Tradition in India maintains that the gods sent man the Hemp plant so that he might attain delight, courage, and have
heightened sexual desires. When nectar or Amrita dropped down from heaven, _Cannabis_ sprouted from it. Another story tells
how, when the gods, helped by demons, churned the milk ocean to obtain Amrita, one of the resulting nectars was _Cannabis_.
It was consecrated to Shiva and was Indra's favorite drink. After the churning of the ocean, demons attempted to gain control
of Amrita, but the gods were able to prevent this seizure, giving _Cannabis_ the name Vijaya ("victory") to commemorate their
success. Ever since, this plant of the gods has been held in India to bestow supernatural powers on its users.
The partnership of _Cannabis_ and man has existed now probably for ten thousand years -- since the discovery of agriculture
in the Old World. One of our old cultivars, _Cannabis_ has been a five-purpose plant: as a source of hempen fibers; for its
oil; for its akenes or "seeds," consumed by man for food; for its narcotic properties; and therapeutically to treat a wide
spectrum of ills in folk medicine and in modern pharmacopoeias.
Mainly because of its various uses, _Cannabis_ has been taken to many regions around the world. Unusual things hapen to
plants after long association with man and agriculture. They are grown in new and strange environments and often have opportunities
to hybridize that are not offered in their native habitats. They escape from cultivation and frequently become aggressive
weeds. They may be changed through human selection for characteristics associated with a specific use. Many cultivated plants
are so changed from their ancestral types that it is not possible to unravel their evolutionary history. Such is not the case,
however, with _Cannabis_. Yet, despite its long history as a major crop plant, _Cannabis_ is still characterized more by what
is not known about its biology than what is known.
The botanical classification of _Cannabis_ has long been uncertain. Botanists have not agreed on the family to which _Cannabis_
belongs: early investigators put it in the Nettle family (Urticaceae); later it was accommodated in the Fig family (Moraceae);
the general trend today is to assign it to a special family, Cannabaceae, in which only _Cannabis_ and _Humulus_, the genus
of Hops, are members. There has even been disagreement as to how many species of _Cannabis_ exist: whether the genus comprises
one highly variable species or several distinct species. Evidence now strongly indicates that three species can be recognized:
_C. indica_, _C. ruderalia_, and _C. sativa_. These species are distinguished by different growth habits, characters of the
akenes, and especially by major differences in structure of the wood. Although all species possess cannabinols, there may
possibly be significant chemical differences, but the evidence is not yet available.
We cannot know now which of the several uses of _Cannabis_ was earliest. Since plant uses normally proceed from the simpler
to the more complex, one might presume that its useful fibers first attracted man's attention. Indeed remains of hempen fibers
have been found in the earliest archaeological sites in the cradles of Asiatic civilization: evidence of fiber in China dating
from 4000 B.C. and hempen rope and thread from Turkestan from 3000 B.C. Stone beaters for pounding hemp fiber and impressions
of hempen cord baked into pottery have been found in ancient sites in Taiwan. Hempen fabrics have been found in Turkish sites
of the late eighth century B.C., and there is a questionable specimen of Hemp in an Egyptian tomb dated between three and
four thousand years ago.
** Here is a passage about a picture map shown in the text, but not written into the article itself:
The original home of _Cannabis_ is thought to be central Asia, but it has spread around the globe with the exception of
Artic regions and areas of wet tropical forests. _Cannabis_ spread at a very early date to Africa (except for the humid tropics)
and was quickly accepted into native pharmacopoeias. The Spaniards took it to Mexico and Peru, the French to Canada, the English
to North America. It had been introduced into northern Europe in Viking times. It was probably the Scythians who took it first
The Indian vedas sang of _Cannabis_ as one of the divine nectars, able to give man anything from good health and long life
to visions of the gods. The Zend-Avesta of 600 B.C. mentions an intoxicating resin, and the Assyrians used _Cannabis_ as an
incense as early as the ninth century B.C.
