Cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) is a plant with a very long history and is the oldest man-made crop in existence. The natural origin of cannabis lies in Central Asia. This was about 36 million years ago and the plant probably originated in the Altaï Mountains. Cannabis has subsequently spread throughout the world, mainly through human activity. From a very early age, mankind realised that cannabis could be used for many different purposes. Thanks to archaeological research, we know that man used cannabis to make rope and textiles (hemp) and used the flowers for spiritual purposes and as a stimulant.
One of the oldest evidence of the use of cannabis dates back to some 8000 years before Christ. In Japan, clay pots from the Jomon era were found. These pots contained at least 10,000 years old, dried flowers of cannabis. Also discovered in Japan are Neolithic cave paintings depicting cannabis leaves.
In ancient times, cannabis was already seen as a valuable medicine. In China, probably the oldest written mention of the medicinal use of cannabis has been found: the Shen Nong Pen Ts'ao Ching, or Chinese herbal encyclopaedia, mentions cannabis and prescribes it for constipation, appetite stimulation, pain control and malaria, among other things.
The mythical Chinese emperor is also said to have described cannabis as a medicine and specifically as an 'elixir for immortality'.
In Egypt, very ancient writings in the Ebers Papyrus state that cannabis could be used for menstrual cramps and eye problems.
In addition, there are several quotations from ancient Sumeria that describe cannabis as a remedy for epilepsy, grief and neuralgia. In India, cannabis, the Atharva Veda, is also reported to be used to release anxiety. Even the Bible (Exodus 30:22-25) mentions cannabis as an ingredient of a sacred balm oil.
Cannabis began to be used in Asia about 5000 years B.C. to make rope, textiles and paper.
Approximately 700 years B.C. cannabis was also known in Europe and was also used for making rope, paper and sails, among other things. In the Roman Empire, historian Plinius wrote about cannabis. He called it gelotophyllis, or 'leaves of laughter'. He also saw the medicinal value of the plant and prescribed it for joint pain. The raw root of the plant would also help reduce blistering in case of burns and reduce pain. In Greece, a prescription of the cooked root of the plant was recommended for gout, inflammation and to restore suppleness on the joints. This recipe can be found in De Materia Medica, by Dioscorides.
Further down in history we jump to the Middle Ages, where the medicinal use of cannabis also reached Western Europe. Around the 9th century the plant was added to The Old English Herbarium, where the plant's juice was recommended as a remedy for injuries and intestinal pain.
Hildegard von Bingen, the Benedictine female abbot who wrote a lot about herbal preparations, prescribed cannabis for nausea, headaches and as a relief for wounds and inflammations. In the thirteenth century medicina antiqua Codex Vindobonensis 93 was written about the use of cannabis for pain and swelling in the chest. The book Anatomy of Melancholy, written in 1621 by Robert Burton, also contains information about the cannabis plant: The seed is recommended as a natural antidepressant. The Englishman Nicolas Culpeper saw its anti-inflammatory properties as beneficial in cannabis.
The first printed book is the Gutenberg Bible, which was made from hemp paper. The American Declaration of Independence was also printed on paper made from hemp. The first president of America, George Washington, grew cannabis plants in his garden.
The use of cannabis in the West increased in fame and popularity around 1839. The Irish physician William Brooke O'Shaugnessy investigated the harmfulness of cannabis on animals in India. He found out that cannabis was non-toxic and decided to measure its effectiveness in his patients. For this he used a preparation made from Cannabis Indica, a native species of India. He found it to be effective in people suffering from rheumatism, tetanus and cholera. They benefited from the relief in pain they experienced and the reduction of (muscle) cramps. It was not only in England that his report generated great interest, but also abroad cannabis became widely known. Cannabis soon became a new panacea that was often prescribed for various conditions. In 1840 a book was written by the French physician Louis Albert-Foche about hashish in the treatment of plague and tetanus. Cannabis was also taken seriously as a medicine in the United States. In 1851 cannabis was included in the U.S. Pharmacopeia under the name 'extractum cannabis indicae'. Also in Dutch pharmacies you could find this medicine and use it for asthma, sleeping problems, seizures, migraines and cramps. In 1890, the personal physician of the English queen Victoria wrote in a well-known British medical journal, the Lancet, about the use of cannabis and its therapeutic properties. According to him it was the most effective pesticide against pain. Apparently, the Queen would also use extracts of cannabis against menstrual cramps.
Since at that time little was known about the exact effect of cannabinoids, for example, the side effects of the medicine could be varied. Sometimes cannabis strains with higher THC values were used, which produced a more psychoactive effect that was not necessarily desirable. Because of this, it was sometimes difficult to administer the correct dosage.
From 1930 onwards, the image of cannabis changed, which until that time was regarded as a high-quality medicine in the United States. From then on, a major anti-drug campaign emerged, depicting cannabis as a dangerous drug. It was not long before the use of cannabis was declared illegal and its production and use was punished. The demonization of cannabis went very far, with the Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics, prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger quoting as an example:
"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from maijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."
"Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces its users insanity, criminality, and death."
"You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother."
There are several theories about the reason for this aggressive, racist approach to cannabis control.
Nowadays, more and more scientific studies show that cannabis has interesting medicinal properties and can also be used recreationally without harmful effects. In this way, cannabis is gradually being decriminalised.
Cannabis Sativa L.
Weed, marijuana, Mary Jane
Various cannabinoids and terpenes. The best known are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
Cannabis can be used in different ways.
The most obvious way is smoking a joint, bong or pipe. Nowadays the market is expanding with vaporizers, both electronic and non-electronic. Due to renewed technology the techniques are being improved more and more. Since there is more attention for the medicinal use of cannabis, users increasingly prefer a vaporizer, or edibles, to smoking cannabis, which also produces harmful, toxic substances that are inhaled. When using a vaporizer, cannabis is vaporized rather than burned, inhaling the released cannabinoids and terpenes, which are absorbed by the body without harmful toxins. In addition, when lighting a joint, a large proportion of the beneficial components are burned.
Another way in which cannabis is used is in the form of so-called 'edibles'. The cannabis flowers can be processed into butter, for example, which can then be added to various recipes. Most well-known examples are space cake and biscuits. Especially in the United States, a new market has emerged for edible cannabis products, from sweets to savoury dishes.
Although cannabis has unjustifiably been labelled 'dangerous to health' and a hard drug for far too long, a warning should be given: THC, the cannabinoid responsible for most of the psychoactive effect, can cause side effects such as anxiety and panic, especially in high doses. Although cannabis is not physically harmful, it can cause a mental blow when a person is not stable. Therefore, do not take cannabis if you are prone to psychosis or have an anxiety disorder.
The legality of cannabis must also be observed. Not every country has a tolerance policy, as is the case in the Netherlands. Globally, the guidelines for cannabis are being relaxed more and more.
Various techniques are possible for cultivating cannabis, both indoors and outdoors.