The Long Winding History Between Humans and Hemp

While hemp seems to be the new “it” ingredient in many products these days, it was long outlawed in the majority of the world not that long ago. Even more shocking, hemp is one of the oldest plants in the world. Although it was banned for almost a century, our interest in hemp goes back even centuries further. From the oldest relic to the first sheet of paper, here is a detailed look at the history between humans and hemp.

Hemp Through the Centuries

For those who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hemp is one of the most regarded plants of all time. Its history dates back to before the calendar system we use today. Humankind’s oldest relic is a cloth woven out of hemp. Analysts estimate that this artifact is around 8,000 years old. It was discovered in a region that today’s maps would indicate to be China.

Hemp has remained a staple to the territory for centuries–artifacts 3,000 to 5,000 years old were discovered around the Yellow River. However, the first recorded use of hemp wasn’t documented until 2700 BCE (Before Common Era). An ancient text known as the Shennong contained a number of agricultural tips, including how to cultivate hemp. While Shennong referenced using herbs for medicinal properties, it only spoke of the plant in use for clothing.

However, the Hindu religious text, The Vedas, said otherwise. This influential book noted that a Hindu god, Lord Shiva, had a love for the plant. He believed it helped him relax. So, hemp became a significant part of the Lord’s diet.

While humans went west, so did the crop. This led to various societies using hemp for several reasons.

Some common uses of hemp:

  • Banished ghosts from killing Assyrian babies
  • Ear drops in Egypt
  • Funeral rituals for the Scythians

As the century was coming to a close, hemp was about to transform the way we communicate forever. The first piece of paper was created using hemp in 140 BCE. Our ancestor’s dependency on hemp was about to become more significant and more complicated.

Hemp in the New Era

Entering the Current Era (CE), hemp became one of the most important crops for humankind. Their dependency on this plant differed among regions. While some still used hemp to create textiles, rope, and paper, others were using it as a form of medicine.

Roman author and philosopher, Pliny the Elder, went into great detail about hemp between 77 and 79 CE. He stated in The Natural History, “The virtues of hemp, it is said, are so great, that an infusion of it in water will cause it to coagulate: hence it is, that if taken in water, it will arrest looseness in beasts of burden. A decoction of the root in water, relaxes contractions of the joints, and cures gout and similar maladies. It is applied raw to burns, but it must be frequently changed, so as not to let it dry.”

At this time, the Ostrogoths were in heavy trade with the Romans. Therefore, the Goths brought the export with them when they traveled to central Europe, which is currently Russia. From there, hemp exploded. Researchers found traces of hemp in what is now present-day Norway, Netherlands, Spain, and France.

With hemp in such high demand, the Royal Family ordered anyone who owned land in Britain to cultivate the crop. Queen Elizabeth even fined those who had over 60 acres of property but didn’t produce hemp. Shortly after, the Spanish Empire did the same. These laws proved how much of a commodity hemp had become. It also complicated matters when hemp entered the New World.

Hemp Crosses the Atlantic

Some historians believe that Christopher Columbus made that monumental voyage across the Atlantic with hemp onboard. Whether that’s the case or not, his discovery of the New World would change the way the world looked at hemp forever.

Hemp played a pivotal role as Easterners settled in the Americas. As colonies began to set up, areas that are now denoted as Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts accepted hemp as a form of tender.

During the 19th century, hemp saw a number of milestones reached:

  • Abraham Lincoln used hemp seed oil to power lamps.
  • The Declaration of Independence was drafted out of paper made of hemp.
  • A hemp paper mill was created.

With the heavy Spanish and British influence on the area, hemp growth became customary in the New World. In fact, the first settlement of Jamestown (now in present-day Virginia) passed a hemp law as well. If you refused to grow the crop, you would be arrested. After all, George Washington needed these hardy plants to create uniforms for his militia.

Things Between Hemp and Humans Get Complicated

In the late 1790s, Russia became the number one hemp exporter in the world. After America declared its independence from Britain, the people wanted to get goods from their friends in France. Unfortunately, American ships had to pass Britain to get to France. Therefore, the British, who were in cahoots with Russia, forced Americans to trade with British allies.

