William O’Shaughnessy & The Start of Cannabis Medicine

The idea of medicinal marijuana has blossomed out in the last several years, opening up new markets, changing regulatory restrictions and legal mandates, and showing that popular opinion can easily change over time. How it started in the first place is not a story known to all. In fact, most people have no idea that it was an Irishman named William O’Shaughnessy who brought cannabis medicine to the Western world.

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Cannabis in history

Before getting into recent history, let’s go back to ancient times. The history of cannabis use as a medicine goes back thousands of years with tons of natural medicine traditions using the plant all over the world for different purposes. In Ayurveda it was used to increase appetite and digestion; to decrease diarrhea, as well as other gastrointestinal issues; as an anti-spasmodic and anti-convulsant; for nervous system issues; skin infections; as an aphrodisiac, or to calm sexual feelings (in later stages of the application); issues with genital and urinary tract function; respiratory issues; infectious diseases; and a host of other problems. If you look at what’s being covered here, it includes ailments of nearly every kind that were being treated by cannabis.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cannabis seeds were used as laxatives – although they were simultaneously used to help stop diarrhea, to alleviate thirst, and relieve flux. If it seems weird that cannabis was employed for opposing issues (constipation and diarrhea), this could be explained by a normalization effect on a person’s liver. Repeated vomiting was also treated with cannabis seeds, and regular use of these seeds was said to “render the flesh firm, and prevent old age.”

The Chinese also supposedly used cannabis as an antidiabetic by boiling the seeds in water to make a paste. Cannabis was used for skin ailments, ulcers, wounds, hair loss, and diseases of the lymph nodes which included degenerative, incurable, and intractable illnesses. These are just some examples of how Traditional Chinese Medicine used cannabis. Though many texts have not been made available to the English-speaking world, it is known that cannabis was used in medical applications for at least 1,800 years, and possibly as long as 4,000 years.

cannabis ayurveda

Cannabis use was seen in Egyption times as well. Called shemshemet, it was used to treat insomnia, nausea, internal hemorrhoids (by way of suppositories), and even eye conditions like glaucoma because of its strong anti-inflammatory properties, which help bring down eye pressures. This anti-inflammatory effect made it good for all kinds of ailments that involve inflammation. Cannabis plant residue has been found on Egyptian artifacts dating back over 4,000 years, and medical marijuana is mentioned in several ancient Egyptian texts including:

  • The Ramesseum III Papyrus (1,700 BC)
  • Eber’s Papyrus (1,600 BC) (This is the oldest known complete text, and thought by many to be a reprint of a text from as long as 1,500 years before this one was made.)
  • The Berlin Papyrus (1,300 BC)
  • The Chester Beatty VI Papyrus (1,300 BC)

By 1,000 years ago, medicinal marijuana use was so widespread in Egypt, that texts found from that time actually encourage citizens to plant their own medicinal cannabis for their own personal use, or to use for trade.

Cannabis history & the Anglo-Saxons

I feel it would be remiss not to mention the history of cannabis in the location that William O’Shaughnessy specifically came from, since this sheds some light on the cannabis culture that existed in his part of the world. It is not one of the more popular or well known cannabis stories, but it is certainly relevant here.

It is thought by many that a nomadic Indo-European tribe – called the Scythians – brought the plant to Eastern Europe around 500 BC. From there it seems likely that Germanic tribes brought it over to Germany, and when the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain during the 5th century, its thought that the plant at this time entered the British region. Cannabis has a mention in the ‘Anglo-Saxon Herbal’, also known as the ‘Old English Herbal’, which is an illustrated book of botanical medicine attributed to 4th century writers, and which has many similarities to Ayurveda.

This indicates that it was being used for medical treatments, however, what it really became known for in this region, was its fiber. Hemp fiber was used for all sorts of things, particularly by the military. Supplies like rope and sails were made from hemp, for which Russia had been the main supplier. In fact, much like the US grow laws that were enacted in colonial America, and which forced farm owners to grow cannabis for hemp, so too was the case in Britain when in 1533 King Henry VIII also forced landlords to use at least part of their land to grow hemp.

medicinal cannabis

This was made more intense by Elizabeth I who actually started leveraging fines on landlords who did not comply. One of the issues with growing hemp in that part of the world is that it’s not the best climate for it, and this eventually led to Britain importing most of its hemp from Canada and other British colonies. It seems that as time went on, the medical value of the plant was practically lost to its industrial uses. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that William O’Shaughnessy re-discovered cannabis medicine, and brought it into focus in Western medicine.

