Cannabis sativa has two subspecies. Cannabis sativa ssp. sativa developed as a crop in the Chinese area and was used for fiber production, and the seeds were used as food. The subspecies Indica comes from the Indian area and was used for the production of intoxicants. Thus in India already 900 to 800 BC. Mentions the crop “Bhanga” in the literature.
Depending on the source, it is assumed that in China already 4200 -3200 or 2800 BC. The first products were made from hemp. Even at this time, people should have already made textiles such as clothes from it. The oldest surviving textile product dates back to 1000 BC. Even in Germany today, the earliest finds of cannabis seeds go back to the year 5500 BC. Back, which, however, is no proof of its former use.
More exciting than the first finds, however, is the widespread propagation of the plant by humans. For the transmission of history, the Greek historian Herodotus (484 – 424 BC) plays an important role. Among other things, Herodotus worked as a geographer and ethnologist and recorded his knowledge and discoveries in his books, the Histories. In it he reports, inter alia, of the Scythians, a nomadic people from today's southern Russia. He reports that the Scythians “intoxicated themselves by throwing cannabis seeds on hot-made stones in closed, little felt-tents and inhaling the evolving vapors until, running into ecstasy, they” ran out of it “roaring with joy.” (After Reinhardt “The hemp” 1911). Thus, the intoxicating effect of the cannabis plant was already known to the riders of the Scythians.
Herodotus also reports on the Indo-European people of the Thracians, who inhabited the area of the Scythians in Thrace in the Balkans. In the Balkan area they were spread to parts of northern Greece. Herodotus reported hemp wool clothing, so hemp processing seems to have taken place here as well.
In the period between 500 BC Cannabis sativa then came across the Balkans to Greece and the year zero. Hemp was also likely to cross the Balkans at the same time.
It is believed that the hemp around 200 BC. Came to Italy. The knowledge about the use and cultivation of the plant was said to have been carried out by the Romans from Greece. It is also reported by King Hieron the Second (269 – 215 BC). He was King of Syracuse (in today's Sicily) and had to build during his lifetime a great ship of honor – Syracusa. He is said to have brought the most exquisite goods from all known countries. From the then Gaul came thus
also the hemp to Sicily. However, other sources already describe for the year 300 BC. In order to meet the growing demand for hemp ropes in shipping, they are busy growing hemp in Gaul and Sicily. The resilience and low water absorption meant that cannabis became a very important role in shipping in the centuries to come. About Sicily, but also about Greece, the hemp could have come to Italy.
The first Roman script describing ropes as hemp product dates back to the year 100 BC. Here the Roman Varro writes (116 – 26 BC): “Hemp, flax, ledges (Juncus) and Spartgras (Spartum) are attracted to fields, to make from them ropes or ropes.” Hemp had thus already at this time competition. Also the 200 v. Chr. Spartgrass (Esparto grass) imported from Spain was used for fiber production. The Roman scholar Pliny (23/24 – 79 AD), however, described areas in the Sabinerland, today's central Italy, where hemp is said to have tall trees. The crop was part of the agriculture.
The historical data on the breakthrough of hemp in Italy can be substantiated by today's pollen charts. In their work, Italian researchers Mercuri, Accorsi & Mazzanti (2002) studied soil samples from Lake Nemi, a lake near Rome. The horizontal peaks in the diagram illustrate the proportion of corresponding pollen of different plant species in the soil samples. The vertical axis of the diagram is assigned a time axis. It shows the time from today (0) to the past 12000 years ago, according to the soil sample depth. For cannabis, the first peak, that is the first increase in cannabis pollen, can be seen in the range between 2500 and 2000 years before today. A clear increase then shows up about 1500 years ago.
The kingdom of the Celts reached the hemp probably over the east, possibly over the described equestrian peoples. Even among the Celts, a ritual use of hemp as an intoxicant is handed down. For the Greeks and Romans this did not seem to be the case.
North of today's Germany, hemp was grown only conditionally, the weather was too cold here.
Hemp was also used for papermaking. In China, this technique should already 500 v. Chr. In Europe, paper was produced only from the 14th century. So Gutenberg printed the first Bible in 1455 on hemp paper.
The New World reached the hemp in the colonial era of the Spaniards. In 1850 there are already 8327 hemp plantations in the USA.
In the past millennium, the hemp plant boomed throughout Europe. Farmers were partly obliged to cultivate by their rulers, and until the 19th century, most of the world's cords, ropes and cables were made of hemp. In the US hemp should have been even used as a means of payment for taxes in the 17th and 18th centuries. The immense importance that hemp has played in the cultural history of humanity is hardly conceivable today.
In recent times, hemp was then increasingly displaced by competing products. So hemp oil could be replaced by other oils and synthetic oils. In clothing processing, the cheaper cotton was able to prevail and in the paper industry wood was discovered as a raw material. With the decline of sailing, there was also a lack of demand here.
In the first and second world war it came once again to an increase in the hemp production and processing. In America in 1942 even came to a propaganda video “Hemp for Victory” to point out the indispensability of the plant. The video was intended to motivate American farmers to grow the plant. At the same time there.
It gives a nice insight about former cultivation and harvesting methods, as well as production methods and products. Above all, the benefits for the military at that time become clear. For example, garments, parachutes and ropes were made. After World War II, hemp was increasingly forgotten in the Western world. Of course, the bans imposed in many countries because of intoxicants also play a role. In 1981, cultivation was banned in Germany. Today, however, varieties may be planted again that have a low proportion of THC. The importance of the plant is coming back somewhat, for example in the clothing industry or in house building. However, she has already lived through her “green age”.