It’s time for some clarifications as well as a historical journey of hemp through society, dating back further than you might imagine…Lets start by understanding the differences between the hemp plant and the cannabis plant. By appearance the leaf structure and stem are fairly similar, which makes sense as the hemp plant is part of the cannabis family. The key characteristic in determining the difference between said plants, is that a hemp plant is one that is 0.3% THC or less. Whilst a cannabis plant contains 0.3% or more THC. Hemp might just be one of the most understated wonder plants, due to its incredibly diverse usage as well as significance in our society.
Apart from all the health benefits we know about today. The variety in which we use different parts of the plant is quite magical. From the seeds all the way down to the roots! (More on that later)
Our earliest records of cultivation date back over a staggering 12000 years. Whilst we have identified the indigenous growth of hemp across the Northern Hemisphere. Scholars believe that the first people to cultivate hemp came from Central Asia, before the medicinal benefits of hemp where actually discovered. Settlements across Central Asia where using the plant for a wide variety of other means, such as weaving clothes, making pottery, textiles as well as substituting Pyrrhus (pre paper) from hemp! It makes one wonder just what sort of ancient documentation and historically significant records where recorded using hemp.
Over the next 500 years hemp cultivation started to spread outside of Asia. Spreading through the Middle East, India and Egypt. Eventually reaching Europe in around 800BC according to historical records. This begs the question, just how much longer was it around before it was written down and documented?
In the 1600’s Native Americans were cultivating hemp which grew wild in Virginia. They used it predominantly for clothing, rugs and shoes. The US government even made hemp cultivation mandatory in order to dissociate themselves from their British Colonials, they even paid taxes in Hemp. Back in 1533, England did the same thing under Henry Vll, imposing fines on farmers if they didn’t grow it.
An article published in the magazine: Popular Mechanics, described hemp as ‘the next billion dollar cash crop’. However with the most unfortunate timing, just a year earlier, the ‘Marihuana Tax Act’ of 1937 declared the possession and cultivation of hemp illegal. Whilst medical marijuana was still legal, it became incredibly expensive to produce. Not to mention the endless regulation and endless paperwork that proceeded.
Fast forward just a couple of years and we’ve reached World War ll. Due to the arrival of the War the ‘Marihuana Tax Act’ was temporarily lifted. Even a film was produced entitled ‘Hemp For Victory”, which pointed to all the wonderful benefits of hemp. Predominantly referring to it being used for ropes and clothing materials. The farmers where also incentivised by Government Subsidies. Yet, come the end of the war and the tax act is back! Hemp production becomes illegal again, and back to square one.
What makes the Hemp plant so special is due to the fact each different part has its own special properties. Due to its fibrous texture, the hemp stalk was for a long time the predominant source (as mentioned above) for clothing and textiles used across the world. Hemp was used so commonly due to its durability and toughness. Once that was discovered, it quickly spread to become commonly used to make things such as rope and sail canvases. Perhaps the most significant part of the hemp stalk in human history was its use for documentation overtaking pyrhus. In 1916 USDA published findings to show that hemp produces 4 times more paper per acre than trees. More recently since the 1900s hemp has been used commonly in house insulation, known as hempcrete, which is mixed with sand and other such things. It’s also sustainable. All these incredibly practical uses from hemp have solely derived from the stalk.
Hemp seeds are rich in omegas as well as fibre and protein. Known to help relieve atopic skin conditions as well as muscle aches and joint pain. Like many other seeds, the hemp seed can also be used in a range of food products as well as flavourings.
The hemp seeds can be pressed, to make hemp oil. This can be used in cooking oil, body care products and even…paint.