Is Hemp Paleo? Ancient History Suggests Yes.

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By Morris Beegle and Steven Hoffman

Cannabis sativa, the plant that produces marijuana and its non-psychoactive cousin hemp, has been used by humans for more than 25,000 years. Here, we explore how hemp can be incorporated as an integral part of a healthful Paleo Diet and sustainable lifestyle.

Is hemp Paleo? Some Paleo purists have argued no. However, history suggests that ancient human ancestors – the Denisovans, living 160,000 years ago on the Tibetan Plateau – may have been among the first to discover the benefits of the Cannabis sativa plant for food, fiber and medicine – long before the advent of civilization and agriculture, thus qualifying it for consideration in a Primal Diet and lifestyle. Both marijuana and its non-psychoactive cousin hemp come from the cannabis plant, the origins of which have been traced back 28 million years to this central Asian region that lies at an elevation of 10,700 feet between the Himalayan mountain range to the south and the Taklaman Desert in China to the north.

According to other historians, during a short period of time at the end of the last Ice Age, Stone Age humans in Europe and Asia independently began using cannabis. Some studies suggest that cannabis entered the archaeological record of Japan and Eastern Europe at almost exactly the same time, between about 11,500 and 10,200 years ago.

“The cannabis plant seems to have been distributed widely from as early at 10,000 years ago, or even earlier,” said researcher Tengwen Long of the Free University of Berlin in Germany.

Long and his research team suggested that different groups of people across Eurasia independently began using the plant at about the same time, perhaps for its psychoactive properties but also as a source of food and medicine, or even to make textiles and clothing from its fiber. They hypothesize that use of the plant spread rapidly as nomadic cultures on the Eurasian steppes mastered horseback riding, allowing them to cover vast distances and establish trading routes which would become the famed Silk Road several millennia later.

In the United States, hemp was produced and used extensively for centuries. It became an important material for everything from rope to sails to clothing. In fact, the original American flag sewn by Betsy Ross was made from hemp. Yet after existing for millions of years in nature, and proving to be of great use in numerous everyday applications, hemp and marijuana were made illegal by the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Stories abound as to why.

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