Here you can find everything about cannabis: biological information, origin and cultural use. A great plant with a long history.
The term “cannabis” is the botanical name in Latin and translates to the German “Hanf”. Cannabis comes from the Mexican “Nahuatl” and means “prisoner”. Colloquial names include weed, ott, dope, weed and more. As a consumer product, it is often called “marijuana” or “hashish“, although these are processed products of the cannabis plant. Socially, the distinction between medical use and drug use is often not clear. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, cannabis as “marijuana” is the most commonly used drug.
The plant species, from the hemp family (Cannabaceae), have substances called cannabinoids that interact with the so-called endocannabinoid system in the human nervous and immune systems. The best known cannabinoid that has the strongest psychoactive effect on the body is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short. Cannabis has over 100 proven, different cannabinoids. THC is not found in all cannabis. Commercial hemp, or agricultural cannabis, contains negligible amounts of THC. CBD (cannabidiol) or CBN (cannabinol) are also cannabinoids that are found in cannabis in larger quantities.
The wild, original form is found in the Altai Mountains, on the border between China, Mongolia and Russia. Today, cannabis cultivation is either prohibited by international law or controlled by regulations. Cultivation has been increasing again since 1992.
The origin of cannabis dates back to about 12,000 years ago in Asia. This was the finding of research conducted by Freie Universität Berlin. According to one study, cannabis emerged at the end of the Ice Age and spread rapidly across the European continent. This is probably because, evolutionarily speaking, cannabis is an extremely adaptable plant.
That is why today it grows in almost all climatic conditions and has accompanied mankind as a cultivated plant for thousands of years. Cannabis is believed to be the first plant to be used by humans as an agricultural crop.
The spread was accompanied by nomadic tribes in the Asian region who developed trade routes. This happened about 5000 years ago. This context defines how, in a man-made sense, the spread of cannabis occurred. However, animals such as birds are also involved. Hemp seeds were also a very nutrient-rich food at that time, which supported the existence of various bird species.
The hemp plant “Cannabis Sativa” is considered one of the earliest, human cultivation. Studies say that China as early as 4000 years BC. had grown cannabis as an agricultural commodity. The most common uses were for medicine and as an intoxicant.
The Chinese emperor Shennong, who is also responsible for the invention of tea, examined already 3000 years before Christ. all plants for medicinal properties – including cannabis. He wrote one of the first textbooks on botany and pioneered the art of medical healing. The Pen Tsao was a written work on the medicinal use of the useful hemp. Documented added values as effective treatment were e.g. rheumatism, gout and malaria. The world’s first paper was also made from hemp in China.
In Mesopotamia (800 B.C.), Egypt (1600 B.C.) there is also increased evidence and finds that go back to the use of cannabis.
There are 2,400 year old traditions from India. The active ingredients of the cannabis plant are described in their effects and recorded by spiritual uses. They documented the general use, but also treatment methods from pain to epilepsy.
The first ropes made of hemp fibre were found in southern Russia and date back to 600 BC.
200 BC the first Greek hemp textiles were woven.
Generally, for cultures older than our era, cannabis has been used for religious ceremonies, medicine, and textiles. In the Middle Ages, cannabis in the form of useful hemp, e.g. for hemp fibre, found a firm place in manufacturing technology and production. Sails and ropes were made of hemp, which made it possible to build the huge fleets of England and Spain. Every naval power at the time had large-scale cannabis fields for rope, sails, and shipping in general.
Obtained from the stalks of the cannabis plant, fibers could be made for rope, cordage, paper and textiles. This commercial hemp, however, sets itself apart as cannabis. Seeds and flowers were increasingly used medicinally, with hemp being used for fabrics. It was therefore two-pronged: a remedy and a narcotic.
The First Crusade, which took place from 1096 to 1099, brought cannabis to Europe and it was thus introduced into popular medicine; many records can be found in Western monastic medicine. Many complaints such as rheumatism or bronchitis were treated with cannabis. It was even considered a painkiller substitute to opioids at times.
Colonialism and industrialization
In the 16th century, cannabis was included in books and researched. Almost 300 years later, cannabis was still being used medicinally for migraines, cramps and sleep disorders.
In the 17th century, England transported cannabis from the colonies to Australia, for example, which had been taking a majority from cannabis businesses for over 150 years. However, this stopped after the international ban since 1928.
By 1898, marijuana was the painkiller of America. By 1920, about 60% of prescribed painkillers were cannabis-based. Over a hundred cannabis medicines were available until it was superseded by aspirin and the synthetic medicine. The reasons for this may be dosing difficulties and indeterminate modes of action. Prescriptions then gradually decreased in the early 20th century until medical cannabis use was banned worldwide.