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  • about hemp from Encyclopaedia Britannica 1910

    Posted by reaper on 2007-12-04 at 14:24

    HEMP Encyclopaedia Britannica 1910-11

    HEMP (in O. Eng. _henep_, cf. Dutch _hennep_, Ger. _Hanf_,
    cognate with Gr. k’annabis [in Greek letters], Lat. cannabis),
    an annual herb (_Cannabis sativa_) having angular rough stems and
    alternate deeply lobed leaves. The bast fibres of _Cannabis_ are
    the hemp of commerce, but, unfortunately, the products from many
    totally different plants are often included under the general
    name of hemp. In some cases the fibre is obtained from the stem,
    while in others it comes from the leaf. Sunn hemp, Manila hemp,
    Sisal hemp, and Phormium (New Zealand flax, which is neither flax
    nor hemp) are treated separately. All these, however, are often
    classed under the above general name, and so are the
    following:—Deccan or Ambari hemp, _Hibiscus cannabinus_, an
    Indian and East Indian malvaceous plant, the fibre from which is
    often known as brown hemp or Bombay hemp; Pit’e hemp, which is
    obtained from the American aloe, _Agave americana_; and Moorva or
    bowstring-hemp, _Sansevieria zeylanica_, which is obtained from
    an aloe-like plant, and is a native of India and Ceylon. Then
    there are Canada hemp, _Apocynum cannabinum_, Kentucky hemp,
    _Urtica cannabina_, and others.

    The hemp plant, like the hop, which is of the same natural order,
    Cannabinaceae, is dioecious, i.e. the male and female flowers are
    borne on separate plants. The female plant grows to a greater
    height than the male, and its foliage is darker and more
    luxuriant, but the plant takes from five to six weeks longer to
    ripen. When the male plants are ripe they are pulled, put up
    into bundles, and steeped in a similar manner to flax, but the
    female plants are allowed to remain until the seed is perfectly
    ripe. They are then pulled, and after the seed has been removed
    are retted in the ordinary way. The seed is also a value
    product; the finest is kept for sowing, a large quantity is sold
    for the food of cage birds, while the remainder is sent to the
    oil mills to be crushed. The extracted oil is used in the
    manufacture of soap, while the solid remains, known as oil-cake,
    are valuable as a food for cattle. The leaves of hemp have five
    to seven leaflets, the form of which is lanceolate-acuminate,
    with a serrate margin. The loose panicles of male flowers, and
    the short spikes of female flowers, arise from the axils of the
    upper leaves. The height of the plant varies greatly with
    season, soil and manuring; in some districts it varies from 3 to
    8 ft., but in the Piedmont province it is not unusual to see them
    from 8 to 16 ft. in height, whilst a variety (_Cannabis setiva_,
    variety _gigantea_) has produced specimens over 17 ft. in height.

    All cultivated hemp belongs to the same species, _Cannabis
    sativa_; the special varieties such as _Cannabis indica_,
    _Cannabis chinensis_, &c., owe their differences to climate and
    soil, and they lose many of their peculiarities when cultivated
    in temperate regions. Rumphius (in the 17th century) had noticed
    these differences between Indian and European hemp.

    Wild hemp still grows on the banks of the lower Ural, and the
    Volga, near the Caspian Sea. It extends to Persia, the Altai
    range and northern and western China. The authors of the
    _Pharmacographia_ say:—“It is found in Kashmir and in the
    Him’alaya, growing 10 to 12 ft. high, and thriving vigorously at
    an elevation of 6000 to 10,000 ft.” Wild hemp is, however, of
    very little use as a fibre producer, although a drug is obtained
    from it.

    It would appear that the native country of the hemp plant is in
    some part of temperate Asia, probably near the Caspian Sea. It
    spread westward throughout Europe, and southward through the
    Indian peninsula.

    The names given to the plant and to its products in different
    countries are of interest in connexion with the utilization of
    the fibre and resin. In Sans. it is called _goni_, _sana_,
    _shanapu_, _banga_ and _ganjika_; in Bengali, _ganga_; Pers.
    _bang_ and _canna_; Arab. _kinnub_ or _cannub_; Gr. _kannabis_;
    Lat. _cannabis_; Ital. _canappa_; Fr. _chanvre_; Span.
    _c’a~namo_; Portuguese, _c’anamo_; Russ. _kon’opel_; Lettish
    and Lithuanian, _kannapes_; Slav. _konopi_; Erse, _canaib_ and
    _canab_, A. Sax. _hoenep_; Dutch, _hennep_; Ger. _Hanf_; Eng.
    _hemp_; Danish and Norwegian, _hamp_; Icelandic, _hampr_; and in
    Swed. _hampa_. The English word _canvas_ sufficiently reveals
    its derivation from _cannabis_.

