I can vividly remember this even though it's been a few years! I was giving a slide show presentation in a small village in Lower Austria. My two companions Christian Frenkenberger and Martin Weber were also with me that evening. Christian produces organic hemp milk and Martin is a bio-energy practitioner - though a very special and extraordinary one. Again and again I am surprised by what he can feel and sense. His access to the inner voice that lives inside all of us but that we have mostly forgotten how to use is very pronounced. When he eventually held a bottle of Frenky's drinking hemp in his hands, he was very moved all of a sudden. He bowed repeatedly and asked Christian: "What drink is this?" Christian explained: "I take organic hemp and turn it into sprouts, which invigorates the hemp seed even further. Then I press the hemp sprouts at a low temperature and that's how I make this drinking hemp." Martin replied: "This is the best food I have ever held in my hands, it contains all vital ingredients that we humans need!"

A few years later I was giving another lecture. My lecture tour had a very tight schedule and I was completely overexerted. One evening I was in bed with a fever of 40 degrees Celsius and didn't know how I was to survive the workshop next day. Still feverish, I travelled to Salzburg the next morning and staggered exhaustedly to the podium in the lecture hall. All of a sudden, I saw a few bottles of Frenky's miraculous drinking hemp next to my podium. I asked Jakob, who had organised the lecture, how these had gotten there and he said: "Christian Frenkenberger heard that you were here today and dropped off the hemp milk for you!" Wow, I was touched! I immediately drank one of the small bottles and felt my strength gradually return. The workshop started and all the while I kept drinking hemp milk. With time, I began feeling stronger and stronger and even though the question round had been going on for over two hours at that point, I was suddenly full of energy: the fever had gone entirely and my vigour had returned! Then I remembered what Martin had said years ago! He was right and I had felt it too now!

But isn't it true that we sometimes need more than one sign in life to integrate something into our everyday lives? A few days ago, Simone and I followed the tracks of the hemp through the Wein- and Waldviertel (wine and wooded regions). I took home a few bags of peeled hemp seeds and hemp tea from the HNV Hanfnuss company. Now that I am sitting in my garden and write this travel diary, I am drinking hemp tea. I am surprised how wonderful hemp tea is: I am writing these texts with unbelievable ease, the sentences are practically pouring out of me and my mental clarity helps me to immediately understand all coherencies. Now I have finally got it and integrated it into my life: to me, hemp truly is a miracle plant!

Simone smells a male hemp plant. After it pollinated the female plant, it dries and dies.

Together with Johann Schmidt in the hemp field

Female hemp plants

Hemp tea

Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. One differentiates between industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa subsp. Sativa), whose leaves contain less than 0.2% THC (5- tetrahydrocannabinol), and Indian hemp (Cannabis sativa subsp. Indica), which contains about 15% THC. The THC content influences people's brainpower and their movement sequences, which is why the cultivation of Indian hemp is prohibited. For textile and paper production, however, as well as for food, it is allowed to cultivate industrial hemp - at least since 1995, as that is when the hemp prohibition law, issued in the US in the 1930s, was overturned. In the interwar period, this law was issued for economic reasons, because hemp was a big competition for the pharmaceutical companies and the cotton, material and paper industry. Hemp could easily replace 50% of all licensed medicines, it's a lot more durable than cotton in textile production and, contrary to cotton, it can get along without pesticides or irrigation - whereas 25% of all used herbicides are used for the worldwide cotton production. Hemp could also instantly revolutionise petrochemistry, because oils, washing detergents and cosmetics can be made from hemp oil and as insulating material, hemp could replace the ecologically harmful polystyrene. Hemp shives mixed with clay and sand make a perfect sound insulation for the house and, in addition, create a pleasant indoor climate because they regulate the humidity. The leaves can be turned into tea, the blossoms into syrup and beer, the hemp seeds, also called hemp nuts, are a wonderful food.

Interior plaster with hemp shives

Levi's trousers

Hemp fibres

Levi's trousers were originally made from hemp and that's why the manufacturer advertised on the logo of the jeans that even two horses couldn't manage to tear the trousers apart. Nowadays Levi's jeans are made from cotton, why is why they are far less durable than they used to be. Because of the similarity between the hemp protein and the body's own protein, the human body can easily turn hemp protein into the body's own protein. Due to the high-quality fatty acid pattern and all eight amino acids necessary for the production of the body's own proteins, hemp seeds make a sensational contribution to the daily nutrition. Additional to the high proportion and balanced spectrum of vital omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, hemp nut oil contains, like breast milk but as the only edible oil, 2 - 3 % gamma linolenic acid. This fatty acid plays an important part in the build-up of the immune system.

Hemp oil counteracts high blood pressure, as well as heart and circulatory disorders because of the omega-3 fatty acids and the gamma linolenic acid it contains, it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities, helps with the healing of wounds, is effective against skin diseases and dry skin and eases inflammations of mucous membranes, as well as ear, throat and nose ailments. Hemp seeds have a very high proportion of iron (100 grams cover the daily requirement), they contain magnesium, calcium, potassium and secondary plant products - the latter bind free radicals and thus protect people against harmful pollutants. Hemp seeds have a cholesterol-lowering effect - to name but a few positive qualities of hemp.

Hemp seeds (unpeeled)


The oil press and hemp oil

The great thing about cultivating hemp is that it can do entirely without pesticides because it doesn't have any natural enemies. It fights weeds with shadowing caused by its own growth. Because it grows taproots of a length of up to 2 metres, it is resistant to longer dry spells. Hemp requires no crop rotation and hardly any fertilisation. This is why hemp can do without chemicals in conventional farming!

Since 2004, hemp has once again been extensively cultivated in Austria. By now there are 600 hectares, though 90% grow in Lower Austria. But that is still not a lot, compared to earlier: During the Austrian monarchy, more than 45,000 hectares of hemp were cultivated in Austria at the end of the 19th century.

The hemp-peeling machine

The hemp-peeling machine

The company HNV Hanfnuss in Heidenreichstein in the northern Waldviertel has been annually delivering about 1,000 kilograms of organic hemp seeds to Zotter for the past seven years. In the most recent years, a considerable increase could be registered: The hemp farmers work together and support regional economic cycles. More and more hemp products are being offered: from hemp seeds to hemp oil, to peeled hemp, hemp tea, hemp pasta, hemp milk, hemp beer and muesli. Hemp fibres and hemp shives are also often used for insulating materials, ropes and in the textile industry. Hemp becomes more and more important because more and more people realise what a great plant it is!

the peeled hemp seed

the peeled hemp seed

The peel of hemp seeds

Marianne Houschko, head of HNV Hanfnuss

A return to hemp would revolutionise the world: people would be a lot healthier if they would introduce hemp into their daily meals, hemp could reduce our dependency on mineral oil and on pharmaceutical companies, it would create more ecological living spaces, could reduce the clearing of woodland for the purposes of paper production, could replace pesticide and water-intensive cotton and would thus instantly contribute to us humans finally living in harmony with the Earth. Are we ready for that? ... I will now drink a cup of hemp tea and continue working on this vision. Who will join me?

Learn more about the Zotter world trip...