The 6,000-Year History of Medical Cannabis
View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Since the early 20th century, the use of cannabis for any purpose fell out of favor by both regulators and Western culture at large.
In the United States, a wave of regulations made access to cannabis more difficult starting from the late 1900s, ultimately culminating in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively made cannabis use a federal offense. Meanwhile, prohibition in Canada lasted for 85 years until being lifted by recent developments.
Interestingly, however, this recent period of 20th century opposition is actually just a small speck in the wider 6,000-year timeline of cannabis. After all, the plant has been widely regarded for its therapeutic potential for many millennia by different cultures around the world.
6,000 Years of Medical Cannabis
Today’s infographic comes to us from MedReleaf, and it focuses on the medical uses of cannabis discovered by many cultures over time. With uses dating back to Ancient empires such as Rome, Egypt, and China, it helps to put into perspective recent legal and cultural developments regarding cannabis on a broader historical scale.
4000 BC: Pan-p’o village
Cannabis was regarded among “five grains” in China, and was farmed as a major food crop.
2737 BC: Pen Ts’ao Ching
Earliest record of cannabis as a medicinal drug. At this time, Emperor Shen-Nung recognized its treatment properties for over 100 ailments such as gout, rheumatism, and malaria.
2000-1400 BC: Scythians
Nomadic Indo-European peoples used cannabis in steam baths, and also burned cannabis seeds in burial rituals.
2000-1000 BC: Atharva Vedas
Cannabis was described as a “source of happiness”, “joy-giver”, and “bringer of freedom” in these Hindu religious texts. At this time, cannabis was smoked at daily devotional services and religious rituals.
2000-1000 BC: Ayurvedic Medicine
Open religious use of cannabis allowed for exploration of medical benefits. During this period, it was used to treat a variety of ailments such as epilepsy, rabies, anxiety, and bronchitis.
1550 BC: Ebers Papyrus
Egyptian medical papyrus of medical knowledge notes that medical cannabis can treat inflammation.
1213 BC: Ramesses II
Cannabis pollen has been recovered from the mummy of Ramesses II, the Egyptian pharaoh who was mummified after his death in 1213 BC.
900 BC: Assyrians
Employed the psychotropic effects of cannabis for recreational and medical purposes.
450-200 BC: Greco-Roman use
Physician Dioscorides prescribed cannabis for toothaches and earaches. Greek doctor Claudius Galen noted it was widely consumed throughout the empire. Women of the Roman elite also used cannabis to alleviate labor pains.
207 AD: Hua T’o
First recorded physician to describe cannabis as an analgesic. He used a mixture of cannabis and wine to anesthetize patients before surgery.
1000 AD: Treats Epilepsy
Arabic scholars al-Mayusi and al-Badri regard cannabis as an effective treatment for epilepsy.
1025 AD: Avicenna
The medieval Persian medical writer publishes “Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine”, stating that cannabis is an effective treatment for gout, edema, infectious wounds, and severe headaches. His work was widely studied from the 13th to 19th centuries, having a lasting impact on Western medicine.
1300 AD: Arab traders
Arab traders bring cannabis from India to Eastern Africa, where it spreads inland. It is used to treat malaria, asthma, fever, and dysentery.
1500 AD: Spanish Conquest
The Spanish brought cannabis to the Americas, where it was used for more practical purposes like rope or clothes. However, years later, it would be used as a psychoactive and medicinal drug.
Napoleon brought cannabis back to France from Egypt, and it was investigated for its pain relieving and sedative qualities. At this time, cannabis would be used to treat tumors, cough, and jaundice.
1839: William O’Shaughnessy
Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy introduced the therapeutic uses of cannabis to Western medicine. He concluded it had no negative medicinal effects, and the plant’s use in a pharmaceutical context would rapidly rise thereafter.
1900: Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis was used to treat nausea, rheumatism, and labor pain. At this point in time, it is available over-the-counter in medications such as “Piso’s cure” and “One day cough cure”.
1914: Harrison Act
Drug use was declared a crime in the U.S., under the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914.
