Cannabis use for medicinal purposes dates back at least 3,000 years.[1-5] It was introduced into Western medicine in 1839 by W.B. O’Shaughnessy, a surgeon who learned of its medicinal properties while working in India for the British East India Company. Its use was promoted for reported analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and anticonvulsant effects.
In the past few years, just such a cure has seemingly presented itself. Amid the less common remedies that can be found on the internet—special diets, meditation, biofeedback, surgical implants—a new product has recently gained prominence: CBD oil (sometimes known simply as “hemp oil”), so named for its chief chemical compound, cannabidiol, which occurs naturally in cannabis plants. In online forums and news articles, CBD has been hailed as a new frontier in epilepsy treatment, with parents testifying that it managed to stop their children’s seizures when nothing else could.
There are also other difficulties in researching the effects of cannabis. Many people who smoke cannabis also smoke tobacco. This causes confounding factors, where questions arise as to whether the tobacco, the cannabis, or both that have caused a cancer. Another difficulty researchers have is in recruiting people who smoke cannabis into studies. Because cannabis is an illegal drug in many countries, people may be reluctant to take part in research, and if they do agree to take part, they may not say how much cannabis they actually smoke.
Cannabis plants produce a unique family of terpeno-phenolic compounds called cannabinoids, some of which produce the "high" which may be experienced from consuming marijuana. There are 483 identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in the cannabis plant, and at least 85 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the plant. The two cannabinoids usually produced in greatest abundance are cannabidiol (CBD) and/or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but only THC is psychoactive. Since the early 1970s, Cannabis plants have been categorized by their chemical phenotype or "chemotype", based on the overall amount of THC produced, and on the ratio of THC to CBD. Although overall cannabinoid production is influenced by environmental factors, the THC/CBD ratio is genetically determined and remains fixed throughout the life of a plant. Non-drug plants produce relatively low levels of THC and high levels of CBD, while drug plants produce high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. When plants of these two chemotypes cross-pollinate, the plants in the first filial (F1) generation have an intermediate chemotype and produce intermedite amounts of CBD and THC. Female plants of this chemotype may produce enough THC to be utilized for drug production.
Karl W. Hillig, a graduate student in the laboratory of long-time Cannabis researcher Paul G. Mahlberg at Indiana University, conducted a systematic investigation of genetic, morphological, and chemotaxonomic variation among 157 Cannabis accessions of known geographic origin, including fiber, drug, and feral populations. In 2004, Hillig and Mahlberg published a chemotaxonomic analysis of cannabinoid variation in their Cannabis germplasm collection. They used gas chromatography to determine cannabinoid content and to infer allele frequencies of the gene that controls CBD and THC production within the studied populations, and concluded that the patterns of cannabinoid variation support recognition of C. sativa and C. indica as separate species, but not C. ruderalis. The authors assigned fiber/seed landraces and feral populations from Europe, Central Asia, and Turkey to C. sativa. Narrow-leaflet and wide-leaflet drug accessions, southern and eastern Asian hemp accessions, and feral Himalayan populations were assigned to C. indica. In 2005, Hillig published a genetic analysis of the same set of accessions (this paper was the first in the series, but was delayed in publication), and proposed a three-species classification, recognizing C. sativa, C. indica, and (tentatively) C. ruderalis. In his doctoral dissertation published the same year, Hillig stated that principal components analysis of phenotypic (morphological) traits failed to differentiate the putative species, but that canonical variates analysis resulted in a high degree of discrimination of the putative species and infraspecific taxa. Another paper in the series on chemotaxonomic variation in the terpenoid content of the essential oil of Cannabis revealed that several wide-leaflet drug strains in the collection had relatively high levels of certain sesquiterpene alcohols, including guaiol and isomers of eudesmol, that set them apart from the other putative taxa. Hillig concluded that the patterns of genetic, morphological, and chemotaxonomic variation support recognition of C. sativa and C. indica as separate species. He also concluded there is little support to treat C. ruderalis as a separate species from C. sativa at this time, but more research on wild and weedy populations is needed because they were underrepresented in their collection.
Australia's National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) states that the buds (flowers) of the female cannabis plant contain the highest concentration of THC, followed by the leaves. The stalks and seeds have "much lower THC levels". The UN states that leaves can contain ten times less THC than the buds, and the stalks one hundred times less THC.
