Hemp Uses in History – From Ancient to Modern Times

Topics Covered In This Article…

Hemp Definition: “Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial use. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Along with bamboo, hemp is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth.”

Hemp Uses in History

Welcome to our article on hemp uses in history. This article is brought to you by Spring Creek Labs, a Hemp-Based CBD Manufacturer specializing in custom and private label CBD products

It’s weird to think about. An entire civilization with modern amenities like running water, a thriving marketplace, and a political system not much unlike many current governments.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was its downfall. Living in Rome during the end of the empire was bleak. Post-apocalyptic isn’t an exaggeration. Anyone with money had left for more stable city-states.

Hemp Uses in History

Those left behind were left to fend for themselves. Pillagers, thieves, and murderers ran wild. It was like watching evolution in reverse. But one civilization’s downfall can be another’s greatest resource.

Modern-day countries like Syria, Jordan, and Israel, as well as other countries, made up the territory Arab rulers called “Bilad el-Sham.” Islamic scholars in the Arabic world gobbled up every Roman text they could find.

Many of the most important Roman documents were now guiding the way Arabic communities ran their governments. Like the journey of the Monarch butterfly, each generation traveling a little farther than the previous, Arab scholars were expanding on the teachings of Roman thought gods.

Diet and exercise were suddenly on the minds of thousands of Arab citizens. Imagine the confidence the average person must have gained knowing their health was something they could actually control.

Natural Pharmacies

Medicine is one of the most common types of hemp uses in history. Today’s world has specialized professionals whose job was to find the best herbs and botanicals. Synthetic pharmaceuticals are a modern phenomenon only present in the last hundred years or so. Up until then, these compounds came straight from plant or animal sources. Even today, while synthetic compounds can be fruitful, most medications are based on compounds found in nature. This is why the story of hemp uses in history runs parallel with the history of plant products.

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Hemp Uses in History – Early India, Egypt, and Rome

The year is 1244 B.C. You make your way down a bustling city street. Street vendors stocking all your favorite foods.

The smell is almost as intoxicating as the beverage you’re about to consume. You’ve been feeling lethargic lately and your friend recommended you make a visit to the local Brahmin, a holy man.

After what feels like a never-ending walk through the sweaty downtown streets, you reach the simple cottage.

A small elderly man is outside in the garden smoking something out of what looks like a wooden flute. It looks like he could bust out a melodious tune any moment.

He is smoking weed. The sweet and skunky odor greets you like a doorman on the upper east side.

You can smell the beverage stewing on the fire. A simmering mixture of milk and chai spices mix with the earthy odors.

When the Brahmin strains out the plant matter he’s left with a beverage whose roots are steeped deep within Indian spirituality.

This milky beverage is known and recognized nationwide as “bhang”. It’s still common to refer to cannabis as bhang, even in the U.S.

Bhang is the preferred drink of the god of destruction, Shiva. But destruction in this context isn’t negative.

Like the fable of the phoenix rising from the ashes, Shiva cleared the way for a fresh beginning. Bhang cleared the mind and refocused it on what matters most.

Hemp Use in Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, a young mother in labor swabs cannabis infused oil on the flesh inner side of her cheek. The acrid taste is a little off putting, but considering the pain, she’s about to be in, she doesn’t even notice.

Although it’s not certain why new mothers and their children were given oral cannabis, historians think ancient people thought it could prevent hemorrhaging during and after birth.

The Scythians, an ancient tribe of nomadic people whose kingdom once stretched all the way to the outskirts of Egypt used hemp seed in their funeral ceremonies.

When a tribe member passed, their family would light a large bonfire. They’d throw in hand full of hemp seeds and other parts of the cannabis plant, inhaling the fumes and howling in celebration of their loved one’s life.

Hemp Use in Ancient Greece and Rome

Ancient Greece and Rome were fond of hemp as fiber for paper and cloth, but little is said about how they used the plant. Pliny the Elder was the Roman scholar who wrote of cannabis’ medicinal properties.

