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The History of the Hemp Plant

To say the hemp plant is taken for granted would be an understatement.  While it’s quiet, unassuming, and petite, it’s not the size that matters but rather the powerful impact this plant possesses

Many ancient cultures are known to have gods and goddesses for cannabis.  The ancient civilizations of Korea and China had Magu – the goddess of the hemp plant.  In Ancient Egypt, Seshat was worshipped with a depiction of her and a hemp leaf over her head.

The hemp plant is one of the most fascinating plants in the biodome.

From its seeds, stalks, and leaves to its flowers, the anatomy is an endless trove of treasures.  While hemp and marijuana are sisters with similar anatomical structures, they have different chemical compositions.

Modern-day cannabis gets fame from Abrahamic faith, with the Rastafarians, who make it known that cannabis consumption is part of their practice.

So, what makes this plant so special you might ask?

While the female cannabis plants are notorious for their mind-altering capabilities, hemp gains its fame in a more subtle way.

It’s the botanical makeup of the hemp plant that tells its tale of why it’s so revered.

Some say that the hemp plant is one of the oldest cultivated crops and dates back thousands of years and across countless civilizations across the globe.  The plant is multi-faceted with several applications and has been a foundational pillar of cultures throughout history.

Worldwide, there is much attention focused on the therapeutic and holistic benefits of CBD from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and this has all fueled the fire of digging in deeper to best understand the natural benefits of hemp in treating a host of health issues for humans and animals.

What’s even more interesting is that it’s been illegal for nearly a century but is making a well-deserved comeback with massive popularity.  

At High Falls Hemp NY, we believe it’s essential to feed your mind, body, and soul.  

Part of that feeding is nurturing your mind and that includes a responsibility to make sure we educate you about all you should know if you are interested in CBD as an alternative solution.

Whether it’s merely education, for your reference in starting a CBD business, using CBD, or becoming a distributor, we are here to hold your hand and help you learn more.

 The Botany of the Hemp Plant

The cannabis plant consists of the stalk, node, the fan leaf and the flower that is all born from the hemp seed.  Hemp’s therapeutic properties perfuse through the stalks and then the leaves. However, the highest concentration of cannabidiol, CBD, is within the roughage.  Use of the leaves for medicinal purposes came well before modern medicine. 

Bhang, an ancient beverage from India was quite popular for festivals, medicinal and religious uses.  The region where Bhang started still has hemp plants growing in the wild.   In 2014, there was a resurgence of interest in the hemp plant which has driven demand, cultivation, and research globally. 

The most coveted characteristic is the hemp plant’s CBD rich flowers and leaves.  Read on to understand each component of our beloved hemp plant.

Hemp Plant 101 – Parts of the Hemp Plant

This awesome process begins with a seed in the ground that grows into a majestic plant.  Can you believe that they say the hemp plant has over 25,000 applications!  But, in order to get to this part, it’s important to understand each component of the plant: 

The Hemp Seed

A hemp plant starts off just like any other plant – as a seed.  The seed is actually a nut and within that nut is everything that is required for its birth to begin and blossom.  Within the hemp seed is its root which is a thin endosperm with two cotyledons that contain the embryonic initial leaves that appear following germination.  In between the two cotyledons is the apical lip which is where the hemp plant continues its growth after it sprouts. 

The Hemp Stalk

The hemp stalk supports the plant as it continues to mature and grow.  This stalk is usually hollow and is an integral component of the plant’s growth.  The stalk houses the hemp plant’s vascular system and is the highway for the transference of essential nutrients and moisture throughout the plant’s roots all the way to its leaves.  It also transports necessary sugars and starches throughout the process, like all plants, of photosynthesis.

On the outer part of the hollow center of the hemp stalk, you can find a layer made up of a thick woody layer of hard cells.

Outside of that layer is the cambium.  The cambium cells mature into bast which is processed for fiber.  The outer part of that stalk is divided into nodes and lateral branches originate from here.  Nodes are the part of the hemp plant that contains a high concentration of hormones produced in the plant.

The Hemp Leaves

The leaves of the hemp plant are usually long and slim and are easily distinguished from their appearance.  They often grow in pairs from the main stem and its branches.  These are similar in appearance to marijuana leaves but are differentiated by their slender, lengthy shape.

As is the case with almost all plants, the leaves of the hemp plant have an intrinsic role in the botany of the plant and are fundamental and essential to the process of photosynthesis.  The leaves of the hemp plant, like in most plants, is where light is soaked up and then transferred internally throughout the plant by the phloem which is the living tissue in a vascular plant.  It transports the organic compounds throughout the various components of the plant where they are most needed.

