Cannabis has a long and rich history of use for medicinal and spiritual purposes. The plant has been cultivated for thousands of years in various regions of the world, including China, India, Egypt, Greece, and Persia. Its use in traditional medicine can be traced back to ancient times, with records dating back to 4000 BC in China, where it was used to treat a variety of ailments.
In India, cannabis was considered a sacred plant and was used in religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. The Atharva Veda, one of the four Vedas, described cannabis as a "source of happiness," "joy-giver," and "bringer of freedom." Cannabis was also used in Ayurvedic medicine for various health conditions, such as epilepsy, anxiety, and bronchitis.
The ancient Egyptians used cannabis to treat inflammation, and cannabis pollen was found in the mummy of Ramesses II, who died in 1213 BC. The Greeks and Romans also used cannabis for medicinal purposes, with Dioscorides, a Greek physician, prescribing it for toothaches and earaches, and women of the Roman elite using it to alleviate labor pains.
In the Middle East, Arabic scholars recognized cannabis as an effective treatment for epilepsy, while Persian medical writer Avicenna noted its use in treating gout, edema, and infectious wounds in his influential work, "Canon of Medicine."
During the colonial period, cannabis was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish, where it was initially used for industrial purposes such as rope and clothing. However, its use as a psychoactive and medicinal drug soon followed. In the 19th century, Irish doctor William O'Shaughnessy introduced the therapeutic uses of cannabis to Western medicine.
Prohibition of cannabis began in the United States in 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, which declared drug use a crime. The 1937 Marihuana Tax Act banned the use and sale of cannabis in the US, and in 1970, it was categorized as a Schedule 1 drug, which severely limited research into its medical benefits.
However, research into the plant continued, and in 1988, the discovery of the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the brain signaled a new era of medical cannabis research. Since the early 2000s, governments around the world, including Canada, Uruguay, and various US states, have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, and in 2016, Australia passed legislation to make medical cannabis available to patients.
Today, cannabis continues to be a widely debated topic, with ongoing discussions about its potential medical benefits and drawbacks. However, its long and fascinating history highlights its enduring significance to cultures around the world.
Booth, M. (2003). Cannabis: A history. Picador.
Earleywine, M. (2002). Understanding marijuana: A new look at the scientific evidence. Oxford University Press.
Russo, E. B. (2007). History of cannabis and its preparations in saga, science, and sobriquet. Chemistry & biodiversity, 4(8), 1614-1648.