Hemp is often seen under a bad light. It has a reputation for being the food of the addict. But it wasn’t always like this. Hemp has been around for as long as agriculture has. And its medicinal use had garnered it more popularity among our ancestors than its recreational use ever has. From the Arabs using it as a painkiller to the Egyptians using it in important rituals, here are 4 ancient uses of hemp that continue to stand the test of time.
Asia has always been way advanced in medicine. For centuries, they’ve housed the best solutions to both physical and mental disorders and even have written evidence that supports their studies. So, it’s no surprise that hemp also has its roots in several parts of Asia, mainly China and India.
Hemp cultivation began some 10,000 years ago in Taiwan. Also considered to be the first crop, hemp served more than one purpose. For instance, farmers would use hemp as a fertilizer to improve the quality of their soil. It was free because all they had to do was allow the leaves to fall on the ground and then, fold it into the soil.
- Hemp made fiber
Researchers were able to find remains of hemp fiber while excavating a site that was said to be about 10,000 years old. It’s believed that the Chinese might have discovered that twisted hemp is a better substitute to the already durable and naturally available individual hemp strands. That may have been the reason why the broken pottery pieces that they uncovered had twisted hemp fibers on them.
Because hemp made for such a strong fiber, people stopped using animal skin and switched to hemp clothing instead. They also realized that hemp is three times more resistant than cotton. And its miraculous ability to absorb just made it the better yet cheaper alternative to clothing made from other material.
- Edible hemp
Humans were quick to figure out that hemp was the perfect source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The hemp seeds boast of high vitamin and mineral content, aiding in digestion and resolving a ton of stomach issues. Therefore, besides fiber, people also preferred consuming hemp for health benefits.
Hemp is also known as the only plant that has complete protein. For this reason, the Chinese farmers, who grew hemp crops, used the herb in every day cooking.
- Anesthetic uses of hemp
The ancient Chinese doctors thought surgeries to be the last resort in the treatment process. And most of the surgeries were indeed performed by lower grade medical workers. But Hua Tuo, a young surgeon, decided to change this.
He treated soldiers using a drink made with wine and hemp, which was believed to make the wounded warriors insensitive to pain. Tuo’s discoveries still shape the world of modern medicine centuries after his work was supposedly destroyed by Cao Cao, the King of Wei.
- Hemp as medicine
The ancient use of hemp doesn’t limit to China only. Indians, too, were quick to recognize the many benefits of hemp early on. Doctors realized that the psychoactive properties of hemp can be used to treat sleeplessness or insomnia. Besides, gastrointestinal disorders and headaches were also treated using hemp.
Doctors belonging to ancient India formulated hemp medicines to cure dysentery and clear phlegm – two of the most commonly found conditions during the time. Hemp was also offered as a painkiller to women undergoing labor pain.
Some of the medical scripts also speak about treating sunstroke, improving digestion and appetite with bhang (a type of beverage made from cannabis, which was and is still widely used in religious practices in ancient India).
Hemp also finds its mention in the ancient Indian text, Atharvaveda, where it’s referred to as one of the 5 sacred plants in high praise.
For the Europeans, hemp had various uses in the medical practices followed in Greece and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, researchers examined a large concentration of pollen found in a Neolithic grave for five years. They were able to conclude that the pollen were mostly cannabis. The grave contained a male body, which was believed to be extremely sick, and the findings pointed at the fact that the same cannabis may have been used as a painkiller during the treatment.
In ancient Greece, too, doctors removed tapeworms in humans with the help of hemp. The Greeks mixed the hemp seeds and dried leaves into water or wine and consumed it to treat nose bleeds and inflammation in the ear.
Besides, steam baths were yet another popular way of incorporating hemp in everyday life in ancient Greece. According to the records, these baths seemed to have kicked people into a “frenzied state.”
But the treatment wasn’t restricted to humans. The ancient Greeks used hemp in veterinary medicine for wounded horses. They dressed sores and wounds using dried hemp leaves. Due to its impressive ability to absorb liquid, the Greeks may have used hemp clothing to stop the blood, as well.
The ancient Egyptian civilization has always been considered as one of the most progressive civilizations to have ever sustained. Their healthcare system is still regarded as the best social welfare schemes. They followed a government-subsidized healthcare system, which may be new to the U.S. but has actually been around since 3100 B.C.
Besides having both male and female doctors, who specialized in specific fields of medicine and treatment, the Egyptians had roughly 800 remedies for common and complex diseases. And hemp was a significant part of several procedures.
In the Ebers Papyrus, you can find information regarding the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Doctors used hemp to treat minor conditions such as sore eyes as well as major conditions such as relieving pain caused by hemorrhoids.
In addition, the Egyptians also used hemp in eyewash and even prescribed it to patients with cancer and anorectal diseases.
Finally, the people didn’t use hemp just for medicinal purposes. The mummies unearthed by researchers tested positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
But what’s interesting is that traces of hemp were found in their lungs, indicating that the Egyptians might have been making recreational use of hemp by inhalation. So, while the findings were incredibly controversial, it’s safe to say that they weren’t just using hemp for religious and medicinal purposes.
A Zero-Waste Resource
It can be argued that the reason for hemp’s popularity in ancient times could’ve been due to its ability to be multipurpose.
When you grow hemp, nothing is wasted. It uses less water than most useful crops and can be used when it’s both fresh and dried.
Perhaps now, it’s our turn to realize the benefits of this amazingly versatile plant and incorporate it into modern medicine. Ditch the stigma and pick a suitable hemp product to relieve your problem here.