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Industrial hemp

Industrial hemp

Nuclear eudicotyledons
Eurosiden I
Order : Rose-like (rosales)
Family : Hemp plants (Cannabaceae)
Genre : hemp
Scientific name

Hemp ( cannabis ) is a genus of plants within the hemp family . Hemp is one of the oldest useful plants on earth.

The individual components of the plant ( fibers , seeds , leaves, flowers) are imprecisely also referred to as hemp. Very different products can be made from these plant parts:

In addition to its role as an important renewable raw material for the textile and construction industries , hemp is used both as an intoxicant and as a medicine .


Hemp is usually an annual herbaceous plant . Depending on the environmental conditions, the perennial reaches very different heights, under favorable conditions, on moist, but not waterlogged soils with a good supply of nutrients, up to 5 meters can be reached. But even poorer forms in unfavorable locations, with heights of about 20 centimeters, can bloom and fruit successfully. Wild plants usually do not reach a height of more than three meters. Hemp used for fiber production grows upright in a dense stand. Freely growing plants are more or less richly branched upwards.

The leaves are composed in the shape of a hand (palmat) , the edge is sawn. The number of leaflets on a leaf varies: the first pairs of leaves usually only have one leaflet, subsequent ones can have up to 13 (usually seven to nine, depending on genetics and environmental conditions). Towards the terminal bloom the number of leaflets decreases again down to a single leaflet. The leaves are mainly opposite in the lower area , alternate further up.

Hemp species and cultivars are dioecious, separate sexes ( diocesan ), which means: male and female flowers usually grow on different plants. However, as an exception, monoecular plant specimens are also described. Male and female inflorescences are designed very differently. Male flowers sit in upright, terminal (terminal) and axillary, richly branched panicle-like umbels, which can reach about 25 centimeters in length. The yellow-green single flowers are pendulous on 2 to 4 millimeter long stems, the five sepals are up to 4 millimeters long, the petals are completely absent. The female flowers are clustered, often in pairs, in the axils of large, foliage-like bracts . They are surrounded by bracts that reach about 2 to 8 millimeters in length; these are densely covered by pedunculated glands. The single flowers are green in color and sessile. The spherical ovary is enclosed in the adjacent calyx and the surrounding bracts. The two styluses of the scar are colored red.

Among monoecious specimens, the different types of flowers sometimes appear in separate inflorescences, sometimes in one inflorescence. All known forms of hemp are wind pollinated .

The fruits of hemp are achenes .

In nature, hemp is diploid , the number of chromosomes is 2n = 20, in culture polyploid plant lines were also bred. The hemp genome was completely sequenced for the first time on August 18, 2011 and is 131 billion bases. Once sorted, it is estimated to be around 400 million base pairs.


Cannabinoids , terpenoids, and other volatile substances are released from trichomes . These plant components occur almost exclusively on the sepals and bracts of female hemp plants.


Originally, hemp was believed to have come from Central Asia. Since it has been spreading more and more by human intervention for thousands of years, the natural range can no longer be precisely delimited. Today, hemp can be found almost worldwide in the temperate to tropical zones, both cultivated and wild.


The genus cannabis (with an emphasis on the first syllable; from Greek kánnabis , 'hemp') was originally established by Carl von Linné in 1753 based on Cannabis sativa (common hemp) as a monotypical genus . Lamarck then divided the Indian clan in 1785 on the basis of morphological characteristics and the intoxicating ability as Cannabis indica (Indian hemp) and the Russian botanist Dmitrij E. Janischewsky was the first to describe cannabis ruderalis ( ruderal hemp ) in 1926 . In the 20th century, however, the systematics of the genus was largely controversial, in addition to the model of three independent species, some authors considered the three clans to be all subspecies of Cannabis sativa , and other species were also described in isolated cases, which, however, mostly did not prevail.

In 2003, the American Karl W. Hillig wrote a detailed genetic study based on 157 populations worldwide, which confirmed the species rank of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica . However, the independence of Cannabis ruderalis could not be proven with certainty; later work on the chemotaxonomy of the genus confirmed these results and narrowed the scope of the genus in two ways:

  • Hemp ( Cannabis sativa L. )
    • Cultivated hemp ( Cannabis sativa var. Sativa )
    • Wild hemp ( Cannabis sativa var. Spontanea Vav. )
  • Indian hemp ( Cannabis indica Lam .)