Who is William O’Shaughnessy?

Born in Limerick, Ireland in 1808, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy studied chemistry and forensic toxicology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, graduating in 1829. At the age of 22, in 1931, while working with cholera patients, O’Shaughnessy helped create the basis for IV replacement therapy. This was done through analyzing the blood of cholera patients and finding a need for more oxygen, as well as finding that they had deficiencies in water, salt, and free alkali, which was improved through infusions of salt.

A couple years later, in 1933, O’Shaughnessy moved to Calcutta, India, as part of the British East India Company, after being rejected for Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of London. And it was here that O’Shaughnessy began his inquest into medical cannabis.

O’Shaughnessy had not set out specifically on the course of cannabis medicine, and in fact, focused on several subjects like chemistry, galvanic electricity, underwater conduction, and botanical pharmacology – which spawned his work on medical marijuana. O’Shaughnessy published his first papers on the use of cannabis medicine and its applications while in Calcutta. In his research he examined folk uses of the plant to validate the information coming from natural medicine traditions, he also found new applications for the plant, and encouraged use of it by his readers for many different purposes including acute rheumatism, as a sleep aid, digestive problems, as a treatment for pain, and a host of other ailments.

Simply writing about these things isn’t what got him recognized, however. He gained popularity instead through real world applications. One of his first big breakthroughs publicly was in being able to quell the rheumatic pain and convulsions of an infant by using cannabis. At approximately 40 days old, the child was unable to eat and was wasting away, as no standard treatment was helping. The parents’ were so distressed that they agreed to the treatment, and cannabis tincture was placed on the baby’s tongue. It eased the convulsions, but greater doses had to be used consequent to tolerance. The infant, however, made a full recovery.

When he later returned to England, he found even greater public success when he was able to quiet the extreme muscle spasms caused by tetanus and rabies, which he did using a cannabis resin. In terms of tetanus, it didn’t rid the sufferer of the disease, but it did greatly reduce symptoms. About tetanus, O’Shaughnessy stated that it was: “next to hydrophobia (rabies), perhaps the most intractable and agonising of the whole catalogue of human maladies.” At that time, having tetanus meant violent convulsions and eventually death, making O’Shaughnessy’s cannabis treatment a godsend to sufferers.

In 1842 he published Bengal Dispensatory and Pharmacopoeia which dedicated 25 pages to the use of cannabis in medicine. This stands as one of the most comprehensive research outputs related to cannabis for that time period.

What about now?

William O'Shaughnessy cannabis medicine

I think it’s fair to say that O’Shaughnessy would have been double face-palming if he knew just how sideways all his findings went in the upcoming century. While O’Shaughnessy set off a flurry of new research into cannabis medicine and the advent of tons of medical products, all of this was suppressed and then forgotten in light of changing global cannabis laws.

It started with the US 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, and led to the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances treaty, and an essential global ban on both medical and recreational cannabis, as well as hemp production. Over time, the idea of cannabis medicine became non-existent. In fact, not only did it become non-existent in Western medicine and illegal in Eastern medicine, but it became disliked – even hated – with all that accumulated medical evidence being either completely forgotten, or no longer believed.

It took till the 1900’s and researchers like Raphael Mechoulam to re-discover cannabis medicine (which was still suppressed for many decades), and then the eventual easing of laws in different global locations as the expressed danger of cannabis was seen more and more to be unrealistic, while its useful properties were once again brought to light.

Right now in Ireland, O’Shaughnessy’s home country, cannabis is illegal to posses or use with no decriminalization or personal use laws present. Punishments include involuntary community service, fines, and jail time depending on the circumstances of the case. Selling and supply crimes are predictably illegal with prison sentences of up to 10 years for offenders. Cultivation is illegal as well.

Even when it comes to medical cannabis, Ireland only finally updated its laws in 2019, and only to permit a 5-year long research program that allows very limited access to medical cannabis, and only for a very small number of issues. William O’Shaughnessy established some of the very applications of cannabis medicine being researched now, and his own home country still does not pay attention.


