The utilization of cannabis for pain can be traced back to ancient Chinese texts, dating to 2900 B.C. The Shennong Ben Cao Jing, a Chinese encyclopedia on agriculture and medicine, contains the oldest written record of cannabis as a medicine, recommending cannabis for constipation, rheumatic pain, female reproductive tract disorders, and malaria. Furthermore, the plant was used in conjunction with wine to anesthetize patients during surgical procedures. The Chinese mostly utilized cannabis seeds that contained very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main compounds in cannabis thought to have therapeutic effects.9
Around 1000 B.C., more parts of the cannabis plant started to be used medicinally in India. The female plant’s flowers were utilized and three different preparations of cannabis with varying degrees of potency were developed. The strongest preparations were used as an analgesic, hypnotic, tranquilizer, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory agent.
Although the use of cannabis as a medicine in western cultures started off slowly, more than 100 publications on medicinal cannabis were published in Europe and the United States by the end of the 19th century. During that time, the medical indications for cannabis mostly focused on its hypnotic and analgesic effects.