10,000 Years Of Hemp..

Hemp has provided for our civilisation for over 10,000 years!

Hemp is one of the first plants domesticated by Humans. Throughout the ages it’s been used in day-to-day life for it’s solid fibres, nourishing seeds and natural, medicinal properties.

The exact geographical origin of the hemp is not known, some say hemp originates from around Lake Baikal, in the plains of Central Asia. Others say the plant evolved in the foothills of the Himalayas. Another theory is it’s first home was near the Yellow River in China.

For at least the last 12,000 years hemp has been grown and processed for it’s fibres and food, however since the 1950’s the plant has been prohibited in the USA and parts of Europe.

Hemp Through The Ages..

Ancient Times

– 8000: Hemp grows wild in Central Asia.

– 2727: the plant is mentioned for the first time in a text of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia.

– 1400: cultural and religious use of cannabis along the Hindus River in India.

– 500: Buddha survives by eating only hemp seeds.

– 450: Herodotus describes that the Scythians make fine linen in hemp.

– 300: the Carthaginians and the Romans fight for the monopoly of the route of spices and hemp in the Mediterranean.

– 100: the Chinese make the first paper made of hemp and mulberry.

When Was Hemp First Used?

Hemp is an ancient plant that has been cultivated for millennia. According to The Columbia History of the World (1996), weaving of hemp fibre began over 10,000 years ago. Carbon tests have suggested that the use of wild hemp dates as far back as 8000 B.C.

In Great Britain, hemp cultivation can be dated back to 800AD. In the 16th Century, Henry VIII encouraged farmers to plant the crop extensively to provide materials for the British Naval fleet. Construction of battleships and their components relied heavily on hemp so a steady supply was needed.

Hemp fibre and oil also went into making riggings, pendants, pennants, sails, and oakum. Maps, logs, and even the bibles that sailors brought on board were all made using hemp paper.

 Hemp Stacks

Hemp Stacks

 Hemp Fields

Hemp Fields



 Má, the Chinese ideogram for hemp, represents two plants in a dryer.

Má, the Chinese ideogram for hemp, represents two plants in a dryer.

The Middle Ages

600: Germans, Franks and Vikings all used hemp fiber.

770: the Chinese make the first printed book (the Dharani).

The 9th century: the introduction of cotton begins the monopoly of hemp in the clothing and the manufacture of nets

800: Muhammad forbids alcohol and allows cannabis.

1150: Muslims introduce hemp into Europe, which will be used to make the first papers on the continent (the first European paper mill is established in Alicante).

1450: Gutenberg prints the first Bible on hemp paper.

1484: Pope Innocent XIII condemns the use of cannabis

1492: 80 tons of hemp sails and ropes helped the caravels of Christoph Columbus to reach the New World.

1545: Hemp farming begins in Chile (South America).

1564: King Philip of Spain orders to cultivate the hemp in his empire which then extends from Argentina to Oregon.

A Strategic Commodity

In the Middle Ages, hemp is considered a strategic commodity because of the numerous uses allowed by it’s strong fibers: canvass, textiles, clothing & rope.

Charlemagne (King of the Francs 742 – 814) encouraged hemp growing in France. During the same period, the Arabs were working to perfect the techniques of making paper from hemp. Hemp paper was the main medium for the spreading of numerous literary, philosophical or scientific texts (mathematics, medicine, astronomy) of the time.

 Hemp Textiles

Hemp Textiles

 Hemp Paper

Hemp Paper

16th – 18th Century

1600: the Dutch start their “golden age” thanks to the trade in hemp.

1631: Hemp is used as currency throughout the American colonies.

1776: The Declaration of Independence of the United States is drawn up on hemp paper.

Booming Intercontinental Trade

In the 16th to the 18th centuries, while intercontinental trade was booming, the European powers were competing for strategic points through naval supremacy. The fleets at the time were powered by the force of the wind.

During this period, hemp was used to make ropes, cables, ladders and shrouds, as well as sails. It is established that a medium-sized vessel used 60 to 80 tons of hemp as ropes and 6 to 8 tons in the form of a sail per year.

Because of its importance for sails (the word “canvass” is rooted in “cannabis”) and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies.

First Paper Factories

In America, the colonists cultivate hemp on a large scale. Benjamin Franklin opened one of the first factories where paper was made from hemp, allowing the United States to have a free press independent of the English court.

George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, cultivated it on his plantation, as his diary testifies. In 1794 he gave the following instruction to his men: “Take as much Indian hemp seed as possible and sow it everywhere.”

