The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Cannabis indica Lamarck


Indian Hemp




Cannabaceae [= Cannabinaceae; also Cannabiaceae, Cannabidaceae] (Hemp Family); Cannabis is sometimes classified within the Moraceae Family (cf. Zander 1994, 165*)



A Preliminary Note on the Botany of Cannabis spp.


Contemporary botanists are of two minds regarding the genus Cannabis (Clarke 1981; Schmidt 1992; Small et al. 1975). One school regards the genus as monotypic and suggests that there is only one species, Cannabis sativa, which can be divided into several varieties and numerous sorts (Anderson 1980; Small and Cronquist 1976; Stearn 1974). The other group adheres to the concept of three species (Emboden 1974a, 1974b, 1981b, and 1996; Schultes et al. 1974).

This encyclopedia subscribes to the division of the genus into three species.



Illustration of bangue, the Indian hemp plant (Cannabis indica). (Woodcut from Garcia da Orta, Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India, 1987)

Forms and Subspecies


Wild or feral Indian hemp is sometimes referred to as Cannabis indica Lam. var. spontanea Vavilov (Schmidt 1992, 641).



Cannabis foetens Gilibert

Cannabis macrosperma Stokes

Cannabis orientalis Lam.

Cannabis sativa α-kif DC.

Cannabis sativa ssp. indica (Lam.) E. Small et Cronq.

Cannabis sativa var. indica Lam.

Folk Names


Azalla, azallû (Assyrian), bandsch, bang, banj, bengali, bengué, bhamgi (Tamil), bhang, bhanga, black prince, bota, cánamo de India (Spanish), canapem indiana (Italian), canhamo, canhamo da India, cannabis, can xa, caras, charas, charras, churrus, doña Juanita, gai ando (Vietnamese), gañajâ, gañca, gangué, ganja, gánzigùnu (Assyrian), garda (Kashmiri), ghariga, ghee (“clarified butter”), gunjah, haschischpflanze, hemp, hierba santa (Spanish, “sacred herb”), Indian hemp, juanita, jvalana rasa, kamashwar modak, kañcavu, kancha, keralagras, kerala grass, kimbis (Mesopotamia), konopie indyjskie, kumari asava, la amarilla, lai chourna, la mona, la santa rosa (Spanish, “the sacred rose”), liamba, madi, maguoon, manali, maría rosa, marihuana, marijuana, mariquita, mazar-i-sharif, menali, misarai, mustang gold, parvati, qunnab, qunubu (Assyrian), ramras, rosamaría, santa rosa, shivamuli, siddhi (Bengali, “miraculous ability”), soft hemp, tara-kola, the herb, true hemp, utter, vijaya (Sanskrit,“the victor”), yaa seep tit (Thai, “drug”), zacate chino

Many of these names are also used for Cannabis sativa and hemp hybrids (see Cannabis x and hybrids).



We do not know with certitude when Indian hemp was first cultivated, when it was first used as a medicinal and pleasure plant, or where its ritual use began (Abel 1980; Merlin 1972; Schultes 1973). It is very likely that it was used in prehistoric times in the Indus Valley and in Mesopotamia. Its psychoactive effects were obvious from the beginning and were utilized for both ritual and medicinal purposes. Some authors are of the opinion that Cannabis indicawas the miraculous Arian drug soma (Behr 1995). It is certain that hemp was used as a soma substitute during the post-Vedic period. In India, its use as a medicine has been documented as far back as 1400 B.C.E. In northern India and the Himalayas, hemp has been utilized since prehistoric times in shamanism (cf. Cannabis ruderalisCannabis sativa), the tantric cult, yoga, and magical contexts. Many of these uses have continued into the present day (Chopra and Chopra 1957; Sharma 1977).

The story of the Assassins, those “fanatic treacherous murderers,” has been reworked often to demonstrate the “horrible effects” of hashish (e.g., Meck 1981; Nahas 1982). It has been argued that assassinsitself means “hashish people” or “hashish eaters.” The leader of this group supposedly used hashish, produced from the resin of hemp plants, to made his followers pliable, so that they would blindly carry out any murderous order. However, “[n]owhere, whether in any of the Oriental or any of the Occidental sources, is there even a suggestion that a captive Assassin made mention of the use of hashish or any other drugs” (Gelpke 1967, 274).

Indian hemp first came to the attention of Europe in the nineteenth century (Martius 1855). In 1811, an illustrated book was published in Paris that depicted the customs of the Hindus. It contained numerous scenes of Indians enjoying hemp from various water pipes and other smoking devices (Solvyns 1811). Indian hemp and the hashish it provides were immediately adopted for medicinal use; artists also discovered that hemp could be a source of inspiration, while occult circles tested it for use in inducing clairvoyant states (Hoye 1974; Meyrink 1984). The studies of the French psychiatrist Moreau de Tours (1804–1884) proved to be very influential, from both a medical and a cultural perspective (Scharfetter 1992). As a result of his published work, a number of artists, poets, and Bohemians were inspired to found the Club de Hashishins in Paris (Haining 1975; Müller-Ebeling 1992b). The renowned Oriental joy pills were also circulating in Marseilles at this time.

