The cannabis plant, which has received much attention in the world today shares a long history with humanity. But what is the story behind how humans and this plant became acquainted? Who discovered cannabis? Read on to learn the answer to that question.
Who Discovered Cannabis in Pre-Historic Times?
While historians are not sure who the first person to intentionally harvest cannabis was, they do know that there was much human migration across the world toward the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. 1
Cannabis plants from this time were found left behind by nomadic tribes moving across Siberia and Central Asia. Some historians believe the plant naturally flourished in these nutrient-rich environments.
Other experts have speculated that because the grass was often gathered as a source of fuel, early humans began to notice and favor the cannabis plant. The oily seeds provided nutrition, and it became a food source that could be stored for months.
The fact that burning cannabis released aromatic smoke that filled caves and shelters with soothing and psychoactive properties added to the interest in this herb.
By 8,000 BCE, evidence of cannabis cultivation and use by early humans has been found from central to east Asia. In Taiwan, people cultivated cannabis for its sturdy fibers and to create vessels. 2
Gravesites of prominent individuals from these eras have been found with cannabis inside. The charred cannabis seeds found in the gravesites of ancient Siberian shaman indicate that cannabis was also cultivated for its medicinal and recreational benefits around 3,000 BCE.
From about 4,000 to 2,700 BCE, significant archaeological evidence suggests that individuals cultivated cannabis extensively as a food source and for the production of hemp textiles.
At this time, individuals passed down medical expertise in the form of old wives' tales and oral history until a great pharmacologist consolidated this information.
The first-ever recorded mention of cannabis is by Emperor Shen Neng in 2,737 BCE. This illustrious regent is also credited with the invention of the plow and is one of the Chinese “celestial” Emperors.3
While who discovered cannabis may be a mystery, the “Red Emperor’s” work was the most influential in propagating the use of cannabis throughout the ancient world.
Soon after the use of cannabis took firm root in China, it began to expand to China’s many neighbors. The Ayurvedic Medicine system lists cannabis as one of Earth’s five sacred plants and includes a delicious recipe for bhang, which includes primarily cannabis, but also ginger and other herbs.
Bhang receives honorable mention in the Zoroastrian Zendavesta, dating back to around 700 to 800 BCE. This Persian religious text calls cannabis a “good narcotic." Around this time, Scythian tribes used and cultivated cannabis as well. Additionally, they left cannabis offerings on burial mounds.
The Greek historian Herodotus was one of the first to create a full record on recreational cannabis use in the ancient world in 430 BCE. 4
By 200 BCE, cannabis had arrived in Greece. It was soon distributed among early European tribes and further south to Egypt and Ethiopia. As trade between nations increased, the use of this herb proliferated throughout many civilizations. By the 1400s, only the Americas had been untouched by cannabis culture.