History of Cannabis: The Origin & Indigenous Roots of Cannabis

History of Cannabis Roots Of Cannabis

Get ready to be fascinated.

History of Cannabis: How far back does Cannabis use go? The use of Cannabis has been reported for an astonishing 6,000+ year period with its first recorded use being in ancient China as a textile in roughly 4,000 BC.

It was later documented as medicinal in China, being dubbed “Ma” by Shennong’s Materia Medica. Ma was a central ingredient to one of the oldest anesthetic formulas ever recorded, indicating that ancient peoples had some idea of its pain-relieving quality. 

Both the plant and seeds have been used throughout time, but there is varying information about when and where it was first used for its psychoactive properties.

Shennong, author of an ancient Materia Medica
Shennong, author of an ancient Materia Medica which mentions “Ma” or Cannabis around 2500 BCE

According to a 2019 published archaeological study, high THC residue was found on wood burners used in the eastern Central mountainous regions of China in conjunction with funeral ritual sites.

This study is groundbreaking in the sense that there is now documented research to back the theory that consumption of higher THC strains of Cannabis migrated from China to India, with ancient ritual and medicinal consumption being reported as far Mesopotamia and Egypt as well. Through the trade routes of the well-known Silk Road, Cannabis spanned its reach from Asia to Africa over time.

The Silk Road

In Indian culture, cannabis was named “Bhang” and is listed in the mystical Atharva Veda as one of 5 sacred plants that mimic the magical substance of Soma, which is said to be a nectar consumed by the gods. It is still used today by Shaivites (spiritual devotees of the Hindu God Shiva) who believe that it brings them closer to God.

In one ancient cannabis origin story, it is said that Shiva and other gods churned the great ocean of matter in order to make making the elixir of eternal life, Amrita. According to the tale, some of the elixir spilled onto the earth and cannabis plants sprouted from the soil where it dripped.

Other stories describe Shiva using cannabis plants as food in order to sustain himself and he is often depicted smoking ganja out of a chillum in art that dates back centuries.

In ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics depicting Seshat, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge, prominently feature a cannabis leaf above the deities head. The stem from the base of the leaf connects to her head, clearly symbolizing the link between its use and consciousness expansion. A collection of funeral spells called The Coffin Texts, reveal her psychoactive power and claims that “Seshat opens the door of heaven for you”.

The Ebers Papyrus of Ancient Egypt, a medical text dating back to 1500 BC, calls Cannabis “Sheshemet.” It is prescribed as a pain reliever and aid for a variety of ailments. The herb is highlighted for women with a recipe for a cannabis and honey suppository recommended to treat inflammation of the uterus.

The Egyptian goddess Seshat depicted with a hemp leaf
The Egyptian goddess Seshat depicted with a hemp leaf (left). A drawing from the 6th century De Materia Medica called the Vienna Dioscurides (right).

The ancient and indigenous roots of Cannabis to the modern world are awe-inspiring and the history of its use spans from these ancient cultures listed above to modern times, with so much in between.

One thing is for certain – humans and cannabis have been companions for millennia, so is it safe to say that the evolution of humanity has been influenced by the sacred plant? We think so, without a doubt.

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