Marijuana: History notes

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 5:07 pm

Until 1937, when the United States ruled that marijuana was an illegal substance, cannabis was an accepted, if often ineffective, medication. The following are excerpts from medical journals and pharmacopoeias that show some of the far-fetched afflictions for which cannabis was prescribed — and also how much medical progress has been made in the last century.
The July 4, 1891, British Medical Journal reports that Indian hemp was frequently prescribed for “a form of insanity peculiar to women, caused by mental worry of moral shock, in which it clearly acts as a psychic anodyne [tranquilizer] — [it] seems to remove the mental distress and unrest.”
In 1898, King’s American Dispensatory called Cannabis indica “one of the most important of our remedies,” particularly for “marked nervous depression. … [I]t has been efficient in delirium tremens, wakefulness in fevers, neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, infantile convulsions, low mental conditions, insanity … [a]cute mania and dementia, epilepsy, hysterical catalepsy, cerebral softening (with potassium bromide), anemia of the cerebral cortex, paralysis agitans and senile tremors… [I]n mental disturbances the guides to its use are mental oppression, a dull, drowsy, or stupid countenance (a dreamy condition), with dizziness and violent throbbings in the head, and a morbid fear of becoming insane.”
In 1902, A Compend of Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Prescription Writing prescribed “Cannabis indica — Indian hemp” for a variety of colorful conditions: Uterine affections, as chronic metritis [inflammation of the womb], subinvolution, menorrhagia, dysmenorrhoea [painful menstruation], etc., — its powers as an anodyne and stimulant of the uterine muscular fibre render it a very efficient agent.”
The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, recommended cannabis for: “Marked nervous depression … wakefulness in fevers; insomnia, with brief periods of sleep, disturbed by unpleasant dreams; … mental illusions; hallucinations; cerebral anemia from spasm of cerebral vessels; palpitation of the heart, with sharp, stitching pain; and menstrual headache, with great nervous depression.”

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