1937: Marihuana Tax Act
The Marihuana Tax Act banned the use and sales of cannabis in the United States.
1964: Discovery of THC
The molecular structure of THC, an active component of cannabis, was discovered and synthesized by Israeli chemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.
1970: Classified as Schedule 1 Drug
Cannabis became categorized as a Schedule 1 Drug in the U.S., which limited further research into the plant. It was listed as having “no accepted medical use”.
1988: CBD Receptors Discovered
The CBD1 and CBD2 cannabinoid receptors were discovered. Today, we know they are some of the most abundant neuroreceptors in the brain.
2000-2018: Medical cannabis legalization
Governments, such as those of Canada and various states, begin to legalize cannabis for medical purposes from licensed producers. Recreational legalization quickly starts to follow.
Consumer Archetypes Shaping the European CBD Industry
This infographic visualizes the non-consumer and consumer archetypes that could be position Europe as the leader in global cannabis consumption.
Consumer Archetypes Shaping the European CBD Industry
View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.
With a colossal base of 500 million potential cannabis consumers, and laws that are loosening at a steady pace, Europe could soon emerge as the global cannabis leader.
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has become one of the most popular forms of cannabis in the European market, but little is known about the consumers who are reaching for it.
New Frontier Data identified a spectrum of archetypes in an effort to better understand their consumption patterns.
What Makes Europe Different?
Although Europe’s cannabis market is still in early stages, the proximity of countries could be instrumental in how quickly it grows. Widespread legalisation could be accelerated due to neighbouring countries lowering the barriers for others—also known as The Domino Effect.
A total of 22 countries have now legalised some form of medical cannabis, while other countries have decriminalised recreational cannabis or have pledged to fully legalise it in the coming years.
There is a 60% to 70% chance that cannabis will be legal across Europe within the next three years, but more research is key to unlocking growth in this market—and that includes gaining a full understanding of what consumers want.
CBD Consumer Archetypes
New Frontier Data identified five CBD consumer archetypes and four non-consumer archetypes, based on their attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. The CBD consumer archetypes are as follows:
- The Exuberant & Intense (11%): As advocates of the CBD movement, this group is devoted to trying different products and spends more than any other archetype in the process.
- The Integrative & Consistent (29%): CBD has become an essential component in achieving a healthy lifestyle for this group, resulting in them consuming it at least once a week and putting them in second place for highest overall spend.
- The Sceptical & Limited (20%): CBD products are used in moderate frequency, but have not been incorporated into this group’s lifestyle as they are generally wary of health claims. However, more information may soothe the concerns of this group over time.
- The Receptive & Reserved (23%): Consuming a narrow range of products in moderate frequency, this group are more comfortable trying products based on recommendations from friends and family. Over time, as more people in their inner circle try different products, they will also gain confidence to follow.
- The Ambivalent & Experimental (17%): This group will not consider purchasing CBD products themselves, but will consume products when they are shared by friends and family. While their beliefs are more conservative, new products could tempt them to make CBD part of their routine.
Interestingly, up to 98% of surveyed consumers claim that CBD has positively affected their quality of life in some way. In terms of product preferences, tinctures/oils are a consumer favourite, with a large portion of people using CBD to unwind.
Less than half of all non-consumers have heard of CBD. While some of them are not open to changing behaviors, others could soon convert to a consumer archetype, provided information and legalisation becomes more commonplace.
- Unaware & Uninterested (43%): Having never come across CBD products online or in store, this group is broadly uninterested in learning more, but may be open to experimenting as the market becomes more regulated.
- Knowledgeable & Primed (28%): This group expresses a strong belief in the benefits of CBD and their curiosity to learn more makes them the most likely group to become consumers in the next six months.
- Informed & Indifferent (19%): A wide exposure to CBD products does not translate to intent to purchase, potentially due to this group’s lack of awareness regarding CBD’s beneficial properties.
- Cautious & Curious (10%): Despite a strong curiosity towards CBD products, they remain apprehensive about the safety and legality of them.
