Culture Horticulture

Where Did Cannabis Come From?

where did cannabis come from

Cannabis ethnobotany: a plant with multiple origins.

Plants have been domesticated by humans in different regions around the world dating 10–12 000 years ago and this factor would have been decisive for the transition from a nomadic society to what we call sedentary lifestyle. Thanks to plant domestication, it was possible we have most of our food today (since plants to animals) and it determined centers of human establishment leading to a transformation in world demography (Diamond, 2002; Diamond; et al., 2003). Plant domestication has always been a dynamic process and it caused drastic modifications for some species (Vaughan; et al., 2007). A clear example is Brassica oleraceae (mustard), which domestication of wild and ancestor species led to a formation of new plants as cauliflower, broccoli, brussels, kale and cabbage (Liu; et al., 2014). Like other plants, Cannabis has not been immune to the domestication process.

Cannabis plants been used as fiber, food, medicines, oils and religious purpose for thousands of years (Adams; et al., 1996; Small; et al., 1976), which possibly are responsible for selection of the 2 types popularly known as hemp (plants used because of fibre and seed) and marijuana (medicinal and psychoactive purposes). Based on archaeological and palaeobotanical evidence it is proposed a Cannabis cultivation and use since the Neolithic period. Researchers have found evidence to Cannabis fiber use dating back to 6000 years BP (before present) and evidence to medical/religious use dating to 2700 years BP, both cases in China (Li, 1973; Russo; et al., 2008; Zias; et al., 1993). Cannabis genus has been described as having 2 centers of diversity, which are Hindustani and European–Siberian (Zeven, 1975). It is believed that Cannabis plants spread from Central Asia to the Mediterranean, Eastern and Central European countries (as Afghanistan and Pakistan) (Faeti; et al., 1996). Then, these plants were probably brought to Mediterranean, as Eastern and Central European countries, especially, Afghanistan and Pakistan (Faeti; et al., 1996). Starting from central Asia, it is also possible that the plants have been taken to ancient Persia because of Aryan and Scythian tribes. Scynthian tribe occupied the region that belongs to northwest Iran from the 9th century BP to 1st century BP and this culture made use of Cannabis for entertainment and spiritual purposes (Russo; et al., 2008).

So, where did cannabis come from? It is really important to understand the phylogeography of Cannabis plants better to help us in chemotype differentiation and in understanding about the selection of cannabinoids beyond the time.


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About the author

Fernanda Marisca Bizotto

I’m Fernanda, both a lover of handicrafts and biologist. I worked previously with Arabidopsis thaliana and is now am venturing into the world of Cannabis. These plants were widely used by past civilizations because of their everlasting potential. Thus, the study of Cannabis is not only a trend but also a resumption of the past and a search for knowledge for better living conditions.

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