Humans and Cannabis go together like peanut butter and jelly. For millennia mankind has grown and cultivated Cannabis for both industrial and medicinal use. In this series I will touch on the high and low points of man’s relationship with Cannabis throughout recorded history.
Cannabis and Ancient China
The history of Cannabis begins in an ancient village in modern day Taiwan. Archaeologists discovered hemp cord embedded in pottery at a dig site that dates back 10,000 years. This discovery promotes the possibility of Cannabis being man kinds first ever agricultural crop, a theory proposed by world renown astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan.
Jumping forward to 6,000 BCE, the Chinese start using Cannabis seeds and Cannabis oils in food and in 4,000 BCE textiles made from hemp make their first appearance. These hemp textiles mark the beginning of the industrial age in Cannabis cultivation which will last for millennia to come.
The first ever recorded use of Cannabis as medicine comes from Chinese Emperor Shen Neng back in 2,737 BCE. Shen Neng is thought to be the father of Chinese medicine and is attributed to the discoveries of ephedra and ginseng. Medicinal Cannabis was used to alleviate symptoms from gout, constipation, rheumatism and fatigue and was also used as an anesthetic for surgery.
Cannabis and Central Asia
From here the story of Cannabis leads to Central Asia, circa 2,000 - 800 BCE. Bhang, an edible preparation of Cannabis derived from dried Cannabis leaves, seeds and stems, is mentioned in the Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda (Science of Charms). Cannabis is referred to as sacred grass and is knows as one of the five sacred plants of India. Bhang is used both medicinally and as a ritualistic offering to the god Shiva.
Cannabis and Persia
In 700 BCE, Cannabis makes its arrival into Persia. Brought to Persia by the Scythians, Cannabis was an integral part of their society and played a large role in their bizarre and brutal burial ceremonies. These ceremonies were documented by Herodotus (Greek Historian) in 430 BCE.
Hemp paper and rope
Cannabis in the BCE era culminates with two inventions that would undoubtedly change the world. The first is the invention of Hemp Rope in Russia. This hemp rope appears in what is now modern day Russia in 600 BCE and established Hemp as an essential agricultural crop. The second and possibly most important hemp related invention is paper. In present day China around 100 BCE, Hemp pulp and Mulberry fibers were used to create the first forms of paper.
The early years of Cannabis were highlighted by great discoveries as well as leaps in human consciousness and ingenuity. The Current Era of Cannabis (post BCE era) starts with the spread of Cannabis throughout the Far East and into the West. The latter portion of the Current Era is rife with misleading information, smear campaigns and an endless and massively expensive “war on drugs”. For more on the Current Era of Cannabis please stay tuned for part 2 of this 3 part series on the history of Cannabis.
Written by Edward Ridgill