20th century. Now hemp is a raw material for making ropes and bags.

Hemp and flax are bark fibers

Bark fibers are obtained from the stem. Specifically, it is the bark or rind of the plant that provides the fibre.

On the other hand, cotton comes from the ball that grows around the seed of the cotton plant.


The fiber originates from the Cannabis sativa plant.

To be authentic, I should mention that cannabis is generally associated with smoking marijuana. However, what most people don’t realize is that it is a different type of cannabis plant.

Just as man’s best friend comes in all shapes and sizes (think Dobermans and Dachshunds), the cannabis plant can also contain various amounts of THC – Tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive substance that produces an altered mental state.

Industrial hemp contains a minute amount of THC and anyone would need to smoke a truckload to get high.

Its cultivation is legal in many countries, including the USA (which continued until the passage of the 2018 Agriculture Act).

cannabis plant


The material is made from the fibers of the plant Linum usitatissimum known as flax. Its seeds produce the oil under pressure known as linseed oil. The stem is used in the textile industry.

Linen is exceptionally strong and can absorb more liquid than its weight.

The word “linens” is usually used to refer not to materials but to textile products used in bedrooms and kitchens. The material has traditionally been used to make bed sheets, towels, and table covers.

A well-folded linen handkerchief was once the standard part of any well-dressed man’s outfit.

flax plants

What are the differences between flax and hemp?

  1. Differences during lab tests
  2. microscopy

Hemp and flax look almost the same. To the extent that It is difficult to distinguish between them unless they are examined under a microscope.

A cross-section study reveals that while flax fibers have sharp ends, hemp fibers have dull ends. Lumens of the latter are wide and rarely circular.

  1. swelling tests

Although the fibers look alike, they have different cellular structures. It is best to prove this with a swelling test.

When both are immersed in a dark blue solution of copper hydroxide in aqueous ammonia, the results are varied.

Linen swells fairly quickly. The swelling is also uniform. Cannabinoids take longer to absorb the reagent solution.

  1. dyeing tests

Hemp contains a higher proportion of lignin and non-cellulose materials. This part is the most receptive to dyes.

Adding cannabis to a solution of phloroglucin causes it to turn a dark pink colour. When the experiment with cyanine is repeated, the color of the fibers turns blue-green.

However, none of these coloring agents affect flax fibers. remain colorless.

  1. Twist Tests

The fibers turn in different directions when dried.

In this test, samples of both are soaked in distilled water for a few minutes. Then it is dried by placing it on a slightly hot plate.

When dry, the flax rotates to the right and hemp to the left.

cannabis processing

  1. Differences in farming

Hemp is one of the easiest crops to grow. It is remarkably powerful and the presence of THC means that it is naturally resistant to most insects.

Hemp also has a higher yield per acre, as the crop can be packed as densely as sugarcane. 5,000 pounds of hemp can be grown on an acre. Compared to that, 1,200 pounds of flax is pretty lean.

The roots of the cannabis plant are long and penetrate deep into the soil. They are able to extract nutrients from deep within the soil.

As a result, the topsoil is never depleted. This means that hemp can be grown year after year. But flax can be grown at most for five years before the soil is depleted.

Growing flax is not without some advantages, too. Whereas hemp requires 160 pounds (80 kilograms) of nitrogen per hectare, flax needs half the amount.

It also needs half the amount of potassium and phosphorous.

Less expenses for farmers make it profitable.

  1. Differences in biodiversity

a Study to find the friendliness of biodiversity of hemp was found to rank very high. The crop ranked fifth after alfalfa, timber, oilseeds and hemp.

Linen did not perform well and was ranked ninth.

The study focused on several aspects looking at how the crop affects natural justice.

Some of the factors that are easy to associate with ordinary people are:

  • monocropping control (millions of acres are used for wheat, rice and a few other things)
  • If the crop is preserving wild species (jojoba is a great alternative to sperm whale oil)
  • Water consumption (sugar cane and maize are very thirsty crops)
  • Use of pesticides (vineyards, apples and cherries are the worst culprits)
  • Rooting effect (alfalfa and tomatoes have deep roots that maintain the topsoil)
  • Crops used to feed livestock (sorghum, oats, barley)
  • Percentage of the crop used (a large proportion of vegetables are wasted during transportation)

..and much more

Biodiversity is an important factor in maintaining ecological balance. Without it, we are in danger.

table linen

Hemp and flax – fibers they have a lot in common

The lab shows how similar they are.

  • Almost the same as cellulose content at 80%.
  • The fibers share the same density at approximately 1500 kg per cubic meter.
  • They have identical flexibility.
  • The same length of primary fibers (average 5 to 55 mm). However, this can vary depending on the region in which they are grown.
  • Roughly the same moisture retention with hemp at 12% versus 13% with flax.
  • Almost identical accuracy.

But even if we look outside the lab, they show quite similar characteristics.

  • They can be used to create a long-lasting, soft fabric.
  • The material gets softer with use. It can be folded and stacked easily.
  • They breathe and get rid of sweat quickly.
  • Being absorbent, it is easy to print using cheap technology.
  • Both are biodegradable and compostable within a few years.
  • They are excellent as clothing and keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Hemp edges outside the linen

Both are equally good.

But there is the first among equals, which is hemp.

Why do I say that?

I’ve used a lot of hemp clothes in the past few years. Hemp jackets, T-shirts, shorts – you name it I’ve worn them.

It is much more comfortable.

The negative point of linen is that it flakes easily. For anyone who travels a bit, it’s hard to end up in clothes that look like they’ve passed on a shredder.

Since no one is bothered by the wrinkling of the towels, flax fibers are best for them. When it comes to clothing, hemp is clearly a more satisfying product.

In my eyes, as a nature lover, the deciding factor is the reduced use of cannabis insecticides.

Pesticides in food are emerging as a critical factor in the development of cancer. We’ve had enough problems without adding hazardous materials in our rivers.

The last point is that hemp can be used to make bioplastics. We are drowning in a sea of ​​plastic.

Two million single-use plastic bags are used every minute (Throw away after a few minutes).

Bioplastics are the future, and hemp is the best raw material for this. Hemp plastic is already used to make everything from bowls and pens to auto parts.

The only thing holding it back is the complexity of the production process. In a few years, scientists are sure to solve this and make it readily available.

Linen is good but in my eyes hemp bases.












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