If we’re being honest, the reason cannabis is so popular probably has to do with its ability to invoke euphoric bliss in all who encounter it. But historically speaking, cannabis has had a far greater role to play in its relationship with humanity. The history of cannabis as medicine far predates its misbegotten reputation as an agent of laziness and social disorder. Human beings have been synthesizing cannabis into various potent medicinal forms for eons.
History of Cannabis as Medicine
Before marijuana was even known to contain medicinal properties, hemp was used as a source of valuable materials and even food by peoples in ancient China. In fact, it is claimed by some that the history of humanity’s interactions with cannabis can be traced back to the hazy world of prehistoric Asia, where evidence has been found that Chinese and Japanese cultures both likely used hemp plants for rope and fabric.
However, the cannabis plant itself is indigenous to India and Central Asia, where its psychoactive qualities were first unlocked. From Central Asia, cannabis radiated outwards to myriad cultures, interacting with the Iranians, ancient Assyrians, Scythians, and many more people in the Bronze Age world of the Near East.
The use of cannabis was limited for much of human history, only truly being known to scholarly societies, royal courts, religious orders, doctors engaged in experimentation with new medicines, and other gated centers of knowledge until the growth of its global reputation in the 19th and 20th centuries.
So, what makes cannabis so useful as a medicine? The answer lies with specific chemical components contained with cannabis, known as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids have special properties and come in a couple of different varieties.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that delivers all of the heady psychedelic effects that cannabis is famous for. CBD, or cannabidiol, is lesser known, but potentially even more important. CBD has been recently noticed for its superior analgesic and pain-relieving effects that soothe even intense physical conditions.
Both of these cannabinoids work so well because they imitate chemicals that our bodies already produce, known as endocannabinoids. Without endocannabinoids, our sense of bodily stability and wellbeing would be greatly impacted, and cannabinoids essentially replicate the effects of homeostatic agents in our body with greater potency.
The Future of Cannabis in Medicine
As the process of legalization rolls on, not only will the history of cannabis as medicine provide a basis for current use, it will help underpin studies and encourage more research. Already there are arguments to be made that further research into the components that give cannabis its medicinal properties will revolutionize numerous fields of medicine as we currently know them.
For example, CBD has been found recently to eliminate seizures in certain subjects. While much research is yet to be done into how exactly these recently-explored chemicals can be synthesized into proper medicines, the potential is too great for society to ignore.
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