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Hemp: A Quick Lesson on Its History

Nov 30th 2020

Hemp: A Quick Lesson on Its History

With all the raging questions that hemp get these days, sometimes it's best to take a quick look at history to settle things out. As the cliché goes: one has to take a step back to get a better perspective of what lies ahead. Given the growing numbers of individuals who are now realizing the benefits of hemp to the human body, it is best to know how it has been utilized by civilizations through the years.

Hemp and its amazing benefits to mankind have been subjected to a lot of studies. So, let’s take a quick trip down history and answer some controversial questions, as well as correct misleading information, about hemp-derived products.

Hemp: A History Lesson

Hemps is one of the world’s richest and oldest natural resources. Its beginnings can be traced all the way back to 10,000 BC according to The Colombia History of the World. Further accounts say that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric which dates back to approximately 8,000 BC in Ancient Mesopotamia. It was commonly used to make paper and, though it remains a debate for many, some sources even claim that the original Declaration of Independence was written on Dutch hemp paper!

Not only was hemp a significant resource in America and Europe, but it was also utilized by Ancient Chinese as healthy compounds. In India’s ancient texts, hemp was considered as one of their sacred plants. It was around 4000 BC when China and Turkestan began using hemp for the textile industry. Based on the fibers found in the pottery remnants in China and Taiwan, the earliest cloth fabric was actually woven from hemp.

Interestingly, hemp ropes were also used in Egypt in the building of their pyramids. Given its quality, it is ideal for lifting heavy building materials. No wonder Russians and Greeks also used hemp ropes as early as 200 – 600BC. Moreover, aside from ropes, pieces of hempen materials were also found in the tomb of Pharaoh Akhenaten in the ancient city of Tell El-Amarna.

Hemp through Wars and Colonization

Would you believe that without hemp, world history could go otherwise? As hemp became the primary resource for sailcloth and rope, not to mention oil, countries became more efficient in trading – and colonizing the world. There was even a time when hemp was considered just like currencies when paying taxes!

During the Civil War, hemp was utilized in making tents, ropes, uniforms, and even bandages. The Siege of Lexington is one of the most unforgettable conflicts during the Civil War because of how the Confederate troops overcame the Yankees by strategically soaking hemp bales and using them as rolling protection when they surrounded the northern camp. It was so epic that it was later on known as the “Battle of the Hemp Bales”.

Over time, people learned various usage of hemp in the market. Even Henry Ford – who owned a hemp production facility – made body parts for his Model T Ford out of hemp. He even planned to use hemp oil for its fuel.

If Hemp was this helpful, why was it Banned?

Though hemp played a major role in the early civilization and major historical events around the world, like many others, hemp also went through a crisis. It peaked between 1920 – 1930s when companies and powerful lumber barons saw how threatening hemp can be to their business. False propagandas were created – classifying hemp with “Marihuana” thereby polluting its reputation thanks to the film “Reefer Madness”.

With the fear it incited, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (known as the Drug Enforcement Administration) responded with the Marijuana Tax Act passed in 1937 which bans the production, sale, and use of cannabis – even of hemp does not have any intoxicating effects.1 Hence, farmers were forced to stop growing this once useful crop as it was considered dangerous and unlawful. Following the lead of America, the Canadian government as well prohibited the production of hemp under the Opium and Narcotics Act on August 1, 1938.

So, why are Hemp-derived Products available now in the market?

Despite the long and complicated history of hemp, it remained a valuable crop – like it has been for thousands of years. In 2014, Congress passed the Farm Bill which aims to allow once again the production of hemp, and in 2018, it was enacted into law. This then led to the growth of hemp-derived products in the marketplace – such as CBD and CBG oils, CBD oil for pets, skincare products with CBD, and products for pain and skin relief with CBD.

No doubt, hemp is totally an amazing resource. With further research and innovation, who knows what other potentials it could bring to people, animals, and the environment. Check out Complete Hemp for other educational input about hemp products and let’s continue fighting misinformation and misconceptions about this wonderful gift of nature!


1 Orrin Devinsky, Maria Roberta Cilio, Helen Cross, Javier Fernandez-Ruiz, Jacqueline French, Charlotte Hill, Russell Katz, Vincenzo Di Marzo, Didier Jutras-Aswad, William George Notcutt, Jose Martinez-Orgado, Philip J Robson, Brian G Rohrback, Elizabeth Thiele, Benjamin Whalley, Daniel Friedman. Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. DOI: 10.1111. PMID: 24854329