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The Complete History of Medical Marijuana

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The earliest known evidence of marijuana in human hands dates back approximately 10,000 years to a prehistoric village that was discovered in Taiwan in 1972. Pottery shards unearthed there bore the distinct impression of hemp cord, conclusively proving that marijuana has been in use since the Stone Age.

Known in Chinese languages as Ma, this hardy annual herb is arguably the "mother" of agricultural civilization. Ma provided to be a renewable food source and a durable textile fiber for the manufacture of rope and fabric, setting agro-industrial China far ahead of hunter-gatherer tribes in other parts of the world. Besides its many textile and medicinal uses, marijuana yields seeds rich in B vitamins, protein, and amino acids, which have served as China's second or third most important agricultural food source for thousands of years. While evidence of marijuana in use as a medicine has been found in Egyptian ruins dated as early as the 16th century BC, and digs at ancient Hebrew sites have unearthed evidence of medical marijuana as an aid to childbirth long before the time of Christ, the many uses of marijuana have proved to be an invaluable resource in the continuous survival of Chinese culture from its distant origins to the present day.

The earliest known material identified as hemp fabric was found in an ancient burial site from the Chou Dynasty (1122-1249 BC), confirming numerous historical references to the importance of hemp in early China. In the Book of Rites (circa 200 BC) mourners were instructed to wear hemp fabric out of respect for the dead, a tradition which survives to this day.

Perhaps most importantly, the Chinese invention of hemp paper around 200 BC revolutionized record-keeping processes fundamental to orderly government. Although the secret was kept from the rest of the world for 900 years, hemp papermaking eventually became indispensable to the rapid development of all civilizations throughout the world. Thousands of years before hemp paper became a central fixture of European civilizations, the industrial and medical uses of Ma were deeply rooted in China, the country historically known as "the land of mulberry and hemp."

In ancient China, medicine men used hemp stalks carved with ornate snake figures as magical amulets to exorcise demons believed to be the cause of physical illnesses. These healers attempted to cure all sorts of diseases by beating the headboards of their patients' beds with magical hemp stalks while reciting spells and incantations. Japanese Shinto Priests employed a similar ceremony using a short wand bound with undyed hemp fibers. The purity of white hemp was thought to exorcise evil demons. While contemporary scientists dismiss such accounts as ignorant superstitions, a more thoughtful observer might ponder the origins of such long-lived legends.

Shen-Nung, a Chinese emperor who ruled around 2800 BC, is credited with introducing medicines to the Chinese people. Like all mythic figures, he is recalled through time in both fact and fantasy. It is said that Shen-Nung had a transparent abdomen and intentionally ingested as many as 70 different plants per day so that he could watch their effects and discover their various qualities. Shen-Nung identified hundreds of different medicines, which are compiled in the world's oldest medical text, the Pen Ts'ao. For that he was deified and is still acclaimed as the father of traditional Chinese medicine.

According to the Pen Ts'ao, ma-fen, the flowers of the female marijuana plant, contain the greatest amount of yin energy: yin being the receptive female attribute that is, in traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine, dynamically linked with yang, the creative male element. Ma-fen was prescribed in cases of a loss of yin, such as in menstrual fatigue, rheumatism, malaria, beri-beri, constipation, and absentmindedness. The Pen Ts'ao warned that eating too many Ma seeds could cause one to see demons, but that, taken over a long period of time, marijuana seeds could enable one to communicate with spirits. Shen-Nung also instructed the Chinese people in the cultivation of hemp for clothing and other textile uses, an agricultural art still practiced in rural areas of China.

In the first century AD, Taoist alchemists inhaled the smoke of burning hemp seeds in order to cause visions, which were valued as a means of achieving immortality. Marijuana was considered a superior elixir that rejuvenated the mind and body. In more pragmatic disciplines, traditional Chinese physicians have used ma for a wide variety of medical conditions. Hua T'o, a famous surgeon of the second century AD, performed complicated surgery using ma-yo, an anesthetic made from hemp resin and wine. When acupuncture and medicines failed to effect a cure, Hua T'o performed complex surgery, including amputations and organ graftings tied with sutures. With the use of ma-yo, these surgeries were reportedly painless. In the tenth century AD, Chinese physicians reported that ma-yo was useful in the treatment of waste diseases and injuries. Ma treatments were used to clear the blood and cool fevers, as well as to cure rheumatism and to ease childbirth.

