A Timeline of Hemp History

Hemp isn’t some new phenomenon. In fact, evidence suggests it might be one of the oldest plants used in agriculture. Let’s take a look at the history of hemp!

4 mins read

Hemp continues to become a popular supplement because of its large number of positive attributes. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is derived from the hemp plant, and it has a number of holistic benefits including the relief from feelings of anxiousness, soothing joint pain, supported mood, and much more.

The hemp plant is a variety of the sativa plant species and is grown specifically for industrial use. It’s also one of the fastest growing plants alongside bamboo, so there won’t be a shortage anytime soon.

Although CBD and hemp might seem like fairly recent advancements in natural medicine, these two supplements have been around for way longer than you can even imagine. It just goes to show that the hemp plant is a safe and effective way to alleviate a vast assortment of symptoms, especially because people have been using it since before the cavemen even existed.

So let’s take a quick journey through the long history of hemp, looking at how its usage has both evolved and stayed the same since its discovery.

Origins of the Plant: 8,000 BCE

You read that right. Usage of the hemp plant dates all the way back to 8,000 BCE. That’s over 10,000 years ago! 

This plant evolved from Northern China at the dawn of civilization, and it’s believed to be the first cultivated fiber plant. The oldest known example of hemp’s use was uncovered by an archaeologist at the Neolithic site of Yuan-Shan. There, they found pottery with hemp cord markings all over. In addition, there was a rod-shaped beater which would have been used to pound hemp into a fine powder.

It’s also believed that hemp was used to make fishing nets, ropes, paper, and clothing items. Although the plant originated as a purely industrial item, it soon became used in oils and foods for agricultural purposes. 

It’s entirely possible that hemp was one of the first agricultural items that was used as an agricultural crop. However, since this time period pre-dates any known records, it’s impossible to really say.

A few thousand years later in 2900 BCE, the earliest known usage of hemp for medicinal purposes is believed to have occurred. Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi made references to the plant often, citing that it was able to possess properties of both yin and yang. These discoveries continued throughout Chinese history, with hemp’s benefits becoming more and more apparent.

Spreading Across the Globe: 2000 BCE

Although China was a frontrunner in hemp discovery and usage, it soon spread around the world to be used for all sorts of different things. Namely, mention of the plant had been found in various Hindu texts around 2000 BCE. In India, the plant became used for a variety of ailments, including aches, pains, and sleeping disorders. 

In Africa around this same time, Ancient Egyptians were known to use hemp to help with soreness around the eyes and on the face because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Hemp plant powders have even been found inside of the tombs and crypts of mummies.

A thousand years later, hemp began to be used in Northern Europe, where the plant was used in similar ways to those found in India and Africa.

Uses Expand: 1000 AD

In the middle ages, European countries entered a massive period of colonialism, spreading ideals throughout the globe. In order to do this, they needed massive, sturdy ships. Previously, flax seed had been used to make most sails, however, builders noticed that they’d begin to rot after just a few months.

In an effort to enhance the quality of their ships, hemp seed was used to create more long-lasting sails that were built to withstand rot, wear and tear, and harsh elemental damage.

Shortly after this, kings and queens devoted plots of land toward hemp production, as it became apparent that its abundance of uses can be used to make profit and stimulate economic growth. Since it became so popular in ship building, the need for increased production grew as colonialism spread.

Coming To America: 1700s

According to George Washington’s personal diary at Mount Vernon, the first president cultivated hemp for industrial uses. Likely from European expansion and drawing inspiration from other countries, he too used hemp fibers for making rope and sail canvas.

In fact, there was a point in time when Washington considered if hemp would be a more lucrative crop than tobacco. As we now know, he determined that wheat was a better alternative. But the course of American history would have been drastically different (and probably better) if hemp plants became more important than tobacco.

Similarly, Thomas Jefferson grew hemp at his home in Monticello. Although it’s not known if he actively used it himself, he farmed the plant for its natural benefits for other people to use.

Hemp continued to be used for personal benefit as well as industrial supply continually. However, it was not until 1850 that it was added to the US pharmacopoeia, which is a book containing directions and identifications for medicinal compounds.

This was one of the first times that the plant was officially recognized for its medicinal, positive benefits outside of just conjecture. It helped make the plant a bit more widely accepted.

The Stigma Begins: 1900s

As you can see, hemp has always been used in a positive way, and its benefits are crystal clear. However, following the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Americans were introduced to the concept of using hemp recreationally.

While hemp and CBD on their own are not psychoactive, growing a close cousin of the plant could cause hallucinogenic effects. This cousin drug then became associated with immigration, which brought fear and prejudice about newcomers being associated with the drug.

Soon, the hemp plant was thought of as a menace to society, with terrible crimes being associated with the completely harmless plant. This negative perception of the plant was enough to reverse thousands of years of positive portrayal. In 1937, a tax act was implemented that placed a harsh tariff on the plant, as lawmakers hoped there’d be a decrease in its usage.

However, this didn’t work as well as they had hoped, and use of the plant for recreation persisted throughout the 1970s. Federal policies were then tightened to make usage of hemp illegal. This is thanks to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which made all cultivation of hemp plants and products illegal.

Moving Towards Acceptance: The Present

Cultivation of hemp products remained illegal for nearly 50 years. However, things changed with passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This made it so that hemp plants and CBD products could be legally produced and used in the United States, as long as specific guidelines are followed.

This has completely opened the door for CBD products, allowing people to reap its amazing benefits whenever they please. It has also helped alleviate the stigma associated with CBD, as its legalization has made people understand that it is safe to use. Today, CBD can be used in oil tinctures, body creams, pain creams, gummy supplements, and much more.

Not to mention, CBD has even been approved as a treatment for epilepetic seizures because its benefits are so compelling. This is fantastic, as legal CBD now allows individuals to feel relief from previously untreatable ailments.

To Summarize

You might have thought that hemp and CBD were only discovered a few years ago, as they’ve been illegal for much of our lifetime. However, this plant’s benefits have been used for over 10,000 years, dating all the way back to prehistoric China.

Its first known uses were in pottery, but hemp soon spread towards clothing manufacturing and food supplements. After it ran its course in China, the plant spread to India and Egypt where its medicinal qualities were unearthed. Even thousands of years ago, this plant was used as an anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety.

Hemp didn’t come to America for a while, but thanks to European colonialism, presidents like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson cultivated the crop right in their backyards. It was mainly used as a stronger alternative to flax seeds in sail production, but it was still used as a supplement by many people.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that hemp became frowned upon, as prejudicial thinking associated it with immigration and violent acts. It was made illegal in the 1970s.

Now, however, hemp and CBD products are 100% legal yet again, so there’s no need to worry about being a rebel the next time you put a few drops on your tongue. We’re happy to see that hemp is becoming more universally accepted, as it can directly improve your wellbeing.

CBD has changed through the years, but it’s for the better! Smile’s CBD gummies and oils are packed with organic ingredients, vitamins, and nutrients to bring you holistic benefits. Unlike CBD, your tension and stress will be a thing of the past!


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