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The History Of Medicinal Cannabis In The World And Thailand

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The Medicinal Use of Cannabis

 Medicinal cannabis is one of the oldest and earliest plants cultivated by men. The plant has been used for medicinal purposes and to counter physical and mental diseases since the beginning of history. We can see from various sources that medicinal treatment with cannabis had been practised in Asia even before the Westerners started their trade network there.

Cannabis Use Throughout History

 The first known usage of cannabis in China was in 2737 BC. Archaeologists have discovered that this plant has been cultivated since 4000 BC. Even in the tomb of Emperor Wu, who was one of the most important Chinese emperors, samples of weaving and paper made from cannabis were found. The medicinal introduction of cannabis to the West was in the middle of the 19th century, and in the last 10 years of the same century, making medicinal interventions with cannabis reached their peak.

Here are some diseases which were treated and noted by cannabis in Ancient China:

*Rheumatic pains

*Intestinal constipation

*Female reproductive system disorders


Also, in Ancient China, wine was added to cannabis and used as an anaesthetic to numb patients before their surgeries.

 The thought that cannabis is something that affects people’s minds can be seen in Chinese texts: “If the essence of cannabis is eroded, it is certain that in the long run one will communicate with demons and spirits and see some visions, and it will also lighten one’s body…”. Aside from this quote, there are very few quotes about the use of cannabis in ancient Chinese texts. The accepted explanation is that cannabis was associated with shamanism, the religion of people from Central Asia in those times. During the Han Dynasty in Ancient China, such use of cannabis was scarcely any, and the belief in this religion dwindled. The Chinese preferred to use cannabis for medicinal interventions, not for a psychological quest, and the medicinal use of cannabis continues in China. Chinese physicians continue to use cannabis as a laxative.

 Chinese writers first mentioned cannabis, and Chinese people still use cannabis. However, cannabis there has less significance than it got in India. The Indians did not restrict the use of cannabis as medicine and also used it for recreational purposes. In addition, cannabis was sometimes described by Indian writers as a sacred plant and used in religious rituals. They believed that cannabis was a liberating substance. For the Indians, the use of cannabis probably started around 1000 BC. Indians used this plant for its various functions. Such as:






*Antibiotic (topical use on skin infections, erysipelas, tuberculosis)




*Appetite stimulant


*Aphrodisiac or anaphrodisiac


*Expectorant (relieving bronchitis and asthma)

 While Indians speak highly of cannabis, there was a country where it was traditionally considered sacred as well: Tibet. Because in Buddhism, cannabis has been used for meditation. Some historical findings show that the Assyrians also used cannabis for its well-known psychoactive effects and used it as incense since the 9th century BC. Also, in Persia, research shows that cannabis has been used in this area since ancient times. Persians had researched all the plant’s effects and divided them into good and bad uses.

 On the other hand, historical research in Western Europe confirms that Europeans also used cannabis before the spread of Christianity. It has been learned that traders from Central Asia marketed the plant. In 450 BC, Herodotus wrote about a funeral that was held with the burning of cannabis. They mourned and commemorated the dead with the smoke from this event. This story was also historically confirmed by archaeologists who, in the following years, found charred cannabis seeds in Scythian tombs. However, pieces of evidence of the use of cannabis by the Greeks and Romans are almost non-existent. Only two references show that these people used seed juice for the pain in the ears and to drive out the insects.

graves with cannabis seeds

 The medicinal use of cannabis had gathered much influence in India, and then it spread to the Middle East and Africa. In Arabia, well-known physicians (such as Ibn Sina/Avicenna) occasionally mentioned cannabis in their medicinal texts. In 1464, a prominent palace physician noted that the caliph’s son, who had epilepsy, was cured by cannabis. However, he added in his notes that cannabis had made him addicted, and he could not go on for the rest of his life without that “medicine.” In Africa, cannabis has been known since at least the 15th century. It is estimated that cannabis was spread in this country by Arab traders who ventured into Africa. The findings which prove this point came from the similarities between the terms of preparing cannabis in these two regions. 

 South America was the first place where cannabis was used in Americas. The plant spread to Brazil during the 16th century and among Western medicine between the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the beginning of the 19th century, physicians have written reports on the use of cannabis in medicinal fields. Despite this, cannabis entered Western medicine in its most effective form in the middle of the 19th century. And this happened through the works of Willian B. O’Shaughnessy, an Irish physician, and the book by Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a French psychiatrist.

 The effects of cannabis are widely known in Southern Africa, South America, Turkey, Egypt, the Middle East, Asia, India, and the neighbouring Malay, Burmese, and Siamese regions. In most countries, cannabis is more popular as a narcotic because they use it for vice, entertainment, and crime. However, in Western Europe, cannabis is used for medicinal purposes. Although it was widely used in the past, cannabis continues to be used as a last resort today. In the 20th century and the century we live in, as medicine has advanced more in terms of physical treatments, cannabis has been used more for mental treatments and to numb or slow down mental illnesses, since the 20th century. Therefore, the use of cannabis for the last two centuries has been handled by people who are more in pursuit of pleasure. Before medicine advanced, this hedonistic use was limited to small groups only. But primarily since the 1960s, this unplanned use has spread, especially among young people. In just forty years, unplanned cannabis use has increased by seventy per cent, even in young people alone.

Cannabis Use in Thailand

 In Thailand, cannabis has been used as a medicinal ingredient for centuries. But Thailand began to ban the plant, as many other countries did in the 19th century. First, in 1934, a law made it a crime to use the plant. About forty years later, cannabis was named a narcotic and included in this group. However, in the following years, social movements toward the liberalization of cannabis began to emerge. One of the political parties took these movements into account and became government policies after the 2018 general elections. The new government that took power took action to allow the usage of cannabis for medicinal purposes. In February 2019, the government updated the narcotics law. From February to May of that year, a ninety-day amnesty was declared for cannabis owners. In addition, the usage of cannabis was already widespread in Thailand and was often used as an ailment. It has been used against headaches, insomnia, and cancer.

 The Thai government took action to reduce the trouble and negative consequences that may arise due to the legalization in 2019. A review system was established to carefully and closely monitor the production, prescribing, and use of cannabis. To ensure safety, the Ministry of Health and the FDA have worked hard to establish a supply chain that extends from the plant’s cultivation process to patient use.

The legalized types of Cannabis in Thailand were divided into three categories:

In June 2019, medicinal-grade CBMs were legalized and started to be produced by two producers: Government Pharmaceutical Organization and Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, a public hospital which acts as a centre of integration between Western medicine and Thai traditional medicine (TTM) in 3 formulae:

  1. High THC that contains 13 mg/mL THC;
  2. High CBD that contains 100 mg/mL CBD;
  3. THC:CBD 1:1 mixture, which has 27 mg/mL THC and 25 mg/mL CBD in itself.

 The second category relates to TTM products that contain cannabis as an active ingredient. There were 16 formulae selected by the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM) based on the TTM manuals, which were proposed for various conditions, including insomnia, stroke, muscle spasm, poor appetite, and chronic pain. Although the composition of cannabis in TTM formulas was claimed to be minimal, there was apparent batch-to-batch variability in THC content, implying that stricter oversight of manufacturing quality control was required.

 The third category is folk medicine products made by registered folk healers. However, the researchers who work on projects that emerged after the legalization of cannabis say the third category still has some details to be developed.


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About author
Cenk Cetin is a cannabis tech entrepreneur based in Thailand. He is dedicated to the digital transformation of retailers and has a can-do mentality to any task related.
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