In September 2005, researchers from the Canberra Institute of Technology reported in the New Scientist that they had identified a new subspecies of cannabis based on analysis of mitochondrial and chloroplast DNA.


Early history and antiquity

Hemp ( Cannabis sativa L. ) has been used in China for a long time. (麻), as the Chinese called the hemp, not only provided them with tasty and nutritious seeds, the stems with their particularly long and almost indestructible fibers were also appreciated early on. Already in the Shénnóng Běncǎojīng , a 2800 BC at the earliest. BC, but more likely between 300 BC. Chinese medical text written in 200 BC and AD 200, the author describes how hemp can be used as a cure for malaria , rheumatism and many other ailments.

In a 2,700-year-old grave of the Gushi culture in China , a container filled exclusively with highly psychoactive cannabis flowers was discovered as part of the grave goods.

Via India and the ancient civilizations in today's Iraq, the hemp started its way around the world. In Europe, the oldest finds are around 5500 years old and come from the Eisenberg area (Thuringia, Germany). Originally, cannabis probably came from Kazakhstan . From the area of ​​today's Lithuania , finds of hemp seeds come from about 2500 BC. And a hemp thread approx. 2300 BC. The ancient Greeks and their Egyptian neighbors often dressed in hemp; Clothing made from hemp fabric is mentioned by Herodotus (450 BC). Hemp, nettle and flax have long been the most important fiber crops in Europe. Pliny the Elder writes that hemp relieves pain , and Pedanios Dioscurides reports the effectiveness of the juice of the hemp seeds against earache. From the Middle Ages to the modern era, hemp was used to relieve labor cramps and postpartum pain symptoms.

Middle Ages and Modern Times

Illustration from 1885
Cannabis sativa in the Book of Hours of Anne of Bretagne

Even after antiquity, hemp remained an important crop in Europe. In 812, Emperor Charlemagne mentioned hemp ( canava ) in Chapter LXII of his Land Estate Ordinance Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii , even though he did not include it in the list of plants to be cultivated as mandatory.

Many medieval weapons, such as the longbow , whose sinews were made of hemp, would not have been possible to make without the robust and resilient hemp fiber, which can withstand enormous tensile forces.

Another application of hemp fiber found its way to Europe via Spain in the 13th century - paper manufacture . Since paper production from wood was not yet mastered at that time, hemp was the most important raw material for paper production alongside rags, which themselves often consisted of hemp. The first paper mill on German soil was built in Nuremberg in 1290, and Gutenberg printed his famous Gutenberg Bible on hemp paper in 1455 . The American Declaration of Independence from 1776 is also printed on hemp paper. The first American President, George Washington , grew hemp himself on a large scale.

In the book Abhandlungen aus der Naturlehre from 1744, which he translated, Abraham Gotthelf Kästner recommended the joint cultivation of hemp and caraway and described the exact procedure.

Hemp ropes and canvas made from hemp were important in shipping because the fiber is very resistant to salt water and absorbs less water than cotton, for example - cotton sails would be so heavy in the rain that the masts could break. Flax linen was also a poor substitute because, unlike canvas made of hemp, it rots within a few months on contact with water. Venice achieved its supremacy as an important trading center in the Middle Ages due to the high quality of the rope making . In southwest Germany, hemp cultivation declined with the emergence of tobacco cultivation, which was more profitable for farmers, and with the importation of sisal fibers and, with a few exceptions, practically came to a standstill by the First World War.

Modern and present

Hemp harvesting machine Blücher 02 for fiber extraction

In the middle of the 20th century, synthetic fibers, especially from the manufacturer DuPont, also replaced hemp from clothing production, supported by the anti-cannabis campaign by Harry J. Anslinger . Exceptions were the US military's "Hemp for Victory" campaign, which urgently needed the raw material hemp for armaments, and the agricultural policy in Nazi Germany , which quadrupled the cultivation of hemp as a renewable raw material in a few years before the war began.

The agricultural cultivation of hemp has increased continuously since its "rebirth" in the early 1990s. Even so, production in Europe is far behind demand.

Thanks to its properties, hemp has regained a foothold in many areas of the economy. It is suitable for building houses as well as a basis for paints, varnishes, detergents and much more. The hemp fiber is superior to the cotton fiber in many ways and is also suitable for the production of certain papers.