In Western civilizations, as in China, the durable material crafted from tough hemp stalks has been of immeasurable significance throughout history. The ancient Greeks called it kannabis. Greek sailors traded kannabis across the Aegean Sea as early as the sixth century BC, according to written records on hemp trade from that era. Twentieth-century archeologists found hemp fiber bundles in the cargo hold of a Carthaginian trade ship that had sunk near Sicily around 300 BC. In 450 BC, Herodotus, the great Greek historian, wrote of the fine quality of hemp clothing produced by the Greek-speaking Thracians.

Four hundred years later, Plutarch wrote that the Thracians made a habit of throwing the tops of the kannabis plant onto a fire, thereby becoming intoxicated by the smoke. It was a custom unfamiliar to the wine-loving children of Zeus. A minor reference to the use of kannabis as a remedy for backache is found in Greek literature from about 400 BC. That is the only known reference to the medical use of marijuana in ancient Greece, although it is known that both Arabic and Hebrew medical practices did use kannabis medications during that same period.

In 70 AD, a Greek physician named Discordes in the employ of conquering Roman legions collected a wealth of information on medicinal plants. Discordes' text, entitled Materia Medica, contained the fruits of his world travels with the Roman armies. He listed 600 medicinal plants, complete with descriptions, local names, natural habitats, and indications for treatment of various symptoms. Among those 600 plants Discordes identified Cannabis sativa L. (from the Greek kannabis) as being useful in manufacturing rope and as producing seeds whose juice was effective for treating earaches and for diminishing sexual desire. Discordes' Materia Medica was hugely successful, translated into every language of the known world, and remained an indispensable reference manual of Western medicine for at least 1500 years.

The English word canvas is derived from the word cannabis, an etymological indication of the supreme importance of hemp fiber in European seafaring technology. Clearly, the colonial expansion of European empires into remote parts of the world could not have occurred without the development of cannabis-based technologies. In 1492, for example, each one of Columbus' transatlantic vessels carried more than 80 tons of hemp rigging and sails, the product of untold thousands of man-hours. Many stately fortunes were built on the toil of peasants in tall fields of hemp, which eventually became the most important industrial crop in most emerging countries. At the same time, European knowledge of medical cannabis was limited to the short references of Discordes and various unrecorded folk remedies throughout medieval times.

As Western civilization moved from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance period, the developing medical science uncovered many substantial facts, including a remarkable number of benefits ascribed to medical marijuana. In 1621, in The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton suggested that cannabis might be useful for treating depression. In 1682, The New London Dispensatory briefly covered the use of cannabis seeds to cure coughs and jaundice. The New English Dispensatory of 1764 recommended boiling hemp roots and applying the poultice to reduce inflammation. The Edinburg New Dispensary of 1794 reported an increased understanding of the medicinal uses of the cannabis plant, including the treatment of coughs, venereal disease, and urinary incontinence. In 1814, Nicholas Culpepper published his Complete Herbal, which listed all of the known medicinal uses of cannabis. He included all of the applications previously published and a few new ones, such as easing colic, allaying humors of the bowels, staying troublesome bleeding, reducing inflammation of the head, and reducing pains of the hips and joints. Culpepper also recommended cannabis as an additive to salves in the treatment of burns. There is no historical evidence that European physicians were aware of any psychoactive effects associated with cannabis use until the exploration of India broadened European understanding.

In 1753 a Swedish botanist named Carl Linnaeus compiled the most complete reference manual of botanical classifications to date, entitled Species Planetarium. Linnaeus adopted Discordes' classification of Cannabis sativa, but almost immediately some botanists argued that the newly studied Indian cannabis plant was distinctly different from the well-known European Cannabis sativa grown for industrial and medical uses. In 1783, a French biologist named Jean Lamarck examined the two types in his compendium entitled Encyclopedia. Lamarck noted that the species Cannabis sativa commonly grown for fiber and textile uses was characterized by a height of twelve to sixteen feet, long stalks, sparse foliage, and slender leaves. Cannabis native to India, on the other hand, was typically four to five feet tall at maturity and was densely foliated with bushy clusters of comparatively broad leaves. Lamarck dubbed the second species Cannabis indica in deference to its country of origin.