Hemp Flowers

The very last part of the plant to blossom are its flowers that are produced.  On the hemp plant, these are usually towards the top part of the plant and often referred to as colas.  The highest concentration of CBD and other cannabinoids are found in the flowers and these are typically sticky and

The last part of the hemp plant to grow are the beautiful flowers it produces. They are typically concentrated towards the top of the hemp plant and are sometimes referred to as colas. Hemp flowers are where the highest concentrations of CBD and other cannabinoids are contained and are known to be extremely gelatinous and sticky.  The flower of the hemp plant is quite complex as well with a host of different parts.

The Calyx

The calyx is the first part of the flower that is formed when a young plant enters its flowering stage if it is indeed a plant that is capable of flowering of course. In a perfect spiraling Fibonacci sequence, the plant quickly and in the most efficient way forms a protective platform consisting of small leaves, which are called the sepals. This protective platform for the flower in its entirety is called the calyx.

The calyx is designed to protect the plant’s reproductive organs in between the sepals and provide the flower with a base of stability. Even though all flowering male and female plants have calyxes, it is when looking at cannabis plants specifically, that only the calyxes of the female plants are of interest to the aspiring cannabis grower.

When cultivating cannabis, the objective is to harvest robust, large colas of which the calyxes are a part.

Not just any ordinary part, but the most important part, because the calyxes are where you find the reproductive organs of the plant, called the pistils, and the trichomes.

The Pistil

The pistils are where you see the long hairs coming from; these hairs are called stigmas. The stigmas will start out white when the plant is still in its early flowering stage but will turn amber or yellow, and ultimately brown, as the plant progresses through its flowering stage. The trichomes are the resin glands where the cannabinoids are formed, including the psychoactive and more familiar THC.

The pistils are where you see the long hairs coming from; these hairs are called stigmas. The stigmas will start out white when the plant is still in its early flowering stage, but will turn amber or yellow, and ultimately brown, as the plant progresses through its flowering stage. The trichomes are the resin glands where the cannabinoids are formed, including the psychoactive and more familiar THC.

The stigmas or long hairs can help a grower identify when a plant is ready to be harvested. In the first weeks a female cannabis flower or bud is formed, it will have long white hairs coming out if it. After 4 to 5 weeks the stigmas will start to turn yellowish. When about 50 to 80 percent of your plants’ buds stigmas have turned yellow or amber, they are ready to be harvested. If you harvest later, the stigmas will turn brown and dry out so you do not want to wait too long to harvest a cannabis plant or the buds will lose their potency and taste.

In fact, most of the cannabinoids are formed in the pistils and the calyxes of the cannabis plant. This is the flower part of the plant that will eventually be harvested, dried, and cured and ultimately will be ready for consumption.

The Trichome

Another way to recognize high-quality CBD flowers is to examine the number of trichomes on the flower’s surface.

Trichomes are the set of fine crystalline hairs with bulbous heads on mature flowers and leaves that aren’t always immediately visible to the naked eye.

Under closer examination, the trichomes look like resinous beads and give mature flowers a feeling of stickiness.

CBD hemp flowers which are densely packed with ripe trichomes and have a “frosty” look indicate they are potent and are of high-quality.

The trichomes are the part of the plant that produces THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. In addition to producing such cannabinoids, trichomes produce the resin. They are also responsible for the storage of essential oils and terpenes which are special compounds that give CBD flowers its aroma and flavor.

Trichomes begin to appear on cannabis as soon as the plants enter their flowering stage, toward the end of the lifecycle and just before the buds are ready for harvest. As the plant’s buds begin to appear, trichomes also start to form along the stalk, the leaves, and the buds.

Growers need to be careful when handling marijuana plants during the flowering stage, as trichomes are volatile and can be degraded by physical contact, as well as heat, light, and oxygen.

Because they are filled with resin, when trichomes break, they release the sticky oil inside. This is what gives some marijuana buds their stickiness. The more trichomes there are, the more resin they will release when handled roughly.

Compared to the rest of the cannabis plant, trichomes contain a much higher concentration of; cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

On the cannabis plant, there are three types of trichomes:

  • Bulbous – The smallest of the three types, these trichomes are nearly invisible to the naked eye. They appear on the surface of the entire plant and are as small as 10-15 micrometers. While bulbous trichomes do contain cannabinoids and other compounds, their tiny size limits their capacity.
  • Capitate-sessile – These trichomes are the next largest group. They are slightly larger than bulbous trichomes and are significantly more abundant. Capitate sessile trichomes start to take on the more familiar head-and-stalk or mushroom-like shape.
  • Capitate-stalked– This is the largest trichome found on the cannabis plant. The trichomes appear during the flowering phase and form the protective outer layer of small leaves that surround new buds. Capitate-stalked glands consist of a tier of secretory disc cells subtending a large non-cellular secretory cavity. These types of trichomes are the elements that cannabis growers look for when harvesting a crop because they produce the highest concentrations of cannabis-unique chemical compounds. Male plants have smaller and less concentrated capitate-stalked glands than female plants.

