In today’s healthcare, a natural remedy has been gaining attention for its potential to ease suffering and improve lives: medical cannabis. With a history dating back thousands of years, it contains compounds promising in addressing various health conditions.
In this guide, you will learn more about the historical significance of medical cannabis, its modern applications, and the changing legal landscape governing its use.
The History of Medical Cannabis
Explore the ancient origins of medical cannabis and the remarkable journey that has brought it to the forefront of modern medicine. Here’s a brief timeline.
1. Ancient Beginnings
In China, around 2737 BCE, the renowned Emperor Shen Nung documented the first known use of cannabis for medical purposes. In this ancient civilization, cannabis was not merely a plant but a revered medicinal agent. Physicians and herbalists recognized the therapeutic potential of cannabis and began incorporating it into their treatments.
It was prescribed for various medical conditions, including pain relief, inflammation reduction, and the alleviation of various ailments. From treating symptoms of arthritis to managing discomfort caused by gout, cannabis played a vital role in improving the health and well-being of individuals in ancient China.
Cannabis in traditional Chinese medicine extended to the balance of the body’s vital energies, known as “Qi.” Practitioners believed that cannabis could help restore harmony within the body and enhance overall vitality.
2. A Gateway to Healing in India
In India, cannabis earned a revered place in Ayurvedic medicine around 1500 BCE. Cannabis, known as “ganja” in Sanskrit, was utilized for its anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and tranquilizing effects. The ancient Indians understood that this plant was more than just a leaf; it was a doorway to wellness.
One of the most well-known cannabis-based concoctions in Ayurvedic medicine is “bhang,” which is still consumed during the festival of Holi in India. Bhang, made from cannabis leaves and flowers, is traditionally used for its medicinal and psychoactive effects.
In the ancient Indian context, cannabis was not seen merely as a medicinal herb but as a gift from the gods, a powerful tool for healing, and a conduit to spiritual experiences. Its integration into Ayurvedic medicine speaks to the belief in the plant’s ability to restore physical and mental well-being.
3. The Middle Eastern Influence
Cross over to the Middle East, where cannabis became a medicinal herb around 2000 BCE. Ancient texts reveal its use in treating various ailments, including epilepsy and pain. The region’s scholars and physicians recognized the healing potential of this remarkable plant.
One notable example is the medieval Persian physician Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina. His influential work, the “Canon of Medicine,” included cannabis as a remedy for various medical conditions. Cannabis-based preparations, known as “hashish,” alleviated pain and discomfort.
Cannabis was also used in traditional Middle Eastern practices to address mental health concerns. It was believed to have calming and sedative effects, making it valuable for conditions related to anxiety and stress.
4. Cannabis in the West
Now, think of ancient Greece and Rome. Even in these Western cradles of civilization, cannabis played a role in medicine. The Greek physician Dioscorides noted its use as a remedy for earaches and inflammation.
Dioscorides’ writings not only highlighted the medical importance of cannabis but also contributed to its integration into the medicinal practices of ancient Greece and Rome. Physicians and herbalists of that era recognized the plant’s therapeutic potential and began incorporating it into their treatments.
5. Cannabis in the New World
Fast forward to the 19th century in the United States, where cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia as a recognized medicine. It was commonly used to treat various conditions, from pain and insomnia to seizures.
One notable example is Sir William Osler, a pioneering physician often referred to as the “Father of Modern Medicine.” He acknowledged the value of cannabis in treating conditions like migraine headaches and advocated for its use in his medical practice.
6. Prohibition and Rediscovery
But then, in the early 20th century, everything changed for cannabis. Prohibition swept across the globe, driven by political and social factors. The plant’s medicinal value was overshadowed by controversy. It’s a story of a fall from grace but not the end.
The prohibition era significantly hindered research into the medical potential of cannabis. Access to cannabis-based medicines became restricted, and its therapeutic use was marginalized. This prohibition lasted for several decades, during which the medical community largely turned away from cannabis in favor of other treatments.
However, the late 20th century and early 21st century witnessed a remarkable rediscovery of the medicinal properties of cannabis. As public attitudes evolved, so did the legal landscape. Some U.S. states began to pass medical cannabis laws, allowing patients with specific medical conditions to access cannabis-based treatments under the supervision of healthcare professionals.
Access to Medical Cannabis In Australia
How to get medical cannabis in Australia is a question that shows things are changing regarding who can use cannabis for health reasons in the country. In Australia, the rules for getting medical cannabis are a bit complicated. They’re designed to ensure it’s used safely by people who need it for certain health problems. Here’s an overview of the steps to get medical cannabis in Australia:
Consultation with a Medical Practitioner
The first step is to consult a medical practitioner authorized to prescribe medical cannabis. Depending on your medical condition, this can be a general practitioner (GP) or a specialist.
Assessment of Eligibility
Your healthcare provider will assess your medical condition and determine if medical cannabis is a suitable treatment option. In Australia, medical cannabis is typically prescribed for conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and certain forms of cancer.
Referral to a Specialist (If Required)
Sometimes, your GP may refer you to a specialist with expertise in your medical condition. The specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.
Application to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
If the medical practitioner believes medical cannabis is a suitable treatment, they will apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for approval to prescribe medical cannabis. The TGA is the regulatory body responsible for overseeing the use of therapeutic goods in Australia.
TGA Approval and SAS-B Approval
Once the TGA approves the application, you will receive a Special Access Scheme (SAS-B) approval, which allows your healthcare provider to prescribe medical cannabis for your specific medical condition.
Discussion of Treatment Plan
Your healthcare provider will discuss the details of your treatment plan, including the type of medical cannabis product, dosage, and administration method.
With the SAS-B approval, you can obtain the prescribed medical cannabis product from a licensed pharmacy or an authorized distributor. Medical cannabis products in Australia are subject to strict quality and safety standards.
Ongoing Monitoring and Follow-Up
Your healthcare provider will closely monitor your progress and adjust the treatment plan. Regular follow-up appointments are essential to ensure the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis as a treatment.
Continuing Conversation on Medical Cannabis
Beyond the historical and scientific aspects, medical cannabis is about giving individuals more control over their health. It’s about making informed choices when traditional treatments fall short and advocating for access to a natural remedy that has been healing people for centuries.
While the world continues to evolve its understanding of medical cannabis, remember that knowledge is your ally. Whether you’re a patient, a caregiver, or simply curious about this topic, the discussion around medical cannabis remains ongoing.
It’s a discussion that weaves together science, history, and the personal experiences of countless individuals who have found relief and hope through this ancient plant.