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Early Magic Mushroom Cults

When British archaeologist John Marco Allegro published his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross he knew he was gambling with his career. Allegro theorized that the earliest, most primitive religions were born from hallucinations caused by psychedelic mushrooms.

While the book was light on evidence and full of logical fallacies, it did provoke interesting thought about the role of mood enhancing plants in human society.

Religious rituals revolved around recreating the reproductive process, often times through sex. Fueled by mushroom-induced visions, these early religions would, later on, become the basis of multiple world religions.

Allegro believed much of what was known about ancient mushroom cults and their influence on Christianity had been censored. After all, both sex and drugs are considered taboo in modern culture, even outside of religion. These cults were also very secretive, hiding their teachings with metaphorical fables that could only be deciphered by students of their religion.

Through his research, he believed these early worshippers saw psychedelic mushrooms as the only way to speak to their gods. One of the most concrete examples of what led to Allegro’s theory was an artwork found in the 13th-century chapel of Plaincouralt in France.

The artwork very clearly shows Adam and Eve eating not from an apple tree, but a giant mushroom. This, of course, is speculation on the part of the artist. But it’s interesting that they held this assumption. While this proves nothing about the true origins of Christianity, it does prove that people have thought about it, and other religions, from this frame of reference. 

And while it’s hard to know what really went on in prehistoric times, there are many written records of plant use long before the A.D. years. One such plant was the cannababis plant, an early example of hemp uses in history

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Hemp Uses in History – Ancient China

To say the Ming Dynasty was an advocate of hemp seed would be the biggest understatement in human history.

The seeds of the hemp plant were said to have a calming effect and was considered superior to plants other medicines of the time.

The most well-known Chinese herbalist to serve under the Ming Dynasty was a man named Li Shih Chen.

Li Shih Chen surveyed hemp plants across the country, recording different varieties and which were preferred.

For 27 years, Chen worked nonstop to compile his findings into a book that would become the Compendium of Materia Medica.

It wasn’t until he visited a small island in the south sea that he found a strain of hemp with seeds the size of peas.

One of the most interesting recipes in his book is a mixture of ingredients to form a modern-day pill.

A perfect helping of hemp seed and soy to be taken twice daily. Basically the world’s first plant-based supplement.

The recipe calls for two parts hemp seed to one part soy. Everything is boiled together then pan-fried until there’s nothing left but a fine powder.

By rolling the powder in honey to form pills, you could make several months worth in a few hours.

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Hemp Uses in History – An Ancient Medicine

South American chamáns, pronounced shamans, is actually a term made up to entertain tourists’ notions of witchdoctors and magic.

The preferred term by locals is medicos (Spanish for “physician”).

Practitioners serving locals refer to themselves as medicos to establish trust, while those who tend to cater to foreigners refer to themselves as shamans.

What’s bringing all these tourists out to rural outposts in places like Peru and Brazil?

Ayahuasca. A psychedelic brew of Banisteriopsis caapi vine and Psychotria, a plant known to contain DMT.

Although DMT is a schedule I substance in the U.S., an ayahuasca church was able to get favorable rulings in court under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Ayahuasca creates such a powerful experience for its users a religion has sprouted from it.

Santa Daime is a collection of folk Catholicism, African Animism, and South American Shamanism.

It is officially credited as being founded sometime in the 1920s, but the roots of Santa Daime beliefs go back thousands of years and spans several continents.

Daime is another name for ayahuasca. It is Portuguese for “give me” and practicing Santa Daime revolves around the beverage.

You may have seen videos of foreigners traveling to South America for a Santa Daime ritual.

Drinking ayahuasca can be a roller coaster of an experience. It immediately induces heavy vomiting. This is all part of the experience.

Vomiting is seen as a total purge of all the body’s negativity, both physical and mental. 

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History’s Earliest Hemp Activist

Raimundo Irineu Serra was born in Brazil to African immigrant parents in 1892. He moved to the western region of the Amazon rainforest in 1912 in order to find work during the peak of the rubber harvesting season.

The first time he drank ayahuasca, he wandered through the forest for over a week. This experience transformed him.

