The History of Hemp

Hemp (cannabis) belongs to the genus of hemp plants (as well as hops) and is one of the oldest crop and ornamental plants in the world. The long and almost indestructible fibers of hemp have been used in the manufacture of textiles and paper in China for at least 5,000 years. At that time, too, the tasty and extremely nutritious seeds of hemp were valued as food.

Also in medicine this versatile plant found its use in these time. In ancient Chinese writings, for example, the healing properties of cannabis for rheumatism, malaria and many other complaints is described. It is believed that cannabis originally comes from the region of today's Kazakhstan. From there, this universally applicable plant took its course around the world.

Until hemp first arrived in Europe it did not take very long. Here, about 4,500 years old hemp fibers were found in Lithuania today. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians also dressed themselves in hemp cloths. Next to flax and nettle, hemp was one of the most important fiber plants in Europe for a long time. Some historians of the Greek antiquity also documented the beneficial properties and the analgesic effect of the plant. Until modern times cannabis has been used for cramps and postpartum pains.

Thanks to Hemp!
Die Geschichte vom Hanf

Without cannabis, humanity would not be at the point where it is today. Namely, hemp was not only used as medicine and clothing, but also in the manufacture of sailcloths, ropes and yarns. Due to its robustness and resistance to salt water, this precious raw material also played a major role in sailing and shipping.

Hemp has always been a very popular and contested commodity. Many medieval weapons were made from this precious good, too. The longbow, for example, took its resilience from the hemp.

In the Middle Ages, starting in the 13th century, the large-scale production of paper in Europe was made possible by the excellent properties of hemp. The use of wood for papermaking was not known at that time. Thus, hemp became the most important raw material for paper production. In Nuremberg, the first paper mill was built on German soil in 1290. Gutenberg's famous Bible, as well as the US Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp paper.

Russia has long been the largest exporter of this versatile and valuable commodity in Europe. Towards the end of the 18th century, however, as cotton became increasingly available, cheaper and easier to process, it rapidly supplanted hemp and linen (flax), the so far most commonly used fiber raw materials.

On the one hand, this was due to the industrial revolution and the associated achievements, which enabled the mechanical production of textiles. On the other hand, the cultivation of cotton in England and France gained more importance after the imposed continental blockade of Napoleon. At the same time the distance trade with the English colony of India, was significantly strengthened. In the USA, too, cotton started to be mass-produced. All the world trade was flourishing. Markets and prices, technologies and products changed with increasing speed.

The competition grows!
Hanf vs Baumwolle

In the 20th century more and more chemically produced synthetic fibers appeared on the market. Polyester replaced cotton as the most commonly used fiber in 2003 for the first time. The entire science of chemistry got more and more into the midst of attention and quickly changed all areas of life. Thus, the power of the pharmaceutical industry established itself and artificial medicines gradually supplanted the natural healing arts. Herbal medicine, millennia-old knowledge got more and more forgotten.

In recent decades a significant increase in allergies and chronic diseases can be observed. Not only our medicine, but also our diet became chemical. With antibiotics in animal food and pesticides on the fields, our groundwater is so polluted and our food is so poisoned that our bodies, as well as our minds, are reacting with diseases and intolerances.

But there is hope. Slowly, naturopathic treatments are experiencing an upswing again. More and more people are returning to their natural origins and relying on the power of nature. Hemp is experiencing a rebirth as well. After decades of prohibition Canada is the first industrialized country in the world to legalize the cultivation and sale of cannabis in 2018.

In Germany, too, it is hotly discussed. At least you can now legally sell and buy products of industrial hemp, as long as the THC content is below 0.2%.