Even if new to us, the remarkable benefits of the hemp plant have been appreciated by people from very early in our history. Hemp was among one of humanity's first cultivated crops.
A 2019 study published in the Vegetation History and Archaeobotany traced the origin of cannabis to a variation of the hop plant 28 million years ago. Archeologists found fossilized cannabis plant pollen 10,700 feet above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau.
To put that in perspective, scientists think that our human ancestors emerged 6 million years ago and modern humans only in the past 200,000 years.
At Jampha, we appreciate this discovery because Tibet and its profound spiritual contribution inspired our organic, full-spectrum, and non-psychoactive CBD oils. In the Tibetan language, Jampha means "loving kindness." Loving kindness is the antidote to selfishness, anger, and fear.
Domesticated from Wild Origins
The ancient cannabis plant had millions of years to spread its pollen before humans arrived on the scene.
Researchers in the 2019 study were able to trace the pathway of the cannabis spores' from the Tibetan Plateau to Europe, then China, and finally into India. Most likely, different people across Eurasia cultivated and domesticated cannabis at different times in history from these migrated spores. Domesticated plants also spread through trade.
Before the discovery of fossilized spores in Tibet, the first evidence of cultivated cannabis was in China. Along with some Neolithic pottery, researchers found 12,000-year-old stone tools with hemp cord markings and a rod used to pound the plant into fibers.
Ancient people continued to use hemp fibers to make tools, clothing, shoes, and food. By around 150 BCE, they had added hemp into their already-existing papermaking process.
First Recorded Medical Uses of Cannabis
The first written evidence of the hemp plant as medicine was Emperor Shen-Nung's writings in the Pen Ts’ao Ching dated 2737 BCE. He made oils and teas from the cannabis plant to treat patients' pain.
In the next century, a Chinese physician named Hua Tuo recorded using cannabis as an anesthetic. Considering its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antibiotic properties, he made an excellent choice. His writings show he also successfully used hemp tinctures to treat hair loss, tapeworms, and blood clots.
Hemp's History in Ceremony and Ritual
With records dating as far back as 2000 BCE, cultures worldwise used cannabis ritually or as part of sacred ceremonies.
You may have seen an image of Lord Shiva dancing in a ring of fire. He is one of the three major Hindu deities. Lord Shiva smoked marijuana to relax and before meditating, and some of his followers do as well.
The Maha Shivaratri is an annual festival held in late February or early March to celebrate the day Shiva and his bride Parvati saved the universe from darkness.
People gather at the temples to celebrate, many with their special clay pipes called chillum. In the air outside, the scent of ganja mingles with smoke from the bonfires.
The Scythians were an eastern Iranian nomadic warrior tribe who migrated through southern Russia and Ukraine to Siberia. They left two ancient gold bongs with cannabis residue in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia around 430 BCE.
The Scythians used cannabis in important burial rituals. When burying a leader, they made a fire inside the ceremonial structure. Once the flames died down, they threw hemp seeds on the hot coals. The intoxicating experience was meant to cleanse the mind and soul.
In a royal tomb dated between 700 and 300 BCE, they found cannabis seeds in a decorated leather pouch.
While the ceremonial uses of cannabis in Ancient Egyptians are not well known, they used cannabis for its medical and psychological benefits. The Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical textbook written around 1550 BCE, describes using hemp formulas to reduce pain and inflammation. According to the text, Egyptian women, in particular, used marijuana to alleviate depression and anxiety.
Several Egyptian mummies tested for traces of cannabis in their systems. Archeologists believe cannabis was a regular part of ancient Egyptian culture.
Excavators found ten wooden bowls with cannabis residue. Researchers believe mourners used heated stones to burn marijuana as part of the ritual.
Intrinsic to Our History
As soon as people were cultivating crops, they were growing hemp. They used its strong fibers to make rope, weave baskets, and nets. They transformed it into clothes, shoes, flags, paper, and food.
Eventually, its medicinal properties were discovered and recorded. From China to Europe to Egypt, medical practitioners developed tinctures and oils from the hemp plant to ease pain and stabilize mood.
At about the same time, marijuana's psychoactive properties were discovered, and people around the world used it in rituals.
CBD and the remarkable health benefits of the terpenes and cannabinoids found in the hemp plant may be a discovery in this century, but we are building on what the ancients already knew.