While the medicinal use of marijuana may have recently become legal in several states across the US its use has spanned the timeline of civilization. The history of marijuana, from China to Africa to the Americas, reveals how marijuana has found itself in many cultures and been used in many diverse ways throughout the centuries.
In Ancient China, some researchers say that medical marijuana, called má 麻, has been in use as far back as 8000 BC. In Chinese mythology, the God of Farming “Shennong”, also known as the God Farmer, introduced and educated the people on the harvest and use of cannabis. When the Later Han dynasty came to power, the great physician “Yuanhan” first to used cannabis as an anesthetic. The word mázui (麻醉) actually means drunk with cannabis. Wine was the vehicle to administer the cannabis to patients prior to their procedure.
The Use of Marijuana Goes WAY back…
Many historical documents in ancient Egypt show the use of marijuana dating as far back as 1500-2000 BC. These documents describe hemp or cannabis use in some fashion. The Egyptians found hemp useful for pain relief including creating as suppositories from hemp leaves. Applying the leaves to various inflamed parts of body allowed the cannabinoids to relieve the pain.
The Greeks who studied much of the ancient Egyptians medical practices also used cannabis to treat inflammations, ear aches, and nose bleeds. These same practices were common to treat the wounds of farm animals and pets as well. The Greeks also learned how to use cannabis to make their traditional steam baths far more interesting.
Bible References on Marijuana
Many biblical scholars and followers of the Christian faith who are supporters of cannabis use point to a verse in scripture that some believe is a reference to cannabis. Genesis 1:29 (King James Version) states:
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
Also, several scriptures refer to the use of “incense” to burn before the altar:
“And he made the holy anointing oil, and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of the apothecary.”
Now these could’ve been several different plants or herbs used other than cannabis but it points to the use of the burning them to perhaps provide a mood-setting aroma. Now some believe that some herbs or spices in the Bible actually are cannabis but refer to by a different name:
“Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,”
There’s lots of speculation around if cannabis is one of the spices listed her but what is not uncertain is the use of spices, herbs and other plants being biblically supported.
More Recent History of Marijuana
In the early 1900’s the use of cannabis in medicine began to spread west. Doctor William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was one of the first physicians to use cannabis in his practice. He specialized in using the sativa strain of cannabis. He found success using cannabis in the treatment of muscle spasms, convulsions, seizures, migraines, and other various ailments.
Now, it seems that the tide is turning back to using cannabis as it was thousands of years ago. The history of marijuana is fraught with stigma and misconception. However, that is beginning to evaporate enough to see just how practical and instrumental it can be for our health. Why and how marijuana gained such a reputation is a discussion for another day.