Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis

  • Vera Rubin


An Associated Press dispatch, headlined “Pot the Health Food,” reported that a young man charged with possession of ten pounds of marihuana claimed that he was a vegetarian and protested the seizure of his food supply. This was described in the news item as “a novel defense” (New York Post, August 13, 1975).


ChroniC Otitis Medium Cannabis Sativa Antibiotic Effect Hemp Seed Indian Hemp 
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    Francois Rabelais learned about cannabis cultivation on the estate of his father who “grew much hemp on his property” (Stearn, in press).Google Scholar
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    The “fictionalized version of the plant (named) after his giant hero” Pantagruel (Grinspoon, 1971: 33).Google Scholar
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    Cannabis sativa is known by many names in different world areas. Ganja, the Hindi term, is prevalent in areas where the plant, and possibly the complex surrounding its multipurpose uses, was diffused from India.Google Scholar
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    O’shaughnessy (1842) and other 19th-century Western physicians reported on the beneficial therapeutic effects of cannabis as an anticonvulsant. Reports which “suggest that marijuana may possess an anticonvulsant effect in human epilepsy” are cited in a recent article by Consroe, Wood, and Buchsbaum (1975).Google Scholar
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    This information appears in a Russian publication, by L. V. Antzyferov, “Hashish in Central Asia,” Journal of Socialist Health Care in Uzbekstan (1934).Google Scholar
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    Some of the medicinal uses reported are for: aches/pains, arthritis, asthma, “blood pressure,” breathing difficulties, constipation, chest pains, eardrops, “bad eyes,” fever, “fits,” gonorrhea (also taken as a prophylactic), “heart,” headaches, indigestion, kidneys, malaria (with other “bush”), marasmus (in newborn), “bad skin,” swellings and yaws. Poultices made of dried leaves of ganja ashes are used to treat open wounds/ulcers. Tea/tonic users may consume as much as the equivalent of 2–3 spliffs (ganja cigarettes) daily. Healing practices by Fundamentalist cult leaders include medication with folk herbals, of which ganja is a “secret” ingredient, although ganja use per se is proscribed.Google Scholar
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    The term “hemp,” generally associated with the use of cannabis for manufactured products, is a generic synonym for cannabis in Eastern Europe.Google Scholar
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    As is well known, it was also extensively used in Western medicine during the nineteenth century and was included in the pharmacopoeia of the United States (extractum cannabis) from 1850 until 1942.Google Scholar
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    Dr. Kabelik notes that “the male bushy types of hemp with big headed blooms” are suitable for hashish and seeds, “and especially for antibiotic properties.” He adds, “It is interesting to note that in older times they considered that the hemp which carried seeds was the female type” (Kabelik, 1955: 7).Google Scholar
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    Louis Harris has suggested that THC “may lead to new drugs to prevent transplant rejection and to combat cancer” (Newsweek, September 2, 1974). Dr. Sallan (Harvard University) has used THC effectively as an anti-emetic agent in cancer therapy (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 14, 1975), and Drs. Butler and Regelson have demonstrated the anti-depressant effects in delta-9-THC in terminal cancer patients (New York Post, September 20, 1974).Google Scholar
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    However, the full report of the study of chronic marihuana use by Dr. Jack H. Mendelson (Harvard University), funded by the U. S. Army, which has now been released, refutes the “amotivational” allegations: “No impairment in motivation to work for money even when users smoked a large number of marijuana cigarettes” is one of the conclusions listed in the abstract. The Journal notes that the Mendelson report “clearly substantiates many of the conclusions drawn in the Jamaica-Ganja study.” (The Journal, November 1, 1975, published by the Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto).Google Scholar


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vera Rubin
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Institute for the Study of ManNew YorkUSA

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