Cannabis sativa

Marijuana is the popular name for a product prepared from the hemp plant (scientific name Cannabis sativa). Several dried parts of the plant can be used (flowers, leaves or stems), as well as its seeds. The plant has been known to humans for thousands of year, as a recreational drug, medical plant, edible seed, oil seed and industrial fiber.

Cannabis has been used since the Stone Age in China and Japan for the production of ropes and fabrics. The plant's native range is in South and Central Asia. Some researchers believe that cannabis was the ancient drug soma, mentioned in the sacred Indian Vedic texts. There is no definite proof and it's not known when the psychoactive effects of the plant have been discovered for the first time.

It is certain that the ancient Aryans passed the knowledge of these effects to the Assyrians. They gave it the name qunubu, which means "smoke producer", and employed it in religious rituals. It is very likely that the modern word cannabis comes from this ancient name. Aryans also passed the plant to other people, such as the Scythians, Thracians and Dacians. Dacian priests burned the flowers to enter a trance and were known as kapnobatai, meaning "those who walk of smoke".

Many ancient shamanistic and pharmacological cults included cannabis. Archaeologists have discovered significant amounts of hemp seeds at Pazyryk. These prove that the reports of Herodotus were correct and the ancient Scythians consumed them during ceremonial rituals, between the 5th and the 2nd century BC. Starting in the Mamluk period, Muslim Sufi orders such as the Qalandars also used the plant in their ceremonies. Smoking pipes with traces of marijuana, carbon-dated around AD 1320, have been discovered in Ethiopia.

Besides its well-known recreational use, marijuana provides medicinal benefits. CBD and other compounds in its composition can treat chronic diseases and reduce inflammation, nausea and pain.

The plant Cannabis sativa can be used to produce marijuana, which is a green or brown mix of dried flowers, leaves and stems. Hashish, also known as hash, is a stronger variety with a darker color, usually available as a ball or cake. The active ingredient of marijuana is THC and the concentration has significantly increased as stronger varieties are developed.

The most intriguing component of cannabis is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. This chemical causes the famous psychoactive effects that make marijuana such a popular recreational drug.

Marijuana is prepared from the dried flowering buds and leaves of Cannabis sativa. It is usually smoked but it can also be eaten, for example as an ingredient in cookies.

Health benefits

Although mainly popular as a drug, cannabis or marijuana has become increasingly important in medicine. Cannabinoids can treat a number of conditions and alleviate the symptoms of many others.

Marijuana can have negative effects even when used for a very short time. These are usually mild and the most common include exhaustion, dizziness and vomiting. On the long-term, the effects of marijuana use are quite controversial. It is considered by some to be addictive and to cause mental issues and memory loss. It might also increase the risk of schizophrenia in youngsters.

The plant itself has been known for a very long time. It can be found today all over the world but its original range is believed to be in Central Asia, from where it expanded in all directions. The reasons for the popularity of cannabis are well-known: it is considered a great drug that makes people happy.

Cannabis can be a great weapon in the treatment of seizures because it prevents spasms and acts as a general muscle relaxant. Seizures are hard to cure with conventional methods and marijuana has proven to be the only option for many people who are affected by them.

Cannabis is increasingly prescribed to cancer patients under chemotherapy, for a number of reasons. It can greatly reduce the feeling of nausea associated with it, while preventing vomiting. Even more important is the increase in appetite, which is important for people who are malnourished for any reason.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most potent constituents of marijuana. It combats insomnia and promotes regular sleep, as well as treats depression and anxiety.

When used for medical purposes, marijuana can shield the liver from the steatosis triggered by alcohol abuse. The active compound CBD can prevent the development of breast cancer, as well as tumour expansion in the prostate and lungs.

Due to its calming effects, marijuana can speed up hangover recovery and treat the associated symptoms. Several lotions used in the treatment of hives and allergic rashes also include CBD. Salves based on cannabis can calm irritated skin, for example after bites from mosquitoes and other insects.

Another important medical benefit of marijuana is the reduction of the level of blood glucose, which is extremely useful for diabetes patients. It is also a powerful painkiller and can help people who suffer from terminal conditions or experience chronic pain. Patients affected by Parkinson's disease can enjoy a better quality of life by using cannabis.

The active compound CBD has many beneficial properties: it can help for example people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by reducing their anxiety and alleviates inflammatory bowel problems. It is a muscle relaxant and provides effective pain relief, which is very helpful during  menstruation. It can also treat herpes and other sexually transmitted conditions that are otherwise very difficult to cure. At the same time, marijuana use is associated with a superior sexual experience and improved libido.

Oil that contains CBD has been successfully used to calm infants who suffer from colic, as well as adults affected by the auto-immune skin disease psoriasis. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory agent and treats conditions that cause inflammation.

Medical marijuana is one of the few available treatments for the pain caused by multiple sclerosis. It has also been used by athletes who need to remain focused during training.