 Hemp for sails

Hemp for sails



 Hemp Paper Plant

Hemp Paper Plant

19th century:

1800: The appearance of the cotton machine which allows to mechanize the harvest and thus makes the cotton more competitive against the hemp harvested manually.

1800: The appearance of the cotton machine which allows to mechanize the harvest and thus makes the cotton more competitive against the hemp harvested manually.

1850: introduction of exotic fibers; Beginning of the petrochemical era; The development of toxic sulphite (to extract lignin) and chlorine (to bleach pulp) processes which will make it possible to make paper based on trees instead of hemp, linen and cotton; The steam replaces the sail …

1895: first use of the word “marijuana” by the supporters of Pancho Vila.

Hemp fuelling more than just industries..

During this period, hemp played a strategic role not only in the coal & oil industrial revolution, but it was also involved in causing several conflicts. Among the causes of the Second War of Independence of 1812, in which the United States confronted England, is the question of the supply of cannabis / Russian hemp.

Russian hemp was also one of the reasons Napoleon and his allies invaded Russia.

 Hemp Textiles

Hemp Textiles

20th Century

1910: American blacks introduce jazz and grass in New Orleans.

1930: appearance of the first machine that can dissect the hemp.

1937: the “Marijuana Tax Act” is enacted (on the initiative of Dupont de Neumours!). Cultures are so heavily taxed that they are abandoned in the United States.

1938: Dupont de Nemours brews the Nylon.

1939: “Hemp For Victory!” Hemp war efforts.

20th Century Hemp: The Decline

It is at the dawn of the 20th century that Hemp is one of the most cultivated plants and that the development prospects are legion that the landscape begins to change. In the United States during the 1920s, cannabis invaded the black market and became very popular especially among black and Hispanic populations. The Puritan Lobby having lost a battle with the failure of the prohibition of alcohol, will launch campaigns of demonization of cannabis. The police in New Orleans, the cradle of the Jazz, will even award 60% of the City’s crimes to the Plant.

20th Century Hemp Revolution

Industrial hemp has been grown in the U.S. since the first European settlers arrived in early 17th Century.  The Declaration of Independence was famously drafted on hemp paper and  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp and actively advocated for commercial hemp production.

Around this time 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! Hemp was considered to be legal tender in colonial America, and could be used to pay their taxes with!  Hemp was also a staple crop of 1800’s American agriculture, reflected in town names like “Hempfield” and “Hempstead”, which have lasted to this day.

According to the 1850 U.S. census there were approximately 8,400 hemp plantations of at least 2000 acres.   For years, hemp farmers were limited to using a hand brake operated machine when harvesting until a machine was built that would break the retted stalks and clean the fibre to produce clean, straight hemp fibre which was equal to the best grades prepared on hand brakes. This machine was able to harvest 500kg or more of clean hemp fibre every hour. This breakthrough made cultivating more fiscally attractive by reducing labor costs. By 1920 the hemp crop was entirely handled by machinery.

When Rudolph Diesel created his famous engine at the end of the 19th Century, he was confident that the engine would be powered by a variety of fuels of which hemp oil was one. Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company who had already used hemp materials to build a prototype vehicle saw the potential of biomass fuels and setup a successful biomass conversion plant producing hemp fuel in Michigan. The engineers working there extracted methanol, charcoal fuel, tar, pitch, ethyl acetate and creosote, fundamental ingredients for modern industry. Today this supply has been taken over by oil-related industries.

The “Marijuana Tax Act”

It is a real propaganda work that will then be orchestrated by the lobbies of the cotton industry, chemistry (nylon and petroleum) and part of the press whose bosses also have interests in forestry ( The tycoon of the press William Randolph Hearst).

By combining recreational cannabis with hemp, and discrediting the plant and its uses, they seize a unique opportunity to get rid of a competing raw material and consolidate their dominant position. This resulted in 1937, a law establishing the taxation of production, trade as well as industrial and medical use, is the Marihuana Tax Act. The United States, because of their growing global influence, is pressing to curb the use of hemp globally.

“Hemp For Victory!”

In 1939, the cultivated area was only 3,400 hectares. A hemp culture was born during the Second World War. The US government is reviving the production of hemp fibers and even producing a propaganda film called Hemp for Victory.

When US sources of “Manila hemp” (not true hemp) was cut off by the Japanese in WWII, the US Army and US Department of Agriculture promoted the “Hemp for Victory” campaign to grow hemp in the US.

During the Normandy landing, the Rangers were equipped with grapples and hemp ropes.

