The Ancient History of Hemp!

Hemp has not only been beside humankind throughout our evolutionary history and our societal evolutions, but hemp has actually made society’s progression possible.


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To begin, we need to understand how hemp was essential to the advancement of society during the Neolithic Revolution (around 10,000 B.C.). This was a period of time in which humans transitioned from being hunter-gatherers to agricultural settlers—this originated with farms rooted in growing hemp/cannabis. Historians believe that hemp made this new way of life possible. The strong fibers of hemp gave people very durable raw building materials, fibers, fuel, and even food! Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet!

“There is a Chinese Neolithic legend that says the gods gave humans cannabis to fulfill all their needs. Early humans quickly discovered hemp’s usefulness in making food, rope, cloth, medicine, and most likely religious sacrament and that encouraged the further growing of the plant,” tells scientist David A Dawsen, “this hemp farming kind of put a ‘kick start’ into the Neolithic revolution and in time, the first pieces of civilization.“ Chinese archaeologists don’t debate hemp as being one of the first plants grown intentionally by humans. As Dawsen puts it, “When you’re one meal away from starvation, you don’t waste energy on tasks that don’t fit your needs.”


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Asia has always respected hemp, as it is one of the most durable fibers in the world, nutrient-rich, and healing. All over Asia, hemp was used as currency, to pay taxes, and even as ritualistic tributes.

China has been utilizing hemp forever. Archeologists excavated pottery that contained pieces of hemp from as far back as 10,000 B.C.E. in Yangmingshan (near current Taipei, Taiwan)! Ancient China was actually dubbed “the land of Mulberry and Hemp”. Those in medicine, healing, and even shamans used cannabis to both heal the body and remove demons! The Pen Ts’ao Ching Pharmacopeia, the oldest of the discovered Chinese Pharmacopoeia texts, outlines how hemp tinctures should be used to relieve and heal many disorders of the body and the mind.

In Japan, hemp was seen as a symbol of purity. It was woven into ceremonial robes, given as wedding gifts, and, like in China, was used ritually by priests to expel demons or evils.

Hindu legend has it that Shiva, a principal deity of Hinduism, rested under a cannabis plant. When he awoke he is said to have eaten the plant, which gave him life energy, and became his ideal food for consumption. Bhang is the Indian word for Cannabis, and Shiva is sometimes called “Lord Bhang.” He is said to have introduced cannabis to humanity as a spring of happiness and pleasure.

Legend has it that during Buddha’s 9 year spiritual seeking and meditation under the lotus tree, he ate only a single hemp seed everyday. While this is just a legend, hemp seeds are actually one of the most nutritious foods on the planet!


Texts, or Cuneiform tablets, which date back to 900 B.C.E. have been discovered in Nineveh (near today’s Mosul, Iraq) in the library of King Ashurbanipal. These document the religious uses of cannabis.

In ancient Persia, the Zoroastrians used hemp medicinally.

In Turkey, ancient hemp fabric has been discovered.

Many ancient Arabic texts outline the medicinal uses of cannabis.


Mummy’s wrappings were actually made of hemp rope! How durable! Additionally, historians believe that cannabis was used medicinally and it was called shemshemet. Shemshemet was outlined as having therapeutic and healing properties in many ancient medical documents.


Much evidence has been documented about hemp’s wide use all over Europe during the C.E. era, including its use by Vikings! Even further back, archeological evidence has been found that indicates weed was growing in prehistoric Europe! The stoned ape theory anyone?


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Hemp was a part of the Renaissance; artists made their creations on hemp and it was a widely used medication for joint pain, paristites, coughs, jaundice, gout, colic, “inflammation of the head or any other part”, and even flatulence.

Importantly, it was what fueled the English Navy. Supposedly, 10,000 acres of hemp were used to make their sails, which then enabled their victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588. Hemp was the tool that enabled the English’s newfound authority over the sea.

Hemp is responsible for North and South American colonization! Dang it, Hemp! Christopher Columbus came to America under sails made of hemp, John Cabot discovered Newfoundland for England after sailing across the Atlantic using hemp, and additionally, Pedro Alvares Cabral sailed to Brazil with the necessary help of hemp sails. These conquistadors should have listened to Uncle Ben—“With great power comes great responsibility.”

From the beginning, Americans were made to grow hemp for England —you see, the whole world was competing for who could supply the hemp and Russia had a monopoly which England desperately wanted to end. They thought these newfound American colonies could end their “dependence on Russia” as hemp grew perfectly in America! The government did anything they could to entice farmers to grow hemp because the demand for it was so huge! Hemp was even a currency and could be used to pay debts, etc.—everyone needed hemp!

In the 17th and 18th centuries, hemp was an extremely standard prescription because it treated such a wide range of conditions. Even Queen Victoria’s doctors were quick to prescribe the medicinal plant and tout its incredible healing powers.


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So how did hemp get to be both illegal and surrounded by stigma?

What happened to this plant?

Why are people scared of hemp?

That is quite the interesting story filled with government propaganda, greed, and using fear in order to manipulate the public!

Read the story of how American Politicians destroyed hemp here:

Fear, Greed, and the American Psyche


An Article By Evie Louise

Evie Louise is a recent psychology graduate from New York University. She is a certified in International Cannabinoid Clinical Therapy. Evie sees all forms of the cannabis sativa plant as the future of psychiatry, and hopes to use it in her therapy practice as a full spectrum approach to mental health and wellness.

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