Brian Houlihan, curator of the Dublin Hemp Museum tells the story of George Sigerson, a most remarkable nineteenth century scientist and neurologist. He thought that growing hemp in Ireland would have a lot of benefits.
The Journal.ie published Houlihan’s article on Sigerson, and how he documented his in-depth knowledge of hemp in his biography. Today, many people feel the same way as Siegerson did about hemp. Was he ahead of his times?
A leading figure centuries ago studied hemp
Like many nineteenth century thinkers, Sigerson was an all-rounder. He writes about hemp as a zoologist, botanist, scientist, and politician. He was also a leading figure in the Irish Literary Revival after serving in the Seanad upon the formation of the Irish Free State.
Sigerson published his work “Cannabiculture in Ireland: Its profit and possibility” in 1866, and a copy can be seen in Ireland’s National Library. He was convinced hemp could stimulate the financial resources of the nation and disperse wealth amongst the people. He described growing hemp in Ireland as an industry that could provide sustainable jobs to many.
Sigerson covers the plant’s botanical properties in great depth. He also looks at cannabis culture: the ideal soil conditions, cultivation, and harvesting.
Sigerson elaborates how the soil of Ireland is suitable for the crop and how it can be exported to other parts of the world where it might not grow as successfully. At the time, Siegerson felt that as an island nation, Ireland needed a crop with many uses that would be easy to grow and to export.
Next, he covers the uses of the plant in great depth, marveling at its versatility. No one needs to be reminded that hemp can be used for the strongest of fiber ropes or the most dainty of threads used for cloth to weave highly durable clothing.
Medicinal use of hemp in Ireland
Sigerson emphasizes the medical and narcotic properties present in cannabis. He writes that fellow Irishman, Dr O’Shaughnessy, first introduced cannabis to Europe as medicine after he discovered its medicinal properties while visiting India.
Cannabis available from the chemist since 1840
O’Shaughnessy’s research led the popular use of cannabis. It was available from chemists in one form or another from the 1840s until the time of prohibition in the 1930’s.
However, the history of hemp in Ireland may go back still further. Brian Houlihan suggests hemp has been in Ireland for at least 2000 years. After all, many cultures used hemp for many different reasons.
How hemp is used today
Currently, we use hemp in food products, as oil for culinary use, and of course, we buy CBD oil as a supplement. We also use it to build houses using hempcrete and it makes an excellent insulation. We make durable natural textiles e from hemp, and we use it in cosmetics too.
New hemp industry expansion and innovation holds great potential. For instance, we now use hemp as a biofuel. New composites made from hemp are biodegradable, unlike regular plastics. From its traditional uses to the new one we’re just discovering today, hemp remains an interesting, versatile, and potentially lucrative crop.
Not only hippies
It is not only hippies that think hemp in Ireland has a great future. Perhaps it’s just a matter of realigning a dislocated timeline. We once valued this plant. Then we vilified it. But the time when the latter was true is a blink of the eye compared to the long and distinguished history of cannabis and its relationship with mankind.