By Op-Ed Blogger Quinton Charles
Hemp? In History?
There is a lot of misinformation surrounding the history of hemp. This lack of information has led to a fear of hemp and a misunderstanding of the role that it played in our past. I often find myself in conversations with people who have no idea how central hemp was (and is!) to human medicine, clothing, and industry. Being a bit of a history nerd, I love the history of hemp because it is a rich history that spans thousands of years and all cultures. I’ll tell you a bit about it.
We often think of hemp and CBD products as modern amenities, but, in fact, they have been used for almost as long as we have been farming. For example, around eight thousand years ago, the Chinese first started using hemp in medicines. However, despite this early use, it wasn’t until 2737 BCE that we find written evidence of hemp as medicine. Emperor Shen-Nung, a mythical leader of the Chinese people in their earliest days, is purported to have developed topical hemp oils and teas to aid in pain relief. His findings are found in the first editions of the Pen Ts’ao Ching, an ancient medical text that is among the first to mention hemp as a remedy for illness.Later on, Hua Tuo, a Han dynasty physician, was the first person on record to use cannabis as an anesthetic… in the second century! He noted that this plant can also aid in the treatment of blood clots, tapeworms, and hair loss. Even the ancient Romans noted the benefits of hemp. Around 77 AD, Pliny the Elder, a famous Roman historian and writer, noted how helpful hemp was for the extraction of insects from ears and for pain relief.
Hemp As Medicine
Europe in the Middle Ages and after, saw hemp used to treat tumors and coughs — as well as recreationally. By the sixteenth century, hemp was one of the main crops grown in England. In 1533, Henry VIII commanded farmers to grow hemp or face a fine! It was also used to supply fibers for supplies on British ships, such as sails and rope for the rigging.
Hemp In The Americas
When Europeans came across the Atlantic to colonize the new world, they found that many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas already were cultivating hemp, a plant that they knew from their homes back in Europe. As the American colonies grew, farmers in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were ordered by law to grow Indian hemp. By the early 18th century, a person could be sentenced to jail if they weren’t growing hemp on their land! In fact, along with whiskey and other goods, hemp could be used as legal tender (and even could be used to pay one’s taxes).
Henry Ford and Hemp Fuels
In 1896 Rudolph Diesel had produced his famous engine. Like many others, Diesel assumed that the diesel engine would be powered by a variety of fuels, especially vegetable and seed oils. I am fro Michigan and so is Green Wellness Life so we wanted to throw in a bit of Michigan history! Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company, seeing the potential of biomass fuels, operated a successful biomass conversion plant producing hemp fuel at their Iron Mountain facility in Michigan. Ford engineers extracted methanol, charcoal fuel, tar, pitch, ethyl acetate and creosote, fundamental ingredients for modern industry.
As other industries started to grow, they began to compete with hemp for control of various markets, such as paper, cloth and fibers, oils and fuels. This is when both the law and the public began to turn against hemp. I’ll talk about this more in part 2 of this history, but remember, hemp has been with us since the start of civilization. No need to be afraid of this incredible crop! Its uses are endless!!!
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