    Very little hemp is now grown in the British Isles, although this
    variety was considered to be of very good quality, and to possess
    great strength. The chief continental hemp-producing countries
    are Italy, Russia and France; it is also grown in several parts
    of Canada and the United States and India. The Central
    Provinces, Bengal and Bombay are the chief centres of hemp
    cultivation in India, where the plant is of most use for
    narcotics. The satisfactory growth of hemp demands a light rich
    and fertile soil, but, unlike most substances, it may be reared
    for a few years in succession. The time of sowing, the quantity
    of seed per acre (about three bushels) and the method of
    gathering and retting are very similar to those of flax; but, as
    a rule, it is a hardier plant than flax, does not possess the
    same pliability, is much coarser and more brittle, and does not
    require the same amount of attention during the first few weeks
    of its growth.

    The very finest hemp, that grown in the province of Piedmont,
    Italy, is, however, very similar to flax, and in many cases the
    two fibres are mixed in the same material. The hemp fibre has
    always been valuable for the rope industry, and it was at one
    time very extensively used in the production of yarns for the
    manufacture of sail cloth, sheeting, covers, bagging, sacking,
    &c. Much of the finer quality is still made into cloth, but
    almost all the coarser quality finds its way into ropes and
    similar material.

    A large quantity of hemp cloth is still made for the British
    navy. The cloth, when finished, is cut up into lengths, made
    into bags and tarred. They are then used as coal sacks. There
    is also a quantity made into sacks which are intended to hold
    very heavy material. Hemp yarns are also used in certain classes
    of carpets, for special bags for use in cop dyeing and for
    similar special purposes, but for the ordinary bagging and
    sacking the employment of hemp yarns has been almost entirely
    supplanted by yarns made from the jute fibre.

    Hemp is grown for three products—(1) the fibre of its stem; (2)
    the resinous secretion which is developed in hot countries upon
    its leaves and flowering heads; (3) its oily seeds.

    Hemp has been employed for its fibre from ancient times.
    Herodotus (iv. 74) mentions the wild and cultivated hemp of
    Scythia, and describes the hempen garments made by the Thracians
    as equal to linen in fineness. Hesychius says the Thracian women
    made sheets of hemp. Moschion (about 200 B.C.) records the use
    of hempen ropes for rigging the ship “Syracusia” built for
    Hiero II. The hemp plant has been cultivated in northern India
    from a considerable antiquity, not only as a drug but for its
    fibre. The Anglo-Saxons were well acquainted with the mode of
    preparing hemp. Hempen cloth became common in central and
    southern Europe in the 13th century.

    _Hemp-resin._—Hemp as a drug or intoxicant [sic—the word
    “intoxicant” implies “something which poisons”, while it is well
    known that hemp is not poisonous in any way] for smoking and
    chewing occurs in the three forms of bhang, ganja, and charas.

    1. _Bhang_, the Hindustani _siddhi_ or _sabzi_, consists of the
    dried leaves and small stalks of the hemp; a few fruits occur in
    it. It is of a dark brownish-green colour, and has a faint
    peculiar odour and but a slight taste. It is smoked with or
    without tobacco; or it is made into a sweetmeat with honey, sugar
    and aromatic spices; or it is powdered and infused in cold water,
    yielding a turbid drink, _subdschi_. _Hashish_ is one of the
    Arabic names given to the Syrian and Turkish preparations of the
    resinous hemp leaves. One of the commonest of these preparations
    is made by heating the bhang with water and butter, the butter
    becoming thus charged with the resinous and active substances of
    the plant.

    2. _Ganja_, the guaza [???] of the London brokers, consists of
    the flowering and fruiting heads of the female plant. It is
    brownish-green, and otherwise resembles bhang, as in odour and
    taste. Some of the more esteemed kinds of hashish are prepared
    from this ganja. Ganja is met with in the Indian bazaars in
    dense bundles of 24 plants or heads apiece. The hashish in such
    extensive use in Central Asia is often seen in the bazaars of
    large cities in the form of cakes, 1 to 3 in. thick, 5 to 10
    in. broad and 10 to 15 in. long.

