Medical cannabis has a long history dating back thousands of years and it was not until the 19 th century that cannabis began to be used in western medicine. Some earliest evidence of cannabis medicine was found in China and one of them was the first chinese pharmacopeia around AD 100. Ancient chinese continued to use cannabis as a fundamental herb in their traditional medicine. There was also evidence of cannabis use in India, Greek and around the world for treating health conditions. By the 19th century, it reached European for the first time and gained popularity since then.. Now we all returned to discover which health benefits this plant brought for people with modern lenses. In this paper, let’s take a glance through the history of medical cannabis, from ancient to mid 20th century!
Cannabis, called má or dàmá in ancient Chinese, was used in Taiwan for producing fiber about 10,000 years ago. When it comes to the origin of medical marijuana, the botanist Hui-lin Li wrote that the use of cannabis for medical purposes was discovered very early. As ancient humans consume hemp seed as food, it was quite accidental for them to find out the medical properties of the plant. Dama or cannabis was recorded in the oldest Chinese pharmacopeia in the first century.
The early Chinese physician named Hua Tua is praised for being the first person to use cannabis as an anesthetic in surgery. The medication was prepared by milling the plant in powder and mixing it with wine for administration before conducting surgery.
In the pharmacopeia of the Tang, the medical uses of cannabis plants were highlighted. The root of the plant was prescribed to treat blood clots, the juice from the leaves could be ingested to kill tapeworm. The seed of cannabis was reduced to powder and mixed with rice wine in order to treat some health conditions, namely hair loss, and constipation. The Ming dynasty provided detailed instructions about harvesting the heads of the cannabis Sativa plant.
Cannabis is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine and is prescribed to treat several ailments. In Chinese materia medica: vegetable kingdom, Smith wrote:
All parts of the hemp plant could be used in medicine. The flowers were recommended to treat 120 forms of the disease, ranging from menstrual disorders and wounds. The remedies are considered to be poisonous, stimulate the nervous system and if used in excess, it will result in hallucination and staggering gait. The seeds were prescribed as tonic, demulcent, restorative, diuretic, corrective, and so on. Physicians can use cannabis internally as well as externally for eruptions, ulcers, hair loss, constipation, vomiting. The oil extracted from the plant was used for falling hair, sulfur poisoning, and dryness of the throat. Meanwhile, the juice expressed from the leaves was prescribed as an anthelmintic, to prevent hair from turning gray, the juice of the root is beneficial in the placenta and postpartum hemorrhage.
For many centuries, cannabis was used as the main component in medical practices and religious activities. Ancient Indians in most parts of the country frequently mixed cannabis with other ingredients for administration. Surviving text from ancient India recorded that physicians recognized the psychoactive properties of cannabis and manipulated it to treat diseases, such as insomnia, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, and some types of pain. In terms of religious practice, Indian philosophers considered nature and used Bhang (a form of cannabis) as a guardian and it was lucky to dream of the leaves or water of Bhang. The benefits of Bhang to treat ailments are created by the almighty god.
The ancient Greeks used cannabis to treat nose bleeds and cannabis seeds were used to kill tapeworms. The popular form of cannabis was too steep cannabis seeds in either water or wine, after a while, taking them out and using extract to treat pain caused by obstruction of the ear. In Egypt, the archeologist said that the reference to plant medical cannabis was described in various Egyptian texts. The Eber papyrus was dated back around 1500 BCE and described to use cannabis for women’s health which modern science is researching like endometriosis.
As compared to the use of cannabis for treatment in the East, Europeans didn’t use it with as much enthusiasm. Instead, they not only consider cannabis as herbal medicines but also for recreational purposes.
In the mid 19th century, researchers began to focus on discovering the benefits of medical cannabis. Several patent medicines contain cannabis which was mentioned as a secret ingredient. Before 1937, there were at least 2000 cannabis medicines produced by about 280 manufacturers. However, the invention of new drugs resulted in a decline in the popularity of cannabis.
The first person who introduced the therapeutic use of cannabis to western medicines was William Brooke O’Shaughnessy – an Irish doctor. He was a chemistry professor at the medical college of Calcutta and conducted a cannabis experiment in the 1830s, first preparing on animals, then experimenting on human subjects who suffered from muscle spasms and pain.
In the later century, while investigating methods to detect drug intoxication, researchers found that smoking cannabis resulted in reduced intraocular pressure. In 1955, the antibacterial effect of cannabis was discovered in the Parlacký University. Since then, they have grown cannabis for their scientific research on two large fields authorized by the university. The marijuana extracts were then used in the trial at the hospital of University as a cure for Haze and Aphthae. A physician named Tod H. Mikuria raised the debate concerning marijuana as a medicine when he published Marijuana medical paper in 1973. He proposed that blindness in glaucoma patients could be prevented by using cannabis due to its reduced intraocular pressure. Later, in 1964, Dr. Albert Lockhart and Matley West began to study the health effects of traditional cannabis in Jamaican communities. They discovered that the communities had unusually low glaucoma rates and fishermen washed their eyes with cannabis extract in the belief that it would improve their sight. Afterward, they developed the first cannabis-based drug and gained permission to market in 1987. Thanks to their continued contribution to the communities, they received the Jamaica Order of Merit as a result.
In conclusion, medical marijuana has a long, complex history, and modern science has just begun to discover anecdotal evidence supporting its use as medicine. Results gained from ongoing clinical trials pave the way for shaping the future of cannabis, especially pharmaceutical development and health care using medical cannabis.
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