Soon, people from all over came to him begging for the same thing. Western culture had failed these people, so they were turning to nature.

Since Irineu Serra and many of his early followers couldn’t read, music and singing became vital to passing on the wisdom they had cultivated.

Modern-day texts of the Santo Daime are a written version of these religious hymns. They all have reoccurring themes of love, happiness, and how to get the most out of life.

Santo Daime rituals range from silent seated meditations, called concentrações, to high energy dancing and singing bailados.

Santo Daime’s Christian roots emphasize self-awareness and an appreciation for our place among nature and the universe.

South American Shamanism and African folklore blend together to create many of the supernatural beings described by Santo Daime practitioners.

What really makes ayahuasca unique from other psychedelic drugs is the way the Santo Daime community embraces the negative emotions that come out during a ceremony as much as the positive ones.

The ritual is one of self-actualization and gaining strength by forgiving ourselves for our weaknesses and growing past them.

For members of the Santo Daime religion, ayahuasca is far more than the sum of its parts. It opens a portal to a world of what could be.

For close to a century, it was always a question of which is better, western or eastern?

But finally, researchers and doctors are realizing it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

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Hemp And Science in the Ancient World

Almost 80% of all modern drugs originate from plants. Western researchers still look to ancient texts and folklore around different plants to determine what direction their research should head in.

China was skeptical of western medicine when it first arrived sometime in the sixteenth century. 

So much so the Chinese really didn’t give western medicine much thought for a good three centuries.

Before the 1800s traditional plant-based medicines were used for everything from migraines to childbirth.

Today, many fear herbal remedies as part of pseudoscience with little proof backing up any of its findings.

But picture yourself as a 16th-century rural Chinese farmer. To you, western medications are the new untested way to fight disease.

And you can’t blame them for being hesitant. When the black plague struck during the middle of the century, a rumor spread like a row of dominos toppled over by a massive earthquake.

Cats and dogs were blamed for the spread of the plague.

Oh, how wrong they were. People were killing their beloved pets left and right fearing the spread of the plague.

But this only made matters worse. With fewer predators around the rat population boomed, and the true carriers of the disease suddenly ran Europe.

Hemp And Early Chinese Medicine

Western medicine seemed like crazy folklore brought over by untrustworthy foreigners. Contrary to what many believe about traditional chine medicine, there are over 5,000 years of practical experience using it.

There are volumes of data accounting for primitive “clinical trials” of different operations and remedies. Traditional Chinese medicine has been the starting point for much of the modern medical research the Chinese government now sponsors.

Using the texts of traditional Chinese medicine like cheat sheets, modern-day researchers can choose herbs already known to be beneficial.

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Hemp Uses in History – Evolution of hemp Science

It’s taken decades and numerous studies to find out diet soda is less harmful than regular soda. Want to bring a potentially life-saving drug to market? You better start now because it takes a minimum of ten years from start to finish.

Why does it take so long to figure out how our bodies react to different chemicals? Can’t we just give a sample group a prototype and take it from there? If only it were that simple. When you’re waiting on a drug’s approval the FDA can seem slower than a tortoise after a buffet.

Part of the reason is because of all the variables coming into play when going about your daily routine. You could be part of a study with several others that live a near identical life to yours. But everything from diet to the pollution in the air we breathe can have an effect on an experiment.

Since we can’t isolate huge groups of people to prevent skewed results, researchers often use animals during the early stages of drug discovery.

The Solution

We’re all familiar with the notion of lab rats, but there are an unexpected species that actually makes more sense for early-stage drug discovery.

They’re like the bigfoot of the ocean. Bridging the genetic history between humans and sea life.

This animal has counterparts for 84% of the genes that cause diseases in humans.

This exotic creature must take up a whopping chunk of a drug company’s R&D budget, right?

Actually, it’s about fifty times cheaper to use these creatures instead of mice or rats.

So what is this game-changing mystery animal making it both faster and cheaper to find new drugs?

