The plant known as cannabis sativa or marijuana did not always have a negative reputation among people around the world. In fact, the millions who view this as a harmless, even helpful, herb today would have fit in comfortably almost anywhere on the globe over the past few thousand years.

In fact, cannabis is known as the only plant found on planet Earth that provides a very useful fiber while at the same time giving the human population an often-desirable drug. These two important properties were well know as early as two thousand years B.C. In China, writings show that some in that country knew of cannabis as being important in pharmacology. Mid-Asian populations were also aware of this, as records from about 650 B.C. indicate.

History also records that the ancient Greek people depended on alcoholic mixes instead of cannabis. But this common plant was traded with others who used it daily, both as a smoke and by eating it. Some even used it at this time in a sort of sauna room, with the writer Herodotus calling this a wonderful vapor. Some populations had access to enough cannabis that they were able to throw plants onto a communal fire. The people would then sit at this fire and inhale the smoke. History records that this activity often led to singing and dancing, not surprising considering the chemical properties of the plant.

But the medicinal properties of cannabis were not the only reason this plant was popular with people around the world. The fiber of the cannabis plant is well known to be very strong and easy to work with. In fact, the plant also known as hemp has been used for clothing, accessories such as shoulder bags, and for coverings of all types for hundreds of years.

Researchers have found that the plant’s dual use spread from the native countries in which it grew. People in Africa have also known about the drug and clothing uses of cannabis for hundreds of years. Some populations have not only used it to lessen the pain of childbirth, but also include grindings in breads. It is interesting to note that cannabis smoke has been popular with those who travel or work over long periods. Taking a cannabis break was a common activity in some African countries. Today, cannabis use takes a back seat only to such common drugs as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.

History and legal records also record that there have been efforts to eliminate cannabis use for several hundred years. But in many cases, these actions were directed at nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as well as cannabis. Dictionary and encyclopedia information shows that the plant is also known as marijuana, marihuana or ganja.

The active chemical in marijuana, isolated only in more recent years, is commonly known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinal). Most people who use cannabis get access to its pharmacological properties by smoking the flowering part of the plant and the leaves. Finely ground parts of the plant are also included in various recipes.


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Lucas Beaumont
Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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