Takeaway: From prehistoric ancestors to modern men to learned medical researchers cannabis has seen many momentous days, people and events that played an important role in how things are today. From a plant found in the wild to a medically grown remedy trace the beginning of magical marijuana from as early as 200 BC. Egyptian mummies, Arabs, Chinese philosophers, Persians, Indian saints to Roman scientists have all recognised this plant for its benefits. Now it’s your turn to do the same, ready away!
The history of cannabis is a fascinating oscillation of utilization and interdiction that every enthusiast is keen on knowing. The current status of marijuana is partially convenient to the users, but we all know it wasn’t the same for all these years.
From the first script mentioning marijuana to today, the era of legitimate medical marijuana programs, there have been several important dates, events, and people that contributed to the medical history of cannabis. The medicinal uses of marijuana have been appreciated by our ancestors, and interestingly, all around the world.
But before we review the timeline of the significant years that made marijuana what it is today, let’s talk about cannabis!
What Is Cannabis?
Honestly, there would hardly be an adult who is entirely unaware of cannabis! Most of the adults residing in the United States have heard something related to marijuana; the good, bad, or ugly, anything at all!
In fact, most of the adult crowd would have tried marijuana and those who have, may not be having any regrets!
Then why am I trying to define cannabis here?
The reason is penny plain! There are a lot of terms floating around that could confuse the readers. When I talk about the history of cannabis in this article, I mean the entire species of cannabis. I may use the term marijuana alternatively.
However, I want you to grasp that cannabis is not hemp. Cannabis is a genus that includes Sativa, Indica, Ruderalis, and Hybrids as species. Hemp is one of the Sativa hybrids which is also a rich part of cannabis history.
Let’s get started with history!
The Medieval Timeline Of Medical Cannabis- From 2900 BC To 100 BC
2900 BC has a significant influence in the history of marijuana as this was the year when the first reference to cannabis was made. The Chinese Emperor, Fu Hsi is believed to either have ordered or may have invented the character himself for cannabis in Chinese script.
In 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung who is also referred as the Father of Medicine was the first one to recognize the healing abilities of marijuana and included the medicinal facts of cannabis in his historic book of medicine. However, there is no evidence for this fact. He also discovered the healing properties of Ginseng.
img src: antiquecannabisbook
However, the first reference to something written on medical marijuana is recorded in the Chinese Pharmacopeia called the Rh-Ya was found in 1500 BC. There is no history of marijuana found to have a written record before that. When the mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II, who died in 1213 BC, was discovered, the traces of cannabis in the remains confirmed the use of marijuana during 1213 BC in Egypt.
Several other mummies were found to have cannabis traces which suggested the common use of marijuana in Egypt in ancient times.
Bhang, an Indian cannabis drink is mentioned in several Indian scriptures including Atharvaveda (1500 BC-1000 BC) and Rigveda (1700 BC-110 BC). These scientific scriptures refer cannabis as a medicinal plant that relieves anxiety and pain. The Indian Government has never regulated the use of marijuana, and even today, people drink Bhang as freely as any other drink, especially on festivals.
In 700 BC, The Venidad, a sacred text from the ancient Persia lists cannabis as one of the most important of 10,000 medicinal plants. Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism allegedly penned Zend-Avesta, the sacred text that encloses Venidad as one of its volumes. The Hindu Vedas profoundly influence these religious scripts.
Ayurveda, the science of medicine of the Indians plays a significant role in describing the medicinal history of cannabis. Indians used marijuana to treat several health conditions including pain, dysentery, fevers, insomnia, lethargy, etc. in 600 BC. The ayurvedic medicinal system of Sushruta Samhita written in 600 BC mentioned the benefits of cannabis in detail. The text also lists cannabis as a cure for leprosy.
In 200 BC, medical cannabis was reportedly used by the Greeks to treat an earache, inflammation, and edema.
The Ancient Timeline Of Medical Cannabis- From 1 AD To 1900 AD
In 1 AD, a collection of drug recipes penned by Pen Ts’ao Ching depicts marijuana as a potent plant to use in the treatment of more than 100 health conditions including rheumatism, gout, malaria, etc.
