By LeeWEpstein

April 1, 2019

The history of medical cannabis summarized in its main stages. This fresco is not complete, do not hesitate to let us know about your additions!
The first mention of the medical use of cannabis dates back to 2700 BC. when the plant was mentioned in the Great Herbarium, a work by the Chinese emperor-botanist Shen-Nung. The Chinese surgeon Hua-Tao (141-208), prescribed a mixture of wine and cannabis resin, Mafoo Sam, as an analgesic before an operation.

The Chinese emperor-botanist Shen-Nung

In India, according to the sacred texts, the gods gave hemp to men so that they would experience ecstasy, courage and more intense sexual desires. It was also prescribed in Indian medicine to stimulate appetite. Fight insomnia and pain, treat tuberculosis, dysentery, whooping cough and venereal diseases.
The analgesic effect of cannabis is thus famous very early on, then disappears from therapeutic claims until the 20th century.
From the Middle Ages to the 18th century. Muslim societies responded to the use of cannabis. which they believed had many therapeutic properties, particularly in epilepsy.
During this period, French botanists recommended the plant against :
“droopy nodules, tumors, and other hard swellings”.
An English pastor named Robert Burton . Published a collection entitled Anatomy and Melancholy in 1621. in which he recommended cannabis as a treatment for depression.

Anatomy and melancholy

It was the Swedish naturalist, Carl von Linné. Who first described it scientifically in 1759. And gave cannabis its current scientific name: Cannabis sativa.


In the 19th century, French doctors who left for Egypt with Bonaparte saw hashish as a real panacea and praised it when they returned to France. Among them, Dr. Louis Aubert-Roche . who declared cannabis a sovereign remedy against the plague. And published a treatise on the subject in 1835 entitled De la peste et du typhus d’Orient. Out of 11 serious cases of plague. Aubert-Roche obtained the cure of 7. which he attributed to hashish. But could not continue his experiment because the epidemic had stopped in France.

In Italy

 Poli, Valieri  and Erba also started studying cannabis very early on. Extracting it from Egypt to be able to analyze its effects in Europe.
William B. O’Shaughnessy, a young professor at the Faculty of Medicine in Calcutta. After testing cannabis on animals. He prescribed it to his patients with rabies, epilepsy, tetanus, and rheumatism. In 1839, he described the tincture of hemp as one of the best antispasmodics that could exist. Back in England in 1842, he supplied pharmacies with cannabis. Very quickly, the successes obtained led doctors in Europe and the United States to prescribe hemp extracts for many diseases.

William B. O’Shaughnessy

Cannabis, which appeared in 1854 in the American pharmacopeia. was indicated for the treatment of nearly 100 diseases. But with a warning that the product was dangerous in high doses and that it was a potent narcotic.


Dictionary of Medical and Surgical Therapeutics of Bouchut and Despres

From 1850 to 1937, nearly 100 diseases were treatable with cannabis tinctures. The American pharmacopeia has many documents and articles on this subject. Unfortunately, without significance of cannabinoid levels, little data is available from these uses.

In the 19th century, cannabis use was thus available, and the number of drug addicts became significant. Despite the great enthusiasm of many doctors for Indian hemp, the end of the 19th century marked the beginning of the decline in cannabis use.

Indeed, the different cannabis preparations sold in pharmacies were not normative. So the batches did not all have the same potency. which sometimes caused treatment failure; reactions to oral cannabis appeared uneven and unpredictable.

Besides, advances in chemistry would make it possible to isolate from other plants many active ingredients. such as morphine and codeine from opium. Synthetic drugs, such as barbiturates or aspirin, also appeared on the market.
An important innovation was the invention of the hypodermic syringe.

facilitating the use of water-soluble opiates and providing rapid pain relief. Cannabis, on the other hand, because of its liposolubility, could not be injectable, unlike more modern drugs. Hemp and its derivatives were banned in France by the law on the prohibition of psychotropic drugs in 1916.
Cannabis was then permanently removed from the American pharmacopeia in 1941 . And the French pharmacopeia in 1953.

Advanced CBD

In 1964, R. Mechoulam isolated THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. thus boosting the plant’s interest.

With this one, a new system of nervous communication is discovered . Researchers are still exploring it today.
An American laboratory (Roxane Laboratories) developed a drug in the mid-1980s. It is useful for the treatment of nausea and vomiting induced by cancer chemotherapy.

Today, several THC-based drugs and other cannabinoids are marketed . For their antiemetic, orexigenic or analgesic properties. Other more unexpected properties of cannabis are currently under study.

It is efficient in the proliferation of tumor cells in breast cancer. Also protects against stroke and is a local anesthetic, and many other subjects.

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