The history of cannabis is a long one. Cannabis is thought of as among the first cultivated plants in human history, with some estimates placing its first cultivation over 30,000 years back. For centuries, sativa plants were cultivated for their use as food and fiber, used by ancient peoples for clothes, rope, paper and a lot more. Indica plants found use across southeast Asia as religious enhancers, and were popular for spiritual rituals and recreation. Cannabis eventually traveled around the world, and is mentioned in numerous historical records from Ancient China, Germanic tribes, the Celts and Africa. Its health uses throughout early history contained analgesia, childbirth painkiller, in addition to treatment for migraines, indigestion and insomnia.
Some of the oldest known records of cannabis use exist in East Asia because of the ancient advanced civilizations that inhabited the regions, together with the cultural significance placed upon herbal remedies. Despite cannabis’ birthplace being the Hindu Kush mountain region of Pakistan, it seems the first individuals to cultivate the plant brought it via modern day Kashmir to India, and either via trade or farming in western Tibet, or possibly a mixture of both, it was introduced into the peoples of China and spread around East Asian civilizations.
The earliest known use in the history of cannabis comes from a Japanese grave on the Oki Islands dating back to 8000 BCE, where cannabis residue was discovered alongside the deceased, apparently because of its cultural importance. Cannabis use in pre-Neolithic Japanese culture because of its use in fibers, food and possibly a psychoactive spiritual aid proved rather prevalent. For thousands of years later, it had been used heavily in mainland China as well, even earning its place on Yangshao culture pottery dating to approximately 4500 BCE. Korean civilization utilized the plant for cloth also, and has been traced back to at least 3000 BCE. Chinese Emperor Shennong, “The Red Emperor,” wrote about cannabis in 2727 BCE in what is known as the first pharmacopeia, Shennong Bencao Jing, or “The Classic of Herbal Medicine.” Shennong makes reference to cannabis as a staple crop of Asian culture, and provides instructions on grinding cannabis roots down to a paste for pain relief. The influence of the herb in ancient China is still seen to this day at the Chinese character for cannabis, 麻 or”má.” The emblem shows two cannabis plants under a shelter, and may be traced back to 1000 BCE in ancient Taiwan.
In ancient India, cannabis was known as ganja, or गञ्जा in Sanskrit. Cannabis indica was used extensively throughout Indian history for spiritual and industrial uses. Another historical herb referenced in Indian antiquity around 1000 BCE is called bhanga, it is possible this was intended to be bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis that first appeared around the same time. It is also suggested that the early drug called soma mentioned in the Vedas was also cannabis. Cannabis was found in archaeological Ayurvedic mixtures in India relationship to about 400 BCE as well, mostly, used to treat headaches.
The early Aryans, an ethnic group of Indo-Iranian men and women who migrated from Aryavarta from the Indus Valley to the Ural mountains of eastern Europe, were first to introduce the cultivation of cannabis into the Assyrians of Mesopotamia around 3200 BCE, who started calling the herb qunubu, or “a method to generate smoke.” While migrating, Aryans spread their favorite herb into the Scythians of Eastern Iran, the Thracians of Southeastern Europe and the Dacians across the Black Sea, all which started utilizing cannabis sativa heavily also. These civilizations shared the kapnobatai, highly revered ritualistic shaman whose name means”people who walk on clouds.” These religious leaders burnt cannabis flowers to induce a trance for rituals. Circa 700 BCE, a Caucasian shaman was buried at the Yanghai Tombs near Turpan in China with a huge cache of cannabis sativa showing distinct signs of domestication, suggesting this soothsayer had traveled from Eurasia to China so as to spread his sacred herb, possibly coming from the Aryan civilization that had introduced it to many different cultures before him. Phytochemical analysis showed preserved THC, one of a number of other phytocannabinoids still staying in the early plant. Herodotus goes on to comment around 440 BCE the people of Scythia, in addition to numerous cultures surrounding the Mediterranean, were fond of inhaling the vapors of hemp-seed smoke in steam baths, both in significant rituals and as pleasurable diversion included in their history of cannabis.
The Assyrians’ usage of this herb in the Middle East turned into a traditional haven for cannabis, and its cultivation rapidly spread to surrounding lands and areas, such as the Egyptians and Persians, in addition to their successors in modern-day Iraq. An Egyptian mummy dating to about 1070 BCE was surprisingly found to still have trace amounts of THC out of hashish in its hairs, bones and soft tissues because of its preservation. The amount bound in fat cells was up of 4100 nanograms, almost 4 times the amount found in modern-day German’s in treatment for cannabis dependence. The Egyptians were not the only ones, however, since the budding Semitic people of Arabia started to provide the herb religious significance also. Biblical scholars insist that the”sacred herb” commonly referenced in numerous Bible verses and books is the cannabis plant itself, as it was a common crop in the area and its psychotropic properties were known. This is further supported by the fact that a part of the holy anointing oil in the Bible is known as kaneh-bosem based on Exodus 30:22-30, a derivative of which would become qannabōs, the precursor word to cannabis. Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists, Coptic Christians, Sufis, Essenes, Zoroastrians, Bantus, Jews and Rastafarians, are just some to believe cannabis has significant religious value.
- History of cannabis as a medicine
- History of Cannabis and Its Preparations in Saga, Science, and Sobriquet
- Marijuana’s History: How One Plant Spread Through the World
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