The History of Medical Marijuana

September 25, 2020

History of Medical Marijuana

Those who enjoy the benefits of medical and recreational marijuana today have a far different experience than patients did a few hundred or even a few thousand years ago. The history of medical marijuana spans many centuries so it’s impossible to explore in extreme detail, but we can touch on some of the most important milestones throughout this journey.

Before diving into the progressive timelines, allow us to touch on some terminology that’s relevant to the history of medicinal cannabis:
● Cannabis — The Latin name for a group of medicinal herbs utilized in traditional medicine.
● Marijuana — A Spanish word that was popularized in the early 1900s, marijuana is used as a slang term for cannabis.
● Cannabinoid — One of the chemical constituents of cannabis which accounts for its medicinal properties.
● Hemp — Usually associated with the non-drug fibers of cannabis which can be used to create rope and paper, hemp was also an old-world term for Cannabis.
● CBD — Shorthand for Cannabidiol, a popular cannabinoid which is minimally psychoactive but highly anti-inflammatory.

With this terminology in mind, we can begin to explore the winding history of medical marijuana.

Historical Milestones for Medicinal Cannabis

One important point of note when discussing the history of medical marijuana is that the earliest records of medicinal cannabis use are not accompanied by “direct evidence” (meaning physical evidence); instead, we must rely on written records.

Of course, it’s difficult for physical evidence of practically anything to survive thousands of years, and much of our knowledge of ancient history, in general, is shaped by written texts, so this isn’t especially surprising.

That said, let’s dive into some of the most meaningful moments throughout the history of medical marijuana.

  • 1213 BCE — Egyptians Use Cannabis to Treat Glaucoma, Inflammation, and More

    Thanks to the Egyptians’ penchant for preservation, the first physical evidence of the use of medical marijuana dates back to 1213 BCE when Ramasses II died; in his mummy, remnants of cannabis were found.

    This evidence coupled with the fact that ancient inscriptions reference using cannabis to treat glaucoma and inflammation means that Egyptians were certainly utilizing medical marijuana by 1213 BCE, and possibly even sooner.

    Other ancient cultures in India and Rome also used cannabis for medicinal purposes, as an anesthetic and anti-inflammatory agent.

  • 70 AD — Roman Physician Includes Cannabis in Medical Text

    Though Romans had already been utilizing cannabis as a medicinal plant, physician Pedanius Dioscorides asserted that it was valuable for treating earaches and curbing sexual desire in a text published in 70 AD.

  • 1621 AD — English Mental Health Book Suggests Using Cannabis to Treat Depression

    In “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” Oxford Scholar Robert Burton encourages readers to use cannabis as a means of treating depression.

    About 30 years later in 1652, famed herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote about the ability of hemp to ease pain caused by a variety of ailments.

  • 1774 AD — America’s Founding Fathers Grow Hemp

    Cannabis had been brought to the United States by the Jamestown Settlers, but both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are known to have grown hemp on their estates; Washington even recorded an interest in the plant’s medicinal properties in his diary.

  • 1840 AD — Cannabis Transitions to Mainstream Medicine

    Though Eastern cultures had been utilizing cannabis for its medicinal properties for centuries by this time, Western civilizations were slower to pick up on the trend. However, in the 1840s, a French psychiatrist named Jacques-Joseph Moreau helped popularize cannabis for aiding with headaches, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping.

  • 1850 AD — United States Officially Recognizes Medical Cannabis

    The United States Pharmacopeia is a document which recognizes all prescriptions and over the counter medications in the country; in 1850, cannabis was included with a wide range of treatment options.

Of course, just decades later in the early 20th century, prohibition of cannabis took hold in the United States (and much of the world). It took nearly a century for that prohibition to relax; today, some form of medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

A look back at history shows us the perception of medical cannabis has been predominantly favorable; with the exception of the 20th century, thousands of years of medicinal use have proven beneficial across many different cultures, and modern society appears to have achieved a level of acceptance of medical marijuana as well.

To enjoy the benefits of this time-tested treatment, purchase medical cannabis from Life Flower Dispensary today.