Hemp products show very good resistance to wear, so that the fibers can often be recycled and early, historical printed products also have a good durability.

In plant breeding , hemp is used as parcel isolation in breeding gardens in which wind pollinators such as beta beets are used.

Hemp seeds are also used as animal feed. They are mainly found in bird feed mixes and grain feed mixes for rodents (often for guinea pigs and rabbits). Like all seeds, they have a high fat content and therefore ensure rapid growth, especially in young animals.

A financial infrastructure of mostly smaller companies has developed around legal cultivation and sales.


Hemp grown as a crop is sown in the spring and the seeds usually germinate after three to seven days. At a height of about ten centimeters, the first true leaves (after the cotyledons) are formed. The plant grows by vegetative reproduction as the day length increases , but only flowers when the day length decreases, i.e. H. the period of darkness exceeds about 10 to 12 hours (i.e. not until late summer). When used as a medicinal and drug plant, only flowering female plants are used, hemp seeds and hemp oil from fruiting female plants. When used as a fiber plant, the vegetative, non-flowering sprouts are used. The cultivation systems therefore depend heavily on the use.

Industrial hemp

Hemp fibers are the raw material for very resistant textiles.
Longitudinal section through a trunk.

Fibers from the Dzudzuana Cave in Georgia, the age of which is estimated to be around 30,000 years, are the oldest traces of the use of wild-collected hemp for fiber production. At the famous Dolní Věstonice site in South Moravia, imprints of used fibers were discovered that are believed to be around 26,000 years old. The origin of the cultivation of industrial hemp as a crop is believed to be in China, according to archaeological finds and written sources it is said to be around 5000 to 6000 years old. According to legend, the great emperor Shennong taught the cultivation. The oldest evidence of cultivated hemp in China goes back to the Yangshao culture , where charred hemp seeds were dug up in a ceramic vessel in Linjia , the age of which was estimated to be between 5500 and 4500 years. In the Banpo settlement , which dates from around 3600 BC. When it was abandoned BC, tissue remnants were found, but their assignment to hemp is not entirely certain. Imprints of hemp cord in ceramic vessels from the same period are considered safer. Further finds of tissue remnants made of hemp fibers come from Tahojuang in Yongjing County , Gansu (4150 to 3780 years old) or from an excavation in the coastal plain of Zhejiang (5500 to 4200 years old). The cultivation of hemp is already mentioned in one of the oldest works of Chinese literature, the Xia Xiao Zheng ("small calendar of the Xia dynasty "), the age of which is estimated at perhaps 3000 years. The Chinese also used hemp fiber for paper production for a long time; it was the first raw material used for this on a large scale. Many of the books that were discovered in the Mogao Grottoes near Dunhuang and that date back to the 9th century AD are written on hemp paper.

From ancient times until well into the 20th century, hemp was a recognized and indispensable raw material for the manufacture of a variety of objects, including clothing, hemp ropes, ropes and rigging for ships, bandages ( bandages and sharps ) and paper.

In the years after 1985 there was a veritable hemp boom, which brought the uses of the useful plant immense growth. In the course of this hemp wave, structures arose all over the world that campaigned for a normalization of the legal situation or simply for complete legalization. The worldwide growing commitment and the growing political pressure led to the fact that hemp cultivation was dealt with on a European level and that today (2017) 52 industrial hemp varieties are allowed for cultivation in the EU.

Hemp is popular as a renewable raw material because of its problem-free cultivation and complete usability. No herbicides are required because the plants completely shade the soil after just a few days so that weeds can no longer find light . It is also extremely pest-resistant and easy to care for. Hemp produces more biomass than any other domestic crop. In the economy , hemp is extremely versatile and is valued for its high durability , environmental compatibility and low energy balance .

Hemp as a medicine

Medical cannabis from the USA

The pharmacological effects of cannabis have only recently become the focus of medical research. Ingredients called cannabinoids are responsible for the effects ; above all Δ 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Studies indicate the potential medicinal potential of medicinal cannabis in certain forms of cancer . The medical application of cannabis and cannabinoids is currently being intensively researched.

