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India-based company to offer sanitary pads made from cannabis plants

Nov 23, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

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Products touted as being rash- and itch-resistant, anti-inflammatory and 100 per cent organic

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Himalayan Hemp has set its sights on the twin goals of serving women and helping the environment by developing sanitary pads made from cannabis.

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Calling itself “the world’s first hemp co-operative focused on creating a holistic community around Indigenous cannabis hemp,” India-based Himalayan Hemp is set to produce high-quality, organic sanitary napkins (and N-95 masks, too), according to Hans India.

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The publication reports the company received a helping hand in the form of funding from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a not-for-profit established by the Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology, and will soon enter the sanitary pads market.

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“BIRAC has initiated several schemes, networks and platforms that help to bridge the existing gaps in the industry-academia innovation research and facilitate novel, high-quality affordable products development through cutting-edge technologies,” notes the agency’s website.

A listing of projects sponsored by BIRAC includes a mention of Himalayan Hemp Industries Pvt. Ltd. receiving funding for “reusable and disposable Himalayan Hemp sanitary pads by using Indigenous cannabis-hemp fibres.”

The “shop” function on Himalayan Hemp’s website notes that N-95 hemp masks are currently available in India and that “more products are coming soon.”

Back in late 2020, BioVoice reported that technology startup incubator Venture Center had invested an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding under BIRAC’s LEAP Fund for menstrual hygiene management startup, PadCare Labs. That company was said to have developed the world’s first “decentralized smokeless sanitary napkin disposal and recycling system.

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Health issues are a concern

Shreyas Papanna, project architect at Himalayan Hemp, tells Hans India that hemp plant stems “are rich in fibre” and “sanitary pads made from hemp plant fibres are completely organic and healthy.”

And the health of menstruators is potentially an issue in the country. As per Business Insider, “nearly half of even urban-based women use unhygienic methods for period protection, making them vulnerable to health issues.” The percentage is far lower, an estimated 20 per cent, for India as a whole.

Himalayan Hemp contends “existing disposable sanitary pads used by the majority of the women continue to be the major reasons for ovarian cancer, cesarian cancer, skin dermatitis, hormonal dysfunction and thyroid-based conditions.”

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A study by the Delhi-based NGO Toxics Links found the presence of phthalates and volatile organic compounds in 10 samples, six inorganic and four organic sanitary pads, according to an article published today in India Times. Study authors argued “menstruators deserve access to safe menstrual products in the market and are entitled to know about the risk related to the said exposures.”

Another study, this one published last month, determined that “for women without vaginal inflammation, the use of hemp cotton sanitary pads during menstruation can help maintain the balance of the vaginal microecology to prevent reproductive tract infections.”

Heavy environmental footprint

For the woman in India and Pakistan who do use sanitary napkins, a study from WaterAid India and Menstrual Hygiene Alliance India notes that disposable pads may take 500-plus years to decompose, per The Third Pole.

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Himalayan Hemp reports on its website that thousands of tons of related biomedical plastic are currently being diverted to waterways and landfills.

That is why the company will make pads that are both reusable and biodegradable. The products are touted on the website as being rash- and itch-resistant, anti-inflammatory, 100 per cent organic and able to control heavy flow.

Overall, Himalayan Hemp’s mission is “to create an economically viable menstrual revolution” and spread eco-caring sanitary pads through schools, colleges, NGOs and travel enthusiasts.

Ever-expanding uses for hemp despite illegality of cannabis

Hemp’s history as a usable fibre is long ranging from rope, grain bags, wagon covers and clothing to building materials, insulation, biofuels, plastic composites and insulation to body care products and health foods and even barrister wigs.

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Of course, cannabis is illegal in India, although not very tough to get. As it stands, however, the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 notes someone possessing a kilogram of cannabis can be imprisoned for six months or ordered to pay a fine, the Legal Service India E-Journal reports.

The act states the penalties for growing weed can be up to 10 years in prison, while “the production, manufacture, possession, sale, transport or import of small quantities of cannabis” can lead to a year imprisonment and a small fine upon conviction, per Cannigma.

That said, CXO Outlook reports that a few states throughout India have legalized hemp cultivation, although the crop must have less than 0.3 per cent THC. That is also the standard currently used to define industrial hemp in the U.S. and in Canada.

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Himalayan Hemp is not alone in its mission to help menstruating women and reduce the environmental footprint that sanitary pads carry.

According to Fortune, Anju Bist, co-founder and managing director of Saukhyam Pads, called the world’s first reusable menstrual pads made of banana fibres sourced from agro-waste, said that the company had sold 500,000-plus pads of that date in India and other markets.

“Five years ago, when we first started doing menstrual health education workshops for teenage girls across India, reusable pads were an unfamiliar concept. Not so today,” Bist told the publication, estimating the products have eliminated an estimated 43,750 tons of non-biodegradable menstrual waste.

The Feminine Hygiene Products Global Market Report 2022, released in October, estimated the global feminine hygiene products market will grow from US$25.37 billion in 2021 to US$26.65 billion in 2022.

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with feedback and story tips at thegrowthop@postmedia.com

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