Who Was the First Person to Medicate with Cannabis?

A common question for the curious minds at Revolutionary Clinics is “How did humankind discover cannabis?” Surely our early ancestors didn’t spend their days drying, burning and inhaling different plants and recording their effects. Was it an accident? Which came first, flowers or edibles? Who was the very first cannabis smoker, and when was cannabis first smoked? Let’s take a quick dive back in time to see what history can tell us.

Modern Times

We are certain cannabis use predates modern times. The 20th century saw the prohibition of marijuana as well as its medical and recreational legalization on the state level. It also saw major advancements in consumption such as the extraction of concentrates, as well as major research into cannabis’ pharmacology.

The earliest record of cannabis rolled in the paper was in 1856, and the first commercial cannabis cigarette was sold in 1870. This “Indian Cigarette,” marketed as a treatment for respiratory ailments, combined poisonous, deadly nightshade and potassium nitrate with the cannabis resin (Pre-rolls have come a long way since then!). The first cannabis tincture (as we define it today) was created in1840, and doctors commonly prescribed it in the late 19th century to control diarrhea, stimulate appetite and treat neuralgic pain.

So although the methods of consumption and the understanding of marijuana have evolved quite a bit in recent times, medical cannabis is not a modern discovery.

Medieval Times

Because wine was forbidden in Islam, hashish was very popular in the Middle East during the medieval age and cannabis seeds, and hemp leaves were used in traditional Arabic medicine. In Europe, it was being used to treat tumors, cough, and jaundice as early as the year 100A.D.

Cannabis was used as medicine in medieval times, but its discovery still predates that era.

Ancient Times

In 200 A.D., a Chinese surgeon becomes the first recorded physician to use cannabis as an anesthetic before a major surgery (the Chinese word for anesthesia is mazui, a word that translates to “cannabis intoxication.”). Still earlier, in 1550 B.C., an ancient Egyptian text notes cannabis as a means of treating inflammation.

We can go back even further into recorded history by reading Indian scripts that detail using Bhang (a beverage of cannabis, milk, ghee, and spices) as a means of treating anxiety, fever, dysentery, sunstroke, clearing phlegm, quickening digestion, sharpening appetite and making the tongue of the lisper plain. Some of these scripts date back to 2000 years B.C.

And earlier still, the earliest Chinese pharmacopeia tells the story of Emperor Shen Nung of China. The Emperor was credited with the foundation of acupuncture as well as researching 350 herbs that were commonly used by the earliest healers. Shen Nung was the first person recorded (in 2737 B.C.) to prescribe cannabis tea to treat gout, rheumatism, malaria and poor memory.

So How Did Cannabis Become a Medicine?

The use of cannabis as a medicine predates recorded history. We will simply never know who the first person to medicate with cannabis is nor how they came to discover its healing properties. It’s fun to wonder what happy accident led to the realization that drying a fibrous plant and ingesting it or inhaling its smoke could have a medicinal effect.

A treatment that’s been around longer than modern medicine (and even civilization itself) must work pretty well! Become a patient at Revolutionary Clinics. We believe in the healing properties of cannabis, and we take medicating our patients seriously.