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History of medicinal cannabis

The use of cannabis as a medicine can be traced back at least 5000 years.

Interest in medicinal cannabis is currently on the rise in many parts of the world.

Style of David Teniers the Younger, An Alchemist at Work, c. 1660-70.

Style of David Teniers the Younger, An Alchemist at Work, c. 1660-70.

Hemp seeds in a cannabis flower.

Trichomes. Photo: Hawoodrose.

Bedrocan medicinal cannabis in a pharmacy.

Photo: Floris Leeuwenberg.

Antique paraphernalia

Medicinal cannabis in the museum

Part of the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum collection is made up of antique medicinal paraphernalia which provides a fascinating view into the history of medicine and pharmacology. There are also several paintings of apothecaries tending to patients dating from the seventeenth century, when cannabis would have been a part of any doctor’s kit. Although the stronger psychoactive qualities of the plant were not available to Europeans until the nineteenth century, the roots and leaves of the plant were already in common use prior to this, usually in poultices to relieve swollen, stiff or painful joints. 

The discovery of medicinal cannabis

The discovery of the medicinal applications of cannabis was almost certainly accidental. Humankind’s earliest use of the cannabis plant was eating its nutritious seeds, which develop inside the pollinated flowers of the female cannabis plant. The discovery of the health benefits of cannabis should be seen within the awareness and use of such food as a medicine, an ancient tradition in various areas of the world. The flowers, and the small leaves surrounding them, are covered with tiny resin glands that contain cannabinoids, the plant’s medicinally active compounds.

It probably didn’t take long for our ancestors to notice that this abundant food source had unusual side-effects if parts of the flowers were cooked and eaten along with the seeds. Maybe some flowers were accidentally burned, and the inhalation of the smoke produced effects which would have been rapidly noticed by our ancestors. From accidental consumption, purposeful use developed and the earliest form of pharmacology began.

Modern applications of cannabis as a medicine

Interest in cannabis as a medicine is currently on the rise in many parts of the world. The museum collection features modern-day medicinal cannabis packaging alongside the antique containers of yesteryear. Modern packaging ranges from pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes in plastic bags sealed with a pharmacy stamp to the white plastic pots labeled Cannabis Flos with their distinctive yellow lids, in which Dutch prescription cannabis is supplied. 

What illness or disease is treatable with marijuana? The list of medical applications for cannabis grows longer by the year. The following section covers just a few of the main uses, all of which are documented by repeated scientific study.Although we fully endorse the use of medicinal cannabis, this website should not be used as a treatment guide. We strongly advise you to consult a qualified medical practitioner before self-medicating. 


Glaucoma is an incurable condition which causes optic nerve damage and irreversible blindness. One of the main contributing factors is intraocular pressure, high pressure within the fluids of the eyeball. Cannabis has been proven to lower intraocular pressure, reducing the risk of damage to the optic nerve and arresting the further advancement of glaucoma. 

Glaucoma is so common that it is the second leading cause of blindness in the USA. The condition can be easily and effectively treated with cannabis, whether smoked, eaten or vaporized. Around half of all glaucoma patients cannot tolerate the pharmaceutical drugs they are prescribed for the illness, and when eye drops are prescribed as treatment, many patients fail to use them with the necessary frequency and accuracy for the treatment to be effective. 

Cancer and AIDS treatments

Although not yet proven as a treatment for cancer itself, cannabis has proved invaluable to many cancer patients as a drug to stimulate appetite and suppress the nausea which is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This is incredibly important in maintaining weight and health, thereby giving the patient’s body a better chance of fighting the cancer. 

The same applies for people suffering from AIDS, as many of the medications to treat the disease also cause nausea and weight loss. Chemical appetite stimulators and anti-emetics have more side effects than cannabis, and are often unsafe to use in combination with other drugs prescribed to the patient for their condition. 

Arthritis, Rheumatism, and Inflammatory Disorders

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis cause painful, swollen joints and stiffness. When eaten, cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties as well as analgesic (pain-reduction without loss of consciousness) effects. Medical studies have shown that cannabis use reduces inflammation and morning stiffness and increases mobility. Pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to arthritis patients to produce the same results have many unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side-effects including ulcers, severe weight loss, and breathing problems.


Visit a Modernista palace dedicated to cannabis.

Feast your eyes on a unique collection in the world.

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