Where Did Cannabis Originate?

Find out where cannabis originated and how it spread across the globe.

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Cannabis is Native to Central Asia

Cannabis is an annual, dioecious, flowering herb. The leaves are palmately compound or digitate, with serrate leaflets. The first pair of leaves usually have a single leaflet, the number gradually increasing up to a maximum of about thirteen leaflets per leaf (usually seven or nine), depending on variety and growing conditions. At the top of a flowering plant, this number again diminishes to a single leaflet per leaf. The lower leaf pairs usually occur in an opposite leaf arrangement and the upper leaf pairs in an alternate arrangement on the main stem of a mature plant.

The First Uses of Cannabis Were in China

Though the first uses of cannabis are unknown, it is believed that the plant was first used for medicinal purposes in China. The first recorded use of cannabis as a medicine was in 2737 BC by the Chinese Emperor Shen Neng. Shen Neng believed that cannabis could be used to treat gout, malaria, and rheumatism. He also thought it could improve memory and recall.

The use of cannabis spread through China and eventually made its way to India. In India, it was used to treat a variety of medical conditions including pain, insomnia, anxiety, and poor appetite. The Indian god Shiva is even said to have been a fan of the plant and was often associated with it.

Cannabis eventually made its way to Europe and North America where it was used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. In 1839, Irish physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy published a paper detailing the medical benefits of cannabis. This paper helped increase the popularity of using cannabis as a medicine in Western cultures.

In the early 1900s, cannabis became illegal in many parts of the world including the United States. This was due in part to fears that immigrants from Mexico were using the plant recreationally and introducing it into American culture. These fears were exaggerated and based on racist stereotypes rather than facts.

Cannabis Spread From China to India

Cannabis is thought to have originated in the region that is now Mongolia and southern Siberia, and it is believed to have been used by humans for more than 10,000 years. From there, it spread throughout Asia and eventually made its way to India. In China, cannabis was used for a variety of purposes, including as a medicine and as a fiber for making rope and clothing. In India, it was primarily used for religious and spiritual purposes.

Cannabis Arrived in the Middle East

Cannabis first arrived in the Middle East around 2,000 BCE, where it was used for fiber (hemp) and seed oil. By 1,000 BCE, it had spread to China, where it was used for food and medicine.

Cannabis Came to Europe in the Middle Ages

Cannabis first made its way to Europe in the Middle Ages, where it was introduced by Arabian and African traders. At first, it was used mostly for its fibers, which were used to make ropes and sails. It wasn’t until the 16th century that its psychoactive properties were recognized.

During the 17th century, cannabis was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese traders. It quickly became popular among the settlers, who used it for both recreational and medicinal purposes. By the early 1800s, cannabis had become an important crop in North America, particularly in the United States.

Cannabis remained relatively unknown in Europe until the early 20th century, when it began to be used recreationally by artists and intellectuals. It wasn’t until after World War II that it became widely available again. Today, cannabis is legal in many European countries.

Cannabis Arrived in the Americas With the Europeans

Cannabis arrived in the Americas with the Europeans, but its exact origin is unknown. Cannabis was probably first introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th or 17th century. It is likely that cannabis was brought to North America by Spanish settlers in what is now New Mexico, and it may have been introduced to South America by Portuguese settlers in Brazil.

Cannabis quickly spread throughout the Americas, and it was being cultivated for both fiber and psychoactive purposes by the early 1800s. The first recorded use of cannabis in the United States was in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1611, when English settlers were instructed to grow hemp for rope and sails. Hemp was an important crop for several centuries, but its use declined after the introduction of synthetic fibers in the early 20th century.

Cannabis became increasingly popular as a recreational drug in the mid-1900s, and it remains one of the most widely used illicit drugs today.

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