Thousands of years of experience of effects and successful use

In the past they didn’t have clinical researches, they didn’t look at numbers and statistics – they just observed and learned. The list of health problems for which cannabis was used can be a good guide for us, as it includes not only centuries, but thousands of years of experience. Some effects have already been confirmed in modern science, some have been indicated…but there are many that will probably never be proven in modern science – either because of the difficulty of proving it or because of different interests. Let history be our teacher!

History should be our teacher.

Hemp is most likely one of the first plants cultivated by man. Archaeological and historical sources indicate that hemp was cultivated for fiber in China as early as 4000 BC, and was used for therapeutic purposes well over a millennium later. The use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes is mentioned for the first time (only) in the 1st century AD – in the oldest pharmacopoeia* in the world (Ben cao jing) – but it is supposed to summarize instructions that have been passed down in oral tradition since the time of Emperor Shen -Nunga who ruled around 2700 BC. Indications for the use of cannabis in the first pharmacopoeia in the world included:

  • rheumatic pain,
  • constipation,
  • disorders in the female reproductive system,
  • treatment of malaria and others.

From China, the use of cannabis then spread to India because it was used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. The Atharva Veda (a collection of sacred texts by an unknown author) mentions cannabis as one of the five sacred plants and lists it as the source of happiness, the giver of joy and the bringer of freedom. For medicinal purposes it was used in India:

  • against pain (neuralgia, headache, toothache),
  • to relieve spasms (in epilepsy, tetanus, rabies),
  • as a hypnotic (hypnotic),
  • sedative (anxiety, mania, hysteria),
  • anesthetic,
  • anti-inflammatory (in rheumatism and other inflammatory conditions),
  • antibiotic (topical for skin infections,
  • tuberculosis),
  • against parasites (internal and external),
  • against muscle spasms,

*Pharmacopeia – an official pharmaceutical manual that contains basic information on medicinal raw materials, their processing into medicines and instructions for use

  • as a digestive, appetite stimulant,
  • as a diuretic,
  • as an aphrodisiac,
  • for cough relief and easier expectoration (for bronchitis, asthma).

From China, the use of cannabis then spread to India because it was used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. The Atharva Veda (a collection of sacred texts by an unknown author) mentions cannabis as one of the five sacred plants and lists it as the source of happiness, the giver of joy and the bringer of freedom. It was used for medicinal purposes in India. Evidence suggests that the Assyrians also knew and used hemp and used it in BC:

  • externally for swellings and bruises and
  • internally against depression,
  • impotence,
  • arthritis,
  • kidney stones and
  • menstrual problems

From India around the 9th century AD, the use of hemp spread to the Middle East and then to Africa, where it was most likely brought by Arab traders. Among other things, Arab doctors described her:

  • anti-inflammatory,
  • diuretic,
  • anti-pyretic,
  • anti-emetic ter
  • anti-epileptic activity.

In Africa, hemp was used for:

  • snake bite
  • to speed up childbirth,
  • in malaria,
  • chills,
  • blood poisoning,
  • in anthrax,
  • asthma and
  • dysentery.

With African slaves in the 16th century, hemp arrived in South America (more precisely in Brazil), where the plant was valued both in magical rituals and for medicinal purposes. In rural areas, it should be used at

  • menstrual cramps and
  • toothache.

In Europe, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes did not become established until the middle of the 19th century. Before that time, it was cultivated only for the purpose of obtaining fibers and making paper. In 1843, the Irish doctor W.B. O’Shaughnessy, who served in India for many years, published the work “On Preparations of Indian Hemp or Ganja”, where he described the use of hemp preparations in:

  • tetanus,
  • rabies,
  • rheumatism and
  • epileptic seizures.

The medical use of cannabis persisted in Europe for years, mainly due to the lack of effective drugs for infectious diseases such as cholera, tetanus and rabies.
The use of cannabis then spread from Europe to North America, where the first conference on the clinical use of cannabis was organized in 1860. The use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes in Western medicine reached its peak in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Over 100 articles were published on the therapeutic value of cannabis, and in 1924, Sajous’ Analytical Cyclopedia of Practical Medicine was published, which described the use of cannabis in three sections:

Sedative or hypnotic: in insomnia, melancholia, mania, delirium, tetanus, rabies, allergic rhinitis, bronchitis, tuberculosis, cough, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, bladder spasms and gonorrhea

Anti-pain: for headaches, migraines, menopause, brain tumors, tics, neuralgia, stomach ulcers, indigestion, neuritis, neurosyphilis, uterine disorders, dysmenorrhea, chronic inflammation, menorrhagia, postpartum hemorrhage, threatened abortion, acute rheumatism, eczema, itching, tingling, pustules, toothache

Other: to improve appetite and digestion, for long-term indigestion, to strengthen appetite after a serious illness, for gastric neuroses, dyspepsia, dysentery, cholera, nephritis, hematuria (blood in the urine), diabetes, heart palpitations, dizziness, sexual atony in women and impotence in men

Cannabis-based preparations were also marketed by many large pharmaceutical companies (e.g. Merck, Burroughs-Wellcome, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Parke-Davis, Eli Lilly).
The decline…

At that time, the active ingredients in hemp were not yet known and hemp was used in the form of extracts or tinctures, the strength of which depended on many factors, such as the origin, age of the plant and the method of preparation. Thus, it was very difficult to obtain reproducible results. The use of cannabis has also decreased over time due to the development of effective drugs for diseases that were previously treated with cannabis.
The decline in the use of cannabis for therapeutic and research purposes was also led to the “Marijuana Tax Act” passed in 1937, which stipulated the registration of cannabis users and the payment of a tax of $1 per ounce (28.35g) for medical use and $100 per ounce for other purposes. In case of failure to pay the tax, the user could face a fine of $2,000 and/or up to 5 years in prison, which practically meant a ban on the use of cannabis. In 1941, cannabis was excluded from the American Pharmacopoeia. Nevertheless, in the second half of the 20th century, the use of cannabis for recreational purposes increased in the Western world.