History of Cannabis in ancient China


Cultivated primarily for its strength as a fibre and for its medicinal uses, Cannabis has even been grown for food.

Some of the earliest archaeological hemp evidence, about 10,000 B.C., comes from rope imprints on broken Chinese pottery.

Fragments of hemp cloth have also been found in Chinese burial chambers dating from the Chou Dynasty (1122-249 B.C.).

In addition to archaeological evidence, written documents refer to hemp as a source of clothing.

For example, The Shu King, a book dating to about 2350 B.C., refers to the soil in Shantung as rich with silk and hemp while ancient poetry mentions young girls weaving hemp into clothing (Abel, 1980).

The Chinese also relied on hemp for warfare. Due to its strength and durability, Chinese archers made bowstrings from hemp.

Because these hemp bowstrings were stronger than the enemy’s bamboo types, the Chinese arrows could fly further.

This was a large advantage in war. In fact, hemp was so important that Chinese monarchs allocated large portions of land specifically for growing hemp the first war crop.

Then, there is paper. Yes, paper. Paper is probably one of the most significant Chinese inventions.

Fragments of paper containing hemp fibre have been found in Chinese graves dating to the first century B.C.

The Chinese made paper by crushing hemp fibres and mulberry tree bark into a pulp and putting the mixture into a tank of water.

The tangled fibres rose to the top of the water, were removed, and placed in a mould.

After drying, the fibres formed sheets that could be written on.

The Chinese kept paper making a secret for many centuries.

Eventually, the secret became known to the Japanese during the 5th century A.D. and finally to the Arabs through Chinese prisoners in the 9th century.

So, the Chinese used the hemp plant for rope, clothing, bowstrings, paper and of course, medicine. The ancient emperor, Shen-Nung (c.2700 B.C.), is known as the Father of Chinese Medicine.

Because he was a good farmer and concerned about his suffering subjects, he looked to plants for cures.

According to legend, Shen-Nung tried poisons and their antidotes on himself and then compiled the medical encyclopedia called, Pen Ts’ao.

The Pen Ts’ao list hundreds of drugs derived from vegetable, animal and mineral sources. Among these drugs is the plant cannabis, “ma.”

Ma was a unique drug because it was both feminine, or yin, and masculine, or yang. Yin represented the weak, passive, and negative female influence in nature while yang represented the strong, active, and positive male force.

When yin and yang were in balance, the body was in harmony and healthy. When yin and yang were out of balance, the body was in a state of disequilibrium and ill.

Realising that the female plant produced more medicine, the Chinese cultivated it instead of the male plant.

Ma was used to treat absences of yin, such as menstruation, gout, rheumatism, malaria, beriberi, constipation, and absentmindedness (Abel, 1980).

During the second century A.D., the Chinese surgeon, Hua T’o, began to use Cannabis as anaesthesia. He combined Cannabis resin with wine (ma-yo) and used it to reduce pain during surgery.

He performed painful organ drafts, resectioning of the intestines, loin incisions, and chest incisions while the patient was anaesthetized with ma-yo.

Cannabis was a multipurpose plant to the ancient Chinese. It has been cultivated and used for over 4000 years.

It was used for war, writing, food, and medicine but there is very little mention of its psychoactive properties by the Chinese.

It wasn’t until India came upon cannabis that it became a widespread religious and medicinal intoxicant.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a product derived from the Cannabis plant, one of the oldest crops known to humans. It is commonly smoked.

But it can also be eaten, brewed in teas, or have its active ingredients mixed in with other foods, which are often referred to as “edibles.”

Marijuana has many nicknames, including ganja, weed, grass, pot, Mary Jane, bud, and herb. It may be smoked rolled up in paper (joints) or tobacco wraps (blunts), and also consumed through pipes, water bongs, and more recently, vaporizers and vape pens.

Marijuana is typically used recreationally for the mind-altering effects produced by the compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is present in the plant. Effects can vary greatly from person to person. Common effects include:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • An altered perception of time
  • Increased appetite
  • Heightened sensory perception

Some people may experience adverse effects, especially in higher doses. Such adverse effects include:

  • Fear
  • Distrust
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Psychotic symptoms

Marijuana was said to have been an ingredient in a holy anointing oil referenced in the original Hebrew version of Exodus.

The Ancient Egyptians reportedly used marijuana to treat glaucoma as well as general inflammation.

Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi called Cannabis a popular medicine in 2,900 BC, and the Chinese had identified more than 100 medicinal uses for marijuana by 100 AD.

In 1,000 BC, the Indians created a drink called bhang, a mixture of marijuana, milk, and other ingredients, and used it as an anti-phlegmatic and anaesthetic. This drink is still used in India today.

Ancient Indians may have also used Cannabis as a purported cure for leprosy and dysentery as well as to cure fever, encourage sleep, and improve judgment and cognition. It was also thought to prolong life.

Marijuana also has a long history of spiritual use in India. It is said that the Hindu god Shiva rested under a cannabis plant and ate its leaves following a family argument. Shiva is referred to as the Lord of Bhang.

The Vedas, a collection of ancient scriptures, refer to Cannabis as a herb to release people from anxiety.

One story in the Vedas describes a drop of heavenly nectar falling on the earth and becoming the cannabis plant.

Other ancient cultures also used marijuana. The Ancient Greeks used it for inflammation, earaches, and swelling.

In his Histories, the Greek historian Herodotus described cannabis as being smoked for spiritual, emotional, and sometimes recreational purposes.

He discussed groups coming together and smoking, stating that the people smoking marijuana would “howl with pleasure.”

In 70 AD, Roman medical texts listed it as a cure for earache and as a way to suppress sexual desire.

The Romans also boiled the roots of the plant and used them as a treatment for gout, arthritis, and generalised pain.

The Arabians used it from 800 AD to 900 AD for migraines, pain, and syphilis.

The English also documented many medicinal uses of marijuana for ailments, such as:

Menstrual cramps




Joint pain

Muscles spasms

Insomnia and sleep problems

Childbirth (to promote uterine contractions).


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