The origins of Cannabis: where does the famous plant come from?

The origins of Cannabis throughout history.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of cannabis? Because even if it is now available all over the world, the cannabis plant must have appeared somewhere... Long before the Dutch coffeeshops or the American emerald triangle, we are going to tell you about the origins of cannabis.  


The origins of cannabis: where does the plant come from?

28 million years old but not a wrinkle

While researching the origins of cannabis, the first question we can ask ourselves is when the plant appeared. 

The first traces of cannabis pollen were discovered in India. Their age? 32 000 years. Yep, Neanderthal man could have consumed CBD! Other traces were then found in Japan, which dated from nearly 12 000 years. These figures are already very impressive, as they place cannabis among the oldest cultivated plants of humanity.

Researchers have concluded that our favorite plant had landed somewhere in Central Asia. The thing is that it is not very precise. Recently, a team from the University of Vermont set out to fill in the gaps.

They decided to analyse and cross-reference the various archaeological and geological studies that had established the presence of fossilized pollen in the soil in order to deduce a more precise geographical area and time period. 

According to the study they published, cannabis would in fact have appeared 28 million years ago, between the extinction of the dinosaurs and the supposed appearance of the human species. When we say that we were made to get along with this plant...

Tibet, the cradle of cannabis?

But tracing the origins of Cannabis proved to be more complicated than expected, because its pollen is very similar to that of hops. Indeed, as we explained in our article on beer and cannabis, hops belong to the same plant family.

To differentiate the two, the researchers analyzed the fossilized pollen of the plants that surrounded it. The objective? To determine whether the environment is more conducive to hops or cannabis, based on the observation that the two plants do not have the same habitat preferences: where hops grow more in forests, cannabis prefers open, grassy and treeless places. So hop pollen is more often found in close proximity to tree pollen. 

Because of this distinctive feature, the University of Vermont has determined that cannabis originated on the Tibetan Plateau near Lake Qinghai, located at 3,200 meters above sea level.

The development of the Tibetan plateau and its climatic conditions would have favored the emergence and development of the plant.


The origins of cannabis: how the plant developed around the world

A plant intimately linked to human evolution

Now that we know the origins of cannabis, and more specifically, where and when the plant appeared, we can ask ourselves how cannabis ended up covering most of the globe. 

According to Barney Warf, a professor of geography at the University of Kansas, the plant probably began growing near the nutrient-rich camps of prehistoric hunters and gatherers. Which is quite logical, when you know that cannabis is a ruderal plant, which only grows in environments that have been modified by human activity. 

If the plant cannot do without Man, the opposite is also true. Remains of cannabis seeds have been found in Siberia as early as 3000 BC, and large quantities of psychoactive cannabis have been found in Chinese tombs dating back to 2500 BC. Warf points out that cannabis was widely used for medical purposes in China as early as 4000 BC.

Barney Warf, University of Kansas​​

Where man goes, cannabis follows

And as cannabis cannot do without man and vice versa, the plant spreads on the globe according to human exchanges.

As early as 2000 BC, Chinese farmers brought the plant to Korea. In the following millennium, Cannabis spread to southern Asia, when the region was invaded by the Aryans. Little by little, the substance becomes widely used in India, in particular for its action on anxiety

At the same period, it reaches the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine thanks to the Scythians, a nomadic Indo-European people. The Germanic tribes took care then to bring the cannabis to the west of Europe. It crosses the Channel during the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the 5th century. One suspects even the Vikings of having taken part in this diffusion because one found seeds in many drakkars. 

Finally, it is the colonization which completes work, the plant being established in America and Africa with the discoveries and invasions.

The question we are still asking ourselves is why we associate cannabis today with the Netherlands and California... but that will be the subject of another article. In the meantime, we hope to have helped you to see more clearly about the origins of cannabis! And for more content on Cannabis and CBD, don't hesitate to visit the blog and join us on instagram!

Cake it easy,