Although “discovered” over six decades ago, cannabidiol (CBD) has rapidly gained in popularity in recent years. Traditional Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, has been around for centuries. That said, the use of cannabis as a medical tool may have its roots far earlier than what we may think and may have been consumed by the ancient Chinese in traditional healing.
In Chinese medicine, all components of the cannabis plant were utilized to develop natural medicines, including the leaves, flowers, and roots. Hemp seeds have also long been a popular remedy for various ailments. Cannabis flowers, in particular, have high concentrations of cannabinoids, including CBD. Over the centuries, cannabis flowers have been consumed to treat a wide array of medical conditions, including in ancient Chinese medicine. In particular, Chinese medicine has utilized cannabinoids for the following medical purposes.
Famous Chinese physician Hua Tuo is believed to have developed the world’s first anesthetic, which may have contained cannabis. When mixed with other herbs, cannabis helps put patients into a specific state that allows them to experience reduced amounts of pain during surgery.
Evidence of cannabis’ consumption to alleviate pain can be traced back to Tang Dynasty physician Sun Simiao. The physician Simiao recorded in the sixth century AD that juice could be extracted from cannabis leaves and used to treat pain, particularly severe pain attributed to bone fractures. 
Today, CBD has been linked to the treatment of seizures, but the cannabinoid has previously shown promise in alleviating seizures centuries earlier. More accurately, it was “wind” diseases — which included seizures — that cannabis appeared to have a positive effect on. Sixteenth-century AD Chinese herbalist Li Shizhen documented the consumption of cannabis to calm seizures, along with muscle spasms, tremors, and tics.
For thousands of years, cannabis has been consumed as a medicine, including in ancient Chinese medicine, and continues to be part of traditional Chinese medicine today. Given the growing popularity of CBD across the globe, an increasing pool of research continues to emerge showing cannabis’ — and the cannabinoids within it — beneficial effects.
Image source: Zdeněk Tobiáš from Pixabay
- Zhao, Z., Brand, E.J., “Cannabis in Chinese Medicine: Are Some Traditional Indications Referenced in Ancient Literature Related to Cannabinoids?“, Front Pharmacol., March 2017; Vol.8: 108.