The Spaniards brought hemp to the Americas and cultivated it in Chile starting about 1545. Similar attempts were made in Peru, Colombia, and Mexico, but only in Chile did the crop find success. In July 1605, Samuel Champlain reported the use of grass and hemp clothing by the (Wampanoag) people of Cape Cod and the (Nauset) people of Plymouth Bay told him they harvested hemp in their region where it grew wild to a height of 4 to 5 ft.  In May 1607, "hempe" was among the crops Gabriel Archer observed being cultivated by the natives at the main Powhatan village, where Richmond, Virginia is now situated; and in 1613, Samuell Argall reported wild hemp "better than that in England" growing along the shores of the upper Potomac. As early as 1619, the first Virginia House of Burgesses passed an Act requiring all planters in Virginia to sow "both English and Indian" hemp on their plantations. The Puritans are first known to have cultivated hemp in New England in 1645.
In the United States, the public's perception of hemp as marijuana has blocked hemp from becoming a useful crop and product," in spite of its vital importance prior to World War II. Ideally, according to Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the herb should be desiccated and harvested towards the end of flowering. This early cropping reduces the seed yield but improves the fiber yield and quality. In these strains of industrial hemp* the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content would have been very low.
Hemp seeds are rather oily and high in fat. One tablespoon contains 3 g to 4 g of fat. The majority of this is polyunsaturated fat --- the good kind of fat --- and according to Blue Shield of California, shelled hemp seeds contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, all this fat can come at a price, and you may experience mild diarrhea when adding shelled hemp seeds to your diet. If your digestive system is sensitive to change, start with small amounts of hemp seed --- say, a teaspoon a day --- and slowly work your way up to the recommended serving of 2 tbsp.
In Western Europe, the cultivation of hemp was not legally banned by the 1930s, but the commercial cultivation stopped by then, due to decreased demand compared to increasingly popular artificial fibers. Speculation about the potential for commercial cultivation of hemp in large quantities has been criticized due to successful competition from other fibers for many products. The world production of hemp fiber fell from over 300,000 metric tons 1961 to about 75,000 metric tons in the early 1990s and has after that been stable at that level.
The recommended minimum daily intake of Shelled Hemp Seeds is a 42 grams (4 heaping tablespoons) serving. Larger individuals or those suffering with chronic health conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardio vascular disease, acne, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, circulation problems, intestinal problems, constipation, obesity or prostate problems (to name a few) may want to consider taking 55 grams (5 to 6 heaping tablespoons) a day.
Hemp seed is a wonderful source of dietary fiber, both insoluble and soluble, in a ratio of 4:1, says a report published in the Biosystems Engineering Journal by a team of researchers from Ankara University, Turkey. Insoluble fiber is best for bulking up the stool and easing the passage through the digestive tract, thereby reducing symptoms of both diarrhea and constipation. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is responsible for slowing glucose absorption and increasing the digestive and gastric juices, which further ease the passing of bowels. Soluble fiber also stimulates bile juice, which reduces the amount of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the body. Overall, the effects of these two types of fiber on the body can help you avoid a number of mild to serious health conditions.
Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa is the variety grown for industrial use, while C. sativa subsp. indica generally has poor fiber quality and female buds from this variety are primarily used for recreational and medicinal purposes. The major differences between the two types of plants are the appearance, and the amount of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) secreted in a resinous mixture by epidermal hairs called glandular trichomes, although they can also be distinguished genetically. Oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis approved for industrial hemp production produce only minute amounts of this psychoactive drug, not enough for any physical or psychological effects. Typically, hemp contains below 0.3% THC, while cultivars of Cannabis grown for medicinal or recreational use can contain anywhere from 2% to over 20%.
Since hemp seed is very low in sodium and calories and is a complete protein, it can be eaten in large quantities without fear of gaining too much weight. Complete proteins make the body feel full because all of the necessary amino acids have been taken in through food, thereby inhibiting the release of ghrelin and curbing hunger pains. This reduces the chances of overeating and subsequent weight gain. Also, fiber makes the body feel full and stimulates good digestion and fast passage of bowels, which can reduce weight and increase the efficient absorption of nutrients.
Separation of hurd and bast fiber is known as decortication. Traditionally, hemp stalks would be water-retted first before the fibers were beaten off the inner hurd by hand, a process known as scutching. As mechanical technology evolved, separating the fiber from the core was accomplished by crushing rollers and brush rollers, or by hammer-milling, wherein a mechanical hammer mechanism beats the hemp against a screen until hurd, smaller bast fibers, and dust fall through the screen. After the Marijuana Tax Act was implemented in 1938, the technology for separating the fibers from the core remained "frozen in time". Recently, new high-speed kinematic decortication has come about, capable of separating hemp into three streams; bast fiber, hurd, and green microfiber.
Millennia of selective breeding have resulted in varieties that display a wide range of traits; e.g. suited for a particular environments/latitudes, producing different ratios and compositions of terpenoids and cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, CBN...etc.), fibre quality, oil/seed yield, etc. Hemp grown for fiber is planted closely, resulting in tall, slender plants with long fibers.
John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.