Cannabis Usage Through Time
While heated debate over the legalization and recreational use of marijuana might feel new, the truth is that marijuana has been used for thousands of years. 10,000 years ago, the plant was grown by ancient civilizations, making it one of the first, if not the first, agricultural crop. In fact, some historians say that marijuana cultivation may have even been one of the reasons that cultures were able to create civilizations.
With its roots traced back to ancient Asia, specifically Taiwan and China, in 6,000 BCE cannabis seeds and oil were used for food and discoveries have shown that as early as 4,000 BCE the plant was cultivated for textile creation.
It wasn’t until around 2,700 BCE, however, that marijuana was recorded to be used for medicinal purposes, the Emperor Shen Neng of China being credited for documenting this early usage.
As cultivation of cannabis became more popular in these ancient cultures, its usage spread throughout much of the Eastern world, permeating into religious ceremonies, medicinal treatments, and popular for its ability to be used in creating textiles that could be traded. And while the plant remained used primarily for religious and medicinal purposes for several centuries, by 430 BCE it began to be recognized as a recreational drug, with documentation of its psychotropic properties making their way into history just a few centuries later.
Historians agree that marijuana first made contact with modern Europe in 100, with hemp rope entering England as an import.
The cannabis plant made its way to North America via the French and British settlers who grew the plant Port Royal, Virginia, and Plymouth, noting the plant’s amazingly strong fibers and its ability to be used to create ropes, sails, and clothing. This promising start for the marijuana plant in North America disappeared by the twentieth century, when prohibition against its usage began in the United States, starting with California, Texas, Louisiana, and New York. By the 1940’s, any trace of marijuana’s historical use as an effective alternative medicine and the plant’s sustainable characteristics and multiple uses disappeared, replaced with scare tactics and propaganda that suggested to the public the drug was more dangerous than heroin, morphine, and opium (see the 1936 film, Reefer Madness).
Marijuana As Holistic and Alternative Medicine
As early as the year 130, marijuana was being documented for its medicinal properties, a Greek physician known as Galen prescribing medical marijuana to his patients. In 200, a Chinese surgeon by the name of Hua T’o documented using marijuana as an anesthetic, placing the plant in one of the world’s first books of pharmacopeia. In 300, it was recorded that a young woman received marijuana during childbirth to help her cope with pain.
All of these early documentations demonstrate that the cannabis plant has been known for centuries to have medicinal qualities, a fact that, today, is still for some reason debated. Even in North America, where today marijuana is still viewed by many as “dangerous” and “unnecessary”, historical documents show that early citizens used marijuana frequently, growing it and prescribing it, reaping its benefits.
As holistic and alternative medicine, the cannabis plant has a lot to offer, containing over 400 individual chemicals, many of which affect both body and brain.
Below are some common alternative health uses for marijuana:
Known to give its users “the munchies”, this side effect from marijuana has proven to be successful holistic medicine for individuals who are having difficulty eating. Patients who struggle with nausea after treatment for cancer or AIDS use marijuana to help them regain their appetite, allowing them eat and strengthen during these depleting treatments.
When prescribed medicinally, marijuana is most commonly used for the treatment of pain, offering users relief from what, in many cases, is chronic suffering. Patients with nerve damage, also known as neuropathic pain, seem to benefit the most from marijuana usage. And, unlike other prescription pain medications, marijuana isn’t as addictive and does not carry the dangerous risk of fatal overdoses.
Researchers in Israel are having breakthroughs in their studies which are using cannabis as alternative medicine to help treat concussions. This research is showing that certain strains of marijuana contain anti-inflammatory and protective neural properties that seem to be effective for treating traumatic brain injuries. Currently, the American NFL is following the research, looking to help its players better recover from these types of injuries.
Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and causes interruptions in the flow of information to the brain, can create debilitating and painful spasms in individuals who have it. A prescription version of cannabis, known as Sativex, has been proven to help treat these spasms, providing users with relief that other synthetic medication cannot.
Preliminary studies are showing that marijuana can be used as a holistic treatment for individuals that are suffering from memory loss, including that caused by Alzheimer’s Disease. Early research was showing that strains of cannabis helped to prevent these detrimental brain changes and that the use of the plant as alternative medicine could be one of the biggest breakthroughs for sufferers of Alzheimer’s Disease. Unfortunately, the research, which was being conducted in the United States, has hit several road blocks because of the plant’s illegal drug status, delaying the study and its potentially life-saving results.
Children and individuals with epilepsy deal with unexpected, often dangerous, seizures that are notoriously hard to treat. A new strain of marijuana, known as “Charlotte’s Web” and available in Colorado, is dramatically reducing epileptic seizures, especially in children who take the cannabis strain as an oil. This oil is low in THC (the chemical that makes people high) but high in a chemical known as CBD, which seems to be the secret to stopping these seizures.