Inscriptions from the Chou dynasty in China, dated 700-500 B.C., have a "negative" connotation that accompanies the ancient
character for Cannabis, _Ma_, implying its stupefying properties. Since this idea obviously predated writing, the Pen Tsao
Ching, written in A.C. 100 but going back to a legendary emperor, Shen-Nung, 2000 B.C., may be taken as evidence that the
Chinese knew and probably used the hallucinogenic properties at very early dates. It was said that _Ma-fen_ ("Hemp fruit")
"if taken to excess, will produce hallucinations [literally, `seeing devils']. If taken over a long term, it makes one communicate
with spirits and lightens one's body." A Taoist priest wrote in the fifth century B.C. that _Cannabis_ was employed by "necromancers,
in combination with Ginseng, to set forward time and reveal future events."
In these early periods, use of _Cannabis_ as an hallucinogen was undoubtedly associated with Chinese shamanism, but by
the time of European contact 1500 years later, shamanism had fallen into decline, and the use of the plant for inebriation
seems to have ceased and had been forgotten. Its value in Chine then was primarily as a fiber source. There was, however,
a continuous record of Hemp cultivation in China from Neolithic times, and it has been suggested that _Cannabis_ may have
originated in China, not in central Asia.
About 500 B.C. the Greek writer Herodotus described a marvelous bath of the Scythians, aggressive horsemen who swept out
of the Transcaucasus eastward and westward. He reported that "they make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined
toward one another, and stretching around them woollen pelts which they arragne so as to fit as close as possible: inside
the booth a dish is placed upon the ground into which they put a number of red hot stones and then add some Hemp seed...immediately
it smokes and gives out such a vapor as no Grecian vapor bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy...." Only recently,
archaeologists have excavated frozen Scythian tombs in central Asia, dated between 500 and 300 B.C., and have found tripods
and pelts, braziers and charcoal with remains of _Cannabis_ leaves and fruit. It has generally been accepted that _Cannabis_
originated in central Asia and that it was the Scythians who spread it westward to Europe.
While the Greeks and Romans may not generally have taken _Cannabis_ for inebriation, there are indications that they were
aware of the psychoactive effects of the drug. Democritus reported that it was occasionally drunk with wine and myrrh to produce
visionary states, and Galen, about A.D. 200, wrote that it was sometimes customary to give Hemp to guests to promote hilarity
_Cannabis_ arrived in Europe from the north. In classical Greece and Rome, it was not cultivated as a fiber plant. Fiber
for ropes and sails, however, was available to the Romans from Gaul as early as the third century B.C. The Roman writer Lucilius
mentioned it in 120 B.C. Pliny the Elder outlined the preparation and grades of hempen fibers in the first century A.C., and
hempen rope was found in a Roman site in England dated A.D. 140-180. Whether the Vikings used Hemp rope or not is not known,
but palynological evidence indicates that Hemp cultivation had a tremendous increment in England from the early Anglo-Saxon
period to late Saxon and Norman times -- from 400 to 1100.
Henry VIII fostered the cultivation of Hemp in England. The maritime supremacy of England during Elizabethan times greatly
increased the demand. Hemp cultivation began in the British colonies in the New World: first in Canada in 1606, then in Virginia
in 1611; the Pilgrims took the crop to New England in 1632. In pre-Revolutionary North America, Hemp was employed even for
making work clothes. Hemp was introduced quite independently into Spanish colonies in America: Chile, 1545; Peru, 1554.
There is no doubt that hempen fiber production represents an early use of _Cannabis_, but perhaps consumption of its edible
akenes as food predated the discovery of the useful fiber. These akenes are very nutritious, and it is difficult to imagine
that early man, constantly searching for food, would have missed this opportunity. Archaeological finds of Hemp akenes in
Germany, dated with reservation at 500 B.C., indicate the nutritional use of these plant products. From early times to the
present, Hemp akenes have been used as food in eastern Europe, and in the United States as a major ingredient of bird food.
