The Fascinating History of Hemp  

Throughout history, hemp has been one of the most widely used plants on the planet. A valuable natural resource with seemingly endless applications, the history of hemp is both fascinating and enlightening. From its nutritional and health benefits to its use as a textile and paper and its current potential as a new biofuel, hemp’s versatility is truly impressive. Add in the fact that it grows almost anywhere with no need for fertilizer or pesticides, providing a host of environmental benefits, and it’s easy to see why hemp has been so popular for so long. 

It is believed that as long as 10,000 years ago hemp was first used to create cloth. It’s first mentioned in written records around 3000 years ago in China, where it was relied on to make rope, shoes, and paper. It was later used in various religious and spiritual ceremonies in the Far East, India, and Africa, frequently burned as incense or ingested to enhance awareness and expand meditation. 

In England, Queen Victoria’s physician Sir Russell Reynolds actually prescribed cannabis to help her manage her menstrual cramps. In the very first edition of the British Medical Journal, Reynolds described cannabis as “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” In 1621, The Anatomy of Melancholy suggested hemp as a treatment for depression, and in 1764, The New English Dispensatory suggested the application of hemp roots as a cure for skin inflammation. 

During the American War of Independence, soldiers were actually paid in cannabis and farmers were encouraged to grow hemp to produce rope, paper, clothing, and ship sails. In 1839, Irish physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy published his belief that cannabis was an effective treatment for epilepsy, rheumatism, rabies, and tetanus. He also wrote that a tincture of hemp and alcohol ingested orally was a potent painkiller. In Africa, hemp was used to treat both dysentery and fevers, and some tribes today still use it to treat snake bites or ease the pain of childbirth.  

Throughout the 19th century, hemp was considered to be a valuable, important crop in the United States, but more recently, the US began to take a different approach to cannabis. During the prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s, the anti-establishment years of the 1960s, and the American War on Drugs, cannabis took on a negative connotation and was made illegal, making medical applications less readily available. As our increasing understanding of how hemp products can provide multiple products as well as powerful medical treatments becomes more universal, the hope is that more states will legalize all forms of hemp and cannabis.  

In the meantime, the sale of CBD oils and other cannabidiol products remains completely legal in the US, making it possible for people to reap the many health benefits and treat a variety of medical concerns safely and effectively.