The resin that the trichomes produce protects the flowers of the hemp plant from the ultraviolet rays of the sun, loss of water, insects, and other predators in the environment.  Think of the trichome as a defense system for the hemp plant.

Cannabis and Hemp

As you may or may not know, hemp is closely related to the marijuana plant. The main difference between the two is the amount of THC that is present. In 2014, when the hemp plant was deemed legal to grow for industrial purposes, one of the stipulations in the act stated that in order for hemp to be considered hemp and not marijuana it had to have a THC content of 0.3% or less. A plant that has any more than 0.3% THC is legally considered marijuana according to the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills.

Both hemp and marijuana are only parts of a bigger whole that many people don’t fully understand. Hemp, in all of its majestic beauty, is much more than meets the eye.

Cannabis is a genus of plants that flower that is in the Cannabaceae family. There are three primary species of this genus that make up the family. Cannabis Ruderalis, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Sativa. Although scientists argue whether or not there are more than one species in the Cannabis family, the traditional belief is that these three categories are what make up the whole family. Here are the differences. 

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa is a flowering plant that is known to grow and thrive in warmer climates such as Columbia and Mexico. Its earliest roots seem to have begun in eastern Asia. Cannabis Sativa has been a part of civilization for a very long time. Cannabis is even mentioned in the bible as an ingredient in an anointing oil. Even the earliest times of recorded history show that it was harvested for its seeds, its oil, and its fiber. In early times clothing and ropes were made from the fibers, the seeds were used for nutritional purposes and the oils were used for medicinal purposes. Although Cannabis Sativa is often thought of as the only species of Cannabis, it has its own characteristics that differ from other plants in the genus:

  • Tall and Long - Cannabis Sativa plants are thin and long. The leaves are rich and a vibrant green with sawtooth-like edges
  • Longer Flowering Process - Cannabis Sativa plants take between 10 to 16 weeks to mature
  • Lower Concentrations of THC to CBD - Cannabis Sativa plants are known to have a lower THC to CBD ratio, they are higher in CBD than other cannabis plants. Not all cannabis sativa plants have CBD, but some strains do 

Cannabis Sativa plants, commonly known as hemp, can grow up to 20 feet tall outdoors

Cannabis Indica

Just like other cannabis plants, Cannabis Indica has been traced back for many generations. It seems to have originated from Afghanistan or some part of Asia. Indica is shaped differently than Sativa in the way that it does not grow as tall, but it is much wider. The leaves are not slender like Sativa, they are shorter and fatter. The color of the plant is much darker green and some of the plants can appear to be dark blue or even black. Cannabis Indica generally has a higher concentration of THC than Sativa, but some would argue that they are about the same. Although it is a member of the Cannabis family, it has some very distinct differences:

  • Not Good for Fiber - Cannabis Indica has poor fibers and is not known to produce high-quality fibrous products
  • Flowering Process - The flowering process for Cannabis Indica is generally shorter than that of Cannabis Sativa
  • Fragrant Smell – as a form of marijuana, cannabis indica has a skunky fragrance, and is known as skunk weed

Cannabis Indica plants grow up to about 12 feet tall

Cannabis Ruderalis

Although botanists argue from time to time whether Cannabis Ruderalis is a separate species or a subspecies that grew from the Cannabis Indica species, there is no denying that it is, in fact, part of the Cannabaceae family. It is a strong plant that has been able to adapt and grow in harsh conditions with varying degrees of climates and weather. Early discoveries show that it was present in Asia and Eastern Europe. Russian botanists coined the term “ruderalis” to describe breeds of the hemp plant that were able to live through human disruption and extreme climates. Cannabis Ruderalis has proven to be a sturdy plant with many great qualities.

  • Low THC Content - Cannabis ruderalis has a low THC content and high CBD content
  • Autoflowering - Autoflowering means that the plants automatically flower on their own regardless of the light cycle
  • Robust - This plant has the ability to survive extreme conditions and adapt to its surroundings

Cannabis Ruderalis plants grow short to the ground and typically do not grow over two and a half feet in height.

