I was intrigued when a colleague of mine sent me research galleys of a new paper he’s co-authored. The subject matter? Confirmation that marijuana has potentially been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.
The new research, published online in the advanced edition of the Journal of Experimental Botany,* focuses on the contents of a 2700 year old grave found in the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region in China. The grave reportedly belonged to a shaman of the Gushi clan. The current study expanded on earlier research to confirm the botanical, photochemical and genetic characteristics of the agent, and that it contained psychoactive components, thereby clarifying how it was likely used.
So, why is this important and what does it have to do with menopause anyhow?
Regular readers of this blog know that I am a huge proponent of integrative medicine, i.e. combining the best of western and eastern medicine to come up with an effective therapeutic approach. In fact, I’ve written numerous posts on the value of Chinese medicine to women in menopause who are looking for alternative strategies for their symptoms.
And so, this research lends further proof that herbal medicine has been practiced for centuries and for good reason: it works. Not for everybody (what drug does?) and not all the time and clearly, careful selection of standardized products is essential, as is consulting with a practitioner certified in herbal medicine. I provide links on this site to a few organizations where you can delve deeper into these alternative paths.
Personally, I would be thrilled if researchers discovered that cannabis can be effectively used to treat menopausal symptoms. But in the interim, I am happy to report that it has been shown to be effective in relieving the pain of migraines, reducing involuntary muscle contractions associated with multiple sclerosis and of course, calming nausea in people undergoing chemotherapy.
For critics who say that smoking a drug counteracts all of its potential benefits, I say, take a look at what GW pharmaceuticals is doing with their oral spray, Sativex.
Sativex removes the psychoactive components or cannabinoids and leaves the therapeutic form intact. Thus far, well designed clinical trials have shown it to be effective for pain of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and nerve or neuropathic conditions.
So I salute Dr. Ethan Russo and his Chinese colleagues Hong-En Jiang, Xiao Li and others, for their dedication and hard work and a wonderful paper.
Thank you for furthering proof that there is and has always been a place for alternative strategies.
*Note – this has not yet been posted in the online edition of the journal. Full citation is:
Russo EB, Jiang HE, Li X et al. Phytochemical and genetic analyses of ancient cannabis
from Central Asia. J Experim Bot. doi:10.1093/jxb/ern260.
The Yanghai Tombs near Turpan, Xinjiang-Uighur
Autonomous Region, China have recently been excavated
to reveal the 2700-year-old grave of a Caucasoid
shaman whose accoutrements included a large cache
30 of cannabis, superbly preserved by climatic and burial
conditions. A multidisciplinary international team demonstrated
through botanical examination, phytochemical
investigation, and genetic deoxyribonucleic acid
analysis by polymerase chain reaction that this mate-
35 rial contained tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive
component of cannabis, its oxidative degradation
product, cannabinol, other metabolites, and its synthetic
enzyme, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase,
as well as a novel genetic variant with two single
40 nucleotide polymorphisms. The cannabis was presumably
employed by this culture as a medicinal or
psychoactive agent, or an aid to divination. To our
knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest
documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically
active agent, and contribute to the medical and 45
archaeological record of this pre-Silk Road culture.
Key words: Archaeology, botany, cannabis, cannabinoids,