Global: Ancient Humans Probably Smoked Marijuana For Health
By Steve Elliott
Ancient hunter-gatherers who depended on the wild, before agriculture was invented, not only forged for food -- they foraged for marijuana, according to science.
The medical benefits of cannabis, while still officially denied by the U.S. government (which holds a patent on the damn stuff) was well understood by our forebears, probably instinctively, at least 12,000 years ago, reports Stephen Morgan at Digital Journal.
A team of anthropologists from Washington State University, led by Dr. Ed Hagen, wanted to see how cultures worldwide used cannabis historically. They especially wanted to see if ancient marijuana users were subconsciously influenced more by health reasons than just wanting to get high.
Humans throughout history have probably sought out cannabis, in the same way we searched out foods beneficial to us, according to Dr. Hagen.
"In the same way we have a taste for salt, we might have a taste for psychoactive plant toxins, because these things kill parasites. If you look at non-human animals, they do the same thing, and what a lot of biologists think is they're doing it to kill parasites," Dr. Hagen said, reports Ellie Zolfagharifard at the Daily Mail.
A study of the Aka tribes of Central Africa -- one of the "pygmy" tribes living in the Congo -- seems to confirm this hypothesis. The researchers found that the habitual use of cannabis could be based on good medical reasons, even if they users didn't directly make the association themselves.
According to the study, those in the tribe who used the most marijuana were much less troubled by intestinal worms, one of the worst health problems suffered by people in that area.
The researchers "analyzed 400 adult Aka who lived near the Lobaye River in the Central African Republic, finding that 70 percent of the males and six percent of the females used marijuana. Next, they sampled stool from the participants to measure helminth infections — and found that 95 percent of them contained the infection. Interestingly, the people who used cannabis had lower rates of infection than those who didn’t use the drug," reports Medical Daily.
Anthropologists study such societies as the Aka -- who live by foraging for good in tropical forests -- to better understand how prehistoric humans lived in the Stone Age. They surveyed almost all of the nearly 400 adult Aka living along the Lobaye River in the Central Africa Republic and found about 70 percent of the men and 6 percent of the women used cannabis. The surveys were supported by tests of the men which indicated that 68 percent of them had recently smoked marijuana.
"The history of medical cannabis is quite long," Medical Daily points out. "Humans have been using marijuana to cure headaches and chronic pain, as an anesthetic, and to treat wounds throughout the majority of human existence. In ancient China and Taiwan, surgeons used cannabis as an anesthetic during surgery.
"It shouldn’t be surprising, then," the Daily points out, "that new research suggests that hunter-gatherer tribes used cannabis as a way to unconsciously stave off intestinal worms."
The study was published in the American Journal of Human Biology.