The History of Hemp

The History of Hemp

Though hemp has recently become more popular as a cash crop, it is actually one of the earliest plants cultivated by humanity. In fact, evidence suggests that farmers as early as 10,000 years ago were growing and harvesting hemp. Much like we do in modern times, our ancestors harvested hemp for its valuable and versatile fibers. Today, though, there are many other uses for this fast growing plant, such as the production of paint, biodegradable plastic, insulation, biofuel and animal feed.


Where was it grown?


Hemp is native to the northern hemispheres and was first cultivated in Asia and the Middle East because of its useful fibers which could be woven into paper or clothing. By the 1500s, hemp production moved to England but did not become a massive industry until the 1700s, coinciding with the expansion of the British navy. The British used hemp to make nautical maps, books, and oakum (a thick caulking substance used to create a watertight seal on ships).


How has hemp been used?


Hemp is an incredibly versatile crop and has been put to use in several industries. The earliest records show that farmers harvested hemp for the production of textiles and paper, but hemp has also been used as a food source for centuries. Its seeds can be consumed in many ways, while its leaves can be used in salads or can even be used to make beverages. Hemp oil is popular in skincare and health products because it is highly concentrated with essential fatty acids, which are fats that cannot be produced by the human body and must be consumed.  


Hemp fibers were used in the production of paper as early as 200BC, because of their strength and ability to be tightly woven. More recently, however, hemp has been used to create blocks–similar to cement–to be used as insulation in buildings. Hemp derived plastics are also becoming more common because of their cost effectiveness and biodegradable nature. In fact, many plastic components in automobiles contain hemp.


Because of its many uses, hemp has been cultivated since the dawn of human civilization. As our needs have changed, however, it has managed to stay relevant.

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