Zebrafish. Zebrafish have an amazing advantage over rodents when it comes to drug testing.

Even if zebrafish were the more expensive option the cost would be worth it to a lot of drug companies.


If you were running late for work and didn’t want to miss an important meeting, would you call for an Uber or wait for the next bus?

You’d get the rideshare because they’d take you straight to work. Sure, you’d get there on the bus, eventually. Running into the board room, drenched in sweat, just as everyone is finishing up.

You wouldn’t take the slower option when you’re in a hurry. Pharmaceutical companies find themselves in this predicament every day.

Except the private car is zebrafish and the bus is lab rats. Getting test results back using rats can take months and often does.

Zebrafish, on the other hand, can give researchers the results they’re looking for in a matter of days.

They’re speedy reproductive cycle and striking similarities to the human genome mean they are like speed testers for different drugs.

All their major organs are formed in just one day after fertilization. For comparison, it takes a human fetus about a month just to form the neural tube, which later turns into the brain and spinal cord.

Hemp and Zebrafish

Experiments with zebrafish and cannabis go back to 1975. Researchers wanted to know how toxic THC could be to zebrafish.

But in the past decade or so, researchers started looking at how zebrafish’s endocannabinoid system works 

The endocannabinoid system is like a system of locked doors. We produce our own cannabinoids, but our receptors can also react to foreign cannabinoids.

Zebrafish have a similar endocannabinoid system to ours. To test the effectiveness of CBD for pain management, zebrafish larvae were damaged with a weak acid.

Researchers then dissolved different cannabinoids into the water to see the effects. Of all the cannabinoids, CBD had the most profound effects.

The larvae given CBD healed the fastest out of all other test groups.

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Hemp Uses in History – East Meets West

You don’t have to be a liberal art teacher decorated with exotic beads and jewelry to benefit from eastern medicine anymore.

Instead of discounting ancient herbal remedies, modern medical research is investigating as to whether any of these treatments have any merit to them.

Some do and some don’t, just like western medicine.

One thing’s for sure, the CBD industry is rising faster than a Space X rocket, regardless of whether you use TCM as your primary healthcare or have premium private insurance.

Keep reading to find out why big pharma wants a slice of the CBD pie…

Hemp and the Rise of CBD Products

Hemp has been popular for thousands of years, so why does it feel like you’ve only started hearing about the benefits of hemp seed and CBD in recent years?

Our vegan readers know how hard it can be to get all your amino acids. While some plant-based proteins, like seitan, have just as much protein like steak, they lack some of the most vital amino acids.

It’s like eating a sandwich where all the fillings fall out on your lap when you try to take a bite. Incomplete proteins will still leave you deficient of important nutrients.

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Hemp, WHO and TCM

The world health organization (WHO) now officially recognizes traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a legitimate means of healthcare.

A big reason for this is China’s push for TCM practitioners to be seen as physicians. TCM in China is taken seriously. It’s not like your crazy aunt Karen practicing naturopathy down the street.

China has over 4,000 TCM hospitals and ten times as many TCM clinics. TCM accounts for close to a third of all pharmaceutical sales in China.

Chinese TCM practitioner, Tu Youyou, was selected by her government in 1967 to help find a cure for malaria.

The moist heat of Vietnamese jungles held a weapon much more deadly and discreet than a machine gun.

Mosquitos filled the air like a plague. Soldiers were dropping left in right, writhing in agony from a slow and painful malaria-induced death.

China needed a cure for malaria and it needed it yesterday. For six long months, Youyou and her team read through thousands of ancient Chinese texts.

Somewhere within these pages, they knew there was a treatment for malaria. After hours of scouring through delicate parchment, the crew found what they were looking for.

Sweet wormwood was used around 400 A.D. to relieve the symptoms of malaria. Youyou took a brave initiative that would cement her place in Chinese medical history forever.

She volunteered to be the first human patient for their new drug. They were able to isolate artemisinin, the compound found in sweet wormwood responsible for treating malaria.

The drug had been tested on mice and monkeys, so it’s not like Youyou was taking a blind leap of faith. She had been working on this for the better half of the year and felt a responsibility as the team leader.