It is now getting close to 200 years after William O’Shaughnessy published his Bengal Dispensatory and Pharmacopoeia, and around 4,000 years since the use of cannabis was determined in some locations. Yet now, in 2021, we’re still arguing the legalities and uses of it. Yes, William O’Shaughnessy might have been the father of modern cannabis medicine, but only now is the Western world really taking notice.

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Cannabis Antibiotics: Answer to Disease-Resistant Bacteria

There’s been a lot of talk about how, and whether, cannabis can be used in place of antibiotics. Centuries of natural medicine traditions tell us ‘yes’ already, but now the Western medicine world is finally catching up. New research highlights how cannabis antibiotics are a likely and reasonable answer to the issue of disease-resistant bacteria.

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Let’s go back in time first

There are tons of natural medicine traditions that have existed on the planet through the history of man. Two of the more well-known, which are still in existence today, are Ayurvedic medicine out of India, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) out of China. In Ayurveda, medical cannabis was used since 1000 b.c., with one of the reasons being as an antibiotic. This included topical use for skin infections, as well as for ailments like tuberculosis. Imagine that, information was figured out 1000 years before Jesus was supposed to have walked the earth, and researchers of today are only now catching up? Perhaps we should look at history more often.

When it comes to Traditional Chinese Medicine and cannabis, there’s a striking lack of information published, and not because it doesn’t exist. While most sites cite the lack of translation to Western languages for the void in information, this explanation sounds suspect. This is a popular topic, it goes against logic to assume that no one has bothered to translate for the English speaking world.

cannabis antibiotics

My guess is that as the pre-eminent natural medicine tradition, it bodes better for Western medicine practitioners to keep this information out as it tends to threaten the pharmaceutical industry (highlighted by this very article and the use of a natural medicine to combat bacterial infections). It is understood that cannabis has been written on within the medical tradition for at least 1800 years, and that all parts of the plant were used. Some publications say that hemp has been cultivated in China for as many as 4000 years. Again, there seems to be a block in getting this information to the Western world. You can draw your own conclusions as to why.

Starting anywhere from 1000-4000 years ago, cannabis started being used in medical applications, which have been fully written about in detail throughout history. And one of those applications was using cannabis antibiotics. In today’s world of growing use and over-use of antibiotics, which has led to large and escalating problems with antibiotic resistance, it seems like paying a little more attention to what was gleaned from history, might be exactly what we need.

Western medicine finally catching up

It’s almost funny to think that we’ve technically had this information for thousands of years, and yet most people are wholly unaware, because they aren’t made aware, by the medical world. And instead of paying attention to history, the Western medicine world constantly tries to rewrite it, except that this most recent rewriting only goes to back up what natural medicine has been saying all this time: cannabis can be used in place of antibiotics.

How did Western medicine finally catch up? Through a study showing that CBD can kill gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are bacteria strains most relevant to antibiotic resistance. They are identified – and separated from gram-positive bacteria – by the composition of the inner cell membrane and the cell wall, which are pushed together between an inner membrane and an outer membrane.

The outer membrane is not seen in gram-positive bacteria, and it is this outer membrane that keeps antibiotics from penetrating. Another issue with gram-negative bacteria and antibiotics is that, even if the antibiotics penetrate the cell, the bacteria can expel these antibiotics through an internal pump system, making it that much harder to eradicate them. The two different types of bacteria can be told apart from each other using the Gram stain test. Gram-negative bacteria will not retain the color from the stain test.

What does antibiotic resistance mean?


It means, quite literally, a resistance to the use of antibiotics. However, how it came to be this way, is less obvious. There are a couple issues in particular that led to this current crisis. One is the general overuse of antibiotics, which can be seen in the over-prescription of them when not really necessary, as well as the prescription for antibiotics when the culprit is not bacterial – sometimes for viral infections and other issues that do not require, nor benefit from, antibiotics. The other main issue is the implementation of antibiotics in our food supply. This pertains primarily to animal products, which has meant a massive intake of antibiotics in farm animals, This is generally associated with large corporations that run factory farms to raise animals, where the animals are kept in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

What this leads to is a change in the bacterium which allows it to resist the antibiotic, effectively making the antibiotic useless. When thinking of large-scale, deadly, and/or fast-spreading diseases, this creates a general inability to control it spreading, or to help those who have been infected. At least by Western medicine standards. This part is important, as measures have been taken for centuries – and today – that do not require antibiotics. Luckily now, with new research to back it up for those who don’t trust or know their history, it seems to be accepted, or nearly accepted, within the medical community that CBD can be used to kill bacteria, even when it is resistant to antibiotics.