The systematic demonization of what is actually the most harmless inebriant and agent of pleasure known is the work of drug policies promulgated in and by the United States (cf. Herer and Bröckers 1993). The illegal status of hemp is a recent phenomenon and is based not upon scientific data but upon sociopolitical goals and economic structures (Hess 1996). In recent years, even judges have begun to push for the decontrol of Cannabis products on the basis of the individual’s “right to inebriation” (Neskovic 1995).

Today, hemp is the most commonly consumed of all illegal drugs in the world, although its users typically classify hemp products not as drugs but as agents of pleasure (Drake 1971; Haag 1995). Wherever hemp is used, a hemp culture has developed along with it (Giger 1995; Novak 1980; Rätsch 1996a; Vries 1993). In the 1990s, hemp experienced a renaissance when its potential as a useful economic crop with outstanding ecological qualities was rediscovered (Galland 1994; Herer and Bröckers 1993; Hesch et al. 1996; Rätsch 1995b; Robinson 1996; Rosenthal 1994; Sagunski et al. 1995; Wasco 1995).



The range of Cannabis indica is limited to northern India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Himalayas (Macmillan 1991, 421*). It is difficult to assess whether the hemp that was used in ancient Mesopotamia was in fact Cannabis indica. Only in the Himalayas has it been observed growing wild. A large occurrence of wild plants can be found in Taratal, near the Dhaulagiri massif; the wild plant is known as tara khola (Haag 1995, 75). On the other hand, Cannabis indica and hybrids that have been produced from it are now grown throughout the world (cf. Cannabis x and hybrids).



All species of Cannabis can be grown from both seeds and cuttings (clones). Propagation from cuttings requires some skill, a green thumb, and considerable luck, but it does ensure purely female descendants (see Cannabis x and hybrids).

The seeds can be germinated either in seedbeds or in germinating pots. They can be presprouted by placing them in moist and warm (21°C) paper towels placed in a dish and kept in a dark location. This method provides the clearest indication as to which of the seeds are the most vigorous. The seed coat will open in just a few days, after which the seed can be placed into the soil (0.5 cm deep). The young seedlings do not tolerate direct sunlight and must not be allowed to dry out. A seedling can be transplanted as soon as it has sprouted its first pair of leaves. In central Europe, it is best to begin germination in April (at home or in a greenhouse). The young plants should not be placed outdoors (i.e., on a balcony or in a garden) until the middle of May. It is also possible to sow or scatter the seeds directly onto the ground in May, although the success rate of such a method is considerably lower. In the Himalayas, Cannabis indica is self-sowing.

Cannabis plants need relatively copious amounts of water to grow. For this reason, they must be watered regularly. Branching can be induced by occasionally pinching off the new leaves at the ends of the branches. Flower formation can be promoted by partially defoliating the plant from time to time. As soon as hemp begins to flower, it should no longer be heavily watered. Large amounts of light and only a little water will help ensure that the inflorescences are rich with resins. Opinions about fertilizer use vary considerably.



Indian hemp typically grows to a height of only about 1.2 meters. It is heavily branched, which gives it a conelike appearance not unlike that of a Christmas tree. Because of its many oblique side branches, this species forms many more (female) flowers than the other hemp species do, which makes it particularly attractive for the production of psychoactive products. The aril is heavily articulated, in contrast to its more smooth appearance in Cannabis sativa(cf. Clarke 1981, 158). The seeds are somewhat darker and smaller than those of Cannabis sativa. Apart from its size and the heavily branched appearance, the main distinguishing feature of the species is the shape of its leaves, which are usually much broader and more oval than those of the other two species. Indian hemp is almost always dioecious. The male plants are somewhat more slender and taller than the female plants.

This plant is very easily confused not only with the other hemp species, but also with other plants, such as false hemp (Datisca cannabina L.), which is remarkably similar and has even been mistaken for Indian hemp in herbariums (Small 1975).


A typical leaf of Indian hemp (Cannabis indica).



Produced from Cannabis leaves, bhang is sold openly in Varanasi, the sacred city of Shiva, the god of hemp and hemp use. One ball represents a weak dose, two produce moderate effects, and three induce profound psychoactive effects.



