A history of hemp in India

It might be challenging to relate hemp and India, but they share a long history. We believe that hemp’s use originated in Ayurveda.

We can say that it was not a very smooth journey for hemp in India. The increasing regulation in the past century helped hemp flourish once again in India. 

But before I narrate to you all about the history and the future of hemp in India, let me introduce to you what hemp is and its hype.  

What is hemp?

Hemp is a plant. To be more specific, it is the cannabis plant. Every part of hemp, namely, its stem, flowers, and seeds, can be helpful in various ways. It is a very low-maintenance crop that can be grown without pesticides.

The plant’s water intake is relatively low, like that of cotton. It is sustainable and environmentally friendly. You can consider hemp to be a weed that grows fast!

Hemp can be helpful to us in such a broad perspective. You can also call it a wonder plant. We can use it in manufacturing many goods such as food, beverages, paint, biofuel, construction, animal feed, paper, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and personal care.

Despite its usefulness in such a big area, we often tend to have a wrong impression of it because it is related to marijuana. But hemp and marijuana have differences as follows.

Difference between hemp and marijuana

Marijuana originated from the plant cannabis indica. It has a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol of around 5 to 10 percent. Now, this is the cannabis plant used to produce psychotic items. 

We know it as charas, ganja, and bhang products in India.

On the other hand, hemp comes from the plant Cannabis Sativa which is entirely different from its sister species, cannabis Indica. 

As I mentioned earlier, cannabis Indica helps make psychotic products, and it’s intentionally grown for that purpose. But, hemp is grown for its usefulness in manufacturing various goods and has no such harmful effect.

By now, you might have a question in mind if hemp has tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or not? Honestly, it has. But the concentration of THC in hemp is as low as 0.2 to 0.3 percent. 

It also contains higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD) which helps to decrease the adverse effects of THC. Thus, hemp has its use in practical life and has no such psychoactive effects as its sister plant.

Origins of hemp in India:

There is a long history of cannabis in India. Most historians believe that it originally belonged to central Asia. However, we can also find hemp in the Himalayan regions starting from Kashmir to Nepal. 

Moreover, we can see hemp in some parts of Bhutan and Myanmar. If we talk about today, we know that wild cannabis is still grown in about 60 percent of these districts.

We have archaeological evidence from 8000 BCE, where we found humans using hemp. Archaeologists found such pieces of evidence in China, Japan, and Taiwan. They discovered that hemp was used in China to produce shoes, ropes, and clothes earlier. Hemp even has its contribution in making an early form of paper.

Even in India, about 3400 years ago, hemp was considered one of the five most sacred plants in the Vedas long back. Traditionally, people used in preparing medications and nutritious food.

Ayurveda originated in India about 3000 years ago, a medical system that focused on curing the illness using plant-based products. The medications mainly were made using such a variety of plants, and hemp has its contribution there.

Indian hemp and the law:

I know you might have this confusion regarding the legality of hemp in India. I appreciate the concern. The critical question here is with the concentration of THC in hemp.

Despite its uncountable uses and benefits in manufacturing goods from various industries, hemp is always backfired on every single point, whether it contains THC or not.

But we need to understand cannabis Indica has a low concentration, and the presence of cannabidiol in a higher amount reduces its effects. People always think that the production of hemp will lead to an increase in the manufacturing and distribution of drugs in India.  

During the start of the 19th century, British colonies restricted the use of cannabis. In 1894, after completing a broad study of hemp in India, the Indian hemp drugs commission started cannabis in India. During British rule, various states made their laws regarding the cultivation and use of hemp in India.

Hemp and India in the 20th century:

The concern regarding hemp’s legal use and psychotic effects on the international level began in the 20th century. In 1925, ‘The International Opium Convention’ put restrictions on the export of ‘Indian hemp’ to the countries that had declared the ban of its use.

After 2015, many countries recognized the difference between hemp and marijuana. Uttarakhand made the first legal hemp in India, permitting the legal cultivation of hemp.

Is hemp legal in India now?

Soon after Uttarakhand started the legal cultivation of hemp in India, Uttar Pradesh was the first to join in. Many other states, namely, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Manipur, are also open to cultivating the plant.

There are no restrictions on hemp import in India as long as it adheres to the basic guidelines issued by the Indian government. Hemp companies in India are dependent on importing raw hemp from countries including China, North America, and Europe. 

There are chances that soon, India will gear up in the cultivation of hemp and support its manufacturers and contribute to the global hemp market.

Hemp: “the OG miracle crop.”

As discussed earlier, the uses of hemp are limitless. Be it in any industry, hemp contributes to the manufacturing so many goods. The practical benefits of hemp are numerous. 

Let us discuss some uses of hemp in detail.

Medical uses of hemp:

I have already enlightened you about the uses of hemp in Ayurveda. But to your surprise, hemp is also found in modern medicines since the 19th century. 

