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This plant has been cherished as a food, fiber and medicine for millennia—some anthropologists even hypothesize that our relationship with this plant could have begun as far back as the Mesolithic era (Middle Stone Age). Native to Central and South Asia, this vigorously growing annual has been in continuous cultivation for thousands of years. First domesticated for its superior fibers, this tough plant was critical to the creation of everything from clothing to rope. In fact, the Declaration of Independence was drafted on paper made from these strong fibers.

Recognized as an important medicine in countless societies worldwide, this plant was often used for physical healing as well as spiritual suspension and exploration.  A popular intoxicant as well, evidence shows that this plant was prized by Christian mystics, Muslim Sufis, Mediaeval physicians, Native American and Far Eastern Shamans, as well as early Hebrew practitioners of Kabbalah. The first official mention of this plant as a medicine can be found in the Pharmacopeia of the Chinese Emperor in 2737 BCE.

A traditional remedy in Ayurvedic medicine, usage of this plant is prevalent in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as well as Traditional Western Herbalism. The flowering tops of the plant are most often used to treat nervous depression, nausea, insomnia, loss of appetite, depression and pain (among other indications). Although the flowers of the female plant have been found to be physically non-addictive, long-term habitual has been known to affect memory, mind and speech.

References to this mind-altering plant can be found in the writings of such famous  thinkers as Homer, John Keats, and Carl Jung. Historically considered a creative muse, musicians such as Louie Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Dizzy Gillespie, were all known to partake in these psychoactive flowers.

A popular garden annual, this plant was grown on farms across the U.S until the middle of the 20th Century. Its history as a farm staple, however, goes back much farther. In 1563 Queen Elizabeth decreed that landowners with 60 acres or more establish this crop or pay a heavy fine. Even Early American president Thomas Jefferson even called this weedy herb “a necessity,” and he urged farmed to grow it instead of Tobacco. Today, 42% of people in the United States have experimented with this medicinal herb. An entire culture of art, music, and literature still exists surrounding the use of this incredibly popular plant…and all this despite the fact that the drug is currently illegal in most of our 50 states…

Have you guessed the plant?

Cannabis (indica, sativa)

Otherwise known as hemp, marijuana, weed, pot, ganjah, or Da Ma in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Today is our culture’s unofficial Cannabis holiday (4/20). As I type, people around the country are celebrating this plant. Isn’t it interesting– to take a step back, way back, and see what all the hype has been about?