It’s widely believed that cannabis (also known as marijuana and hemp) emerged about 36 million years ago in Central Asia. With a consistently important place in human history, marijuana has always been a widely used and highly valued plant.
Humans have grown and cultivated cannabis for about 12,000 years (since the end of the last Ice Age) -- longer than any other plant. The earliest woven fabrics were made of hemp between 8,000 and 7,000 B.C., and cannabis was used as a medicine in China as early as 2,600 B.C.
In the first Chinese Pharmacopoeia, cannabis was listed as a remedy for more than 100 conditions. An extensive history of use in China, Egypt, India, Japan, and Africa for marijuana exists, treating inflammation, delirium, antiseptic, convulsions, neuralgia, labor pains, and rheumatism. The native people believed that herbal remedies saved lives, and cannabis was one of their main treatments.
Cannabis finally reached the Western Hemisphere in 1545 when Spaniards imported it to Chile for fiber. It quickly became an important part of early America, being used as food, fiber, fuel, and paper.
In fact, Betsy Ross sewed the first United States of America flag from hemp cloth, and the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. In the early 1600s, after the founding of Jamestown, Virginia, growing hemp was mandatory under federal law. Mandatory state growing laws in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Chesapeake Colonies helped hemp become legal tender. Even taxes could be paid with hemp!
Cannabis was reintroduced to Western medicine in 1838 by William O’Shaughnessy, an Irish physician working in India. He found that animals always recovered from cannabis ingestion regardless of dose. After this discovery, he used cannabis to treat cholera, tetanus, rheumatism, and convulsions.
In the United States Pharmacopeia of 1851, cannabis was listed as a medication effective in treating many illnesses. By the early 1900s, cannabis tinctures were manufactured and sold by the following:
Eli Lilly, which was founded in 1876 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is still in service today as Eli Lilly and Company
Parke Davis, which was founded in 1866 in Detroit, Michigan, and is now a subsidiary of pharmaceutical company Pfizer
Merck & Co., which was founded in 1891 in New York, and is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world
If you’d like to learn more about the history of cannabis or its benefits for medical use, contact the experts at Peninsula Alternative Health in Salisbury, Maryland.