Tired of being strong-armed by Great Britain, America declared war in 1812. Independent from trading with Great Britain, America continued its use of hemp in everyday life. In fact, the plant was even listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1851. Cannabis was found in everything from over-the-counter medications to toothpaste.

With the 20th century approaching, our ancestor’s dependency on hemp was at an all-time high. Little did they know that the use of this crop was about to hit an all-time low.

The Prohibition of Hemp in the 20th Century

Most of the problems surrounding cannabis started in the early half of the 20th century. America was changing its moral compass. This shift in ideals was exemplified by the prohibition on alcohol.

Around this time, people migrating from South America and Mexico started to enter the Americas from the southern borders. Historically, these migrators had a knack for smoking hemp. Fear of losing land, coupled by a disinterest in the mind-altering effects smoking hemp seemed to have caused, caused newly-acquired California to ban the plant.

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act came into existence. This document levied a hefty tax on the sale of cannabis products. Due to this act, alternatives to hemp came to fruition. Instead of hemp bags, people used cotton. For medicine, laboratories created pharmaceutical medications. It seemed that the need for hemp was unnecessary.

Since science wasn’t as evolved as it is today, no one realized that not all cannabis was the same. They didn’t put together that the psychoactive effects of cannabis weren’t always present when it was smoked. However, the need to differentiate was moot, because the taxes on cannabis were so high. Therefore, by 1970 cannabis had become a banned substance.

Hemp Becomes Legal Again

Almost immediately after the prohibition of cannabis, the cannabinol molecule was discovered. Now known as CBN, scientists realized that this unique molecule had slight psychoactive properties. Shortly after, they isolated cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike CBN, CBD didn’t seem to have the same mind-altering effects.

Upon further realization, the CBD molecule was found in high concentrations within male cannabis plants. Meanwhile, the females had a high level of what was determined to be tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While the differences between these compounds were discovered in the 1960s and 1970s, hemp remain outlawed.

In 1996, California changed its stance on cannabis. They became the first state to implement a medical cannabis program. It was almost two decades later when the world finally opened its eyes to the differences between hemp and marijuana.

By the 2016 election, over half of the country got on-board with medicinal cannabis. With this growth in interest, many became aware of the potential benefits of CBD. The demand for hemp went sky high, which forced the government to reconsider its stance on the plant.

As 2018 drew to a close, Senator Mitch McConnell signed the 2018 Farm Bill. In this historic piece of legislation, hemp was declassified from schedule 1 to schedule 5, and the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) will oversee hemp cultivation in all 50 states.

The Future of Hemp in America

The future looks bright for hemp, as it seems like we’re going to grow as interested in the crop as our ancestors were. Today, we see hemp seed oil in cold-pressed juices, clothes on the runway, and in bags to put our groceries. Not to mention, the CBD industry is projected to reach $22 billion by 2022.

As the market becomes oversaturated, you must be particular with your hemp purchases. Just throwing CBD onto a label doesn’t mean you are getting a high-quality hemp product. You want to make sure you are purchasing a full-spectrum hemp extract.

With the growing interest in cannabis products, more research on this botanical is being conducted every day. One of the most interesting findings of research to date is that the hemp plant has 113 unique compounds. These are known as cannabinoids. A full-spectrum hemp extract has all of them in the formula, and these cannabinoids work in unison to boost the overall potency of the product. Science has dubbed this sensation as the entourage effect.

While there are benefits of CBD isolates, you want to make sure you’re getting as many cannabinoids as possible. That’s why our line of CBD products are full-spectrum hemp extracts.

Furthermore, the CBD industry still doesn’t have federal regulation. Therefore, CBD companies can put whatever they want in the formula. That’s why you should opt for brands that use only all-natural ingredients and that also implement third-party testing.

At Tranquility Labs, we have the highest purity of CBD products. Our Serenity Hemp Oil is crafted with MCT oil. These healthy fats help your body with maximum cannabinoid absorption. Furthermore, our Sleep Fast Plus combines the sedative effects that CBD has on the system with melatonin. Therefore, your sleep cycle can get on track without the use of habit-forming products.

Do you use hemp products? What are some of your favorite uses of this sustainable crop? Share in the comments below!

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