The folk-medicinal value of Hemp -- frequently indistinguishable from its hallucinogenic properties -- may even be its earliest
role as an economic plant. The earliest record of the medicinal use of the plant is that of the Chinese emperor-herbalist
Shen-Nung who, five thousand years ago, recommended _Cannabis_ for malaria, beri-beri, constipation, rheumatic pains, absent-mindedness,
and female disorders. Hoa-Glio, another ancient Chinese herbalist, recommended a mixture of Hemp resin and wine as an analgesic
It was in ancient India that this "gift of the gods" found excessive use in folk medicine. It was believed to quicken the
mind, prolong life, improve judgment, lower fevers, induce sleep, cure dysentery. Because of its psychoactive properties it
was more highly valued than medicienes with only physical activity. Several systems of Indian medicine esteemed _Cannabis_.
The medical work _Sushruta_ claimed that it claimed leprosy. The _Bharaprakasha_ of about A.D. 1600 described it as antiphlegmatic,
digestive, bile affecting, pungent, and astringent, prescribing it to stimulate the appetite, improve digestion, and better
the voice. The spectrum of medicinal uses in India covered control of dandruff and relief of headache, mania, insomnia, venereal
disease, whooping cough, earaches, and tuberculosis!
The fame of _Cannabis_ as a medicine spread with the plant. In parts of Africa, it was valued in treating dysentery, malaria,
anthrax, and fevers. Even today the Hotentots and Mfengu claim its efficacy in treating snake bites, and Sotho women induce
partial stupefaction by smoking Hemp before childbirth.
Although _Cannabis_ seems not to have been employed in medieval Europe as an hallucinogen, it was highly valued in medicine
and its therapeutic uses can be traced back to early classical physicians such as Dioscorides and Galen. Medieval herbalists
distinguished "manured hempe" (cultivated) from "bastard hempe" (weedy), recommending the latter "against nodes and wennes
and other hard tumors," the former for a host of uses from curing cough to jaundice. They cautioned, however, that in excess
it might cause sterility, that "it drieth up... the seeds of generation" in men "and the milke of women's breasts." An interesting
use in the sixteenth century -- source of the name Angler's Weed in England -- was locally important: "poured into the holes
of earthworms [it] will draw them forth and...fisherman and anglers have use this feate to baite their hooks."
The value of _Cannabis_ in folk medicine has clearly been closely tied with its euphoric and hallucinogenic properties,
knowledge of which may be as old as its use as a source of fiber. Primitive man, trying all sorts of plant materials as food,
must have known the ecstatic hallucinatory effects of Hemp, an intoxication introducing him to an other-worldly plant leading
to religious beliefs. Thus the plant early was viewed as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the
Although _Cannabis_ today is the most widely employed of the hallucinogens, its use purely as a narcotic, except in Asia,
appears not to be ancient. In classical times its euphoric properties were, however, recognized. In Thebes, Hemp was made
into a drink said to have opium-like properties. Galen reported that cakes with Hemp, if eaten to excess, were intoxicating.
The use as an inebriant seems to have been spread east and west by barbarian hordes of central Asia, especially the Scythians,
who had a profound cultural influence on early Greece and eastern Europe. And knowledge of the intoxicating effects of Hemp
goes far back in Indian history, as indicated by the deep mythological and spiritual beliefs about the plant. One preparation,
Bhang, was so sacred that it was thought to deter evil, bring luck, and cleanse man of sin. Those treading upon the leaves
of this holy plant would suffer harm or disaster, and sacred oaths were sealed over Hemp. The favorite drink of Indra, god
of the firmament, was made from _Cannabis_, and the Hindu god Shiva commanded that the word Bhangi must be chanted repeatedly
during sowing, weeding, and harvesting of the holy plant. Knowledge and use of the intoxicating properties eventually spread
to Asia Minor. Hemp was employed as an incense in Assyria in the first millennium B.C., suggesting its use as an inebriant.
While there is no direct mention of Hemp in the Bible, several obscure passages may refer tangentially to the effects of _Cannabis_
resin or Hashish.
