PART 1: Ancient Cannabis Use
Well, Medical Marijuana History is a HUGE topic to try to cover. OK, so, lets get to it.
In all likelihood, man has been utilizing hemp for its fiber, as well as its seeds, since the very dawn of human existance. However, while hemp played a large roll in the first ever agrarian societies in the East, it was not until the twenty-seventh century B.C. that we find the first mentions of using cannabis as a theraputic agent.The person who is generally credited with teaching the Chinese about medicines and their actions is a legendary emperor, Shen-Nung, who lived around the twenty-seventh century B.C. Prior to this date, magic was the prevailing method of curing people of various ailments and fighting disease in China.
Evidence for the theraputic or medical use of marijuana begins in the Himalayan region of central Asia and spreads slowly throughout the regions of India, Africa and Asia Minor.
It is these topics that we will cover first - and then we will move on to more modern times.
Medical Marijuana History 2700 B.C. - China
Emperor Shen Nung Discovers The Theraputic Value Of Marijuana
:Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, patron diety of agriculture, is credited with the discovery of ephedra, cannabis and ginseng (among others) as theraputic agents. ledgend has it that Shen Nung had a transparant abdomen through which he could view the effects of the medicines he consumed as they passed through his body.
Chinese Character for Marijuana, The oldest known pharmacopoeia, 'Shen Nung's Pen Ts'ao', was compiled in the 1st or 2nd century A.D. based on ancient fragments and oral traditions that were passed down from as far back as the early Xia Dynasty (2700 B.C.). This book gives cannabis the name "ma". The ideogram for 'ma' depicts two cannabis plants, one male and one female, drying under a shed with the sun beating down on it (left). Subsequent additions of Shen Nung's pharmacopoeia list more than 100 ailments for which cannabis was prescribed. Some of these ailments included female weakness, rheumatism, malaria, gout, boils, constipation and absent-mindedness.
The theraputic value of cannabis was eventually summarized in the cheng-lei pen-ts'ao (900 A.D): "Ma-fen" (the fruits of hemp) "has a spicy taste; it is toxic; it is used for waste diseases and injuries; it clears blood and cools temperature; it relieves fluxes [diarrhea]; it undoes rheumatism; it discharges pus."
Even today, cannabis is used to treat wasting disease in AIDS patients. Additionally, folk medicine across modern Asia utilises cannabis for the treatment of wasting disease. In Thailand, for instance, "cannabis is frequentlyused to stimulate the appetite of sick people and make them sleep.... Its use to counteract diarrhea and dysentary is equally common."
In addition to its medical uses, cannabis was eaten as food in ancient times. In fact, "according to ancient legend, the Buddah subsisted on a daily ration of one cannabis seed, and nothing else, durring his six years of asceticism".
Medical Marijuana History 1400 B.C. - India
The Atharva Veda Describes Some Of The Theraputic Benefits Of Cannabis
The Scythians apparently brought cannabis hemp to India from Chinese Turkistan around 3500 years ago. The Mahabharata describes the Sakas (Scythians from Turkestan) visiting India bearing gifts of hemp thread.
For thousands of years, India has had an interconnectedness to the cannabis plant through its magical, religious, medical and social customs.
The first time we see mention of the theraputic benefits of marijuana or cannabis in India is around 1400 B.C. in another ancient text; Atharva Veda.
The Atharva Veda was one of the four Vedas: large bodies of text, composed in Verdic Sanskrit constituting the oldest layer of Sanskrit liturature as well as the oldest scriptures of hinduism ever found. Of the four Vedas, the first three; the Rigveda, the Yajurveda and the Samaveda, all relate to the performance of a ritual sacrafice. The fourth and final Veda, The Atharva Veda is a collection of predictions, incantations, spells, charms, stories and some speculative hymns.
There are, in fact, a few different places in which cannabis is mentioned within the text. Most notably though, is in Book 11, Hymn 6, Sonnet 15.
Here it states:
To the five kingdoms of the plants which Soma rules as Lord we speak.
Darbha, hemp, barley, mighty power: may these deliver us from woe,
Another mention of cannabis in the Atharva Veda is in Book 2, Hymn 4, Sonnet 5. Here the term 'bhang' is used to describe the marijuana:
"May the bhang and may the gangida protect us against diseases and all the Demons! The one is brought hither from the forest, the other [bhang] from the sap of the furrow."
Bhanga, is the earliest Aryan name for hemp. Bhang, refers to both the plant as well as a beverage made from marijuana leaves with a potency equal to that of the mmj smoked in America.
Just for fun - and since I havent built a page for recipes yet - here is a recipe for making bhang (the beverage):
Bhang is to India, what alcohol is to the western world. This has been true for thousands of years. Religious gatherings, weddings, receiving a guest, even war, were all occasions in which bhang played a prominent role.
Medical Marijuana History 1100 B.C. - Persia
Zoroaster Writes The Zend-Avesta Praising The Benefits Of Hemp Resin
There is some disagreement on the date, however current evidence suggests that Zoroaster lived durring the 10th or 11th century. Zoroaster was a prophet credited with writing the Zend-Avesta.
The Zend-Avesta, a counterpart to the Vedas, was reportedly made up of more than two million verses and transcribed onto more than 1200 cow hides. I say reportedly because the majority of the texts were lost over the centuries. Of the more than 10,000 medicinal plants listed in the texts (what was left of them), hemp received the honor of being listed first. And though few books of the Zend-Avesta survived, one, titled Vendidad, "The Law Against Demons", does give us some insight into the use of marijuana as a medicine (narcotic) at the time the texts were written. The Vendidad describes bhanga as Zoroaster's "good narcotic", and also speaks of two mortals transported "in soul to the heavens" where they drank a cup of bhanga, at which time, all of the "highest mysteries were revealed to them.
Perhaps the world's foremost authority on the history of religions, Professor Mirceau Eliade has suggested that the profit himself, Zoroaster, may have relied on the intoxicating effects of bhanga in order to bridge the metaphysical gap between heaven and earth.
Medical Marijuana History 450 B.C. - Greece
Herodotus Writes Of The Scythians Becoming Drunk From Burning Hemp Seeds
Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the fifth century B.C., described a conquering people known as the Scythians who burnt and inhaled the smoke of marijuana seeds as a part of a chief's burial ceremony. The Scythians, upon the death of a King, would erect small tents, crawl inside and throw hemp seeds on top of red hot rocks. Then they "howled for joy" after inhaling the vapors.
Medical Marijuana History 100 A.D. - Greece & Rome
Dioscorides Writes Of The Benefits And Detriment Of Marijuana
In the first century A.D., Dioscorides was a doctor in Nero's army....