Medical Cannabis History 101
The history of cannabis as a medicine takes us back to 2737 B.C in China. Throughout the Xinjiang region and all the way up to Siberia, cannabis was used as an anesthetic as well as a treatment for rheumatism and gout. Meticulous written accounts by none other than the emperor at the time, Shen Nung, tracked the effectiveness of cannabis on his ailments and made their way to Korea where cannabis seemed to have also been widely used around the same time.
Between 2,000 and 1,000 B.C. the plant made its way to India, where Vedic poems of the era indicate that cannabis was used for several purposes including as a fertility booster, aphrodisiac and relief from anxiety. At the time, the most common form of ingesting cannabis was in a beverage made out of bhang, an edible form of cannabis which mixes buds and leaves with Indian spices to create a thick liquid drink called ghota.
Cannabis also appears around the same time period in Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa in the form of kif, originally the name of a beverage made with finely sifted cannabis that was thought to improve fertility as well as a treatment for digestive issues.
The Vikings were known to be fans of cannabis for medicinal purposes as well. The discovery of a Viking ship containing a pouch of cannabis and the subsequent exhuming of the remains found on that ship indicates that the Vikings may have used cannabis to treat pain in addition to playing a mysterious role in their religious rituals.
In North America and South America, uncovered burial grounds indicate the use of cannabis among indigenous peoples dating back 2,000 years. Pictorial and oral histories indicate that on both continents cannabis was used to increase fertility, treat pain and digestive ailments as well as have a role in shamanistic rituals.
Moving ahead to the 19th century and one of the most famous examples of cannabis use belongs to Queen Victoria, whose physician regularly prescribed cannabis oil to cure the Queen of her migraines and menstrual cramps. During this period and well into the 20th century, cannabis in dried and oil form was available in pharmacies throughout the US and Canada as a treatment for migraines, insomnia, neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, tetanus, hydrophobia, epidemic cholera, convulsions, chorea, hysteria, mental depression, delirium tremens, insanity, and uterine hemorrhage.
After cannabis was declared illegal in the US in 1943, mention of cannabis usage for medical purposes halted for three decades until Israeli researchers began publishing their findings on the benefits of cannabis and particularly the cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) in the 1970s. The research produced under the stewardship of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his subsequent discovery of the Endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the effects of cannabis on cannabinoid receptors in the human body is credited for contributing greatly to the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes in Canada.
And the rest is cannabis history.
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