An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Marijuana - Cannabis sativa (Cannabis indica) (Cannabis chinense) (Cannabis americana) - family: Moraceae (Cannabidaceae) (Cannabinaceae) (Mulberry Family).

This attractive pleasantly-scented annual plant, with its delicately fringed leaves, has been cultivated in Asia and Africa for thousands of years for its fiber and for its intoxicating resins. There is a record of its use in China dating back some twelve thousand years. It has been cultivated for about five thousand years. It may grow up to ten feet high. It has finely fringed aromatic leaves with five to nine toothed lance-to-linear-shaped leaflets. In the summer the male plants produce clusters (panicles) of tiny greenish flowers, while the female plants produce dense cluster of flowers, which are followed by oval brownish seeds (achenes). Only the resinous buds on the female plants have much psychoactive resin. This resin contains hundreds of different chemicals, some of which are psychoactive and some of which seem to help many relieve human ailments. An important psychoactive constituent of the resin is 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); it is used as an intoxicant and as a pain reliever. THC has been made synthetically in some laboratories. Traditional use of leaves and resin as one of the ingredients of witches' brews in Europe in the Middle Ages. In India it has been used as a remedy for insomnia, nervousness and to allegedly lengthen life (the intoxication from ingesting THC may distort the sense of time, hence create the illusion of a longer life). In some traditional Middle Eastern cultures, hashish (a concentrated form of marijuana) was said to give one "the strength of a hundred camels." It also has been used to relieve nausea and to increase appetite. Traditional Chinese Medicine use of seeds (Huo Ma Ren) as a remedy for constipation and as a poultice for sores and wounds. Traditional European and American folk use of bud resin as a remedy for depression, gout, hysteria, insomnia and pain. Traditional American, Asian and European folk use as an aphrodisiac. Modern American folk use of "medical marijuana" as a remedy for anorexia, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, constipation, depression, epilepsy, glaucoma, headaches, hepatitis, insomnia, migraine headaches, menstrual cramps, multiple sclerosis, nausea, poor appetite, tinnitus and vomiting. It is also used to lower the unpleasant side-effects of chemotherapy and to help support the immune system. Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1860 to 1930. Its use in North America became widespread in the 1920s, first among jazz musicians, then among their audiences, and then gradually its use spread into other parts of the general population. The possession and use of Marijuana was made illegal in the United States in 1937. Now its possession and cultivation has been quasi-legalized in California by the passage of the Medical Marijuana Initiative by the voters in November 1996. A similar initiative was also passed in the same election by the voters of Arizona. In the November 1998 elections the voters of Alaska, Arizona (again), Nevada, Oregon and Washington approved similar propositions. In November 1999 the voters of Maine approved a Medical Marijuana Initiative. In May 2000, the Legislature of the State of Hawai'i approved a Medical Marijuana bill and in June 2000 the governor signed the bill into law. In November 2000 the voters of Colorado and Nevada approved Medical Marijuana Initiatives. Perhaps a touch of sanity is returning to America's harsh and punitive drug policies; who knows? Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1860 to 1930. Note: do not use if pregnant or nursing. Note: may interact with other drugs, such as alcohol. It is the only member of its genus. Cultivated in small quantities in government-regulated plantations in United States. Illicitly cultivated in many parts of United States including Hawai'i. Before the end of World War II, hemp was considered as a valuable commercial material. It was cultivated in the Midwest for its fiber content that is found in its stalks. The fiber was woven into rope and rough fabric. Native to Asia. Naturalized in North America. Naturalized in California.


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Web page last updated on 22 May 2003.