The research

In January of 2021, a study was released that investigated the antimicrobial abilities of cannabidiol, or CBD.  CBD is known as the primary non-psychoactive cannabinoid of the cannabis plant, and as such has been accepted more in medicine than its psychoactive counterpart THC. In this study, CBD was tested with both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Gram-positive bacteria are easier to treat as they don’t resist antibiotics as easily, and CBD was confirmed in the study to treat gram-positive bacteria.

When it comes to gram-negative bacteria, where significantly less research has been done, the study authors tested it against pathogens not tested with CBD before, like the following: Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Clostridioides difficile. The study authors concluded that cannabidiol has “excellent activity against biofilms, little propensity to induce resistance, and topical in vivo efficacy.”

How does CBD do it? It is thought that the main mode of action is through the disruption of the outer membrane, the part that separates gram-positive from gram-negative bacteria, and which allows for the resistance of bacteria. CBD can actually break through biofilms of this kind, allowing entrance into the cell. This study marks the first time that CBD has been used to kill gram-negative bacteria subsets in a study, including a pathogen considered to be an urgent threat – Neisseria gonorrhoeae, known to most simply as gonorrhea. All of this indicates that CBD, itself, could create a new class of cannabis antibiotics.

CBD medicine

What are biofilms, and why isn’t cannabis resistant to antibiotics?

A biofilm  is a “community of micro-organisms irreversibly attached to a surface and encased in an EPS (extracellular polymeric substance), with increased resistance to host cellular and chemical responses.” It can be thought of like a very strong form of plastic wrap that a cell has covering it, which doesn’t allow for the penetration of medications. It acts as a barrier between the microbe and the world around, allowing it to grow without interference. Biofilms can be within the body (where they are substantially harder to deal with without hurting the human body), or outside it on surfaces like medical equipment, pipes, aquatic systems, and many other places. The ability for the bacteria to live in these places and go undisturbed, allows for the spread of them, which can be especially damaging in medical settings.

The question of why CBD doesn’t become resistant becomes a bigger discussion point. Essentially, plant compounds are very complicated, more so than antibiotics, which are very simple. The more complicated, the harder for microbes to get a handle on them. Plants used for medicine have secondary metabolites which make them even more complicated, and introduce alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, and terpenes, which add to the complexity, while often having their own antimicrobial properties.

If you’ll notice, I said ‘plants’, not ‘cannabis’, and that’s because cannabis is not even close to being the first plant to be established as capable of fighting biofilms. This can be seen in studies like this 2012 investigation into how a number of essential oils can influence biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus. The study found that the essential oils of cassia, red thyme and Peru balsam showed the best results for getting rid of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms, proving more effective than most antibiotics.

The study authors indicated that red thyme and cassia were not tested against MRSA biofilms at that point, but that the essential oils of tea tree, thyme, and peppermint had been, and had already shown to be effective against MRSA biofilms. Basically, the same thing being looked into now with cannabis, was already established with other plants at least eight years ago.

This study from 2019 – as another example – investigated these potentials in the essential oils of cinnamon, marjoram, and thyme, with cinnamon and thyme showing the best inhibitory results.


Watching Western medicine trying to catch up to Eastern medicine is kind of like watching paint dry, or grass grow. For those of us coming from the natural medicine standpoint, it’s a long, frustrating process, with a lot of mishaps, holdups, and misunderstandings. But luckily, things eventually get through, and now, thousands of years after it was established that cannabis antibiotics are effective, it looks like Western medicine is finally taking the bait.

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Why is using THC good for the eyes

These days the list of illnesses that cannabis medicines can be used for grows every day, with research studies being done left and right to test its efficacy against different symptoms and disorders. Most attention is focused on CBD because of its lack of psychoactive effects, while THC is often left out. However, it was found early on that THC is good for the eyes, and has been used to treat conditions like glaucoma for decades.

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Medical cannabis back in the day

Before getting into the restart of medical cannabis in more recent decades, let’s go over some facts about the use of cannabis in medicine. Essentially, it’s been used in medicine for thousands of years, long before it was co-opted by Western medicine in the 1800’s, and then re-introduced once again after a period of enforced illegalization. It’s a part of two of the oldest medicinal traditions, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, both of which have multiple applications for the use of cannabis to treat tons of different ailments. It has been used in many other lesser-known medical traditions as well.