Overall, 34% of non-consumers are curious about trying CBD products—which could yield significant growth for the cannabis industry in the coming years.
A New Successor to the Throne
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has also sparked major discussion around the use of cannabis. Some parts of the world have declared it as “essential”, as consumers use products to alleviate pandemic-fuelled anxiety, which has resulted in a huge sales boost for the industry.
This will likely translate to Europe, where almost half of CBD consumers claim its therapeutic benefits are their primary reason for use.
The reality is that the potential for European cannabis growth is significant, and to achieve this, both consumer and non-consumer motivations should be considered.
Visualizing the Huge Potential of Minor Cannabinoids
While the broader cannabis market is estimated to reach $45B by 2024, we’ve only scratched the surface in harnessing the potential of minor cannabinoids.
The Huge Potential of Minor Cannabinoids
Hemp and marijuana are increasingly recognized for their exciting investment potential.
Due to their growing list of health benefits, the dominant conversation tends to center around the most abundant cannabinoids—cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As a result, the cannabinoid market is estimated to reach almost $45 billion by 2024.
But CBD and THC are just two cannabinoids out of over a hundred that have been discovered to date. Today’s graphic from Trait Biosciences explores the hidden potential of the lesser-known minor cannabinoids, and illustrates how they fare in comparison to their major counterparts.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in both hemp and marijuana that mimic compounds found in the human endocannabinoid system. This system is made up of a network of receptors that are involved in physiological processes like mood and memory.
When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids interact with these receptors and produce different effects depending on the receptors they bind to. Although over a hundred cannabinoids have been found, they are not all created equally. They are typically divided into two categories:
- Major cannabinoids: More plentiful
- Minor cannabinoids: Less plentiful
Regardless of whether a cannabinoid is categorized as major or minor, every cannabinoid starts out as a form of CBG.
CBG-A: The Mother of All Cannabinoids
Cannabigerolic acid, or as it is more commonly known, CBG-A, is the acid precursor to other cannabinoid acids such as THC-A, and CBD-A. When the acids are exposed to heat, or prolonged UV light, they convert to neutral cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.
While CBG is regarded as a minor cannabinoid, it boasts a wide range of benefits that are urging researchers and scientists to take notice:
- Fights inflammation
- Soothes pain
- Reduces nausea
- Slows the spread of cancer cells
- Helps treat glaucoma
CBG could be hugely beneficial in treating a wide variety of diseases, but it’s just one of many minor cannabinoids that could potentially blow CBD and THC out of the water.
The Potential of Minor Cannabinoids
To date, there has been limited research into the power of minor cannabinoids. However, the results from preliminary research look incredibly promising.
|Cannabinoid||Type||Examples of potential medical application|
|Major, psychoactive||Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases|
|Major, non-psychoactive||Epilepsy, schizophrenia|
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Metabolic disorders, colon cancer
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, nausea, appetite loss
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting (CINV), depression|
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Fungal diseases
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Crohn’s disease, bowel disease, certain cancers
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Seizure prevention, Rett syndrome, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)|
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Osteoporosis, ALS, Muscular dystrophy|
|Minor, non-psychoactive||Could inhibit growth of cancer cells, osteoarthritis, neurological diseases
|Minor, psychoactive||Diabetes, anxiety, PTSD
|Minor, psychoactive||Bacterial infections, ALS ,appetite stimulant
Note: Any potential medical treatment listed here stems from preclinical/animal testing only, and is simply intended to illustrate the potential application of each cannabinoid rather than a proven benefit.
Scientists also recently discovered two new cannabinoids—THC-P and CBD-P—with research showing that THC-P could potentially be 30 times more potent than THC.
The Future of Minor Cannabinoids
FDA-approved CBD drug Epidiolex has sparked a rising interest in minor cannabinoid trials.
In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has committed to providing funding to strengthen the evidence for minor cannabinoids and their pain relieving properties.
Cannabinoids could also add great value to cancer treatment-related side effects, however, more research is needed to turn potential into proof. With the availability of more robust evidence, the potential medical applications for minor cannabinoids could be much greater than we can imagine.
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