5 Facts on the Medical Use of Cannabis within History

Ebers Papyrus (~ 1550 BC), includes the prescription for medical use

On the International Cannabis Day I want to present you 5 facts on its historical use in medicine.

In Ancient China it was first recorded to be used as an anesthetic.

As a powder it was mixed with wine and drunk before surgeries. That is why the Chinese term for “anesthesia” (mázui 麻醉) literally means “cannabis intoxication”.

Cannabis is one of the 50 “fundamental” herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Thereby the whole plant is used to cure different diseases.

E.g. its flowers were used to treat menstrual disorders and wounds, achenia for nervous disorders and local anaesthesia, seeds were prescribed internally and externally, its leaves cured hair loss and prevented the hair from turning grey. It was consumed as oil or infusion.

In Ancient Greece cannabis was used to dress wounds and sores on horses.

Cavalcade frieze, Parthenon (5th century BC)

The so-called “Vienna Dioscurides” is from the 6th century and contains a drawing of the Cannabis sativa.

The manuscripted is now in the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek in Vienna and in 1997 it was inscribed on UNESCO´s Memory of the World Programme.

William Brooke O’Shaughnessy (1809–1889), an Irish physician, is said to have introduced cannabis for therapeutic use to Western medicine.

William Brooke O’Shaughnessy (1809–1889)

Through his experience in Calcutta and his experiments in the 1830s, he tested cannabis first on animals and then on its patients to treat muscle spasms, stomach cramps and pain in general.

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