Cannabis as Alternative Medicine
Cannabis has been used for millennia in cultures worldwide as a medicinal plant. Given the numerous references in ancient texts, at one-time cannabis was as conventional as Penicillin. It’s only relatively recently that Western medicine has eclipsed herbal treatments, cannabis among them, and consigned them to the alternative bucket, in the esteemed company of acupuncture and homeopathy.
Hop in the Wayback Machine
In China, cannabis seeds and oil have been found that date back to 6,000 BCE and archeological traces suggest even earlier cultivation. In fact, cannabis may have been the world’s first cultivated crop, a theory proposed by the late astronomer and author, Carl Sagan.
According to ProCon.org (a website that promotes critical thinking and education by presenting controversial issues in a nonpartisan format) cannabis was first referenced as a popular medicine by the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi, circa 2900 BCE. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians used cannabis to treat everything from earaches to hemorrhoids; while the ancient Indians drank it with milk to cure a variety of maladies. And the Persian religious text, the Zend-Avesta, attributed to the prophet Zoroaster, lists cannabis as the most important of 10,000 medicinal plants.
An American Tradition
Cannabis wasn’t always considered alternative medicine on American soil. It was widely used by native tribes from coast to coast. Even George Washington grew cannabis and noted its medicinal qualities in agricultural ledgers.
Today, cannabis is regaining respect for its healing chops. It’s now widely used to treat pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, muscle spasms, and seizures. Those with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy all report therapeutic effects. Israeli researchers are exploring the potential of cannabis to treat traumatic brain injuries; while a Harvard study found cannabis helped stabilize the brains of people who suffer from bipolar disorder. Other studies are investigating the effects of cannabis on Alzheimer’s disease and various forms of cancer.
How is it possible for one plant to treat such a diverse range of conditions? As it turns out, cannabis is a veritable pharmacy of beneficial chemical compounds. The plant is comprised of over 100 cannabinoids, the most famous of which are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The therapeutic qualities of these phytonutrients have been well documented, and more are emerging every day.
Conversely, researchers are only beginning to study the healing effects of terpenes. Specific concentrations of terpenes are what gives each cannabis strain its distinctive taste, smell, and unique bundle of therapeutic properties—antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, anti-anxiety, among them.
There is still much to learn about how cannabinoids and terpenes do all the amazing things they do. Evidence suggests that we may only have uncovered the tip of the iceberg. As new research catches up to ancient knowledge, cannabis is returning to its mainstream status. The wheel turns.