There are literally hundreds of subspecies of cannabis, and botanists continue to argue over exact scientific classifications, but most experts concur that there are at least two distinctly different types comprising all of the strains currently in existence.

Apparently originating in China, cannabis presumably spread west across Asia, Asia Minor, and the Mediterranean, and was adopted by many early cultures. From there, cannabis eventually spread to nearly all civilizations around the globe, according to Western historians. Traditional Hindu teachings, however, tell an entirely different story. The origins of what Europeans called Cannabis indica are recorded in the Vedas, India's four most sacred books. Written approximately 4,000 years ago, the Vedas tell the great legends of conquest, struggle, and spiritual development that continue to shape every facet of traditional Hindu life. Among many other colorful myths, the Vedas tell of Lord Shiva, one of three primary Hindu gods, refreshed in the heat of the day by eating leaves of the marijuana plant. Lord Shiva adopted it as his favorite food; hence he is honored with the title Lord of Bhang.

Bhang is a traditional Indian beverage made of cannabis mixed with various herbs and spices, which has been popular in India for ages. Bhang is a less powerful preparation than Ganja, which is prepared from flowering plants for smoking and eating. Charas, more potent than either Bhang or Ganja, consists of cannabis flower tops harvested at full bloom. Dense with sticky resin, Charas is nearly as potent as the concentrated cannabis resin preparations called hashish. For thousands of years these intoxicating marijuana preparations have permeated every important aspect of traditional Indian life, from ritualistic worship to mundane survival. Warriors preparing for battle, couples about to wed, and pious Hindus on virtually every important occasion have celebrated life by invoking Lord Shiva with the sacred herb.

The fourth book of the Vedas, the Athavaveda, which is translated as The Science of Charms, calls Bhang one of the "five kingdoms of herbs. ..which releases us from anxiety." While this idea may appear to echo Western understandings, South Asian wisdom is not bound by the limits of Newtonian logic. One Hindu myth tells of the time before creation when the gods churned the great cosmic mountain for the nectar of immortality. It is said that marijuana plants sprouted wherever the precious drops of nectar touched the earth.

Traditional Indian medicine has long used a multitude of cannabis preparations for the treatment of such illnesses as fever, dysentery, sunstroke, and leprosy. Cannabis is said to clear phlegm, quicken digestion, sharpen the intellect, increase the body's alertness, and act as an elixir vitae. Hindu medical practice-unlike Western science-also addresses spiritual awareness. It is said that Ganja gives delight to Shiva, the king of gods, who is always pleased to receive offerings. This connection between Lord Shiva and Ganja is considered invaluable to maintaining one's physical health and psychological equilibrium. According to the Rajvallabha, a 17th century Hindu text, "This desire-fulfilling drug was believed to have been obtained by men on Earth for the welfare of all people. To those who use it regularly, it begets joy and diminishes sorrow."

During the early days of the American colonies, industrial hemp products became indispensable to world trade. Hemp was a government-mandated crop, yet the many medical uses of the marijuana plant remained largely unknown in both the Old and the New World. However, once Westerners discovered the range of cannabis therapies found in traditional Indian medicine, the effects of Cannabis indica on European and American medical practices were swift and strong.

In 1890 Sir John Russell Reynolds, personal physician to Queen Victoria, reported that cannabis was useful for treatment of dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), migraine, neuralgia, convulsions, and insomnia. Reynolds called cannabis "by far the most useful of medications" in treating "painful maladies." It is unknown whether Reynolds or other Western physicians knew of the corroborating recommendations written by China's Shen Nung more than two thousand years earlier.

Between 1840 and 1890 at least 100 medical papers were published on the uses of cannabis for the treatment of loss of appetite, insomnia, migraine headache, pain, involuntary twitching, excessive coughing, and withdrawal in cases of opiate or alcohol addiction. Sir William Osler, known as "the father of modern medicine," proclaimed cannabis to be the best treatment for migraine in his authoritative medical textbook written in 1915. At that time, there were at least 30 different cannabis preparations made by leading pharmaceutical companies available in America, even though the hypodermic injection of morphine, along with the use of aspirin and other medicines, had already begun to replace traditional herbal medications.

