The Uses Of The Hemp Plant

5372 words - 21 pages

The Uses of the Hemp Plant

Indigenous to Asia, the hemp plant, source of marijuana, has been a multi-purpose herb for centuries. Its narcotic use is generally believed to have originated in the Far Eastern portion of the world, with its earliest recorded use in China, more than 5000 years ago. It never really attained widespread use however, probably because the Chinese had more powerful psychoactive substances at their disposal. Marijuana's first use as a drug is generally attributed to Shen Nung, a Chinese emperor and pharmacist. He advocated the use of the plant as a sedative and an all-purpose medication. [1] [2]
Documentation of its first use by large numbers of people, for its mind-altering effects rather than for medicinal purposes, is in the historical records of the Indian subcontinent. Cannabis was considered a holy plant in about 2000 B.C., and was cultivated by the priests in temple gardens. They harvested the leaves, stems and flowering tops, and brewed them into a highly potent liquid called "bhang." Recreational use soon began, among the general population, despite the strict guarding of the secretive bhang formula by the priests. It then spread to the Middle East, with religion playing a prominent role in its introduction. [1]
From the ninth through the twelfth centuries, cannabis was introduced into North Africa during the Arab invasions of those lands. It went from Egypt, in the east, to Tunisia, then Algeria, then Morocco. Being extolled by the poets of the time, its use caught on quickly there as well. Marijuana's reaching England has been attributed to a physician serving in the Bengal Medical Service of Britain's East India Company, Sir William O'Shaughnessy Brooke. Again, its use was predominantly medicinal, and once other, more specific medications such as barbiturates, aspirin and anesthetic agents came along, its popularity soon waned. [1]
In America, hemp was grown as a major cash crop as early as 1720. Oil from the seeds was used in the manufacture of soap, paints, and similar products. The stem fibers were used for multiple manufacturing purposes, including the production of cloth and ropes. George Washington was among the earliest colonial planters who grew a major hemp crop, however there is documentation
that hemp was cultivated for fiber in 1611, in Jamestown, Virginia, and 1632 in Massachusetts. By the mid-1800's, the hemp industry had reached its apex in America. By 1890, hemp grew wild everywhere in the United States: along roadsides and in meadows and abandoned fields. For the most part, it was ignored. [1] [3] [4]

[1] Keep Off The Grass [2] Focus on Marijuana
[3] The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs [4] The Marijuana Conviction

Medicinally, cannabis was used much as it had been in England. Usually, an imported olive-brown paste called Tilden's Extract of Cannabis Sativa Indica, was prescribed. Otherwise, records of early cannabis use indicate its limitation to Fitz Hugh Ludlow, a...

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