Youyou helped to put TCM back on the minds of modern Chinese people who were beginning to adopt western medicinal practices.

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Modern Popularity of Hemp Products

Chinese youth are proving to be the hardest for TCM to win over. But an unexpected source is just as committed to keeping the traditions of TCM alive as much as China.

Australian doctors are taking to TCM as a bear goes after salmon. The country has over 5,000 TCM clinics and some Australian universities even offer TCM as a field of study.

Students spend a year in China to incorporate as much of the traditional practices as possible.

Hemp Uses in History – The Near Future

“We’re witnessing CBD maturing from a cannabis sub-category into a full-blown industry of its own,” explains Roy Bingham, CEO of BDS Analytics, “Our growth forecast for the CBD market, across all distribution channels, predicts a compound annual growth rate of 49 percent by 2024.”

Bingham sees the future of CBD sales moving to mainstream retailers rather than medical cannabis dispensaries.

But why has global interest in CBD exploded in the past few years? Bingham cites a couple of reasons why CBD has stopped living in THC’s shadow.

As you’ve read in detail throughout this series, cannabis and human history are intertwined. This isn’t some new super drug formulated in a high tech lab that we have no idea what the possible long-term effects could be.

Throughout history, there is both scientific and anecdotal evidence proving cannabis as a treatment for many diseases.

On top of already being familiar to most people, cannabis is one of the few natural remedies that modern science also agrees has many health benefits. The same analytical company found that an astonishing 56% of adults over 21 did not know the difference between THC and CBD.

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Final Thoughts On Hemp Uses in History

We hope you enjoyed this article on hemp uses in history. 

The CBD industry already has billions in revenue and only a small percentage of potential customers are even aware it exists.

With sales just shy of $2 billion in 2018, analysts have no doubt CBD sales could push past $20 billion by the year 2024.

That’s a 49% growth rate every year.

But is that growth rate really sustainable or is CBD another financial bubble waiting to burst, like the dot com bust at the turn of the century?

Not quite. Unlike other economic bubbles, CBD has strong sales records to back up these projections.

The dot com bubble happened because the excitement of any business suddenly having a global audience was tempting to investors.

Millions were poured into businesses that hadn’t proven their business model.

CBD sales, on the other hand, are rising faster than the overall sales at cannabis dispensaries.

What does that mean?

It means the growth rate of CBD is racing ahead at a more rapid pace than other forms of cannabis.

That means more profit for businesses and investors that get in now before the market is saturated.

Partnering With a CBD Manufacturer

Unfortunately, regulations can’t keep up with CBD’s booming popularity.

A study done by the University of Virginia Commonwealth found some of the most popular CBD supplements contained unlisted ingredients.

These ingredients included DXM, a drug common in cough syrup. Customers are becoming victims of a bait and switch model used by some of the most widely available CBD supplements.

It’s not surprising since many of these brands are sourcing their raw materials from any farmers that have enough inventory.

These companies are promising organic, all natural products even though they have no idea how the raw materials were produced.

The whole reason cannabis and CBD have become so popular is that they are supposed to have little to no side effects. Adding unlisted pharmaceuticals to CBD products is both counterproductive and harmful.

So how do you fight this? Organizing a supply chain for a new CBD brand can take hundreds of thousands of dollars, on top of years of building relationships with farmers. How is a new CBD brand supposed to compete with the big guys?

By partnering with a CBD manufacturer that only uses plants they’ve grown on their own farms.

Sounds like the perfect solution, right? It must be too good to be true.

But it’s not. Spring Creek Labs is an entirely vertically integrated CBD manufacturer. From farm to lab, raw materials don’t switch hands until the final product is ready to be shipped.

They’ve invested millions in their equipment and properties so you don’t have to. You can come out of the gates swinging as if you have Jeff Bezos as your angel investor.

So contact Spring Creek Labs now for a free quote. Don’t wait for the growth of the CBD industry to plateau. Get in now and ride it to the top.

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