Today marijuana is under investigation also as a treatment for asthma and certain types of glaucoma and as a means of controlling epileptic seizures and the nausea caused by radiation therapy and cancer chemotherapy.

Although marijuana's use as an intoxicant is not only widespread but socially acceptable in much of Africa and Asia, it has serious drawbacks. The extent to which marijuana can be physically or psychologically damaging remains a subject of discussion, but there is no dispute that it can be harmful, with a real danger of psychological, if not physical, dependence. Possession of the plant is illegal.
PARTS USED

Flowers, leaves, seeds.
USES

In view of its long history as a medicinal treatment, it is hardly surprising that marijuana has, at one time or another, been recommended for almost every illness, As an analgesic, it appears to relieve pain with minimal side effects, being particularly helpful for cancer and AIDS patients undergoing chemotherapy. For those suffering from multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other muscular illnesses, marijuana can reduce neurological over activity and muscle spasm.

Marijuana provides effective treatment for glaucoma, in which pressure within the eye is abnormally high, and is hypotensive, lowering blood pressure. Marijuana relieves asthma, menstrual pains, the pain of childbirth, and of arthritis and rheumatism, and may have value as an antidepressant. Marijuana encourages and induces sleep. The seeds are used in Chinese medicine as a strong but well-tolerated laxative, especially for constipation in the elderly.

Other medical uses
Homeopathy.
HABITAT AND CULTIVATION

Native to the Caucasus, China, Iran, and northern India, marijuana is cultivated the world over, both legally (for the fiber and seeds) and illegally (for use as a recreational drug).
RESEARCH

Modern research shows marijuana to be an effective analgesic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory agent. Research has focused on the constituent THC, but it is clear that the complex of constituents within marijuana has it significantly wider range of applications.
CONSTITUENTS

Marijuana contains over 60 different types of cannabinoids, including THC (delta 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol). Marijuana also contains flavonoids, volatile oil, and alkaloids. It is the only plant to contain THC, one of the main psychoactive constituents.
MARIJUANA SEED OIL

Like linseed oil, marijuana seed oil was used in paint because it, too, is rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) that react with oxygen and then dry in a thin film. The oil covers wood and other materials with an extremely strong coat that protects these materials from wear by wind, water, salt water, and sunlight, and slows down the deterioration of materials exposed to the elements. Marijuana seed oil was also used in lamps before electricity was harnessed for producing light.

The history of marijuana seed oil in food use is similar to that of flax. The oil was used in food preparation. It had to be obtained fresh and used within a week or two before the invention of special manufacturing methods and refrigeration. Marijuana oil is more difficult to make than flax oil because it is much harder on machinery.

But marijuana seed oil appears to be one of nature's more reasonably balanced EFA oils. It contains both EFAs in proportions suitable for long-term use, and also contains GLA.

Marijuana seed is difficult to obtain. It must be imported from China, India, or Europe where it is grown without the use of pesticides, and must be fumigated to prevent the import of foreign pests that it might carry. Since the fumigants are volatile, they evaporate. Tests show no detectible residues at the limit of detection, 50 parts per billion. In order to grow marijuana under 'organic' guidelines, it would have to be grown locally.

In spite of all its virtues and commercial potential, marijuana is illegal to grow in North America. Marijuana oil is legal. Steamed marijuana seeds are legal. Marijuana fiber, cloth, and rope are legal. Sproutable seeds are illegal because they could be used to grow marijuana, some strains of which contain the drug tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their leaves and flowers.

Unfortunately, marijuana seeds split when they are steamed, resulting in some oxidation of its oil. Instead of a peroxide value (PV) -a measure of the degree of rancidity of an oil- of 0.1 to 0.5 which is attained in careful pressings, the PV of marijuana oil goes up to about 6 or 7 -another good reason for legalizing the seed. The PV is safe and does not ruin its taste. For comparison, flax oil with a PV of 2 or 3 tastes bad; the PV of virgin olive oil is about 20; the PV of unrefined corn oil may be as high as 40 to 60.
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA

Marijuana is not a completely benign substance. Marijuana is a powerful drug with a variety of effects. However, except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications. The harmful effects to individuals from the perspective of possible medical use of marijuana are not necessarily the same as the harmful physical effects of drug abuse. When interpreting studies purporting to show the harmful effects of marijuana, it is important to keep in mind that the majority of those studies are based on smoked marijuana, and cannabinoid effects cannot be separated from the effects of inhaling smoke from burning plant material and contaminants.

