Hemp is a remarkably multifaceted plant that has been extremely significant in the history of humankind.
The history of hemp is an interesting one, and you’ll need to go back thousands of years to get a full picture.
Why you may think that hemp is relatively new and just used since the 1970s by hippies, nothing could be further from the truth.
To know more about its history, present, uses and future, let us take a journey to the past and find out its origin and the journey of hemp
What is the history of hemp?
The plant happens to be the oldest and first cultivated agriculture crop in the world (with the start of human agriculture around 10,000 years back). Its humble origin dates to 8000 BCE in Asian regions (Modern day China and Taiwan.
A classic plant, the oldest remains found to date happen to be hemp cords used in records as well as pottery that reveal the use of hemp seed and oil in China as food and hemp cloth in modern-day Iraq and neighboring regions (ancient Mesopotamia).
These remote discoveries point to hemp’s likely significance in the primitive forms of transcontinental trade.
Having been cultivated by the Ancient Mesopotamians (present-day Iran and Iraq) as a textile fiber in 8,000 BC, hemp is the most ancient example of human industry. It has a close resemblance to “Tree of Life,” regarded to have been passed down from the “Gods” to the primitive Sumerians as written in the relics.
By the 2nd millennium BCE, hemp moved eastward to Japan and the Korean Peninsula from China, and southward to the Indian subcontinent. Compilers of Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda rubbed the “Sacred Grass” (one of the five holy plants of ancient India). The plant made way to ancient Egypt (with evidence of hemp cloth found from Pharaoh Akhenaten’s tomb) by 1200 BCE.
How did hemp become so popular in history?
Hemp products trade reached across Asia, North Africa and eastern Mediterranean (800 BCE-200 BCE). In the 2nd or 1st century BCE, ancient Chinese craftsmen made paper from hemp. A trusted safe-keeper for sacred Buddhist texts and primitive medical journals by the year 300 by Mediterranean Basin scribes (200 BCE –500).
- Hemp reached modern-day Europe by spreading across the Eurasian region – The plant started being used for rope and cordage from Russia (southern Russia), Greece, Spain and the British Isles (500-1000). Hemp found its way southwards into sub-Saharan Africa.
- Mandated as a legal crop – Christopher Columbus and his crew’s three ships were made from hemp fibers (thus giving hemp a discovering role in the rediscovery of the America—1492). King Henry VIII of England made it mandatory for English farmers to grow hemp and fined those who did not grow it (1533). At Jamestown, the 1st permanent English settlement in the Americas, farmers grew hemp for making sails, ropes and rugged clothing (1606-1616). Farmers across all the colonies were mandated by law to cultivate hemp as a staple crop by century-end (1632—1700).
- Hemp and early America—In 1776, hemp paper was used to draft the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Abraham Lincoln used hemp seed oil for fueling lamps at his home in 1840.
Hemp in the 20th century
Highs and lows for American Hemp—A report by USDA (US Department of Agriculture) in the year 1916 claimed that hemp produced four times the pulp produced by trees. However, the year 1937 saw a big blow to the soaring popularity of Hemp with Congress passing the Marihuana Tax Act leading to heavy taxes on all types of cannabis, including hemp. This led to a massive fall in hemp production.
The passing of yet another year brought a ray of hope for the Americans feeling crushed under the Great Depression. An article in Popular Mechanics applauded the cannabis plant as the “billion-dollar crop” having suitability for around 25,000 Industrial products.
Hemp in Kentucky
Historically in the US, Kentucky was the greatest producer of hemp during the early years which made it a popular hemp farming area.
The 1970s saw a ban of hemp across the US, however, during the 19th and 20th centuries this amazing plant was one of the more popular crops.
Now that the 2018 Hemp Farming Bill has been passed, hemp farming in Kentucky has kicked off again and production is well and truly underway to meet a demand in the market.
