JUL 18, 2021 9:33 AM PDT

Genetic Analysis Reveals Cannabis First Grown in China

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Genetic analysis of over 100 cannabis Sativa genomes has revealed that the plants’ wild ancestors likely came from present-day China. The findings were published in Science Advances by an international team of researchers. 

Tracking the history of cannabis domestication has previously been challenging due to legal hurdles in obtaining the plant. While many sources suggest that cannabis originates in Central Asia as many strains grow there, until now, researchers have been unable to conduct genetic studies on the plants to confirm their origins. 

Now, however, an international team of researchers collected and sequenced the genomes of 82 different kinds of cannabis plants both from domesticated and wild sources. The samples used for genetic analysis included seeds, leaves, and other plant material from countries including Switzerland, China, Pakistan, India, and Peru. 

Together with 28 previously sequenced genomes, they examined each strain for clues about their geographical origins over four years. Whereas previous studies examining cannabis genomes involved thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), this study included 12 million SNPs. SNPs are single locations in a genome that can contribute to the difference between species. 

From their analysis, the researchers found that Cannabis sativa was first domesticated in China around 12,000 years ago. The study also shows that the psychoactive and fibrous versions of cannabis used for recreation and clothing didn’t diverge until 4,000 years ago. This means cannabis domestication began when other agricultural innovations were also being made in China with crops including rice, soybeans, and peaches. 

“We thought we would find two main lineages, one with plants for fiber use and then plants developed for cannabinoid production,” says Luca Fumagalli, co-author of the study. “We didn’t expect to find this third independent and basal lineage among the samples from East Asia.”

While this study used the most comprehensive database of genetic samples until now, the researchers note that they did not examine staples from Afghanistan or Russia, two countries known to have vast swathes of wild cannabis. They also note that they only analyzed the genomes of living samples, whereas dried plant materials could shed light on older and rarer varieties. 

 

Sources: Science AdvancesSmithsonian Magazine

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
You May Also Like
MAY 29, 2021
Health & Medicine
No Uptick in Students of High School Age Using Cannabis
MAY 29, 2021
No Uptick in Students of High School Age Using Cannabis
It’s a startling statistic: In 2019, about 22 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported that illegal drugs ...
JUN 10, 2021
Health & Medicine
Medical Cannabis Use Correlates with Reduced Cigarette Use
JUN 10, 2021
Medical Cannabis Use Correlates with Reduced Cigarette Use
  Here’s a bonus effect of using medical cannabis — you’re more likely to give up smoking accordi ...
JUN 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Medical Cannabis Impairs Drivers No More Than Common Meds
JUN 19, 2021
Medical Cannabis Impairs Drivers No More Than Common Meds
 Most people wouldn’t think it highly irresponsible to get behind the wheel after having taken a dose of cold ...
JUL 27, 2021
Health & Medicine
Marijuana Use Does Not Encourage Extra Cigarette Smoking: Study
JUL 27, 2021
Marijuana Use Does Not Encourage Extra Cigarette Smoking: Study
Recreational marijuana is now legal in 19 states, as well as in Washington, D.C., and Guam. But has this loosening of ca ...
JUL 31, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Can CBD Treat Psoriasis?
JUL 31, 2021
Can CBD Treat Psoriasis?
With cannabidiol (CBD) becoming increasingly available, many are wondering about its utility in treating various conditi ...
AUG 04, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Can You Overdose on CBD?
AUG 04, 2021
Can You Overdose on CBD?
Due to limitations to research on cannabidiol (CBD), it can be hard to know which dose is best for you. While there are ...
Loading Comments...