L'histoire du cannabis

The history of cannabis


From antiquity to the present day, cannabis has forged an undeniable connection with humanity, from imperial China to medieval Persia, to its adoption in modern Western medicine. Discover a fascinating insight into this long history here.

The use of cannabis dates back at least six millennia. The first traces of its cultivation were discovered in China, where, as early as 4000 BC, in the village of Pan-p'o, it was used to produce textiles, ropes, paper and oil. In -2727, Emperor Shen Nong, considered one of the fathers of Chinese medicine, mentioned it for the first time in a pharmacopoeia text, listing more than 365 natural remedies in his work 'The Treatise on Medicinal Herbs' (Pen Tsao King).


Cannabis has traveled the globe over the centuries, finding medicinal, religious and/or recreational uses in various civilizations, from the Assyrians to the Roman Empire, from Egypt to the Persians, including the Arabian Peninsula. In 1500, during the Spanish conquest and the slave trade, it entered South America, marking a new stage in its diffusion throughout the world.



The history of cannabis in modern Western medicine takes root in the 19th century, when English and Irish doctors, after their travels in India, brought it back to their respective countries. In 1839, the Irish doctor William Brooke O'Shaughnessy, in a scientific publication, highlighted the analgesic and sedative properties of cannabis. His work, confirmed by his successors, opened the way to its therapeutic use in Western medicine. Even Queen Victoria considered it one of her 'most precious medicines' in the 1890s.

French doctors also helped introduce cannabis to the West, bringing the plant back from Egypt. Among them, Jacques-Joseph Moreau, who used it as a sedative and analgesic for his psychiatric patients and who founded the 'hashishin club' in 1844.

This is how medicinal cannabis experienced a flourishing period between 1840 and 1920, integrating the Western pharmacopoeia and appearing in the product portfolios of the major laboratories of the time.



At the turn of the 20th century, the medical use of cannabis began to decline. This development is due to the emergence of new medical advances such as vaccines, synthetic painkillers and the introduction of hypodermic syringes for the administration of opiates such as morphine. Additionally, the arrival of the first blockbuster drug, aspirin, contributed to this decline.

On the other hand, the recreational use of cannabis is experiencing significant growth, which is causing growing concern among American authorities. This leads to a real propaganda campaign against the plant. As a result, cannabis was removed from the American pharmacopoeia in 1941, followed by other European countries in the early 1950s.

Although prohibition has a negative impact on the medical use and research of cannabis, it does little to curb its recreational use. At the end of the 1960s, during the hippie era, cannabis consumption experienced an unprecedented explosion.




Over the past two decades, a notable legislative trend has emerged: the growing recognition of medical cannabis as a legitimate therapeutic option. Canada was a pioneer in first allowing access to medical cannabis for certain groups of patients. This initiative was followed by several national governments and American states, thus restoring access to this plant for therapeutic purposes.

Other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, have also taken steps in this direction. These regulatory developments pave the way for potential relief for many patients suffering from various pathologies. Additionally, they encourage continued scientific research into the medical properties and applications of cannabis, which could lead to new discoveries and therapeutic innovations in the near future.

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