The idea of medicinal cannabis might be more popular than it’s ever been in modern history, but it’s hardly a new concept. In fact, cannabis has been used for centuries all throughout the world. Women, in particular, have used marijuana as a medicine throughout centuries for everything from headaches to skin abrasions to childbirth to menstrual cramps and more.
According to an article published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics “The earliest references to cannabis in female medical conditions probably originate in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Hemp seeds were mixed with a beer-like beverage to help with an “unspecified female ailment” as early as 2000 B.C.
In ancient Egypt circa 1550 B.C., the Ebers Papyrus was a medical scroll full of herbal knowledge. This scroll listed cannabis as a gynecological medicine. It went so far as to advise women to insert a mixture of cannabis and honey into the vagina during childbirth to help with the associated pain.
Hildegard von Bingen
Born in the 12th century, Hildegard became a Benedictine abbess, but she was hardly just a woman of the cloth. She was a celebrated writer of theology, natural history and plant-based medicine. Hildegard was also an incredibly accomplished musician and became the first documented composer whose life story was known.
Hildegard suffered from extreme migraines that produced hallucinations, which were thought at the time to be heavenly visions. She used cannabis to treat these head pains and described it in her medical work Physica. In this book, Hildegard described hemp’s medicinal power and various uses.
She noted, “Whoever has an empty brain and head pains may eat it and the head pains will be reduced.” Hildegard also discussed using cannabis as a topical for skin wounds saying, “A towel prepared out of hemp laid upon sores and wounds works well.”
Born in 1802, Harriet Martineau was the first female sociologist. She was also a social activist, celebrated novelist and children’s author. Harriet also happens to be the great great-great grandmother of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
Her life as a pioneering advocate for women’s rights and abolition took her all over the world, including the desert. During her travels through the desert, she recorded in one of her books that chibouqou (a pipe used to smoke hashish) was the best possible refreshment.
Perhaps one of the more surprising medicinal cannabis users on this list is Queen Victoria, the longest-ruling monarch of the United Kingdom from 1837–1901.
Her majesty’s private doctor, Sir J. Russell Reynolds, expressed in one of his books that cannabis is “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” The doctor is said to have prescribed Queen Victoria medicinal cannabis tinctures to help with her menstrual cramps.
Photo credit: Omar Lopez