Hemp History: Background of the Hemp Plant
Hemp has been cultivated for over 10,000 years, making it one of the oldest domesticated crops. It is useful for many purposes, from textiles, to fuel, to food, and now, health supplements. In the 1700s, hemp was such a prosperous farming solution that farmers were often ordered by law to grow it, and by 1850 there were 8,400 documented hemp plantations across the United States. However, hemp’s demise came from its association with marijuana.
Let’s go back first. Hemp is a highly resourceful plant, containing many elements that make it a great source of nutrition. Hemp seeds are high in protein, and have a comparable amino acid profile to food items we consume every day, like milk, meat, eggs, and soy. Hemp seeds are also rich in Vitamin B, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Additionally, hemp is also known for being an excellent source of fiber and many take hemp supplements to add fiber to their diet.
Hemp has been woven for centuries, and has been used to make rope, fabric, or canvas, and there is still a substantial industry for hemp fabric today, especially for those who prefer a natural textile. It has also been used extensively in building materials, even having its own form of concrete, called “hempcrete”.
In the early 1900s, people became uneasy about the usage of hemp because it stems from the same plant as marijuana, Cannabis sativa. Although hemp and marijuana are both of the same species, they are distinct in their strains and have unique biochemical compositions. Marijuana and hemp both contain THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which has a psychoactive element that gives users a “high”. However, the different between marijuana and hemp is the potency of THC, as well as the addition of CBD. The most definitive difference between separating hemp and marijuana is its THC content. Hemp has a significantly lower concentration of THC, making it non-psychoactive, and therefore unable to produce any of the side effects that those who are looking to get “high” desire. Many countries draw the line at 0.3% concentration of THC, claiming anything under this amount is considered hemp. In comparison, most medical marijuana strains contain anywhere from 5-20% THC, showing a significant difference between the two. Hemp also contains a high amount of cannabidiol, or CBD, and marijuana does not contain nearly as much. CBD is a non-psychoactive element that actually does the complete opposite; it reduces and counteracts the effect of THC. So essentially, the CBD in hemp can actually eliminate the side effect that come with using marijuana.
Because of its association with marijuana, there is great confusion about what hemp is actually used for, losing a lot of its history along the way. But hemp is actually a highly resourceful plant that is beneficial in many different channels.
- Austin Peterson