The Evolution of Cannabis
The development of agriculture, which began approximately 10,000 years ago, has had monumental consequences for humans and our planet, allowing us to exert more control over our food supply and vastly increase our populations and success as a species.
Cannabis use is well-documented in the sacred Hindu texts known as the Atharva Veda, which are thought to have compiled 2000-1400 years BCE. There is evidence that the ancient Yamnaya culture of what is now Northern Europe used cannabis both for cordage and for its psychoactive properties, perhaps as early as the third millennia BCE. While there is some evidence that hemp was utilized by ancient Egyptians as early as 1550 BCE, cannabis was introduced to the rest of Africa at a much later date. Cannabis was not present in the New World until it was introduced by European colonists.
Before we roll back the clock and consider how our ancient roots intertwine with Cannabis, let us review some basics about the genus as it grows naturally in the wild and as a crop plant under cultivation.
“Marijuana” and “hashish” are common names for differing psychoactive Cannabis products. Hashish is a mechanically extracted, concentrated resin gland preparation. Seeded marijuana is merely the dried inflorescences from THC-bearing varieties of Cannabis. If nature is allowed to take its course, male plants will thoroughly fertilize the females producing many seeds. If all fit males are allowed to reach reproductive age, as in the wild, then there is no selective pressure on sex ratio. Seedless marijuana , on the other hand, is produced by removing all male plants from a field prior to pollen shedding, thereby preventing fertilization and seed set.
It is true that in some regions, such as Central Asia, which is probably its original homeland, or in other areas that have similar ecological conditions, such as the American Midwest, Cannabis escaped from hemp fields and thrives as a feral plant or naturalized alien weed. When it comes to the evolutionary origins of the plant, however, things become murkier. It is required to understand its ecological requirements, such as the ideal temperature, soil conditions, and amounts of sunlight and moisture needed for it to thrive.
On the other hand, if you define a weed as a plant considered troublesome or useless, you may or may not be right. Cannabis plants are troublesome to some, especially farmers as well as officials enforcing laws prohibiting cultivation, possession, and use.
Humans and Cannabis became linked in a number of ways very early on and have remained so until modern times. Hypothetical early human contact with Cannabis and the subsequent discovery and application of its useful resources took place during the distant past in one of the more temperate and well-watered areas of ancient Central Asia. Read further to know more and check the video below.
Like all traditional peoples, past and present, early humans knew their immediate environment intimately through their own experiences and information passed on orally from their ancestors. As a key element of survival, they were quite familiar with local plants, animals, and inorganic materials, and most of their hunting and gathering equipment was fabricated from local plant and animal sources.
The group’s knowledge developed when they became curious to make a new living situation and utilizing unfamiliar animal and plant resources as they were eager to develop new techniques. As the newly introduced Cannabis populations grew larger around the settlement, they became increasingly conspicuous.
When they thought about the benefits of cannabis, their curiosity grew, and through a process of trial and error, they experimented with its uses. They came to know that edible cannabis seeds borne in clusters on the female plants contained nutritious oily substances. Later, they discovered they could also be used as a source of oil for cooking, fuel, or even as a base material for crude soap.
As they used to wear animal skins and furs held together with thongs, they were aware of the uses of fibers and eventually recognized the extraordinary fibrous qualities of Cannabis. However, they had yet to learn the crafts of spinning and weaving.
They later learned they could peel bark from the hollow Cannabis stalk and extract long fibers that were easily utilized. Further they learned that hemp fibers were very strong, long lasting, and water resistant. As they experimented with methods for fiber extraction, the group saw that by soaking long Cannabis stalks in pools along the river and letting them partly decompose, the process now known as retting took place.
After sufficient time, most of the adhesive layers of the stalk decomposed into water-soluble juices, and the insoluble, water-resistant materials (the long fiber cells) were left to be more easily collected and dried. They experimented with the fibers, creating strong, durable, waterproof cords and later discovered how to spin yarn and weave cloth with hemp fiber.
The first time they realized about Cannabis’s psychoactive potential is when eating its seeds. The small, resin-covered bracts surrounding the seeds are potentially psychoactive and could have been ingested along with the seeds; however, the potent smoke breathed in when Cannabis plants were burned would have induced a more rapid onset of mind-altering experiences. Perhaps it was first used for its spiritual or euphoric value and thus initially employed for entertainment or ceremonial purposes.
The group soon discovered its many possibilities. They used the plant as a food supplement, an important source of fiber, fuel, and medicine, and they revered its psychoactive properties as a mental elixir for relaxation, recreation, and spiritual communication.
Regardless of their initial motivation for using Cannabis, the group soon realized its many possibilities. They used the plant as a food supplement, an important source of fiber, fuel, and medicine, and they revered its psychoactive properties as a mental elixir for relaxation, recreation, and spiritual communication. Watch the video to explore the longstanding relationship of human beings and cannabis, from its use in ancient Asia to its ban in 20th century America.
The widespread geographical distribution of Cannabis has obviously benefited from its relationship with humans. Today, Cannabis still offers humans a relatively environment-friendly crop plant, producing durable fiber, nutritious seed, and a host of medicinally active compounds.
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