Addendum 25a - 2nd Edition

Addendum 25a
None Documentable - Medical Hemp Products:

The reader should be warned that this chapter came about as an accident and may or may not be of interest to the general Antique Cannabis Collector.   In fact, it may only be of interest to historians as opposed to antique collectors.   Yet it deals with a subject (seldom talked about), that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere other than this sort of book.   It will at least give the reader a more historical overview of the subject of antique Cannabis collecting.

First, let’s just get this over with.

Black Death
Forgotten by almost all of us is the role played by Hemp Cloth in preventing and helping to counter act the spread of the bubonic plague.

In general, the story goes something like this; before the coming of Hemp cloth (remembering that due to $$$ cotton was a luxury item), much of the cloth used in western Europe was made out of sheep’s wool et al.   But unfortunately, due to the nature of wool, which shrinks when washed in warm water, few people bother to wash their cloths.   [This time period has been called a thousand years without a bath for some reason]   And needless to say peoples clothes soon became cesspools for fleas which in turn were acting as the vector that was spreading the plague.   Now given the fact that when someone died of the plague, his/her cloths were inherited by the next of kin etc. . . .

Then along came Hemp Cloth that was even cheaper then wool and Hot water washable as well.   In other words, “Industrial Hemp” of-and-by-itself, played some role in preventing the spread of the plague.

It was the subject (a repeating one) of Hemp Bandages that forced the author to include this chapter in this book.   Unfortunately every reference that this museum has been able to obtain so far, talks about the subject in general as oppose to specific form.   In other words we have NOT been able to obtain the names of any Brand or Trade name products, per say.   As an example: What is one to make of the following reference from the 16th Century?
The Workes of that Famous Chirurgion (Surgeon) Ambrose Parey” (1510-1590) -- Translation (1634-AD) by Th Johnson
CHAP. I. Of the differences of Bandages.
“Bandages, wherewith we use to binde, doe much differ amongst themselves. . . . . Now the matter of Bandages is threefold; . . . . of Linnen, as when anie thing is to be fast bound: and of Linnen cloathes, some are made of flaxe, othersome of hempe, as Hippocrates observes. But Bandages doe thus differ amongst themselves. . . .“ -- pg 553
Great for generalities, but not very useful in locating any brand name products.   This is not to say that they didn’t exist, only that we haven’t been able to locate any so far.   Here are the facts as we see them:
  • Although the medical art of surgery was known, the concept of stitching up wounds was not.[A]   Thus bandages as a means of holding wounded tissue together, played a much more important role.

  • Cotton up until the 19th century was E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E, and thus unlikely to have been used to produce bandages.

  • Hemp (relatively speaking) was C-H-E-A-P, and thus a very likely candidate for such use.

  • There are quite a few references to hemp bandages (but again only in the generic sense).

  • That unfortunately unlike Cannabis itself, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, did not force manufacturers of bandages to list their ingredients on the label.   Thus we don’t exactly know what manufactures made use of what.
[Johnson & Johnson Bandages]
Hemp Trivia:
No this product isn’t made out of hemp -- But note the Red Cross logo--- which (you know who) ripped off from the Johnson & Johnson co., AND then threatened to sue numerous pre-Medical Cannabis groups unless they stopped using it.   Hmmm, on the scale of hypocrisy I would certainly rate this a high ten.

Thus one can only come to the conclusion; that although we have NO solid proof of any Brand or Trade name (Hemp) bandages, it is obvious that numerous such products existed.

In a world of hypodermic syringes, cue tips, vaporizers and plastic applicators, it’s easy to forget that the technology for those things didn’t always exist.   The Book of Leviticus (14:3) speaks about a Scarlet Yarn (a.k.a. red string) which seems to be used as a medical applicator for the ointment.   In Leviticus (14:7) it says “Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease . . etc.”

I myself (using a cloth duster) have used this same principle when washing my car and found that a good dust mop (made out of cloth) cannot only hold quite a bit of water, but when whip-lased toward the car, makes for a good water sprinkler as well.

However, in the above case, it should be noted, that in all likelihood, this yarn talked about in Leviticus was probably made out of wool as oppose to hemp.   This is natural as wool would have been more readily available to the Hebrews then other fiber sources.   But by the time Gutenberg invented the printing press, all that had changed.

While doing research on the history of Western Medicine for this book, the author couldn’t help but notice just how many times references were made to Hemp.   Not Cannabis (the flowering tops), Not Hemp seeds (for health reasons), but to what we would now term Industrial Hemp products, being put to medical uses.   Example: “Take a hempen towel, and use it to rub the ointment on . . . etc.”

“Take a hempen towel . . . .”

Now some would say that maybe we shouldn’t be making too much out of this.   Remembering that “Hempen cloth” from a financial and historical standpoint was the least expensive type of cloth available to Europeans at the time.   One could just as easily translate the above as, “Take a cheap towel, and use it to rub the ointment on . . . .“ Or better yet, “take an OLD cheap towel and . . . etc.”

Maybe so, however, what struck this author was just how many such references were to be found in all so many 13th - to- 18th Century books dealing with medical subjects.   [see the section on Western medicine, chap. 2]   Which would in-effect create a whole new field of medical applicator uses for the Hemp plant.   And that, in addition to the OTHER medical uses, which because of lack of Trade or Brand names products, are/were never documented.

HEMP (Medical) FOOD(s):
Granted, food is food and medicine in medicine ---- In the first edition of this book, [section on Hemp seed oil], it was stated that with the exception of dietitians dealing with pellagra, that we should avoid the subject altogether.   And in truth because this book should deal solely with Antique Cannabis medicines, maybe it would be a good idea to avoid the issue altogether.

However, still as this is a free-for-all chapter on weird uses, for those of us who can’t help but avoid the subject, one must ask the question; At what point does a healthy diet end and a medical application begin?   After various amounts of research into the subject, the author now feels that while the subject should still be avoided (at least in this book), it is one that cannot be avoided altogether.

Hemp Ad
[Medicine or Food?]

The picture above (by the way) is NOT a joke; there really was such a product.   In fact there really were numerous such products.

Hemp Ad As can be seen, hemp makes its way into even modern-day food products.

[WARNING: Some states have outlawed -- ALL PARTS OF THE HEMP PLANT, not just the flowering tops.   And while these laws have been and are being challenged, still unless you're a lawyer or have a lot of money, it may be best to check with your local state laws before eating anything.   Rule of thumb, its being sold openly in a food store, it’s probably legal in your state. --- Also be aware that some of these food products (even if legal) may make you test false positive during those pre-employment drug tests etc.]

Hemp Trivia:
According to Chinese scholars, ever since ancient times, the Chinese people have viewed the hemp plant, as a salvation during times of famine.   This is due to its nutritious seeds, and the hardy nature of the plant, which allows it to grow under the most adverse weather conditions.

[A]- According to the book “The Knife Man - Blood, Body snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery” by Wendy Moore: (dealing with the end of a surgery) ---- “Swiftly, (Dr.) Hunter now bound the two sides of the wound together with sticking plaster and bandages --- stitches were rarely used . . . “ pg. 10.

Our thanks to EEBO [Early English Books Online] for much of the enclosed material.


Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed.   If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum. All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.