Marijuana’s history is rich and stretches as far back as ancient China. The story of cannabis uses, though, differs from region to region even though they were all discovering the same flower—each region brought their own thinking, culture and approach to the plant.
Historically speaking, a single region only had one or two uses for the herb until Great Britain began colonizing nations and displacing those who called that land their home—then, of course, people started getting creative.
Let's explore the uses of marijuana before this displacement, chronicling the uses of the herb here and abroad.
One of the earliest countries to have traces of marijuana use is China. With a long history, marijuana was originally used to treat pain, inflammation, dietary problems and other physical ailments—it wasn’t until thousands of years later that it was used to intoxicate the user intentionally. Recreational use of the flower came around during the lifetime of Hua Tuo (140-208AD), who is credited as being the first person in the world to use the drug for its altering properties.
Religious use of cannabis in India dates back to approximately 2000 to 1400 B.C., with references to the plant found throughout verses in religious scriptures. During this time, marijuana was predominantly used to ease the mind of any feelings of stress or anxiety in order for the user to be more relatable to Shiva, who is also referred to as the Lord of Bhang (a unique preparation of the female cannabis plant and flower). Later, the use of marijuana became more recreational as people began to drink bhang without any religious agenda. It's been said it was used in pre-battle rituals, where big swigs the liquid were confused before going to war.
Cannabis doesn’t have as deep of roots in the continent of Africa as it does in Asia, but the uses were still quite unique. One example of this? Birthing rituals. Marijuana was given to mothers right before giving birth to make the process more bearable. The flower was also used by mine workers who saw that productivity went up while fatigue went down with the use of the plant. It was so evident that workers were given three smokes a day, similar to coffee breaks. With that kind of evidence, maybe we should consider reinstating this.
America didn’t see much use of the plant until the late 17th century when there was a very large demand for hemp material as it was a better, more durable resource for rope and clothing. It wasn’t until the mid to late 19th century that cannabis was used in medication and sold openly at pharmacies. Much of these practices came from British influence, who learned from their voyages and colonization. Of course, this took place until outright prohibitions started sweeping the nation in the 1920s.
We find it interesting that with differing regions come different uses—it really comes down to who discovers it. Marijuana has just as much of a rich history as many other herbs, spices and medicines. The introduction of it to nationals all over the world sparked uses that many people wouldn’t have even thought of. However you’re using cannabis next, remember there are many other ways to consume and use this versatile plant.
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