Magnificent Hemp

As far back as 8,000 BCE, archaeologists have found small traces of hemp that they believed were used to make pottery. There is also evidence that people of that era ate parts of the hemp plant for nutritional value. Over the hundreds of centuries that have passed since then, more and more discoveries have been made that all point to the fact that humans have been growing, farming, and using hemp for a very long time. Cannabis Sativa has a hearty fiber core that allows for strong, and long-lasting creations such as rope and clothing. The oil that comes from the plant is robust and full of cannabinoids. The seeds are full of nutrients and are a complete protein source. The best way to describe the hemp plant is to call it magnificent.

Hemp Paper Goods

Hemp plants were used to make paper in the Western Han Dynasty (China), which was around 200 BCE. In the same fashion that wood is smashed down into a pulp then flattened into sheets, hemp is broken down into a pulp and transformed into paper. It didn’t take long for the Chinese to see the value in this paper for keeping records and making books. They also learned that they could use the paper to wrap fragile items for shipping. Soon the rest of the world got the big news about this amazing discovery and began to follow suit using hemp to create all sorts of paper products for various uses. Hemp paper goods even came to the United States where several famous books and documents were created on them. 

Hemp Fabrics and Clothing

Over the years hemp has proven to be a terrific source of fabric and other textiles. Early civilizations used hemp to make ropes, shoes, and other goods. Another amazing creation that comes from the hemp plant is the painting canvas. Although in the beginning hemp clothing was rough and rugged which made it a little uncomfortable, over the years people have learned to make hemp fabrics that are soft and gentle, even more so than cotton. It is a sad commentary to know that people have been growing and using hemp to make clothing and other goods since the beginning of civilization, yet there are so many laws that restrict it today. 

The Hemp Revolution

Although cannabis and everything that came from it became evil and dangerous in the eyes of the law, the people that believed in it didn’t stop using it. News and propaganda even went so far as to label hemp products as poison. In 1937 the US government proposed the Marihuana Tax Act. This act made possession or transfer of marijuana throughout the United States illegal under federal law. Medical and industrial uses were exempt from this law, but there was a huge tax on all sales of hemp. Some believe that it was the industrial influencers who controlled the wood and paper industries which did not want to compete with hemp, while others site the ban on marijuana being motivated by those in power who wanted to suppress minorities who were users of marijuana.

The laws against the use of marijuana became intertwined with the war on drugs which gained momentum in the late 1960s as a gateway drug and was prominently included in the list of banned substances with the controlled substance act in 1970. Again, some site the need to repress the counter-culture revolution and minorities at the time as a motivating factor to include marijuana in the maze of anti-drug laws created at the time. 

Over the years there have been many changes and additions to the laws that govern cannabis, but the people that believed in the plant held strong, and eventually, the laws around cannabis began to weaken and fade away.

Industrial Hemp

Over the last 10+ years,  farmers figured out a way to grow Cannabis Sativa in a way that kept the THC content at the lowest levels possible. It appears that when they crossbred Cannabis Sativa with Cannabis Ruderalis they created a robust, healthy strain of cannabis that held all of the naturally occurring cannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes of the Cannabis Sativa plant, but left lowered levels of THC. Of course, the THC was still present, but not enough to cause psychoactive effects. With all of these cannabinoids still intact, hemp farmers were able to produce high-quality hemp extract products such as CBD oils and tinctures. 

The Hemp Industry

When marijuana was made legal for adult use in Colorado in 2012, hemp’s rise to legitimacy began, as hemp was just a low THC version of marijuana. Then the Federal Farm Bill of 2014 explicitly allowed hemp to be grown on an experimental basis, the floodgates to a whole new world of potential opened up and brought forth a tremendous wave of revenue and hope for hemp farmers across the country. The 2018 Farm Bill clarified the rights of hemp farmers to legally grow hemp on their farms for industrial purposes including manufacturing of hemp extracts, CBD products, and textiles.  Although the Farm Bills of 2014 and 2018 made hemp legal to cultivate, process and market the end products, each state needed to decide whether to allow hemp to be grown in their state. Concurrent with the growth of the nascent hemp industry, some states legalized the growth and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Remember, the only difference between hemp and marijuana is the amount of THC that is present in the plant at the time of harvest. The fact that marijuana is legal in some states brings a bright ray of hope for the rest of the hemp farmers across the nation that someday soon many of the regulations and laws that govern the growth and production of hemp in various states around the country will become less restrictive and allow for greater adoption.

The Hemp Quest Continues

It has not been an easy road for hemp farmers in the  United States. Hemp farmers in New York have had to jump through quite a few more hoops than other states, and hemp cultivation was not widely adopted in New York state until 2018, but they continue to push forward and flourish. Since so many people around the world have come to love hemp extracts and other CBD products there does not seem to be anything to stop this amazing plant from continuing its growth, estimated to be at $2 billion in 2020. The future looks bright for hemp, with the real growth still in front of us. Great things happen when you refuse to give up.