Yo, what’s up folks? It’s your boy Dan, and today we’re talking about one of the OG plants that has been around since the dawn of time – HEMP. Yeah, you heard me right, HEMP – the same plant that has been making waves in the health and wellness industry lately. But did you know that hemp has been cultivated by humans since ancient times? That’s right, homies, hemp is one of the earliest plants known to mankind.
Back in the day, ancient China was where it all started. Xia Xiao Zheng, one of the oldest agricultural treatises in the world, listed hemp as one of the main crops in ancient China. The Chinese learned that they could use hemp stalks to make fibre for paper, rope, clothing, and more. The first hemp-derived ropes and paper are believed to have emerged in China around 2,800 BCE. Hemp cultivation is believed to have started much earlier, as far back as 8,000 BCE.
According to the US Hemp Museum, hemp became so important to ancient Chinese society that China called itself “the land of hemp and mulberry,” the latter of which was used for the production of silk. Great ancient Chinese texts like The Book of Songs and The Annals both list hemp as one of the six main crops planted by the Chinese.
The Chinese referred to hemp as “ma” (麻). Translations of this vary, with some sources suggesting it means “plant with two parts,” alluding to the fact that cannabis plants can be male or female. In medical texts, cannabis and hemp are sometimes referred to as “da ma” (大麻), which some sources either translate as “great hemp” or “great numbness” depending on the context.
The Chinese also used cannabis and hemp as medicines. The practices of ancient Chinese medicine are attributed to Emperor Shennong, a mythical emperor who is said to have introduced the Chinese people to herbal medicines. The best-known work credited to Shennong is the Shennong Bencaojing, an ancient book containing over 360 entries of plants and their medicinal properties.
Emperor Shennong’s work is believed to have laid down the foundation for the Pen Ts’ao—the world’s oldest pharmacopeia—which recommends cannabis for rheumatic pain, intestinal constipation, malaria, and more.
Hemp is also believed to have been brought from China to the Indian subcontinent around 2,000 BCE. Cannabis already grew naturally in regions like modern-day Pakistan, Nepal, Kazakhstan, and India. However, cannabis here had different uses.
Cannabis played a central role in religion and spirituality in India and surrounding regions. It was mentioned in various ancient texts including the Atharva Veda, which describes cannabis as one of five essential plants. According to Dr Uma Dhanabalan from Harvard University, the Vedic texts claimed cannabis could be used to improve memory, fight leprosy and much more. Cannabis was also believed to be the favourite food of the Hindu god Shiva.
Other cannabis-derived substances such as bhang (a milk drink made with cannabis), charas (a type of hand-rolled hashish), and ganja (cannabis flower) also played key roles in the religious and spiritual cultures of these regions and they still do so today.
Cannabis also has a rich history as a medicine in India. The Sushruta Samhita, an ancient Sanskrit medical text, mentions bhanga (believed to be cannabis) as a medicinal plant that can help treat phlegm, diarrhea, and inflammation. Other Indian texts reference cannabis as a painkiller, aphrodisiac and more.
From 800 to 200 BCE, hemp and hemp-derived products were at the centre of a healthy trade market across Asia that reached as far as Northern Africa and Eastern Mediterranean. By 200 BCE, cannabis and hemp had made their way to ancient Greece and even the Roman Empire. By 500 AD, hemp had spread all across mainland Europe and Asia where it was being used for rope, textiles, medicines and much more.
Hemp played a major role in discovering and colonising the New World too – namely as material used for ropes, sails and rigs on ships that first brought men and women to places like America and Australia. Hemp also played a big part in building empires during these times.
In 1553 English King Henry VIII mandated English farmers to plant hemp for empire growth fining them for failure to comply. By 1616 hemp was growing in Jamestown – the first permanent English settlement in America being used both for fuel for lamps and clothing but also ropes and rigging for ships. By 1619 Virginia Assembly mandated farmers in colonies grow hemp – this mandate is believed to be today’s first cannabis law in America.
Throughout 17th-19th centuries hemp continued sustaining a crucial role in America from being used make Old Glories through being backdrop for early documents – it’s always been at heart of American development with census recognizing roughly 8,400 hemp plantations around America by 1850s.
European nations like France Spain Switzerland were growing hemp around this time too realizing its potential as an industrial tool medicine etc.
The 20th century was an interesting time for hemp as a lot of countries around the world began restricting or criminalizing cannabis other drugs. At same time some countries (like US) resurged national hemp industries meeting demands of war but international war on drugs built up strong stigma around cannabis that extended even towards hemp eventually bringing some countries’ industries to a standstill – US industry produced its last harvest in 1957 Wisconsin.
Some other countries followed suit Germany banned hemp from 1982-1996 UK banned it much earlier from 1928-1993 Meanwhile others managed keeping their industries alive including Switzerland Romania France latter two being some biggest producers of Europe.
Today one reason why industry booming is due to rising star CBD – cannabidiol valued at $16 billion expected by 2025 within US alone with countries finally moving towards meeting demands boom.
2018 US Farm Bill removed hemp from US federal list scheduled drugs thanks huge potential CBD health wellness products so countries like US Canada many more finally moving towards rekindling age-old industry.
So there ya go folks – everything you need to know about HEMP’S rich history! Who knew one plant could