 Hemp Flower

Hemp Flower

 Asassins of Youth

Asassins of Youth

21st Century & Today

Modern Day Hemp: Recent Resurgence

There has been a revival of industrial hemp in France, Europe and Canada since the late 1990s. This is due to rising oil prices, material recycling requirements and environmental awareness.

Today, France is the European leader with an annual production of 50 000 tonnes (100 000 tonnes in the European Union) and the world’s largest variety of certified industrial seeds. The European Community subsidizes the cultivation of non-psychotropic hemp varieties from 1988 onwards After reaching a minimum level around the 1960s, with less than 600 ha cultivated, hemp cultivation in France now occupies 12,500 hectares, or 0.03% of the agricultural area used.

Production en tonnes. Chiffres 2003 et 2013 Données de FAOSTAT (FAO)
Drapeau de la France France 4 300 14 % 48 264 71 %
Drapeau de la République populaire de Chine Chine 24 000 79 % 16 000 24 %
Drapeau du Chili Chili 1 250 4 % 1 450 2%
Drapeau de l'Ukraine Ukraine 150 < 1 % 1 450 1 %
Drapeau de la Hongrie Hongrie 40 < 1 % 600 < 1 %
Drapeau de la Russie Russie 300 1 % 300 < 1 %
Total 30 315 100 % 67 785 100 %

Significant Developments

The promising outlets it offers allow it to develop significantly.

U.S. manufacturers currently import raw hemp from all over the world meaning domestic farmers miss out on the opportunity to grow this highly profitable crop. Hemp not only nets over double the value of U.S. corn and soy, the environmental benefits of growing it include soil remediation, prolific pollen production for our bees and beneficial insects. It also grows much better without any fertilisers or pesticides which of course is another great plus point for the soil.

There is definitely progress being made. In 2014, laws were passed enabling the first states able to to grow hemp (Kentucky, Vermont and Colorado) in decades and did so under Section 7606, Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research, of the 2014 Federal Farm Bill. Amendments to Congressional Appropriations bills have also been passed to prohibit DEA and DOJ from spending tax dollars to deter hemp farming for research in states where it is legal. This means America joins a long list of countries which grow hemp, in all corners of the world.

As recognition of hemp’s excellent nutritional profile grows, along with the demand for regenerative agricultural practices and advancements in plant-based innovations, hemp is well placed to once again be a vital and viable crop across the world.

 Hemp Processing

Hemp Processing

 Hemp Seeds

Hemp Seeds

 Hemp Protein

Hemp Protein

Industrial Hemp Facts

Henry Ford experimented with hemp in a bid to build car bodies. His dream was both to build and fuel cars from farm products, something which is looking all the more likely with recent developments.  BMW have been using hemp materials in their production tests in a bid to make cars more recyclable. Over 100 years ago, Rudolph Diesel designed his famous engine to run on hemp oil.

Construction products such as medium density fibre board, oriented strand board, and even beams, studs and posts could be made out of hemp. Because of hemp’s long fibres, the products will be stronger and/or lighter than those made from wood. From this production however, an even more remarkable use has been harnessed.  The waste fibres from the hemp crops can be transformed into high-performance energy storage devices, ideal for use in electrical devices needing sharp bursts of power, for example in electric cars.

In countries including China, Canada and the UK, hemp can be grown industrially for clothing and building materials. But the leftover bast fibre – the inner bark – typically ends up as landfill.  This leftover bark can be “cooked” into carbon nano-sheets and then turned into super-capacitors “on a par with or better than graphene” – the industry gold standard.

Conventional batteries store large reservoirs of energy and drip-feed it slowly, whereas super-capacitors can rapidly discharge their entire load. They are ideal in machines that rely on sharp bursts of power. In electric cars, for example, super-capacitors are used for regenerative braking.  Releasing this torrent requires electrodes with high surface area – one of graphene’s many phenomenal properties.  Graphene wasseen as such an imprortant and exciting material -being stronger than diamond, more conductive than copper and more flexible than rubber-  the “miracle material” was the target of a £50m investment by UK Chancellor George Osborne.  But while this carbon monolayer is the state-of-the-art material for commercial super-capacitors, it is prohibitively expensive to produce, paving the way for a more cost effective alternative.Dr David Mitlin of Clarkson University, New York has been part of this research and said on the matter:

“People ask me: why hemp? I say, why not?” 

“We’re making graphene-like materials for a thousandth of the price – and we’re doing it with waste.”

“The hemp we use is perfectly legal to grow. It has no THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) in it at all – so there’s no overlap with any recreational activities.”

They presented their work at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Franciscoand were praised for this value-added application of a waste product. People are almost paying to take have it taken away, making it a very attractive option for the famously cost-inhibited technology industry.