For most people the primary adverse effect of acute marijuana use is diminished psychomotor performance. It is, therefore, inadvisable to operate any vehicle or potentially dangerous equipment while under the influence of marijuana, THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannibinol), or any cannabinoid drug with comparable effects. In addition, a minority of marijuana users experience dysphoria, or unpleasant feelings. Finally, the short-term immunosuppressive effects are not well established but, if they exist, are not likely great enough to preclude a legitimate medical use.

The chronic effects of marijuana are of greater concern for medical use and fall into two categories: the effects of chronic smoking and the effects of THC. Marijuana smoking is associated with abnormalities of cells lining the human respiratory tract. Marijuana smoke, like tobacco smoke, is associated with increased risk of cancer, lung damage, and poor pregnancy outcomes. Although cellular, genetic, and human studies all suggest that marijuana smoke is an important risk factor for the development of respiratory cancer, proof that habitual marijuana smoking does or does not cause cancer awaits the results of well-designed studies.

Numerous studies suggest that marijuana smoke is an important risk factor in the development of respiratory disease.

Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit medicament most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most medicament users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana-usually before they are of legal age.

In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a "gateway" drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, "gateway" to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. An important caution is that data on drug use progression cannot be assumed to apply to the use of drugs for medical purposes. It does not follow from those data that if marijuana were available by prescription for medical use, the pattern of drug use would remain the same as seen in illicit use.

Finally, there is a broad social concern that sanctioning the medical use of marijuana might increase its use among the general population. At this point there are no convincing data to support this concern. The existing data are consistent with the idea that this would not be a problem if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential.

Present data on drug use progression neither support nor refute the suggestion that medical availability would increase drug abuse. However, this question is beyond the issues normally considered for medical uses of medicaments and should not be a factor in evaluating the therapeutic potential of marijuana or cannabinoids.
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replied February 6th, 2008
Extremely eHealthy
Good read, thanks!
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replied February 6th, 2008
Community Volunteer
Sure..I thought it was very interesting indeed. 10,000 years ago...I thought that was really interesting. Peace!Smile
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replied February 6th, 2008
Experienced User
Yes, amazing--that plant has been around forever--very interesting and informative... that's all they used to have for meds were herbs..some would kill and some would heal...most everything has some kind of side effect if used long enough.
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replied February 10th, 2008
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bobbette wrote:
Yes, amazing--that plant has been around forever--very interesting and informative... that's all they used to have for meds were herbs..some would kill and some would heal...most everything has some kind of side effect if used long enough.


I know thats right! I think herbal medicine should be studied more but that would piss off the big drug companies who are making billions of $$$!!! Rolling Eyes
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replied March 24th, 2008
Experienced User
drug Companies
thats what it all albout , the power that they hold is enormous, while us little people suffer in silence as medical pot is crap, and from what i have heard from cancer patients it gives them headaches instead of all the good things that it has sopposedly done ..done Why is it we can show more compassion for a dying animal than we can for our familys,, it hell what we go thru.
I am not taking medical pot instead all the pharmacuticals that are suggested and NEW, yikes scary word these days, because you have so many side effects, that are so serious, pot has it problems too but it helps.
Don't get me wrong, crack, cocaine, herion, meth are all those drugs that are made from the neighbors chemical game that they play..
Yet dying people should be exempt, but that being said, what about the insurance compaines, they will not cover u if u use street drugs, there fore insurance inless with u lucked out on a doctor that see the logic and helps you to leave your life in peace, only to be sold pot that is hemp, its trash.
Not that i know anyone in the business, but if someone is suffering and they asked for it out of sound mind i would say, yeah, u have that right to die with dignity and grace. god bless ww
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replied March 25th, 2008
Community Volunteer
wickedwanda, I hear you and agree...its all about the $$$ and that is sad..
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