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Where Does Cannabis Originate

April 24, 2020

From the prehistoric times of hunting and gathering to ancient Egypt and Viking ships, one substance has stood the test of time, and that is cannabis. Its history spans over thousands of cultures since it can be traced back to Hinduism rituals, the Mexican revolution, African tribal culture, and ancient Chinese medicine.

Today, cannabis is a frequently discussed matter with topics ranging from its benefits to its legalization status. Among these discussions, many people forget an important aspect – the plant’s origins. Some of the queries we should be asking are, “When did people start using marijuana?” and “How has the use of marijuana changed over time?” The answers will give us insight as to our present perceptions of the plant.

The Evolution of Cannabis

History has it that plant and animal kingdoms shared a similar origin, and only separated about two billion years ago. Plants continued to evolve and adapt. Eventually, they subdivided into four types, and flowering plants was one of those. Cannabis was one of the youngest of the major groups of land plants. It is thought to have been around when dinosaurs existed.

Historical experts believe that cannabis was first grown in central Asia. The plant is among the oldest crops in civilization, and its use dates back to 12,000 years ago. It’s said that it was first cultivated in dumpsites during the hunting and gathering period because these sites were known to be rich in nutrients.

There is evidence pointing to the fact that cannabis existed even before it was first cultivated in Asia. Scientists have determined that the Hindu Kush mountainous region was the first site where marijuana grew naturally. After that, the genus split, and they evolved to be slightly different from the original form. Cannabis indica evolved in Southwest Asia, while the Sativa grew in the Caucasus Mountains, and in Siberia. The hemp plant, which many people are familiar with, grew from Sativa.  

Eastern Europe and Western Asia used cannabis Sativa for seed oil and hemp fiber. Indica was used in Southern Asia for its psychoactive properties. Mostly, the natives used it for spiritual purposes because there were enough plant breeds to be used as food and fiber. In Siberia, they had cannabis ruderalis. It was mainly a weed and wasn’t widely bred in the region.

The Origin of Cannabis in Humankind

The evidence of marijuana’s existence is seen in early civilizations. It is one of humanity’s oldest cultivated crops that may have originated from Central Asia, Southern Siberia, and modern-day Mongolia. Thanks to the analysis of ancient pollen, scientists have drawn the conclusion that cannabis first originated on the Tibetan plateau next to Qinghai Lake about 30 million years ago.

Ancient China

If you consider the use of cannabis among human beings, ancient Chinese culture gives a proper perspective into its first use. From hemp cloths to bowstrings, medicines, and rope, they had found different ways of putting it into great use. Emperor Shen Neng, who is a mythical figure, is usually linked to the first mention of cannabis use for medicinal properties. Shen recommended the use of cannabis for medical treatment in 2,700 B.C.

Evidence in religious texts

You cannot cover the evolution of cannabis without talking about its mention in old Sanskrit religious notes, famously known as Vedas. The sacred messages started as an oral tradition that was inherited across generations before they were written between 1500 and 500 B.C. The fourth text, known as Atharva Veda, also lists five sacred plants, and one of them is marijuana.

In Hinduism, bhang is associated with Shiva, the god of destruction in the religion. According to tales, Shiva was first unearthed in mysterious properties of cannabis after taking poison in a well-known myth detailing churning of the “ocean” of milk. This story in Hindu history also talks about the origin of amrita, which is the nectar of immortality. In a famous version of the story, cannabis plants sprung anywhere where drops of the amrita fell. Today, bhang is a famous beverage in the subcontinent, and one of its ingredients comes from a plant related to marijuana.

There are also claims that cannabis was mentioned in the Bible, but the text was removed during the initial translation. One of the instances is where Moses receives instructions as to how he should make the tabernacle. Marijuana was one of the herbs that he was told to burn after making the sanctuary.

The spread of cannabis in the various continents

Marijuana spread to Europe at around 2000 B.C. to 1400 B.C. Historians believe that it was first used by Scythians in the Middle East, who may have carried it when they to Europe when they migrated. Germanic tribes are said to have brought cannabis to Germany, who then spread it to Britain during the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

In America, the use of cannabis is intertwined with the hemp plant. Sources have it that colonists in America grew hemp for use in textiles and ropes. The Spanish may have introduced the plant in North America during the mid-1500s.

As for Africa, there are two ways through which the plant may have gotten there. The first route is during trade interactions by the Portuguese in Ethiopia. The second is by explorers and colonialists through the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Cannabis in today’s society

The status of marijuana in today’s pop culture is undeniable. The most exciting part is how perception has shifted in modern politics. It started as one of the most dangerous drugs to today, where nations are choosing to legalize it because of the medicinal properties. The future of cannabis among humankind seems promising.

Marijuana as Medicine

If you’ve ever been chronically sick or you know someone who has, there is no doubt that you see cannabis from its medicinal perspective. It is the only drug that can relieve pain for people that are terminally ill without detrimental side effects.

Generally, marijuana can:

  • Manage severe pain
  • Alleviate symptoms of a broad range of chronic medical conditions including epilepsy, cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Help to manage some mental conditions like PTSD
  • Decrease intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients
  • Reduce nausea related to chemotherapy
  • Minimize muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders
  • Spike appetite in AIDS patients

Although the medicinal benefits of marijuana are undeniable, the potential of their use has spiked debate for a long time. Presently, THC and CBD are the primary compounds in cannabis that have associated health benefits. The FDA has already approved some THC-based drugs for managing the side effects of chemotherapy and improving appetite for AIDS patients. .

Several CBD based drugs are in clinical trials. CBD is likely to have a host of advantages and use in medicine because it doesn’t give people a feeling of being “high” like THC usually does. Researchers find these medicines to be clinically significant because of their high potency.

The legal status of marijuana is likely to be the only determent to the use of medication. Several states across America have legalized the use of medical marijuana. We are also experiencing a shift in perspective in some countries that were radically against marijuana. This is a remarkable step towards exploring the plant’s adverse benefits.

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