The history of medical marijuana goes back to about 2900BC, when the ruling Chinese Emperor made reference to how popular cannabis was as a medicine. During subsequent centuries, this medicinal function would prove to be controversial, but irrefutable.
While the Chinese were the first who knew about the medical qualities of cannabis, other earthlings would follow over time. This would, however, take over a 1000 years. In the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, more than six pounds of cannabis (although this is still controversial) were used in a holy anointing oil, in which the ancient anointed ones were drenched.
About 250 years later, prescriptions for cannabis have been written in Ancient Egypt. Cannabis pollen is found on the mummy of Ramesses II, who died in 1213BC. According to the Egyptians, cannabis treated, amongst others, glaucoma and inflammation.
Around 1000 years before Christ, people from India used Bhang, a cannabis drink most of the time mixed with milk, treat a wide variety of maladies. Three hundred years later this drink was also being used in the Middle East, where cannabis was seen as the most important medical plant.
In ancient Greece, doctors prescribed marijuana as a remedy for earache, edema or inflammation by the year 200BC. The medicinal use of cannabis was spread all over the world now, although it wasn't equally common.
When Christ was born, the Chinese were way ahead of the others concerning the medical use of cannabis. Pen Ts'ao Ching, a compendium of drug recipes, appeared in 1 AD. Using marijuana was recommended for more than 100 ailments, including malaria and rheumatism.
Christ himself used cannabis too. He was healing people with anointed oil and asked his apostles to do the same. The ancient recipe for this oil included, next to a couple of other herbs and spices, flowering cannabis tops.The mixture allowed prophets and priests to speak with Yahweh.
In about 70 AD the book De Materia Medica was published in the Roman Empire, in which the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides described the effects of kannabis emeros (the male cannabis plant) and kannabis agria (the female cannabis plant).
A Roman nobleman, Pliny the Elder, confirmed at about the same time that the roost of the cannabis plant, when boiled in water, could ease cramped joints and similar violent pains.
Around 850 AD, healing with medical cannabis was common in the Arabic world. One of the greatest physicians of his time, Rhazès, prescribed it widely.
In the 16th century, Islam spread to India. Moslem doctors used marijuana, for instance, to reduce sexual activity. They used the Persian theories to guide their use of cannabis, which resulted in stressing the late effects, rather than the early ones.
During the Middle Ages, use of hemp was widely spread among herbalists. Most of the time, it could be found located centrally in their medicine cabinets. In China, marijuana continues to be used as a folk remedy to treat diarrhea and dysentery and to stimulate appetite.
Medical marijuana would continue to be a widely spread herb. Its use, however, became highly controversial. If you want to know when and why, please smoke another joint and wait until we publish the next part in this series.