It is perhaps in the Himalayas of India and the Tibetan plateau that _Cannabis_ preparations assumed their greatest hallucinogenic
importance in religious contexts. Bhang is a mild preparation: dried leaves or flowering shoots are pounded with spices into
a paste and consumed as candy -- known as _maajun_ -- or in tea form. Ganja is made from the resin-rich dried pistillate flowering
tops of cultivated plants which are pressed into a compacted mass and kept under pressure for several days to induce chemical
changes; most Ganja is smoked, often with Tobacco. Charas consists of the resin itself, a brownish mass which is employed
generally in smoking mixtures.
The Tibetans considered _Cannabis_ sacred. A Mahayana Buddhist tradition maintains that during the six steps of asceticism
leading to his enlightenment, Buddha lived on one Hemp seed a day. He is often depicted with "Soma leaves" in his begging
bowl and the mysterious god-narcotic Soma has occasionally been identified with Hemp. In Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas
of Tibet, _Cannabis_ plays a very significant role in the meditative ritual used to facilitate deep meditation and heigten
awareness. Both medicinal and recreational secular use of Hemp is likewise so common now in this region that the plant is
taken from granted as an everyday necessity.
Folklore maintains that the use of Hemp was introduced to Persia by an Indian pilgrim during the reign of Khrusu (A.D.
531-579), but it is known that the Assyrians used Hemp as an incense during the first millennium B.C. Although at first prohibited
among Islamic peoples, Hashish spread widely west throughout Asia Minor. In 1378, authorities tried to extirpate Hemp from
Arabian territory by the imposition of harsh punishments. As early as 1271, the eating of Hemp was so well known that Marco
Polo described its consumption in the secret order of Hashishins, who used the narcotic to experience the rewards in store
for them in the afterlife. _Cannabis_ extended early and widely from Asia Minor into Africe, partly under the pressure of
Islamic influence, but the use of Hemp transcends Mohammedan areas. It is widely believed that Hemp was introduced also with
slaves from Malaya. Commonly known in Africa as Kif or Dagga, the plant has entered into primitive native cultures in social
and religious contexts. The hotentots, Bushmen, and Kaffirs used Hemp for centuries as a medicine and as an intoxicant. In
an ancient tribal ceremony in the Zambesi Valley, participants inhaled vapors from a pile of smoldering Hemp; later, reed
tubes and pipes were employed, and the plant material was burned on an altar. The Kasai tribes of the Congo have revived an
old Riamba cult in which Hemp, replacing ancient fetishes and symbols, was elevated to a god -- a protector against physical
and spiritual harm. Treaties are sealed with puffs of smoke from calabash pipes. Hemp-smoking and Hashish-snuffing cults exists
in many parts of east Africa, especially near Lake Victoria.
Hemp has spread to many areas of the New World, but with few exceptions the plant has not penetrated significantly into
many native American religious beliefs and ceremonies. There are, however, exceptions such as its use under the name Rosa
Maria, by the Tepecano Indians of northwest Mexico who occasionally employ Hemp whem Peyote is not available. It has recently
been learned that Indians in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Hidalgo, and Puebla practice a communal curing ceremony with
a plant called Santa Rosa, identified as _Cannabis sativa_, which is considered both a plant and a sacred intercessor with
the Virgin. Although the ceremony is based mainly on Christian elements, the plant is worshiped as an earth diety and is thought
to be alive and to represent a part of the heart of God. The participants in this cult believe that the plant can be dangerous
and that it can assume the form of a man's soul, make him ill, enrage him, and even cause death. Sixty years ago, when Mexican
laborers introduced the smoking of Marihuana to the United States, it spread across the south, and by the early 1920s, its
use was established in New Orleans, confined primarily among the poor and minority groups. The continued spread of the custom
in the United States and Europe has resulted in a still unresolved controversy.
_Cannabis sativa_ was officially in the United States Pharmacopoeia until 1937, recommended for a wide variety of disorders,
especially as a mild sedative. It is no longer an official drug, although research in the medical potential of some of the
cannabinolic constituents or their semi-synthetic analogues is at present very active, particularly in relation to the side-effects
of cancer therapy.