Between AD 50 and 70, Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician serving as a Roman army doctor wrote a 5-volume book on medicine that became a reference text for all the modern pharmacopeia. Dioscorides referred to cannabis as kannabis in his book and talked about how the plant is useful in producing a juice that relieves ear pain and subdues sexual need.
In AD 79, Pliny the Elder, a Roman scientist who wrote Naturalis Historia, included the therapeutic capability of cannabis of healing cramped joints, gout, and chronic pain, in his medical book.
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The one of a kind fact on medical marijuana and probably a quirky turn in the history of cannabis is that in AD 200, a Chinese surgeon Hua T’o used cannabis and resin as an anesthetic while performing grafting, resectioning, laparotomies, and thoracotomies. In 800 AD, an Islamic physician from the Arabic world used to prescribe cannabis for various illnesses including chronic pain, migraines, syphilis, etc. However, in the same century, another Arabic physician warned about the side effects of using marijuana. When Islam spread in India in 1500 AD, Muslim doctors saw the potency of marijuana as a sexual suppressant and started using it to decrease sexuality in males.
Chinese were already aware of the cannabis effects, but they evolved their study on the plant and came up with more medicinal uses of the plant. Bencao Gangmu Materia Medica, a medical text written by Li Shizhen, describes cannabis to be an effective treatment for nausea, infections, and hemorrhage in 1578 AD.
In 1611 AD, a few years after the Britishers colonized America, the Jamestown settlers brought hemp to the USA. The popularity of hemp-based products had increased exponentially during the colonial period to the point that the government levies penalty on citizens for not producing hemp.
Robert Burton, an Oxford scholar, wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy, a popular book on depression that suggested the benefits of marijuana to treat depression in 1621 AD.
In 1652 AD, the renowned British Herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote about hemp’s therapeutic properties for treating inflammation, pain, gout, chronic pain of hips and joints, etc. in his book called The English Physitian.
In the years from AD 1745 to 1824, big heads of the country such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson cultivated hemp out of their interest in the medicinal capacity of the plant. Both the leaders had
In his invasion expedition of Egypt, Napoleon had a scientific team that brought marijuana to France from Egypt in 1799 AD. The team examined the medical cannabis to confirm its healing properties after which, cannabis became a popular medicinal addition in western medicine.
Dr. W.O’Shaughnessy, a British surgeon in the army who served in India, reintroduced medical cannabis to the United Kingdom in 1842 AD. It is a known fact that in the Victorian times, the use of marijuana was popular amongst women for treating menstrual pain. In fact, Queen Victoria herself used medical cannabis to soothe period cramps. Apart from period pain, cannabis was also used for treating epilepsy, muscle spasms, tetanus, rabies, and rheumatism.
In the years of 1840 AD, Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a French psychiatrist, studied cannabis effects in detail and found that marijuana is a great cure for headaches, sleeplessness, and imbalanced appetite. In the following years, cannabis emanated as an established medicine in Europe.
The historic moment for marijuana use in America came in 1850 AD. Marijuana entered the US Pharmacopeia in this year. It was legal to prescribe medical cannabis hereafter for various health conditions including dysentery, cholera, typhus, tetanus, rabies, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, gout, incontinence, excessive menstrual bleeding, etc.
In the year 1889 AD, Dr. E.A.Birch talked about the use of cannabis to control the opiate abuse in one of the most trustable journals, The Lancet.
I don’t know if I should have included the later years of the 20th century, but I really wanted to keep that out of history. This is the history of cannabis! Everything after the 19th century ended still seems afresh in the minds of cannabis enthusiasts. More than that, there was a steep decline in people’s positive outlook on cannabis in the last century which made marijuana a villain.
There’s a lot that happened in the 20th century which we will discuss in another article. The history of medical cannabis is rich, and the gradual increase of its medical use is a proof that people were a lot more subjective back then, unlike now, where things have to be either white or black. Marijuana is something that lies in the gray and must be used responsibly to enjoy its benefits.
Stay tuned with us to know how marijuana became illegal from being a referred medicine and entering the Pharmacopoeia of the US!