Where does cannabis come from? Discovered the origins of hemp, already cultivated 12 thousand years ago for medical purposes

What is the origin of cannabis? A study suggests that the first crops of this plant would have originated in East Asia

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What is the origin of cannabis? A new study suggests that the first cultivations of this plant would have originated in East Asia, more than twelve thousand years ago.

Many botanists so far agreed that the hemp sativa (or useful hemp) was native to Central Asia, but new scientific evidence has shown that East Asia is the most likely source of the plant's ancient gene, grown in many varieties in today's China. The study authors found that the plant was originally a multipurpose crop grown about 12.000 years ago during the Neolithic period, possibly for medical uses. Farmers began growing the plant for specifically hallucinogenic purposes only 4.000 years ago, when cannabis began to spread across Europe and the Middle East.

A 2016 study linked the earliest findings of cannabis cultivation to Japan and China. Now, however, many botanists claim that the plant was 'domesticated' in the easternmost regions of Central Asia, where wild varieties of the plant are still widespread today.

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The genetic sequence considered in the latest study suggests that the hemp plant has undergone a unique 'domestication' process in the Eastern Air. In fact, by sequencing genetic samples of the plant, the researchers discovered that the species was probably domesticated in the Neolithic period: this theory, in addition to the genetic evidence, would also be supported by archaeological traces relating to the same period that have been found. in China, Japan and Taiwan.

Professor Luca Fumagalli, one of the authors of the study, argues that the theory of the origin of hemp in Asia was largely based on data from wild plants found in the region. - It is easy to find wild plant samples, but these are not wild plants. They are plants that have escaped the 'domestication' process and have adapted to the wild environment. This is also why hemp is also called 'weed', because it has a strong adaptability and can grow anywhere.

The study was conducted by botanists of theLanzhou University, in China. The researchers collected 82 plant samples (both seeds and leaves) from different parts of the world: the samples included both plants used for tissue production and those used as hallucinogen. DNA was extracted from the various samples collected and sequenced in a Swiss laboratory. The results collected showed that the wild varieties analyzed were nothing more than plants that escaped human 'domestication' and regained their wild form.

It is difficult to understand precisely how plants were 'domesticated' in the first place: in fact, although scientists can make some predictions about how a certain plant species will change in the natural environment, these predictions fail if the process of natural selection it is artificially implemented by man.

Source: Science Magazine

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