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The History Of Marijuana

The History Of Marijuana

Marijuana has been consumed for its medicinal uses since ancient times, as archeological finds from many countries prove.  For example in Germany hemp seeds or akenes have been found dating around 500 B.C.  In China the emperor Shen-Nung recommended marijuana to cure “malaria, beri-beri, constipation, rheumatic pains, absent-mindedness, and female disorders.”  Clearly marijuana was thought to be a medicinal plant for early medicine.  The Chinese herbalist, Hoa-Glio used a mixture of marijuana and wine “as an analgesic during surgery.”

“The value of marijuana in folk medicine has often been closely tied with its euphoric and hallucinogenic properties, knowledge of which may be as old as its use as a source of fiber. Primitive man, trying all sorts of plant materials as food, must have known the ecstatic hallucinatory effects of Hemp, an intoxication introducing him to an other-worldly plant leading to religious beliefs. Thus the plant early was viewed as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the spirit world.”

The African people often used marijuana to cure dysentery, malaria, anthrax, and fevers.  Sotho tribal woman would ease the pain of childbirth by smoking marijuana, while the Hotentots and Mfengu people’s claim it can cure snake bites.  In India marijuana had an almost god-like status; being used to treat almost every illness from control of dandruff and relief of headache to whooping cough and tuberculosis and believed to “quicken the mind, prolong life, and improve judgment.”  Indian doctors believed it was more effective than other medicines because of its psychoactive properties.  Around 1600 AD the medical work Bharaprakasha claimed that marijuana was “antiphlegmatic, digestive, bile affecting, pungent, and astringent, prescribing it to stimulate the appetite, improve digestion, and better the voice.”  Another contemporary Indian work claimed it could cure leprosy.

Marijuana was valued for its medicinal use in medieval Europe as well.  Medieval herbalists distinguished “manured hempe” (cultivated) from “bastard hempe” (weedy), recommending the latter “against nodes and wennes and other hard tumors,” the former for a host of uses from curing cough to jaundice. They cautioned, however, that in excess it might cause sterility, that “it drieth up… the seeds of generation” in men “and the milke of women’s breasts.” An interesting use in the sixteenth century — source of the name Angler’s Weed in England — was locally important: “poured into the holes of earthworms [it] will draw them forth and…fisherman and anglers have use this feate to baite their hooks.”  The ancient physicians Dioscorides and Galen both mentioned marijuana in their writings.

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