Do any reading about CBD, and you’ll see lots of info about hemp in the mix. After all, hemp is one of the primary sources of CBD, and the laws around it change everything in the CBD industry. But most people don’t know hemp’s long history, or even what it really is! Let’s fix that. 


What is hemp?

Hemp, also called industrial hemp, is one variety of the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa L. In the same family as marijuana, both varieties of the plant have the cannabinoid compounds cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana. However, hemp has a different chemical makeup from marijuana, with a far lower concentration of THC—less than 0.3 percent—and a far higher concentration of CBD. So, hemp is kind of like marijuana’s non-psychoactive sister plant, but one that has no use as a recreational drug on its own.

The plant itself grows incredibly fast and produces edible seeds and flowers, which are what are harvested for the production of CBD. 


The very beginning

One of the oldest plants on Earth, hemp is a plant for the ages—literally. It has been around for thousands of years! The first recorded traces of the plant date back to 2800 BCE, according to some sources, and as far back as 8000 BC according to others. Originally connected to China and Taiwan, word of hemp’s many uses and benefits, and therefore, its cultivation, quickly spread through other parts of Asia, Eurasia, and Europe up through the Middle Ages, becoming known as “Sacred Grass” in India. By the 1500s AD, hemp made it to South America, and by 1616, European settlers had brought it to North America as the main crop of the day. In fact, in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia, it was illegal to not grow hemp. It has gone in and out of favor in the U.S. over the years, but the 2018 Farm Bill brought it back in, legalizing commodity hemp production in the whole of the United States. It’s now the fastest growing crop market in the country.


The Story of Hemp


Hale and hardy

Why was hemp so popular? Well, it’s unbelievably hardy, with the ability to grow in many different climates. It’s essentially an efficiency mastermind, as far as plants go, using sunlight more productively than most plants, so it can grow more quickly and densely than others, too. Because of the density of its growth pattern, the plants typically don’t garner too many weeds, since the weeds can’t survive under the leaf coverage. And to top it all off, hemp is very resistant to pests all on its own, so no (or very little) pesticide are needed. 


Where is hemp grown?

Hemp is grown in dozens of countries around the world, but despite its enduring nature, there are certain conditions in which it grows better: warm and stable climates, where the soil temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Thankfully, in the United States, there are plenty of climates that support this—and plenty of space for industrial farming. As you might expect, Colorado, with its already thriving cannabis industry, is one of the leading states for hemp growth, but Montana actually takes the top, with more than double the amount of land that Colorado has devoted to its production. Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and North Dakota fall next in line. California is not near the top, although much of its climate is fantastic for hemp cultivation, and the quality of hemp that is coming out of the state is pristine. 


Hemp’s many uses

In addition to its durability, hemp is also unbelievably versatile. We talk about hemp here for its use in CBD production and other ingestible forms—its seeds are used in foods, body products, and oils galore. But other parts of the hemp plant, the fiber and stalks, have been used for making textiles, rope and cord, canvas, and paper since the very beginning. Hemp has been a part of construction materials, like bricks, insulating hemp-lime, particle board, and a concrete-esque substance called hempcrete. It’s advantageous for the earth, too, to both grow industrial hemp and build with hemp products, because the plant is a super-absorber of atmospheric CO2 and combines it with water to convert the two into hydrocarbons, which is the material plants are made from to begin with—sustainability personified (or…plantified?). 


Hemp in CBD

Adding to the hemp’s already impressive list of utility, hemp is, of course, also one of the keys to the CBD kingdom. The cannabidiol compound can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana plants, but as we’ve said above, hemp has a few advantages: it’s legal States-wide, it’s chock full of the CBD compound, and it doesn’t cause psychoactive effects because of its limited THC content. CBD is extracted from hemp flowers and then made into a variety of CBD products, such as oils, edibles, capsules, topicals, etc. (And some people just use the hemp flowers themselves!) The one downside some might find from hemp-based CBD products is that, because of its smaller percentage of THC and other terpenes, there is less of chance to have the entourage effect, which is when all the cannabinoid compounds in a cannabis plant interact with one another to bring greater benefits to the body. However, the quality of hemp cannot be beat. 

We have several other posts related to hemp on this site and our sister site, CBD World News, if you’re interested in learning more. Be sure to check out: 

Anthony Tribunella

Having experienced the benefits of CBD first hand when it was starting to gain popularity, Anthony decided to spend his working life championing it to the public and his peers in the wider CBD community. As a CBD innovator himself, Anthony likes to remain at the leading edge of scientific and product development to ensure that the potential of CBD has every chance of being fully realized.

See all posts by Anthony Tribunella

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