Hemp is a plant that has had various established uses over the past few centuries, and today, where the law permits, hemp is often grown around the world and put to use in a variety of ways, and many parts of the plant, from hemp seed to hemp stalk and more have proven effective in various fields, and the uses of hemp ensure that this plant may be cultivated in the years to come. Just what is the history of hemp, and how does the history of hemp point toward how this renewable resource will be used in the future? What are some of the biggest advantages of growing hemp today?
The History of Hemp
The history of hemp is a history of a useful crop. According to Hemp Basics, the use of hemp in fact dates back to the Neolithic, and hemp fibers have been found in pottery shards in China dating back nearly that far. Much more recently, the Soviet Union was a major grower of this crop in the 1950s through the 1980s, growing 3,000 square kilometers of this plant in 1970, such as in Ukraine. At the time, other major growers of hemp included then-Yugoslavia, France, Poland, and Romania. Selective breeding for this plant goes back millennia, and hemp grown for fiber is tall and thin, and is best harvested before its flowers start budding. In the 19th century, medical practitioners preferred the name “cannabis” for this general family of plants, and helped introduce these plants as a potential drug (such as medical uses) for English speakers. Cannabis for non-drug purposes, like ropes, was well known for many years up until then.
Uses of the Plant
Generally, three different varieties of this plant are grown, and for different purposes. “Hemp” refers almost exclusively to the plants cultivated for non-drug uses such as fibers and ropes, and these plants’ THC content is generally much too low for these plants to be used as a drug. Other varieties are grown for their seeds, which are extracted and used for hemp oil, and the third variety is cannabis, grown for its recreational, medical, and even spiritual use. This is generally the group of plants that have the highest THC content, and in states and nations where this is legal, such plants are available as over the counter drugs, often for pain or stress relief.
What other uses does hemp have? Often, this plant has, and still is, cultivated to be used as a strong natural fiber that is water resistant. This fiber can be used to make ropes, nets, carpeting, and sacks, and until the late 1980s, cultivation and harvesting of hemp for these purposes had declined, but is enjoying a revival, and even a hemp clothing industry sprang to life in the late 1980s in the United States. And depending on legality, hemp seeds can even be used as a food source, and the complete proteins and oils in hemp seeds are at good ratios for human dietary needs. It may surprise some to hear that hemp is even useful in construction, since most of the plant’s anatomy is made up of “hurd,” or a woody inner core that is THC-free. Silica leached from the plant’s soil, combined with unslaked lime can be mixed to create a chemical bond not unlike cement that is fireproof and waterproof.