MAR 05, 2020 7:28 AM PST

How the Ancients Used Cannabis- 8000 Years Ago

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Cannabis is one of the oldest known psychoactive drugs. Used in cultures around the world for thousands of years for various reasons. From making clothes to being eaten and relieving people from pain, its relatively recent classification as a Schedule 1 Drug in 1970 seems to be a small blip in its long history. 

The first recorded usage of cannabis is from 8000 BC, in an ancient village in Taiwan. There, it seems that the Taiwanese chose hemp fibers to spn into the first fabrics, thus no longer relying on animal skin for clothing. Further evidence has been found suggesting that these ancient people also used marijuana to manufacture shoes thanks to its sturdy nature, wide availability and cheaper price point than silk.  

As time progressed, so did the usage of cannabis- soon being used in more fields than simply garment-making. In 4,000 BC for example, in a Chinese village called Pan-p’o, archeologists found evidence that hemp was considered to be one of the “five grains” of China, and thus a major food crop. 

Its first recording medical use then occurred in the earliest book recording Chinese medicinal practices, the Pen Ts’ao Ching, in around 2737 BC, in which hemp was recognized for its ability to treat over 100 medical issues including gout, malaria and rheumatism. 

Some time afterwards, the medicinal use of marijuana also began to feature heavily in Hindu religious texts. In the Vedas for example, written between 2000 BC and 1400 BC, cannabis was described as a “source of happiness”, a “joy-giver”, and “bringer of freedom” that was compassionately given to humans by the gods to relieve them from anxiety and help them achieve delight, as well as fearlessness. 

Smoked daily at devotional services and during religious rituals, around the same time, cannabis was also used for its medicinal properties; various parts of the plant being used to treat a wide variety of issues from epilepsy to rabies, anxiety and even bacterial infections such as bronchitis. 

Also noteworthy during this period is its usage by the ancient Egyptians, with Ebers Papyrus in particular from 1550 BC detailing its usage for treating inflammation. 

A little later on during the Greek and Roman period around 450-200 BC, cannabis was widely prescribed to sooth pain from toothaches and earaches, with Roman women among elite circles reportedly using it to alleviate labor pains. 



Sources: Business Insider, Psychology Today and Wiley Online Library 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
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