The Chinese Roots of Medical Cannabis

This is part two in my series on cannabis history in the United States. It is a deeper dive into the medical benefits of cannabis that the scientific community has discovered.

Shennong was a legendary Emperor of China around 2700 B.C. His name means Divine Farmer or Divine Husbandman. He is also widely known as the “God of Chinese herbal medicine”. There is no written history of him because he lived before people could write. Therefore, they did not keep historical records yet. He is apocryphal and has attained the status of a god. He spent his life sampling the rich plant life that abounded in the territory that now bears his name, the Shennogjia Forestry District (In July of 2016, UNESCO added it to their World Heritage list.). He is credited with creating Chinese herbal medicine.

It would not be for anther 2000 years that his name would be attached to herbal medicine. Several authors decided to write down the “earliest complete pharmacopeia references and lists an astonishing 365 Chinese medicines” (100 of those medicines would include cannabis) in 220 BC. They placed Shennong as the author of Shennong Bencaojing to honor him as the father of Chinese Medicine.

shennong1Soon after this book was published, there was another doctor in the region who understood the benefits of cannabis. Hua Tuo lived around 108 BC. Some say that he invented the first anesthetic when he mixed cannabis with wine, called Mafesan. He was also familiar with acupuncture, which has long been used to treat pain and restore the flow of qi in the body. It is possible that the herb used for moxibustion was cannabis, not mugwort. If this is true, then the medical benefits of cannabis and acupuncture are largely unexplored currently.

People have recognized acupuncture to be a useful treatment for inflammatory pain for a long time. Medicine recognizes that electroacupuncture (EA) “has been regarded as an alternative treatment for inflammatory pain for several decades”. EA has been connected to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in therapy. A 2012 EA study concluded that “Our results suggest that EA reduces inflammatory pain and proinflammitory cytokines in inflamed skin tissues through activation of CB2Rs”

Research on how EA interacts with CB1 receptors has been done for depressed suicide victims, alcoholic withdrawal, and mice with arthritis. A 2004 Molecular Psychiatry article documented “the mood and cognition altering ability of exogenous cannabinoids and alcohol, and the association between depression, suicide and alcohol abuse raise the question whether endogenous cannabinodergic system plays any role in the etiology of depression and suicidal behavior.” The study concluded by saying that “the upregulation of CB1 receptors…strongly suggests a role for the participation of abnormal endocannabinoidergic neurotransmission in the etiology of depression and suicide. The pharmacological manipulation of endocannabinoid system may serve as a new therapeutic target in the treatment of depression.”

The Shanghai First People’s Hospital School of Medicine did a study in 2013 that was based on “Accumulating evidence… that the CB1 and dopamine systems sometimes interact and may operate synergistically in rat striatum…D1/D2 receptors are involved in EA analgesia.” Their conclusion was that “a strong activation of the CB1 receptor after repeated EA resulted in the concomitant phenomenon of the upregulation of D1 and D2 levels of gene expression”.

Cannabis use in Chinese medicine is as old as Chinese medicine itself. Now, as Eastern medicine comes from the west and Western Medicine comes from the east, we are at the convergence of a key herbal remedy that has been known for millennia.

Up next in the series: The Endocannanibinoid System.


South Park has a Dispensary!

Wise Cannabis CO
21950 Highway 285
Fairplay, CO 80440

Grade: A

It is Rec only. Is that still a dispensary?

A new dispensary in Alma inspired me to go on another mountaintop jaunt for herbs. Alma is a  short and beautiful drive from Breckinridge. It is just over the Hoosier (?) Pass and the road winds down the backside of the mountain.   As I approached the location, I recognized the logo to be one of the cleverly named strain wise dispensary logos. I was duped. I was this far, however and I wasn’t going back empty handed. There was a spot just south of FairPlay that I noticed recently; today was the day to see how it measured up.

I continued to South Park, hopeful and happy.

img_5394When I pulled up, I was mortified to see it was called Wise. I was instantly paranoid and ready to head back to Breckinridge empty handed. “Strainwise is down here too”, I thought “Damn”. Despite my hesitation, I went in and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

The inside space is quite large. The bud counter is against the back wall, and the main room had a couple of vertical display cases for their glassware. They had a lot of locally made things for sale. The walls all had locally printed t-shirts. They even had a coffee cup/pipe available for sale. The cup was quite hefty. You could prolly add dumbbell to its uses, especially with a full cup of coffee inside.

Wise is so new that they still don’t have their plants in dirt yet. But they are working on it. Fortunately, they do have friends all over these mountains. Their herbs came from local growers. These mountains are great places to grow indoor herbs.

The cooler temperatures and drier air make it easier to for the grower to maintain ideal conditions. I harvested in the Denver warehouses for a year and spent most of my time hanging nug branches in the dry room.  Every place I worked at had serious issues with heat. A room full of 1000 w lights in Denver in August is not a joke. In fact, Denver hit 60’s last month. The city growers can only expect increased hot months as this planet continues its warming trend.

Another thing that the sparse mountains have over Denver is the insect infestations. There is only so much industrial space in Denver. The bugs know that and these areas are now mega-cities for spider mites and russet mites. These grow rooms are also bombarded with cross-contamination. None of the grows in the city practice clean indoor gardening. There are owners showing off their set-ups to US Senators or potential investors.

If Attorney General Sessions (is still in power and) comes to Colorado to see our operations facilities, there is an excellent chance that he is not going to have to decontaminate himself (or his entourage) before entering the grow room. I’m pretty sure he is not growing herbs, and so there is virtually no chance that he will bring some pollen in on his shoulders. There is a good chance, however, that some little flying critters could hop on and come in.

The many employees can also contaminate these areas. Delivery drivers and growers from other locations come and go all the time. I was part of a harvest crew that went to at least 10 different grow houses in a month. I highly doubt that all the harvesters were wearing clean clothes. (I tried repeatedly to at least get a minimal source of protection: booties so that we would not track any plant matter outside after work. I am still not sure if they heard me.)

The mountains don’t have this problem though. They are sparsely populated. The air is cool and dry. The sun won’t bake the building and everything inside it. In fact, the herb that I got, Dank #5, was grown underground and is solar powered.

It was amazing. The buds were healthy and their meat filled out nicely. It smelled peppery as hell. Not much of a flavor. It was smooth and did not burn. The way good herb should be.