It’s a drug that’s been making legalization headlines lately, but it’s definitely not new.
Cannabis is one of the oldest plants in East Asia, present in that area for millennia. It’s long been cultivated for grain, fiber, recreational, medicinal and ritual purposes.
But when did humans first recognize the plant’s psychoactive properties and start using *for those properties?
A new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances is shedding more light on that issue, providing what researchers call some of the earliest evidence for ritual cannabis smoking.
They looked at psychoactive compounds preserved in 2,500 year-old incense burners that were excavated from eight tombs in western China.
Chemical analysis found cannabis plants were burned in those wooden containers, suggesting the drug was smoked as part of ritualistic or religious practices. What’s more, the cannabis traces appeared to come from plants that produced high levels of THC, the drug’s most potent psychoactive component.