Marijuana or marihuana (herbal cannabis), consists of the dried flowers and subtending leaves and stems of the female Cannabis plant. This is the most widely consumed form, containing 3% to 20% THC, with reports of up-to 33% THC. This is the stock material from which all other preparations are derived. Although herbal cannabis and industrial hemp derive from the same species and contain the psychoactive component (THC), they are distinct strains with unique biochemical compositions and uses. Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of CBD, which decreases the psychoactive effects
Fig. 25. The “hemp house” under construction on the Oglala Lakota Nation (Pine Ridge Reservation), South Dakota. Foundation blocks for the house are made with hemp fiber as a binder in cement. Stucco is also of hemp. Shingles are 60% hemp in a synthetic polymer. Hemp insulation is used throughout. (Courtesy of Oglala Sioux Tribe, Slim Butte Land Use Association, and S. Sauser.)
According to researchers, 25 percent of all cancer patients use medical marijuana. Cancer patients are finding relief from medical cannabis. And they want to know more about it. Research conducted at St. George’s University of London, found the two most common cannabinoids in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), weakened the ferocity of cancer cells and made them more susceptible to radiation treatment. Other studies have shown that medical marijuana treatments can slow the growth of cancer cells and halt their spread to other parts of the body.
It was the seizures that tipped Penny off that something wasn’t right with Harper after she and her husband Dustin brought her home from the hospital as a newborn. Several months later, having tried a battery of epilepsy medications and still without a diagnosis, Penny and Dustin flew to Boston with Harper to see an expert in infant seizures. It was there they first heard of CDKL5. “This is the point where life changed significantly,” Penny said, “because now we had this diagnosis. You know, this abnormality in our family that we cannot fix.”
The use of Cannabis as a mind-altering drug has been documented by archaeological finds in prehistoric societies in Eurasia and Africa. The oldest written record of cannabis usage is the Greek historian Herodotus's reference to the central Eurasian Scythians taking cannabis steam baths. His (c. 440 BCE) Histories records, "The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed [presumably, flowers], and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy." Classical Greeks and Romans were using cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. In 1545, cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fiber. In North America, cannabis, in the form of hemp, was grown for use in rope, clothing and paper.
The earliest recorded uses date from the 3rd millennium BC. Since the early 20th century, cannabis has been subject to legal restrictions. The possession, use, and sale of cannabis is illegal in most countries of the world. Medical cannabis refers to the physician-recommended use of cannabis, which takes place in Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and 31 U.S. states. In September 2018 cannabis was legalized in South Africa while Canada legalized recreational use of cannabis in October 2018.
Dehulled (i.e. hulled) hemp seed is a very recent phenomenon, first produced in quantity in Europe. Hemp seeds have been used as food since ancient times, but generally the whole seed, including the hull, was eaten. Hemp seed was a grain used in ancient China, although there has been only minor direct use of hemp seed as food by humans. In the past, hemp seed has generally been a food of the lower classes, or a famine food. Peanut-butter type preparations have been produced from hemp seed in Europe for centuries, but were rather gritty since technology for removing the hulls was rudimentary. Modern seed dehulling using mechanical separation produces a smooth, white, gritless hemp seed meal that needs no additional treatment before it is consumed. It is important to understand, therefore, that the quality of modern hemp seed for human consumption far exceeds anything produced historically. This seed meal should be distinguished from the protein-rich, oil-poor seed cake remaining after oil has been expressed, that is used for livestock feed. The seed cake is also referred to as “seed meal,” and has proven to be excellent for animals (Mustafa et al. 1999).
In 1976, Canadian botanist Ernest Small and American taxonomist Arthur Cronquist published a taxonomic revision that recognizes a single species of Cannabis with two subspecies: C. sativa L. subsp. sativa, and C. sativa L. subsp. indica (Lam.) Small & Cronq. The authors hypothesized that the two subspecies diverged primarily as a result of human selection; C. sativa subsp. sativa was presumably selected for traits that enhance fiber or seed production, whereas C. sativa subsp. indica was primarily selected for drug production. Within these two subspecies, Small and Cronquist described C. sativa L. subsp. sativa var. spontanea Vav. as a wild or escaped variety of low-intoxicant Cannabis, and C. sativa subsp. indica var. kafiristanica (Vav.) Small & Cronq. as a wild or escaped variety of the high-intoxicant type. This classification was based on several factors including interfertility, chromosome uniformity, chemotype, and numerical analysis of phenotypic characters.