We felt that, given how much this blog has talked about herb grinders, we should dig a little deeper into these devices and talk about their history.
After all, besides being a point of interest, knowing more about the history of weed grinders can help us develop greater appreciation for and interest in these fantastic little machines.
In this article, we’ll talk about who invented the herb grinder, who it was that made the first herb grinder resembling what we see today, some history of cannabis use and how it relates to grinding, and explain when these advances were made.
So enjoy a little history with your grind!
The herb grinder was invented by William Wingfield and John Balding of Boort, Victoria, Australia. They patented their novel grinder in 1905. Their invention closely resembles the modern hand grinder, which shows that the original design has largely proven reliable over the past century:
Pretty cool to see the original design as drawn by the inventors over one hundred years ago!
This original grinder was likely a game-changer for the grinding tobacco, herbs, and other plants ground for medicinal purposes. Herbs have been ground for thousands of years as part of early cooking and medical treatments, but prior to the modern herb grinder this grinding would have been accomplished using devices such as the mortar and pestle, or by simply shredding by hand or grinding between rocks.
Innovations like the Wingfield-Balding grinder take a common task and make it far more efficient and improve the final product: imagine how hard a mortar and pestle would have been on delicate herbs.
The heading above may seem similar to the previous section, but we’re asking a slightly different question here. We know who patented the first true herb grinder, but that doesn’t mean that these individuals were successful in bringing the product to market.
Oftentimes people build upon a simpler product and create something better, and they do a better job focusing on selling the product.
There are many, many different manufacturers of herb grinders today, and especially hand grinders.
After all, the hand grinder is a fairly simple device and many people probably looked at one and thought “I can make it a little better”.
This isn’t really known, simply because grinding herbs has been an activity in apothecaries and kitchens for so many years. It is likely that the small hand grinder described in the 1905 patent above was originally used by small businesses that wanted to grind tobacco and medicinal plants for customers, and eventually found their way into people’s possession for personal use.
Nowadays, many companies are dedicated to the manufacturing and selling of herb grinders, and there are many options in terms of size, style, and construction materials.
Cannabis has been enjoyed by people for millennia. Users today are no doubt aware of the many different ways in which it can be enjoyed: smoking, edibles, creams/lotions, and more. It is a very versatile plant with a very devoted following.
There is evidence throughout the world that cannabis has been used by people since antiquity. Evidence from a cemetery dated roughly 2500 years ago in the Pamir Mountains in what is present-day western China, near the tri-border area of China, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan shows early cannabis use. From the Neolithic Age in China and Japan, there is evidence that cannabis was used for rope making due to the strength of its fibers, so whether or not it was also being smoked at this time we can see that this plant has been a part of human existence for thousands of years.
Far more is known about cannabis in terms of modern history. In the mid-1800s, the Western world began to discover cannabis from other parts of the world, and before most countries prohibited the use of the drug it was featured in early pharmaceuticals. Reflecting puritanical attitudes of the early 20th century, cannabis was banned in North America fully by the 1920s.
Fortunately, cannabis use has enjoyed increasing permissiveness in many countries in the world, and this has led to an increase in the number of users worldwide. Many products related to health are available that are derived from cannabis, and some of these - take CBD oil, for example - are produced without the psychoactive compound in cannabis, THC.
While nowadays there are many different ways to enjoy cannabis, the most common and likely original way in which the plant was enjoyed was through smoking. Smoking releases the active compounds in the plant material, and is a common way for many substances to be used. Furthermore, smoke and incense are common in ceremonial practices and this is possibly how cannabis smoking started.
Smoking of any sort of plant material requires processing from its natural state, and this is where grinding comes into play. A wet plant leaf can’t be smoked: it must be somewhat dried and then shredded for proper use. As mentioned above, the mortar and pestle and similar stone tools were likely used to prepare cannabis for early use, along with simple finger shredding methods.
Given the simplicity of the basic hand grinder, it could be theorized that a version of the rotating grinder could have been invented prior to the 1905 patent listed above. Considering the elaborate and intricate stonework our ancient ancestors were capable of, there could have been early stone grinders made specifically for cannabis.
This is a tricky question to answer. From above, we know that the modern hand grinder was officially patented in 1905, so we know that rotating herb grinders have been around since at least the early 1900s.
However, cultures have used herbs and plants for medicinal and religious purposes since the dawn of humankind, so unless herbs were being broken down by hand, there must have been devices used for grinding as far back as these traditions date.
For example, simply using two rocks to grind herbs together would be considered a grinder, and this is probably what led to the mortar and pestle. The bowl used in the mortar and pestle would have been a significant advancement since it would have resulted in far less waste than other methods.
We can see, then, that it is difficult to define a certain date when the modern herb grinder was invented, as this is a device that has progressed through major and minor changes to pre-existing designs, all being used for a purpose that predates modern historical records.
This is probably the biggest takeaway from the history of the herb grinder: it is a product who’s history demonstrates the inventiveness of people, and is a tremendous collaboration of many inventors instead of just a single mind.
We know that information and processes are passed down through generations, and each passing generation leaves its mark on the world.
Imagine being an early user of cannabis thousands of years ago: what a magical substance it must have been. Users today often remark on the nearly instant relief the plant provides to their psychological and physical ailments, and during a time without modern medicine and scientific awareness, this must have been a truly wonderful thing. So while effort would have been put into the harvesting and eventual cultivation of cannabis and other medicinal herbs, no doubt people were also working alongside these efforts by inventing better ways to grind the herbs into textures more suitable for smoking and other uses.
Innovation is key here.
Even though there may be a product on the market that does an okay job doesn’t mean that a better one isn’t around the corner.
Take the Mamba electric grinder, for example. This is a grinder that has features that may resemble earlier grinders, but the designers here have taken drawbacks from other grinders and completely redesigned the device to produce a product that takes grinding to new levels.
Just as the mortar and pestle was likely a huge improvement over using hands or two rocks, the Mamba tremendously improves upon the design and functionality of the modern herb grinder and sets a new precedent.
There you have it, a quick but thorough history lesson on herb grinders. We hope that this offers you a little insight into your grinding, and shows you that herb grinders have come a long way: sometimes through little tweaks, like the plastic herb grinder, or major advances, such as the Mamba V2 electric grinder.
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