History of Cannabis

The History of Cannabis

Ancient Medicinal Use

Cannabis has been recognized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. As early as 2800 BC, it was used to address various health issues and was included in Emperor Shen Nung’s pharmacopoeia.

Origins and Early Applications

The use of cannabis began in central Asia in western China. Its healing properties have been documented for millennia, with the earliest recorded use dating back to 2800 BC. This was when it appeared in the pharmacopoeia of Emperor Shen Nung, who is considered the father of Chinese medicine. Ancient texts from Indian Hindus, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans also mention cannabis for treating numerous health problems such as arthritis, depression, amenorrhea, inflammation, pain, lack of appetite, and asthma.

Cultural Significance

In Hindu legend, Shiva, a supreme deity, was known as ‘The Lord of Bhang’ because of his fondness for cannabis. The ancient Hindus believed that the medicinal benefits of cannabis were due to its ability to please gods like Shiva. They thought that the anger of gods caused illnesses such as fevers and sicknesses, and using cannabis in religious rituals could appease these gods and alleviate the fever.

Modern Understanding

Contemporary scientific research offers a different explanation for cannabis’s effects. For instance, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound found in cannabis, acts on the hypothalamus in the brain to lower body temperature and bring full relaxation to the body.

Where Did Cannabis Originate?

Cannabis originated around 12,000 years ago near the Altai Mountains in Central Asia. From there, cannabis seeds spread as nomadic peoples migrated to different regions.

The Cannabis Time Frame from BC to 20016

2800 BC: Cannabis in Ancient China

In 2800 BC, cannabis was listed in Emperor Shen Nung’s pharmacopoeia.

Cannabis in Hindu Legend

Hindu legend holds that Shiva, known as ‘The Lord of Bhang,’ was given this title because cannabis was his favourite food.

129-200 AD

Galen used cannabis for its therapeutic properties and mood enhancement.

1841: Cannabis in Western Medicine

In 1841, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy introduced cannabis to Western medicine after living in India. He documented many therapeutic uses of cannabis, including a notable case where it stopped convulsions in a child.

1898: Isolation of Cannabinol (CBN)

In 1898, Dunstan and Henry successfully isolated cannabinol (CBN), one of the active compounds in cannabis.

1936: Release of Reefer Madness

In 1936, the film Reefer Madness was released, portraying cannabis as a highly addictive drug that led to mental disorders and violence.

1937: Marijuana Tax Act

In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted in the USA, effectively ending the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis by imposing prohibitive taxes.


Adams and Todd independently isolated cannabidiol (CBD).

1964: Isolation of THC

In 1964, Raphael Mechoulam (pictured with Dave Allsop) successfully isolated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the cannabis plant.


In 1970, the United States implemented the Controlled Substances Act, categorizing cannabis as a substance with ‘no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.


In 1988, Howlett identified CB1 receptors in the rat brain.


In 1992, Devane and Mechoulam made the discovery of anandamide.


In 1993, CB2 receptors were discovered.


In 1995, both Mechoulam and Sugiura independently discovered 2-AG.


In 1996, California legalized medical cannabis through the introduction of the Compassionate Use Act.


In 1999, researchers found that endocannabinoids activate TRPV1 receptors, which are the receptors triggered by the spicy compound in chilli peppers.


In 2007, it was demonstrated that endocannabinoids activate GPR55.


In 2012, it was demonstrated that CBD alleviates symptoms of schizophrenia in patients to a degree comparable to a conventional antipsychotic drug.


In 2016, Australia legalized medical cannabis and its cultivation for medical purposes.


In 2017, CBD was shown to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy in a placebo-controlled trial.

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