Cannabis & Traditional Chinese Medicine

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You don’t hear a lot about cannabis use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but the plant has a long history with the practice. Known as da ma in Chinese medicine, cannabis is considered one of the 50 “fundamental” herbs of TCM. The Chinese goddess Ma Gu, a name that literally means “hemp maiden,” is associated with longevity and the elixir of life and the Chinese term for anesthesia is composed with the Chinese character that means hemp. Hua Tuo, a Han Dynasty physician, is credited as the first person to use cannabis as an anesthetic, by mixing the dried and powdered plant with wine for use internally and externally. By utilizing this preparation (known as ma fei san) in conjunction with acupuncture, he was able to perform surgeries and control the pain of his patients. It is also believed that moxibuxtion — the burning of dried plants next to the skin to stimulate circulation — originally utilized both mugwort and cannabis. In modern TCM, cannabis or hemp seeds are are often used to treat constipation. Additional uses include relief for menstrual cramps, anxiety, dry cough, asthma and spasms. Cannabis is said to strengthen the Yin, but is rarely used on its own because using cannabis alone is considered unhealthy and toxic in TCM, as it may cause imbalances in the body. TCM practitioners do believe however, that excessive cannabis use can cause a deficiency of vitality, overtaxing the liver and costing the body its Yin energy. Recent studies show that acupuncture also manipulates the endocannabinoid system, increasing endogenous cannabinoid CB2 receptors to upregulate opioids in inflamed skin tissue. A 2009 study showed that inflamed skin tissue treated for pain relief with electro-acupuncture had a statistically relevant increase in anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the human body that binds to the same cell…

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