Cannabis Usage in Ancient Herbal Traditions

Hemp Usage Across the Globe

We love hemp and we’re not alone. In fact, humans have been using hemp for fuel, fiber and food for literally thousands of years. And it’s been used in countries across the globe for a variety of reasons. India, South America, China and the United States all have long histories of using the hemp plant. Many even cite hemp as the world’s first cultivated crop.

Although the herbal traditions vary in all of these locations there are common threads when it comes to usage of the hemp plant. For example, the seeds are so nutritious, and tasty, they are often used as food. Now we know that the seeds contain health supporting nutrients including a balanced ratio of omega fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants.

Cannabis in the U.S.

Everywhere the plant grows the fiber has been used. For example, in the United States our first American flag was made out of hemp fiber. The Declaration of Independence is written on hemp paper and indeed, during the colonial days if you were a landowner, growing hemp was required. It was that important to the expanding economy and commerce.

Eventually, hemp was outlawed in the United States. but fortunately, it’s back! When the Farm Bill of 2018 passed hemp was removed from Schedule 1 drug classification and legalized at the federal level. Previously, hemp could only be grown in Kentucky, then after the passage of the bill, 46 states could legally grow this valuable plant once again.

Cannabis in India

Meanwhile, in India, cannabis (hemp is a cannabis plant) is called vijaya or siddhi in Sanskrit. It is considered one of the five most sacred plants and a source of happiness and joy. For centuries this sacred plant has been especially used by the holy men and women often referred to as Sadhus, who follow the guidance of Lord Shiva. This lineage of mystics sometimes imbibe in the cannabis plant to help usher them into higher states of consciousness. Smoking the herb, drinking a beverage called bhang, or consuming it in other ways is said to help in yogic meditations to create a link between heaven and earth.

As with virtually all herbal traditions, in Ayurveda cannabis is considered beneficial but ONLY in moderation. Too much of a good thing is not good…at all and can have the opposite of the desired effects.

The Ayurvedic usages, which date back over 2,000 years, include using it as an aphrodisiac, for supporting healthy inflammation and a balanced stress response. These are common usages found throughout the world where the plant naturally grows or is cultivated.

Cannabis in China

In Traditional Chinese Herbalism cannabis is used to balance both yin and yang, which are the elements that create balance in the human body. Yin is considered the feminine energy and yang the masculine. When these two are in balance, health is supported.

In China, the first written description of hemp is found in the ancient text of Emperor Shen-Nung from 2737 BCE. The emperor developed topical applications and teas that he wrote about in this historic and beloved text. He used the plant for a variety of maladies.

Although, like in Ayurveda, if too much is consumed an imbalance and challenge to health can occur. Moderation is key.