The 6,000-Year History of Medical Marijuana

June 22, 2018

Canada recently legalized marijuana use, becoming the second nation in the world to do so.

Cannabis has been largely regulated since the the early 20th century.

But medical uses for cannabis have been found in many cultures for thousands of years.

Since the early 20th century, the use of cannabis for any purpose fell out of favor by both regulators and Western culture at large.

In the United States, a wave of regulations made access to cannabis more difficult starting from the late 1900s, ultimately culminating in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively made cannabis use a federal offense. Meanwhile, prohibition in Canada lasted for 85 years until being lifted by recent developments.

Interestingly, however, this recent period of 20th century opposition is actually just a small speck in the wider 6,000-year timeline of cannabis. After all, the plant has been widely regarded for its therapeutic potential for many millennia by different cultures around the world.

Today’s infographic comes to us from MedReleaf, and it focuses on the medical uses of cannabis discovered by many cultures over time. With uses dating back to Ancient empires such as Rome, Egypt, and China, it helps to put into perspective recent legal and cultural developments regarding cannabis on a broader historical scale.

4000 BC: Pan-p’o village

Cannabis was regarded among “five grains” in China, and was farmed as a major food crop.

2737 BC: Pen Ts’ao Ching

Earliest record of cannabis as a medicinal drug. At this time, Emperor Shen-Nung recognized its treatment properties for over 100 ailments such as gout, rheumatism, and malaria.

2000-1400 BC: Scythians

Nomadic Indo-European peoples used cannabis in steam baths, and also burned cannabis seeds in burial rituals.

2000-1000 BC: Atharva Vedas

Cannabis was described as a “source of happiness”, “joy-giver”, and “bringer of freedom” in these Hindu religious texts. At this time, cannabis was smoked at daily devotional services and religious rituals.

2000-1000 BC: Ayurvedic Medicine

Open religious use of cannabis allowed for exploration of medical benefits. During this period, it was used to treat a variety of ailments such as epilepsy, rabies, anxiety, and bronchitis.

1550 BC: Ebers Papyrus

Egyptian medical papyrus of medical knowledge notes that medical cannabis can treat inflammation.

1213 BC: Ramesses II

Cannabis pollen has been recovered from the mummy of Ramesses II, the Egyptian pharaoh who was mummified after his death in 1213 BC.

900 BC: Assyrians

Employed the psychotropic effects of cannabis for recreational and medical purposes.

450-200 BC: Greco-Roman use

Physician Dioscorides prescribed cannabis for toothaches and earaches. Greek doctor Claudius Galen noted it was widely consumed throughout the empire. Women of the Roman elite also used cannabis to alleviate labor pains.

207 AD: Hua T’o

First recorded physician to describe cannabis as an analgesic. He used a mixture of cannabis and wine to anesthetize patients before surgery.

1000 AD: Treats Epilepsy

Arabic scholars al-Mayusi and al-Badri regard cannabis as an effective treatment for epilepsy.

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