The Vedas considered hemp as one of the five most essential plants. An Irish physician had introduced cannabis to western medicine back in the 1800s.

Pharmacological researchers have discovered many uses of hemp in treating many diseases. Surprisingly, hemp can treat more than 25 diseases in today’s time. You can use hemp as an antispasmodic, a stomachic, a narcotic, and a sedative agent.

More than 1000 publishers have written about the medical uses of hemp in the last 50 years.

Use of hemp in construction:

Industrial hemp is powerful. Some of the methods in manufacturing have proved that hemp can be 200 hundred times stronger than steel.

In industries, hemp can create insulation blocks and can also be helpful during construction. However, it is not strong enough to support the structure entirely, but you can use it to create an insulating layer between the blocks.

Another exciting use of hemp is making composite panels for vehicles like cars. Car manufacturers have used hemp fiber and other materials to form a composite material since 2002.

Hemp: the nutritious food:

The hemp industry has been constituted majorly by hemp seeds and hemp seed oil in recent times. You can consume the hemp seeds in many ways, such as it can be eaten raw, sprouted, or can also be made into fine sprout powder. 

The hemp seeds have high protein content and fulfill the daily protein requirement. Hemp milk, another by-product of hemp seeds, is a satisfying beverage that is non-dairy. Apart from their nutritious value, hemp seeds are also delicious.

Not only humans but birds also eat hemp as their food. In addition to that, hemp leaves are also edible and can be consumed raw. You can also enjoy the refreshing juice made by hemp leaves.

Hemp clothing in India:

Even the earlier generations used hemp as a fiber. It is widely used for its cooling property and can be a blessing in hot and humid weather conditions. 

The fiber is solid, thus, making it durable and long-lasting. People have preferred to blend hemp with other artificial fibers like cotton or silk to bring out the best from it in recent times.

It is used in India to make clothes and is also used to make other products like cloth bags or bedding. 

Hemp in the making of paper:

Hemp is a fast-growing and low-maintenance plant that has proved its use in paper-making. It is a better choice than wood as it can be grown quickly and has a more robust capacity that makes the paper tear-resistant.

Another great benefit of using hemp in paper-making is its comparatively lower lignin content, making paper degradation easier and less time-consuming than wood pulp.

Other uses of hemp:

Apart from the uses we saw above, hemp still has many more benefits. The excellent hemp seed oil is the ‘wonder product’ with numerous potential uses. You can use it as cooking oil, oil-based paints, moisturizing agents in beauty products, and biodiesel.

You can use the filtered version of hemp seed oil as power diesel engines. It has proved used in the medical industry too.

Hemp production in India today:

The hemp business in India is taking a chance because the demand for organic and eco-friendly materials has widely increased. 

Many companies and entrepreneurs are taking their step ahead in promoting the production and use of hemp in India. People have started the strong demand for a hemp industry in India.

Many new items, like building materials, batteries, car parts, sunscreens, and other products, are discovered using hemp in their production.

Below are some of the hemp companies that are emerging in India:

1.    BOHECO:

JahanPestonJamas started Bombay hemp company (BOHECO) in 2013. It is mainly involved in all types of industrial hemp in India. It helps produce hemp fabric used for clothing, medicine, and food. It also runs its fashion brand, “B Label.” 

It is not an ordinary company. They claim that they have helped over 500 farmers in the Himalayan region.

2.    Hemp fabric lab: 

It is another excellent company rapidly growing in the Indian hemp industry. This company works to produce textiles that are either made using pure hemp or made with hemp blended with other fabrics such as cotton, silk, or wool. 

It is such a stand-out company because they sell very few meters of hemp every year. They believe in the production of limited quantities on the prior orders of the customers. It helps small designers to use hemp fabric from India only.

3.    Himalayan Hemp: 

A group of young entrepreneurs started ‘Himalayan hemp.’ They believed that we could manufacture more than 25000 products using hemp in India. 

They have a fascinating blog about their story, which will provide you with more information on the properties and benefits of hemp.

4.    Indian Industrial Hemp Association: 

Indian Industrial Hemp Association is a non-profit group promoting nutritional hemp in India. It also recognizes the industrial value of hemp. It operates to spread awareness about the benefits of hemp. They also provide data analytics about the industry.

5.    HempCann Solutions: 

It has recently opened in the year 2020 in Bangalore. It is the first clinic in India that offers cannabis-based medical treatment.

Many other start-up companies are entering the hemp industry in India in recent times. Hempsters, Foxy, Satliva are the names of a few companies.

The future of hemp in India now:

Currently, only two states have started legalizing hemp in India. But this is also a positive sign. Soon, the other states shall also begin to produce, contributing to the Indian hemp industry.

The entrepreneurs must understand the benefits of hemp and continue to explore even more uses of hemp. Hemp is such a miracle crop, and with the list of its usefulness, the sky is the limit.

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