Hemp, the Common, or Cannabis sativa, L. a valuable plant, which grows wild in the East In-dies, and is cultivated to a 'very considerable extent in Britain, particularly in the counties of Sussex and Suffolk. It thrives most favourably on a sandy, moist loam, or on old meadows and low bottoms near rivers, and is propagated from seed, which is sown in the proportion of eleven pecks, or two. bushels per acre, broad-cast; though a much smaller quantity will suffice, if it be drilled. The proper time of sowing hemp, is from the middle to the end of April, or even , a month later; but the best crops are generally produced from the earlier seeds.
This useful plant requires no weeding: the male, or femble, is usually fit for pulling in the middle of July, or about nine weeks after it is sown. The female, termed karle, or seed-hemp, is seldom ripe till September, when it is pulled, tied into bundles, and set to dry : at the end of ten days they are loosened, and the heads or tops are held upon a hurdle by one person, while another, with a small threshing flail, beats out the seed.
The hemp is then prepared for the manufacturer, either by grass-ing, that is, lying on stubble or pasture ground, in order to be gradually dew-ripuned; or, by water-ratting, for which process clay-pits are preferred to running-water. In these, the hemp is immersed in bundles, laid both directly, and across, thus, for four or five days, according to the fineness of the weather. The next operation is that of reeding, namely, the separation of the bark from the reed, or woody part, which is effected either by putting out the reed with the hand, or by drying, and breaking it by machinery, like flax. The hemp is then cleared of its mucilaginous matter, by pouring water through it, and squeezing out the liquid after every affusion, till it be completely divested of those particles.
The next operation is that of breaking it, which, in the county of Suffolk, is performed with the aid of certain machinery worked by the hand; when the hemp is beaten in mills ; combed or dressed by drawing it through heckles, similar to the combs of wdol-manu-facturers; and spun into thread, whence it is made into twine, cordage, cloth, netting, etc.
Beside the strong cloth, and other articles made from it, hemp is of considerable utility for other purposes. The refuse, called hemp-sheaves, affords an excellent fuel; and the seeds yield by expression a pure oil, which is peculiarly adapted for burning in chambers, as it is perfectly limpid, and possesses no smell. Another valuable: property of hemp is, that it effectually expels vermin from plantations of cabbages; for, if it be sown on the borders of fields, etc. planted with that vegetable, no caterpillars will infest it.
When fresh, hemp has a strong, narcotic smell: the water in which it has been soaked, is said to be in a high degree poisonous, and to produce fatal effects, immediately after drinking it. The seeds have an unctuous, sweetish taste; they may be triturated with water, or boiled in milk as an emulsion, which is occasionally taken as a domestic remedy in coughs, beat of urine, and similar complaints.
The important uses of hemp, and the superiority or that produced in this country, have justly rendered it an object, of attention to Government. Accordingly, in the year 1783 a bounty of 3d. per stone was granted on all hemp raised in Britain, in order to encourage its growth : and, with the same patriotic view, heavy duties are im-posed on that article, when imported from foreign countries. On the other hand, its exportation, both from Britain and Ireland, is dutyfree. - The prices of hemp-linen, vary from one to six shillings and upwards per yard, in proportion to its coarser or finer texture.
There is another species of hemp, called Chinese Hemp (Crotolaria juncea), which was introduced into England, from India, in the year 1783, when various experiments were made with little success; though they fully proved that the plant will perfectly succeed in this climate. The most remarkable of the statements which have, been published, is that communicated by the Rev.Dr. HiNton, of North-wald, near Brandon, Suffolk ; on whom the "Society for the Encouragement of Arts," &:c. in 1788, conferred the silver medal. This gentleman received some seeds from the Secretary of the'Society, in 1786 which were sown on the 17th day of May, and the plants appeared on the 6th day of June, They were few, and sickly ; and, notwithstanding several favourable sbowers, they continued to languish so much, that the experiment was entirely abandoned, and buck-wheat was harrowed into the ground for a fallow-crop. In the beginning of Octoober, however, the persons employed in cutting the buck-wheat, discovered some seed in the heads of a few straggling hemp-plants, which had been suffered to grow among the crop; and which, after being carefully thresh-ed, produced three pints of tolerably good seeds. On the 10th of Mcay, 1/6/, they were sown on a small piece of good soil: in the course of nine days the young plants came up, and were suffered to grow fill August, when they were pulled. The produce of pure hemp weighed at the rate of 95 stone 7 pounds and 12 ounces per acre, beside three bushels, two pecks, and half a pint of seeds that were saved; which is upwards of one-third more than the best crops of English hemp have everbeen known to yield.
In the Eastern climates, hemp-leaves are used like opium, and possess similar intoxicating properties. The Russians and Poles, even of the higher classes, bruise or roast the seeds, mix:them with salt, and eat them on bread. - Birds, kept in cages, are likewise fond of this oily seed; but they should not be indulged in its constant use, which is apt to render them prematurely old, blind, and at "length consumptive.
Hemp being an article of extensive utility, various vegetables have been discovered, which may serve as substitutes. Among these are the CanadaGolden-rod, or Solidago Canadensis, a perennial plant, that mightbeeasilycuitivatedinBritain: its stalks are numerous, straight, and grow above live feet in height; they afford very strong fibres, if treated in the same manner as hemp. The sun-flower, or Helian. thus, L. also affords single filaments or fibres, which are said to be as thick, and in all respects as strong, as small pack-thread. - See also Nettle.