    3. _Charas_, or churrus, is the resin itself collected, as it
    exudes naturally from the plant, in different ways. The best
    sort is gathered by the hand like opium; sometimes the resinous
    exudation of the plant is made to stick first of all to cloths,
    or to the leather garments of men, or even to their skin, and is
    then removed by scraping, and afterwards consolidated by
    kneading, pressing and rolling. It contains about one-third or
    one-fourth its weight of the resin. But the churrus prepared by
    different methods and in different countries differs greatly in
    appearance and purity. Sometimes it takes the form of egg-like
    masses of greyish-brown colour, having when of high quality a
    shining resinous fracture. Often it occurs in the form of
    irregular friable lumps, like pieces of impure linseed oil-cake.

    The medicinal and intoxicating [sic] properties of hemp have
    probably been known in Oriental countries from a very early
    period. An ancient Chinese herbal, part of which was written
    about the 5th century B.C., while the remainder is of still
    earlier date, notices the seed and flower-bearing kinds of hemp.
    Other early writers refer to hemp as a remedy. The medicinal and
    dietetic use of hemp spread through India, Persia and Arabia in
    the early middle ages. The use of hemp (bhang) in India was
    noticed by Garcia d’Orat in 1563. Berlu in his _Treasury of
    Drugs_ (1690) describes it as of “an infatuating quality and
    pernicious use.” Attention was recalled to this drug, in
    consequence of Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition, by de Sacy (1809)
    and Rouger (1810). Its modern medicinal use is chiefly due to
    trials by Dr O’Shaughnessy in Calcutta (1838–1842). The plant
    is grown partly and often mainly for the sake of its resin in
    Persia, northern India and Arabia, in many parts of Africa and in

    _Pharmacology and Therapeutics._—The composition of this drug
    is still extremely obscure; partly, perhaps, because it varies so
    much in individual specimens. It appears to contain at least two
    alkaloids—cannabinine and tetano-cannabine—of which the
    former is volatile. The chief active principle may possibly be
    neither of these, but the substance cannabinon [since then the
    active substance has been discovered to be delta-9
    tetrahydrocannabinol, although marijuana’s effects may be further
    helped by these other substances]. There are also resins, a
    volatile oil and several other constituents. Cannabis
    indica—as the drug is termed in the pharmacopoeias—may be
    given as an extract (dose 1/4–1 gr.) or tincture (dose 5–15

    The drug has no external action. The effects of its absorption,
    whether it be swallowed or smoked, vary within wide limits in
    different individuals and races [sic—in hindsight, the latter
    seems Eurocentric and surely false]. So great is this variation
    as to be inexplicable except on the view that the nature and
    proportions of the active principles vary greatly in different
    specimens. But typically the drug is an intoxicant [sic],
    resembling alcohol in many features of its action, but differing
    in others [how it resembles alcohol in “many features” I have yet
    to discover :-)]. The early symptoms are highly pleasurable, and
    it is for these, as in the case of other stimulants, that the
    drug is so largely consumed in the East. There is a subjective
    sensation of mental brilliance, but, as in other cases, this is
    not borne out by the objective results. It has been suggested
    that the incoordination of nervous action under the influence of
    Indian hemp may be due to independent and non-concerted action of
    the part of the two halves of the cerebrum. Following on a
    decided lowering of the pain and touch senses, there comes a
    sleep which is often accompanied by pleasant dreams. There
    appears to be no evidence in the case of either the lower animals
    or the human subject that the drug is an aphrodisiac. Excessive
    indulgence in cannabis indica is very rare, but may lead to
    general ill-health and occasionally to insanity [any recorded
    cases of this actually happening?]. The apparent impossibility
    of obtaining pure and trustworthy samples of the drug has led to
    its entire abandonment in therapeutics. When a good sample is
    obtained it is a safe and efficient hypnotic, at any rate in the
    case of a European [sic—again, this is highly conjectural and
    surely false]. The tincture should not be prescribed unless
    precautions are taken to avoid the precipitation of the resin
    which follows its dilution with water.

    See Watt, _Dictionary of the Economic Products of India_

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