The prescribing ability of cannabis flowers and cannabis extracts is regulated differently nationally. In Germany, cannabis ( "plants and plant parts of the plants belonging to the genus cannabis" ) has been a marketable and prescription drug since March 10, 2017, which can theoretically be prescribed by any doctor if he considers it useful. In Austria, preparations made from cannabis extracts are permitted according to § 14 Zif. 3 drug ordinance prescribable. Cannabis or its active ingredients can be used medicinally in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Finland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Israel, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, in over half of the 50 states of the United States and in other countries .

Both cannabis sativa and cannabis indica or hybrids resulting from them are used as medicinal hemp . Cultivated hemp is only rarely used, in a largely natural (and non-intoxicating) form, as hemp oil and essential hemp oil . It is more often used as a raw material for the production of approved drugs such as dronabinol , as industrial hemp only has pharmacologically inactive THC levels of less than 1%.

Hemp as an intoxicant

The dried, mostly crushed, resinous flowers and small leaves close to the flower of the female plant are called marijuana (colloquially grass or weed ). They are consumed in a dried form. The extracted resin is also processed into hashish or hashish oil . In Germany and worldwide, cannabis is the most frequently illegally consumed drug. The cannabinoid THC is mainly psychoactive. THC affects, among other things, the central nervous system of humans. It is primarily responsible for relaxing , sedating and antiemetic effects.

According to the 2019 World Drug Report, cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug worldwide with 192 million users. Morocco and Afghanistan were the main countries for cannabis products for export in 2017.

Hemp as food

Hemp seeds that are made for human consumption contain proteins, carbohydrates and fats (mainly in the form of hemp seed oil) as well as high levels of fiber and various vitamins and minerals.

The hemp nut and the hemp oil obtained from it are considered to be nutritious food. Hemp nuts and hemp oil contain more than 90% polyunsaturated fatty acids . The essential fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid deserve special mention here. The omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid in particular is found in such large proportions in very few edible oils. Due to its overall balanced fatty acid composition, hemp oil is a very valuable edible oil. It is very suitable for the kitchen, not only because of its special taste, but also because of its richness in essential fatty acids.

With hemp foods, a healthy diet can be ideally rounded off by the valuable ingredients.


The roots of the hemp can penetrate up to 140 cm into the soil with appropriate soil conditions (on brown earth, whose humus horizon is, however, underlain by a horizon rich in fine earth) - this is much deeper than with comparable crops. For this reason, hemp was often planted on depleted, hardened soil in the past in order to loosen the soil and, if necessary, prepare it for the later cultivation of more demanding plants such as grain. Hemp was also used in quilted areas to not only loosen the soil, but also to shade it. Only when the soil was improved were other crops sown.


Hemp is a dioecious dioecious ( diocesan ) plant, that is, the two sexes occur on separate plant specimens. This creates problems with fiber production because the male plants ripen earlier than the female. The male specimens per se die much earlier than the female, which required the harvest of the male plants in a first step. There would also have been considerable difficulties for machine harvesting. That is why monoecious ( monoecious ) hemp was bred . The main advantage lies in the uniform ripening of all plants in a stand. However, the monoecious varieties are clearly inferior to the dioecious in terms of yield.

The male plant of hemp is called "Femel". The "Femel" ripens earlier and is of weaker growth than the female plant. For a long time, both were considered to be indicative of female sexuality, as the origin of the word femella for females suggests.

The Femeln or Fimmeln is the selective harvesting of mature Femel. With their longer ripening time, it gives the female plants more space and simplifies their harvest with harvesting technology that is not yet fully developed. For this reason, too, the double harvest itself is uneconomical, which is why single-house hemp is preferred .

In the EU, only varieties with a THC content of less than 0.2% are permitted for cultivation as fiber hemp. The inclusion of the variety in the "common catalog of varieties for agricultural plant species" is a prerequisite for agricultural funding (direct payments to farmers). The THC content is continuously monitored by the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food . In 2017, for example, the “Bialobrzeskie” and “Carmagnola” varieties were removed from the list due to excessive THC levels. Current varieties are therefore no longer suitable for generating noise.

Health risks

Like all cellulose fibers , hemp fibers and their dusts can not be broken down by mammals due to the glycosidic bond of the type β1 → 4 . Depending on the cleaning process, there are also different amounts of remaining plant and bacterial antigens from the starting material. It is discussed whether frequent inhalation of the dusts of cellulose fibers can lead to bioaccumulation in the lungs, which could then possibly manifest itself in the clinical picture of byssinosis .

