A Deep Dive into Cannabis History
CANNABIS HEALTH HISTORY.
Laws in Africa towards plant medicine (Cannabis in view) and Wellness Practice have seen a slow and almost snail-like improvement since its adoption, though there have been progressive research and acceptance in the Western-hemisphere for quite some time.
Before this, the cannabis plant which the Chinese called “Ma” has been used for many centuries for its fiber in producing cloth, paper, rope, and even pottery. The Chinese discovered that the plant was effective for vomiting and infections. Medicine remained akin to magic, so some treatments were not ideal. Shen Neng’s herbs probably provided as much relief as any alternatives in the era, particularly in China.
Around 200 A.D, A Physician name Hua To became the first person to use anesthesia for surgery nearly 1600 years before its discovery in the west. Why Hau To’s formula for anesthesia did not survive in modern times, its name Mafeisan translates to (Cannabis oil or powder) as cannabis extract were part of the ingredients. Cannabis was one of the 50 fundamental herb medical in the traditional Chinese tool kit.
While the earliest recorded history of cannabis comes from china. It is known to have been widely distributed in fertile soil along the rivers of the ancient world. Along the banks of these great rivers and fertile soil, cannabis is known to have been widely distributed as civilization continues to spread out from places like the Euphrates, The Yellow River, The Mesopotamian, The Indi’s in India, and Even the Nile in Egypt. Cannabis eventually spread from China to India. By 1400 B.C., the sacred Indian text Atharvaveda listed cannabis as a holy plant that could relieve stress. These Vedas texts are the basis of the knowledge of ancient Indian history as well as spirituality. Cannabis or Bhang as it is called in India is mentioned as one of the five sacred plants in the fourth Veda.
Several legends associated Shiva with Cannabis. One such legend states that Shiva amid arguments with his family escaped to the mountains. As he continues to climb he became tired from his journey and fell asleep beneath the plant. When he awoke he became aware of the fragrant smell of the plant and decided to taste its leaves. Rejuvenated Shiva made this ganja(cannabis) his favorite food bringing back to humanity along with the act of Yoga. A sort of regulations and practice for using the sacred herb correctly. To date followers of Shiva still use Bhang in religious ceremonies such as Shivaratri (festivals of shiva’s). Given Hindu sanctions against the consumption of alcohol, cannabis remained one of the few substances appropriate for alleviating anxiety in this culture. The plant’s notorious drying of mucous membranes, such as the “cotton mouth” reported by contemporary users, led the ancient Indian healer Sushruta to prescribe it for congestion. Sushruta also recommended the drug for fevers or inflammation of the mucous membranes.
Medical Cannabis spread farther while new uses for it developed back in China. In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder mentioned Cannabis use as a painkilling analgesic but warned that excessive consumption could cause impotence. The Romans learned of cannabis’s pharmaceutical properties as they stormed through new countries.
A physician in Nero’s army named Pedacius Dioscorides recommended the juice of the cannabis seed for earaches. (Later research confirmed the efficacy of this treatment).
In 70 A.D., Dioscorides compiled a pharmacopeia listing cannabis among the many exotic plants with medical applications.
Galen, the ancient Greek doctor whose impact on Western medicine lasted centuries, used the drug to treat pain and flatulence. Back in China, Shen Neng’s teachings remained well known.
Around 200 A.D., the first pharmacopeia of the East, based on his work, listed cannabis as a medicine. Evidence suggests that new uses of the drug developed outside of China, Greece, and Rome. One novel application concerned the labor of childbirth. Marijuana traces appeared in the archeological remains of a young girl from the fourth century A.D. She died in Jerusalem while giving birth.
Women in Cambodia and Vietnam ingest tea made from marijuana to alleviate postpartum distress even today. Studies of fetal exposure to cannabis have produced mixed results and considerable controversy, but the practice of using cannabis during delivery began at least 2,400 years ago. In addition to many reports of medicinal effects, warnings against abuse also continued.
As happens today, some ancient concerns about the negative side effects of cannabis arose from confusing reports of its consequences. By 1000 A.D. some of the first concerns of the drug’s ill effects appeared in Ibn Wahshiyah’s Arabic text On Poisons. Wahshiyah warned that hashish (a potent cannabis intoxicant similar to charas) renders one blind and mute, eventually leading to continuous wretching and death.
No documented cases of fatal overdose exist.
By the twelfth century, cannabis had reached from Egypt to the rest of Africa. Archeologists in Ethiopia uncovered pipes containing traces of cannabis from the 1300s. . Du Toit (1975) suggests that the Bantus may have brought the plant down the eastern coast of Africa. Dagga, as cannabis was known in Africa, had a medical reputation that varied from tribe to tribe. Hottentots and Mfengu prescribed it for snakebites. The Sotho used cannabis during childbirth as the natives of Jerusalem had done.
Residents of Rhodesia also used the plant to treat anthrax, dysentery, and malaria. In South Africa, the drug served as an asthma treatment. Although recreational use certainly contributed to the spread of cannabis from Egypt to the rest of Africa, well-known medicinal uses continued and new ones are developing.
Increased travel to the Middle East, Africa, and India invariably led to more European publications addressing cannabis as medicine.
By 1578 in China, Li Shih-Chen wrote of cannabis’s antiemetic and antibiotic effects. The medical reputation of cannabis continued into the seventeenth century. In 1621, Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy suggested medical marijuana may aid mood disorders. This novel idea guided research on and off, even as late as the 1970s.
Hemp received its scientific name in the latter half of the eighteenth century. In 1753, Linnaeus, the Swedish naturalist who classified nearly every living thing, dubbed the plant Cannabis sativa. He placed the species in the small family known as Cannabinaceae, which includes only cannabis and the hop plant, Humulus lupulus. In 1783, Lamarck, the man whose infamy stems from his incorrect hypotheses about evolution, sought to distinguish the hemp plants of Europe from those in India. He suggested a separate species native to India, Cannabis Indica, known for its shorter stature and a greater quantity of resin.
Much later, in 1924, a team of Russian botanists identified Cannabis ruderalis, a third species shorter than the other two. Whether all these types are variations on one plant or serve as separate species remains hotly debated even today.
Back in the Americas, the Ohio State Medical Society met in 1860 to summarize the medical uses of marijuana. The conference reported favorable outcomes for treating pain, inflammation, and cough. The 1868 U.S. Dispensatory listed pages of medical uses for tincture of cannabis, an extract often formed by soaking marijuana in alcohol. The extract purportedly improved appetite, sexual interest, mental disorders, gout, cholera, hydrophobia, and insomnia.
The drug’s medical reputation had also continued in England. In 1890, Sir J. Russell Reynolds, chief physician to Queen Victoria, praised the drug in the prestigious medical journal Lancet. He claimed cannabis successfully treated insomnia, facial tics, asthma, and menstrual problems. The queen herself allegedly used a cannabis extract to alleviate cramps.
For centuries, nearly every medicinal use of cannabis seemed comparable to the initial treatments described by Emperor Shen Neng. The primary deterrent to using medical cannabis concerns legal sanctions in countries where prohibitions are very much active.
Possession can lead to harsh penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Given cannabis’s lower cost and potential efficacy, many have challenged its classification in Schedule I. Some physicians and organizations hope to help many suffering people, and continue the history of medical cannabis by working toward reclassification.
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