Humans have known about the benefits of hemp for a long time, at least 10,000 years. Shortly after discovering the plant, our ancestors immediately began incorporating hemp into their everyday lives. These uses ultimately paved the way for the advancement of human civilization.
The use of stone tools by early humans was undeniably groundbreaking, but so was the fiber revolution. According to sources, hemp might have been the very first plant actively cultivated by homo sapiens. The ability to create rope for carrying food, the creation of structures, the hunting of prey, and the domestication of animals immensely changed the world for early man.
Clothing made from hemp covered the people of the world for most of human history. Only with the rise of the cotton gin did hemp finally lose its status as the top fabric choice, due to its rugged durability. It was in China where most of the major innovations of hemp occurred. The first spinning wheels spun hemp clothing and because of its traditional importance, hemp cloth is still what people wear while mourning the deceased. In Sumo circles in Japan, hemp is the holy fabric and the only cloth allowed to enter the ring.
Of course, the first real paper made by man occurred in China as well. The oldest fragments are ancient and revolutionized the Middle Kingdom allowing for the spread of bureaucracy and stable governance. The first printed book was the Buddhist manuscript The Diamond Sutra in the year 868. The important technology was a closely guarded secret, but it is said that at the Battle of Talas (where the Chinese lost to the Arabs) the capture of two paper makers brought the secret West and helped to ignite the Golden Age of Arabic Science.
When papermaking reached Renaissance Europe, cities like Florence forbid the export of hemp rags because of their importance for the production of paper. Gutenberg’s Bible, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the most famous books of the Renaissance were all written on hemp paper.
One reason the early humans took to the hemp plant was because of its edible seeds. They contained an ideal mixture of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a high percentage of quality protein, and a list of vitamins and minerals. Due to the amount of fiber they contain, hemp seeds aid in digestion. Their ease of use and transport also contributed to their popularity.
Hemp seeds have been a staple of the Chinese diet for thousands of years and are still consumed in huge amounts today. The seeds can be consumed raw, cooked, roasted, or ground into a fine powder. Liquid forms include hemp milk, hemp juice, and hemp tea. Hemp seeds are just starting to become a popular food in the United States.
Cannabis is found at the root of many religions. The first Taoist monastery was founded by two men and a woman who used cannabis at very psychoactive levels. Ma Gu is still the hemp goddess worshipped across China. In India, we can see the largest uninterrupted human use of cannabis in the world in the worship of Krishna. The founder of Zoroastrianism favored it, before his later followers went conservative and tried to write it out of the history books. The famous monk and writer Francois Rabelais wrote his epic Gargantua and Pantagruel specifically about the wonders of the cannabis plant. He risked the roasting fires of the Inquisition for his openness about the wonderous plant.