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The History of Hemp as Paper

Industrial hemp is an incredible plant that comes in various forms and final products. It’s versatility has made it an industrial powerhouse for producing green building materials and textiles, but did you know that hemp can also be made into paper? Hemp paper has a rich global history that reaches back to ancient China and the creation of a papermaking recycling process.

Ancient Hemp Paper

The oldest piece of hemp paper dates back to the early Western Han Dynasty in China, just over 2,000 years ago. In the Western Han Dynasty, hemp paper was a byproduct of good recycling practices. Hemp paper was made from recycled hemp clothing, rags and fishnets. Despite it’s use in the ancient dynasty, the invention of hemp paper is formally credited to Cai Lun, a Han Dynasty official. In fact, Cai Lun formalized a hemp papermaking process that became widely popular in ancent China, and Cai Lun was awarded great wealth and an aristocratic title by Emperor He of Han.

Hemp paper had a vast and powerful impact on early China.  Cai Lun’s papermaking process is partly responsible for China’s development of literature, and helped its civilization spread knowledge and information much quicker than when it was using bamboo and silk based paper.

American Hemp Paper

Hemp paper was an incredibly popular and powerful commodity during the formation of the modern Western world. By 1883, 75%-85% of all paper used was made from hemp.  

Hemp paper was also a big player in the formation of early America.  In fact, the U.S, Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were both drafted on hemp paper! Without hemp paper, America’s most important documents may not even exist.

Hemp paper was so impactful in early America that in 1916 the U.S. Department of Agriculture chief scientists Lester Hoxie Dewey and Jason L. Merril greatly favored hemp paper over paper made from wood pulp, stating, “[hemp paper] is favorable in comparison with those used with pulp wood."

Hemp Pulp vs. Wood Pulp

Hemp paper is considered to be a superior product to paper made from wood for a variety of reasons.  It is more pliable, and less brittle than paper made from wood pulp, and it can also be made using far fewer chemicals. However, the chief reason that hemp paper is better than paper made from wood pulp is found in the genetic contents of the two. The main ingredient in paper is cellulose. Industrial hemp pulp contains about 57% cellulose, whereas wood pulp contains about 40%. Additionally, hemp has less lignin than wood: 5%–24% for hemp, 20%-35% for wood. When making paper from pulp, lignin must be chemically removed. A higher lignin count is more difficult and costly to remove, making hemp the more inexpensive choice. Using fewer chemicals makes it easier for paper producers to recycle their waste and create products that are more eco-friendly.

Industrial Hemp is a Versatile Product

As America searches for ways to boost the national economy, and create American jobs, we remain advocates for using more industrial hemp products to encourage job growth in the United States. Industrial hemp is a true cash crop, and nearly 100% of the plant can be used to create useful everyday products. For more information on industrial hemp products, read our blog: Hemp is a Versatile Power-Plant.

Holistic Hemp Co. proudly supports the American economy by using 100% Colorado grown industrial hemp to create our products. Each of our products contains a rich density of phytocannabinoids and offer the perfect way to add hemp into your daily routine. Click here to view our products, and read more about us.  
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