The psychoactive effects of _Cannabis_ preparations vary widely, depending on dosage, the preparation and the type of plant
used, the method of administration, personality of the user, and social and cultural background. Perhaps the most frequent
characterisitic is a dreamy state. Long forgotten events are often recalled and thoughts occur in unrelated sequences. Perception
of time, and occasionally of space, is altered. Visual and auditory hallucinations follow the use of large doses. Euphoria,
excitement, inner happiness -- often with hilarity and laughter -- are typical. In some cases, a final mood of depression
may be experienced. While behavior is sometimes impulsive, violence or aggression is seldom induced.
In relatively recent years, the use of _Cannabis_ as an intoxicant has spread widely in Western society -- especially in
the United States and Europe -- and has caused apprehension in law-making and law-enforcing circles and has created social
and health problems. There is still little, if any, agreement on the magnitude of these problems or on their solution. Opinion
appears to be pulled in two directions: that the use of _Cannabis_ is an extreme social, moral, and health danger that must
be stamped out, or that it is an innocuous, pleasant pastime that should be legalized. It may be some time before all the
truths concerning the use in our times and society of this ancient drug are fully known. Since an understanding of the history
and attitudes of peoples who have long used the plant may play a part in furthering our handling of the situation in modern
society, it behooves us to consider the role of _Cannabis_ in man's past and to learn what lessons it can teach us: whether
to maintain wise restraint in our urbanized, industrialized life or to free it for general use. For it appears that _Cannabis_
may be with us for a long time.
This miniature is from a fifteenth-century manuscript of Marco Polo's travels depicts the Persian
nobleman Al-Hassan ibn-al-Sabbah, who was known as the Old Man of the Mountain, enjoying the artificial paradise of Hashish
eaters. His followers, known as _ashishins_, consumed large amounts of _Cannabis_ resin to increase their courage as they
slaughtered and plundered on behalf of their leader. The words _assassin_ and _hashish_ were derived from the name of this
The Cuna Indians of Panama use _Cannabis_ as a sacred herb. This mola of applique work depicts a Cuna council meeting.
An orator is shown adressing two headmen, who lounge in their hammocks and listen judiciously; one smokes a pipe as he swings.
Spectators wander in and out, and one man is seen napping on a bench.
The Cora Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico smoke _Cannabis_ in the course of their sacred ceremonies. Rarely
is an introduced foreign plant adopted and use in indigenous religious ceremonies, but it seems that the Cora of Mexico and
the Cuna of Panama have taken up the ritual smoking of _Cannabis_, notwithstanding the fact that, in both areas, it was brought
in by the early Europeans.
In the nineteenth century, a select group of European artists and writers turned to psychoactive agents in an attempt to
achieve what has come to be regarded as "mind-expansion" or "mind-alteration." Many people, such as the French poet Baudelaire,
believed that creative ability could be greatly enhanced by the use of _Cannabis_. In fact, Baudelaire wrote vivid descriptions
of his personal experiences under the influence of _Cannabis_. At the upper left is Gustave Dore's painting _Composition on
the Death of Gerard de Nerval_, inspired probably by the use of _Cannabis_ and Opium. At the upper right is a contemporary
American cartoon humorously epitomizing the recurrence of this belief (it shows caveman around a fire, one saying "Hey, what
is this stuff? It makes everything I think seem profound."). It was not only among the French _literati_ that psychoactive
substances raised expectations. In 1845, the French psychiatrist Moreau de Tours published his investigation of Hashish in
a fundamental scientific monograph _Du hachisch et de l'alienation mentale_. Moreau de Tours's scientific study was on the
effects of _Cannabis_. He explored the use of this hallucinogen in Egypt and the Near East and experimented personally with
it and other psychoactive plant substances. He concluded that the effects resemble certain mental disorders and suggested
that they might be used to induce model psychoses.
This marvelous experience often occurs as if it were the effect of a superior and invisible power acting on the person
from without....This delightful and singular state...gives no advance warning. It is as unexpected as a ghost, an intermittent
haunting from which we must draw, if we are wise, the certainty of a better existence.