Prior to it being scheduled as a narcotic by the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances which forced a global illegalization, cannabis was being used in all types of Western medicine applications. In fact, it was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1850, but dropped from there in 1937 following the Marijuana Tax act. Before the laws changed, it could be found in tons of products, for almost anything. Most people, of course, had no real understanding of this, but it does show that cannabis was being used very heavily in the world of medicine. Considering how many countries were forced into illegalizing the plant, this was not confined to just the US.

marijuana for the eyes

Cannabis has existed medicinally in essentially three stages. The first was everything up until the 1800’s when it was used in natural medicine traditions. The second stage was the original co-opting of the drug into Western medicine, and the third is the reintroduction back into Western medicine more recently.

It entered Western medicine for the first time in around 1842 when the Irish researcher Dr. William O’Shaughnessy published Bengal Dispensatory and Pharmacopoeia which included an entire 25 pages devoted to cannabis use in medicine. He started studying it back in 1933, when a part of the British East India Company, and saw it as beneficial for use with digestive issues, acute rheumatism, in dealing with pain, and for sedation, among other applications.

The restart of medical cannabis

Over in Israel, Raphael Mechoulam was doing his own thing in the mid-1900’s, publishing a paper on the isolation of THC in 1964, and investigating it for use with a number of illnesses. Research that essentially got pushed underground for decades. There was also Roger Adams, the guy who isolated CBD in 1940, the compound that helped bolster medical cannabis in general by offering a non-psychoactive compound to treat illnesses. Basically, all those things cannabis had already been used for, prior to illegalization, began to be tested through more modern means of medical research. Most of this didn’t make any waves for a long time, until California made the topic an international story.

In the US in 1979, Virginia passed a drug bill to overhaul its system, and this bill allowed for cannabis medications to be prescribed to people with glaucoma and cancer. This was the first modern medical legalization in the US. California pushed harder with a bill solely for cannabis use in medicine in 1996, setting off a flurry of changing regulation in the States with its Proposition 215.

THC is good for the eyes, especially glaucoma

THC and glaucoma

It might not be considered one of its more prevalent uses now, but cannabis use to treat glaucoma was one of the first reasons for its reintroduction into Western medicine. And this because THC has been shown to be good for the eyes. Research into cannabis use for the eyes has been out since the 1970’s, when it was determined that marijuana, and specifically THC, can decrease intraocular pressure, one of the main reasons for glaucoma.

There is more than one type of glaucoma, but the majority of sufferers have POAG – or, primary open-angle glaucoma. It might not be mentioned as much as other disorders, but glaucoma is very widespread, affecting upwards of 60 million people worldwide. Other than age and race, intraocular pressure is the third risk factor for developing the disease, meaning keeping pressures under control is vital, especially as glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts.

The idea that THC can be used to treat glaucoma – AND medically in general! – came about in the mid 70’s when a 26-year-old guy named Robert Randall – who was experiencing advanced glaucoma, which wasn’t being adequately taken care of – noticed the disappearance of halos around lights (caused by his high eye pressures) after smoking marijuana. Randall ended up growing his own marijuana, for which he got caught and arrested, and subsequently faced federal charges.

In the 1976 landmark case The United States vs Randall, Randall successfully argued his case in front of the DC Superior Court, creating “The first successful articulation of the medical necessity defense in the history of the common law, and indeed, the first case to extend the necessity defense to the crimes of possession or cultivation of marijuana.” This made Randall the first legal medical cannabis user since 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act essentially ended cannabis use in medicine, and in general.

smoking cannabis

How else is THC good for the eyes?

Funny enough, THC has an application that we all technically know about already. And if not necessarily ‘good’, with possible medical purpose, at least. Everyone knows that cannabis dries out the eyes. I can personally attest to the fact that my contacts stick right to my eyes when using marijuana. This, in and of itself, isn’t a benefit, but in this study it was shown that THC is good for regulating the lacrimal gland, and this may have positive benefits for people with epiphora, a condition of over-tearing eyes.

