Cannabis in Chinese Medicine: Modern Interpretations and Integrations

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Cannabis has been a part of traditional medicine in every culture where the plant grows. Its use fell from grace, however, in the early 20th century when it became classified as an illegal recreational drug on a worldwide scale. More recently, scientific studies have shed light on this plant’s incredible phytochemistry and how it has co-evolved to benefit animals, including humans, opening the door to an explosion of medical use and the beginnings of legal reclassification. This article explores the historical uses of cannabis based on three prominent Chinese classical texts. It then reviews the modernday understanding of the endocannabinoid system and how human physiology is primed to benefit from the phytochemistry of the cannabis plant, revealing the chemical reasons for its ancient classification as a superior medicinal. A discussion of how cannabis can be incorporated to augment modern Chinese medicine formulas, and an illustrative case study are presented to begin a dialogue about how cannabis in its modern preparations could become an integral part of today’s Chinese medicine.

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Author Lisa Nicholson
JCM Issue JCM130
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