Back in the early days of the 18th and 19th century, almost three-quarters of the US hemp crop came from Kentucky. Now that the farming is re-legalized the industry is picking up however it does have some hurdles to get over thanks to cheaper imported hemp from Asia.
The abolishment of hemp farming in the US hit Kentucky hard and meant that the abolishment of the plant was prohibited for almost 30 years. The industrialization of the plant in the last few years has meant the industry can now recover.
Now that Kentucky is able to reignite the hemp farming industry in the state, the future is bright for the local farmers who choose to grow this hugely beneficial wonder crop.
Recognition and demise of hemp
Henry Ford built a ten-times stronger experimental car body than steel using hemp fiber in 1942.
The same year witnessed initiation of the “Hemp for Victory” program by the USDA that resulted in hemp production to the tune of 150,000 acres.
In 1957, the last commercial hemp fields were harvested in Wisconsin fields. Hemp was declared as unlawful Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970.
A comeback for hemp
The US, however, started importing food-grade hemp oil and seed in 1998.
2007 saw first hemp licenses to be granted to North Dakota’s two farmers in over five decades.
Also, the Farm Bill signed by President Obama in 2014 gave authority to research institutes to begin piloting hemp farming.
The US government had introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in the year 2015 although it is still awaiting its clearance.
The passing of the Hemp Farming Act 2018 saw a new chapter has already started in human history with more advantages getting highlighted regarding the use of hemp products. Hemp based CBD can now be legally sold in the US and globally where permitted by law.
The uses of hemp
Like earlier civilizations, the invaluable plant can be used for multiple human needs, from the seeds to the roots, and the leaves.
You can eat them raw, sprouted, grounded up or in the form of dried sprout powder.
Raw leaves of this wonder plant add a delicious variety to your salads.
This multi-talented plant yields around 3-8 dry tones of fiber per acre. This comes to nearly four times the average yield of a forest. You can use it to make paper, textiles, fabrics, and ropes. And the best part of Hemp farming is that you don’t need any pesticides or chemicals.
Panacea for a host of cures
Dr. Rima A Laibow has termed CBD as the ‘the Holy Grail of Natural Medicine.’ Hemp roots offer a remedy for joints pain, arthritis, eczema and fibromyalgia. Also, they are a good source of organic compost and nutrients as well.
Being highly absorbent, Hemp leaves are quite suitable for animal bedding. They also provide compost and mulch.
Biodiesel is an excellent source for engines.
Perfect for a wide range of applications, natural biofuel is one that is exciting for the future in particular.
A natural option, this style of fuel is good for the environment and super powerful.
The last couple of years have witnessed tremendous growth of the CBD (Cannabidiol) industry.
This led to a great demand for all CBD products, and hemp, as we all know, is the primary source of CBD.
Do you know that hemp along with bamboo plays a vital role in controlling rising pollution levels of our economy? Yes.
These two forms the base for making our economy pollution free. Both these grow quite fast while emitting carbon levels equivalent to a mature tree.
One acre of hemp provides a paper equivalent to four acres of forest and that too at just half the total cost.
You get 2.5 acres of cotton from an acre of hemp with 20 times less water and minimum pesticides requirements.
It also gives us a better product since it takes lesser time for growing and considerably reduces deforestation.
The Future of Hemp
The future is promising for hemp and CBD products alike.
People buy hemp to fulfill a need to help the environment and access a strong fiber or resource.
If you have a desire to be natural and ethical, consider hemp and all of the wide range of products it creates.
Hemp is an exciting natural way to be sustainable every day. Access hemp in oil or extract, fibers, and hulled seeds, making it easy to incorporate in your life.
Whether you enjoy it in hulled form or you like it as a fiber, the hemp industry is growing and thriving.
2019 has been declared as the year of CBD and hemp legalization is a valid proof of the safety and validity of the plant globally.
Are you looking to embrace the benefits of hemp? Explore the thousands of applications of this wonderful natural plant today.
The future of hemp is bright, and there are lots of exciting ways to use this powerful, strong and beneficial plant in your everyday life.