In 2004, a study was published on the effects of cannabis on night vision. The study included very few subjects which means it requires more corroboration, however, it did show a positive outcome. In two double blind studies on subjects who smoked kif (here defined as “sifted cannabis sativa mixed with tobacco”), it was noted that night vision improved after smoking. The belief of the investigators is that this is based on dose, and that the effect is mediated at the retinal level. The study used Marinol as its form of THC, in doses of 0-20mg.

One of the issues with THC is that due to the general ban on it, not as much research has been done into it as could have been. Right now there isn’t much research regarding cannabis and cataracts, but there are some connections that might prove promising. For one thing, THC helps reduce inflammation, which is a major characteristic of cataracts, along with elevated blood pressure which cannabis can help to decrease as well.

Another major eye issue, especially among the aging, is macular degeneration. Cannabis can help treat symptoms in many ways. For one, much like with cataracts, it can help with inflammation. Second, it can also inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor, and without the harsh side effects of pharmaceutical medications for this purpose. Third, it lowers intraocular pressure – which is beneficial for glaucoma sufferers too. And fourth, when looking at the psychological factors of having such an eye condition, and the anxiety and depression that can go along with it, cannabis can be useful here as well, helping to ease these symptoms and relax the patient.


As with any other topic related to medical marijuana, there are plenty of articles shouting out about possible damage caused by using it. Anyone interested in using cannabis to treat their eye issues should speak to a professional of some kind, preferably one who understands cannabis medicine. However, that THC can be good for the eyes seems to have been understood for quite some time, though its actual application has been much slower with the pick-up. Perhaps in the future this will change.

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Cannabis & Traditional Chinese Medicine

You don’t hear a lot about cannabis use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but the plant has a long history with the practice. Known as da ma in Chinese medicine, cannabis is considered one of the 50 “fundamental” herbs of TCM.

The Chinese goddess Ma Gu, a name that literally means “hemp maiden,” is associated with longevity and the elixir of life and the Chinese term for anesthesia is composed with the Chinese character that means hemp.

Hua Tuo, a Han Dynasty physician, is credited as the first person to use cannabis as an anesthetic, by mixing the dried and powdered plant with wine for use internally and externally. By utilizing this preparation (known as ma fei san) in conjunction with acupuncture, he was able to perform surgeries and control the pain of his patients.

It is also believed that moxibuxtion — the burning of dried plants next to the skin to stimulate circulation — originally utilized both mugwort and cannabis.

In modern TCM, cannabis or hemp seeds are are often used to treat constipation. Additional uses include relief for menstrual cramps, anxiety, dry cough, asthma and spasms.

Cannabis is said to strengthen the Yin, but is rarely used on its own because using cannabis alone is considered unhealthy and toxic in TCM, as it may cause imbalances in the body.

TCM practitioners do believe however, that excessive cannabis use can cause a deficiency of vitality, overtaxing the liver and costing the body its Yin energy.

Recent studies show that acupuncture also manipulates the endocannabinoid system, increasing endogenous cannabinoid CB2 receptors to upregulate opioids in inflamed skin tissue. A 2009 study showed that inflamed skin tissue treated for pain relief with electro-acupuncture had a statistically relevant increase in anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the human body that binds to the same cell receptors as THC. These studies suggest that combining therapies present in TCM with cannabis use could be successful in treating imbalances in the endocannabinoid system. 

A Century of Humiliation

You may be asking, “If TCM uses cannabis in its practice, why is cannabis use illegal in China?” The answer is colonization and the Opium Wars.

In the mid-19th century, after the defeat of the Qing Dynasty, the British forced China to legalize opium, creating a generation of addicts and weakening the strength of the country. The British government purposely encouraged the opium addiction in order to force trade in China’s ports and weaken the country’s economic foothold in the world — and to make money off opium sales. After Britain gained influence in the country, both the United States and France used China’s weakened state to leverage their power and demand access to its ports for trade.

After decades of healing after the Opium Wars, today’s TCM practitioners are increasingly more willing to partner with their patients and have informed conversations about cannabis use in daily life. One example of this is the fact that the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine at CIIS in San Francisco held a symposium in last year to help better educate practitioners about the medical applications of cannabis and how it might fit into therapies with their patients. This class, which was open to acupuncturists, shows that along with a resurgence of cannabis incorporation in TCM, the curiosity, inquiry and enthusiasm to learn more about this plant has never been more evident.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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