Though deprived of modern scientific techniques, ancient physicians were well aware of the medical benefits of marijuana. Twentieth- and 21st-century science continually reveal more about the plant’s medical properties.
Compared to ancient cultures, the modern world seems thousands of years behind in discovering the medicinal properties of marijuana. Shen Nung, the emperor of China, wrote about using marijuana as a medicinal compound in 2737 B.C. Ancient medical practitioners administered the plant as treatment for gout, malaria, rheumatism and absent-mindedness. During the first century A.D., Pliny the Elder documented marijuana’s analgesic effects, as did Nero’s physician Dioscorides. Written evidence describes how a woman in Jerusalem received medical marijuana before giving birth in 300 A.D.
Though evidence of the plant’s existence dates back to the 5th century in Europe, it was not until the Middle Ages that marijuana was reported as being used medicinally. During the 16th century, French physician Rabelais and Portuguese physician Garcia da Orta discussed the benefits of using medical marijuana in the late 1500s. By the middle of the 19th century, marijuana served as the base of some American medications, was included in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and was administered to soldiers during the Civil War. Physicians commonly prescribed the substance for pain and nausea.
In the early 1960s, a Bulgarian chemist named Raphael Mechoulam became intrigued by marijuana’s attributes and began studying its properties while employed at the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv, Israel. He uncovered the plant’s psychoactive ingredients and their effects on the body. He discovered the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Mechoulam and his team also learned cannabidiol’s chemical structure. Currently in his 80s, the emeritus professor from Hadassah Medical School University spent his life studying the medical potential of marijuana. Thanks to Dr. Mechoulam, Israel leads the world in prescribing marijuana medicinally. Tens of thousands of patients use the substance legally to treat symptoms related to various ailments.
Today, cannabis in Portland is used for a variety of reasons that include alleviating pain, promoting sleep and inhibiting nausea. Some also use the substance as an anti-inflammatory agent without fear of gastric bleeding. Scientists are currently exploring the possibility that marijuana may also enhance the immune system and aid patients in the healing process following psychological trauma.
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