Legal position


In Germany belong "plants and plant parts of the plants belonging to the genus cannabis" and " hashish , the separate resin of the plants belonging to the genus cannabis", as well as the tetrahydrocannabinols Δ6a (10a) -THC, Δ6a-THC, Δ7-THC, Δ8-THC , Δ10-THC, Δ9 (11) -THC and their stereochemical variants according to § 1 Narcotics Act (BtMG) in connection with Appendix I of the BtMG on non-marketable substances. Without the approval of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) , cultivation, manufacture, trade, import, export, supply, sale, other placing on the market, acquisition and possession of all plant parts of cannabis are punishable according to § § 29 ff. BtMG.

In exceptional cases, however, approval can be granted for scientific or other purposes in the public interest. The only exceptions are fiber hemp varieties that have been bred for an artificially greatly reduced THC content. Even their cultivation is only allowed for farmers with a special permit and under strict conditions. The first exemptions for the medicinal use of cannabis were issued in early 2009. This was obtained from a pharmacy in the Netherlands.

The cannabis active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is subject to Appendix II of the BtMG.

Since May 2011 in Germany, with the announcement of the 25th ordinance amending narcotics regulations in the Federal Law Gazette , cannabis, provided it is used for the preparation of pharmaceuticals, is marketable and finished medicinal products containing cannabis can be prescribed. Since March 10, 2017, doctors in Germany have also been able to prescribe cannabis flowers and cannabis extracts for their patients. The health insurance companies may cover the costs.

The consumption of narcotics is not prohibited in Germany. It is legally regarded as self-harm without penalty (cf. objective attribution ). It is recognized by commentators on the Narcotics Act as well as by judges that one can consume drugs without having acquired them in the legal sense. This is of practical importance because, for these reasons, a positive drug test does not imply a criminal offense. As a rule, however, there is an entry in the driver's license file (drug user: driving under the influence of psychoactive substances ). A single entry, which can also be below the limit value during the test (BTM display below the limit, or THC -COOH value), is enough to receive a request for drug screening by the administrative authority. The reverse burden of proof applies here. The driver of a motor vehicle must prove at his own expense that the degradation values ​​found do not result from the consumption of drugs.

See also

Portal: Hemp  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of hemp


  • Eva Hoch, Miriam Schneider, Chris Maria Friemel (eds.): Cannabis: Potential and Risk - A Scientific Inventory . Springer, Heidelberg 2019, ISBN 978-3-662-57291-7 , doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-662-57291-7 (478 pages, bundesgesundheitsministerium.de [PDF]). , Short report, 8 pages, PDF
  • Chandra, Suman, Lata, Hemant, ElSohly, Mahmoud A. (Eds.): Cannabis sativa L. - Botany and Biotechnology. Springer 2017, ISBN 978-3-319-54563-9
  • Victor R. Preedy (Ed.): Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies. Biology, Pharmacology, Diagnosis, and Treatment , Academic Press, London 2017, ISBN 978-0-12-800827-0 .
  • Jonathan Paul Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Mark Kleiman: Marijuana legalization: what everyone needs to know , Oxford University Press, New York 2016, ISBN 978-0-19-026240-2 .
  • Canadian Center on Substance Abuse: Cannabis, driving and implications for youth , Canadian Electronic Library, Ottawa, Ontario, 2015, ISBN 978-1-77178-231-9 , full text PDF .
  • Roger G. Pertwee (Ed.): Handbook of Cannabis. Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-19-966268-5 .
  • Robert C. Clarke & Mark D. Merlin: Cannabis, Evolution and Ethnobotany. University of California Press 2013. ISBN 978-0-520-27048-0 .
  • Roger Roffman, Robert S. Stephens: Cannabis Dependence. Its Nature, Consequences and Treatment , Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-139-44955-7 .
  • Wayne Hall, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula: Cannabis Use and Dependence: Public Health and Public Policy , Cambridge University Press 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-80024-2 .
  • Bernhard van Treeck: The great cannabis lexicon - everything about the useful plant hemp . Lexikon-Imprint-Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89602-268-7 .
  • Bócsa, Karus, Lohmeyer: Hemp cultivation - botany, varieties, cultivation and harvest, markets and product lines . Landwirtschaftsverlag, 2000, ISBN 3-7843-3066-5 .

Web links

Commons : Hemp ( cannabis )  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Hemp  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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