The history of Cannabis.
Cannabis has an ancient history that stretches back many years. One of its first known uses was in 2727 BC when it was used by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung. He recorded a treatise on pharmacology, and documented many medicinal properties of the drug.
Known as the Father of Chinese Medicine, Shen Nung often looked for many herbal cures to treat his subjects.
Often he would experiment on himself and then record the effects. At the time, cannabis was known as “ma” and was considered both feminine (yin) and masculine (yang).
When the masculine and feminine are out of balance, this is thought to cause diseases or dis-ease.
Therefore, Ma was used to treat absences of yin, such as: female weaknesses (menstruation), gout, rheumatism, malaria, beri-beri, constipation, and absent-mindedness.
There were also early references to cannabis that came from India in the Atharva Veda from the second millennium BC, while tablets from the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal – an Assyrian King – recorded uses of the plant in 650 BC.
Cannabis was also known to the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. While it was known as a good resource for making fibre, in his well researched essay, ‘Examples of Ancient Greek Medical Knowledge’, Michael Lahanas states that the plant was used for to treat inflammation, earache, and edema (swelling of a body part due to collection of fluids).
In ancient times, it is also thought that cannabis was useful for treating corns and tumours, in both humans and animals.
The psychoactive nature of the plant also did not go unnoticed and was used in healing ceremonies by the ancient Greeks.
German anthropologist and writer Christian Ratsch said that the plant may have been known as ‘Scythian fire’ and used as an incense in the cult of Asclepius, who was thought to be the god of healing.
References to marijuana was found in De Materia Medica written by Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek medic in the Roman army. He wrote about the medicinal uses of many plants, including cannabis.
According to the text found in De Materia Medica, cannabis indica (the root) could help with reducing inflammation, dissolving oedema’s and improving the joints.
However, the text also said that cannabis sativa seeds can be used as a form of birth control while the herb was reportedly good for earaches.
In Ancient Egypt, the Ebers Papyrus mentioned cannabis in 1550 BC, and the plant was believed to be good for relieving hemorrhoid pain.
It was also used widely in ancient India, and was believed to be a cure for headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, sunstroke, dysentery and pain.
The psychoactive properties of the plant were known and used in shamanic ceremonies. It was also thought to make the body more alert and to stimulate the intellect.
Further references to the plant can be found in the medieval Islamic world, where Arabic doctors used it to treat seizures, and made use of the anti-inflammatory, diuretic and analgesic properties of the plant.