Indian hemp (Cannabis indica) is distinguishable primarily by its short stature and Christmas-tree-like appearance. (Female wild plants, photographed in the Himalayas, Nepal)


Psychoactive Material


—Female flowers/inflorescences (ganja)

—Leaves (bhang)

—Herbage of flowers and leaves (cannabis indicae herba, herba cannabis indicae, summitates cannabis)


—Resin (resina cannabis indicae, charas = churrus, hashish)

—Oil from the resin (hashish oil)

—Oil from the seed (hemp oil)

Preparation and Dosage


There are many ways to prepare Cannabis indica. For psychoactive use, the most popular parts are the female flowers and the resin. The leaves of the female plant are also used. Male plants are practically useless. All products can be either smoked or eaten (drunk) (Rippchen 1995). The most common method of use is to smoke the dried flowers of the female plant, which should be harvested before the seeds form and slowly dried in the shade.

The most valuable products of the plant are the resin and the resin glands that are rubbed off the female flowers. The resin can be harvested or obtained in a number of ways (Gold 1994). The most valuable resin is obtained by rubbing the female inflorescences with the hands. The resin and some of the resin glands stick to the surface of the hands and collect there as more flowers are rubbed. The result can be scratched or scraped from the hand. Kneading the collected material produces a soft, aromatic, black or deeply dark olive green mass known in the Himalayas as charas (= charras, chura, churrus). Charas can be mixed either into various foods (pudding, cakes, cookies, etc.) or with other herbs to produce smoking blends.

In India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal, the resin is graded into different sorts, depending upon the source and the intended use: Kashmiri or Dark Brown Kashmiri, Manali or Finger Hashish, Rajasthani (resin mixed with other pieces of the plant), Indian Gold or Black Gold (high-grade resin gilded with gold leaf), Black (soft, pure resin), Bombay Black (resin to which opium, Papaver somniferum, or morphine has been added), Parvati, (hand-rubbed resin), Pakistani or Brown Pakistani (brown resin), Afghani or Black Afghani (hand-rubbed resin), and Moldy Afghani (inferior quality).

After charas, the most potent product is the nonrubbed, deleaved dried female inflorescence. This product is usually called ganja and is either smoked alone or mixed with other herbs (e.g., Datura metel,Turnera diffusaBrugmansia suaveolensAmanita muscariaNicotiana rusticaAconitum ferox). Ganja can also be eaten or drunk.

A third psychoactive Cannabis indica product is bhang. The term bhang refers to the small, resinous leaves of the plant as well as to drinks that are prepared from them. Bhang is prepared from watery hemp leaves, i.e., leaves that have been soaked in water, ground, and mixed with sugar and molasses (this method is typical for the region around Varanasi/Benares). But bhang can also be made with milk products:


The drink called bhang lassie (thandaipoustsiddhiramras), which is made of yogurt, water, honey, pepper [cf. Piper spp.], and hemp flowers, symbolizes the sacred Ganges and can be obtained for pennies throughout India even today. It is equally venerated by pilgrims and by participants in marriage ceremonies and temple festivals. When alcohol is added to bhang, it is called loutki; if opium tincture [see Papaver somniferum] is also added to the preparation, then the Indians call the drink mourra. Bhang mixed with ice cream produces gulfi, also called hari gulfi (green ice), which is particularly popular in northern India. (Haag 1995, 78)

On occasion, the leaves will be drunk only with water or milk; such drinks, known as thandai, are consumed for refreshment (Morningstar 1985). Ganja can also be used to brew beer (Rosenthal 1996).


The two most important products of Cannabis indica are the dark resin rubbed from its female flowers (charas) and the dried female inflorescences (ganja).


The hashish produced in Lebanon is known as red Lebanese.


Moroccan hashish is also known as green hashish. It is produced by pressing finely chopped and sifted female flowers.


Bhang Recipe (Nepal)


Required ingredients:

—hemp flowers (ganja)

—spices (e.g., cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg [Myristica fragrans], cloves, pepper [Piper spp.], cinnamon)

—sugar or honey

—milk (water buffalo)


Optional ingredients:

—poison nut (Strychnos nux-vomica)

—opium (Papaver somniferum)

—thorn apple seeds (Datura metel)

—ground nuts (e.g., almonds)

—ghee (clarified butter)


Finely chop the hemp flowers and mix with the spices (and optional ingredients).

Dissolve sugar or honey in the milk, then mix in the hemp and the spices.


For tantric smoking blends, hemp flowers (ganja) are sometimes mixed with cobra venom—the cobra is a sacred animal and a symbol of Shiva. Crystallized cobra venom74 is mixed with chopped hemp flowers or hashish and smoked in a chillum. Other tantric mixtures contain Aconitum feroxDatura metelBrugmansia arborea, opium (see Papaver somniferum), tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), or henbane (Hyoscyamus niger).

Around 1870, Indian cigarettes were made in Paris from the following ingredients:



0.3 g

belladonna leaves (Atropa belladonna)

0.15 g

henbane leaves (Hyoscyamus niger)

0.15 g

thorn apple leaves (Datura stramonium)

0.5 g

Indian hemp leaves, impregnated with opium extract and cherry laurel infusion (Prunus laurocerasus L.)


This recipe is reminiscent of witches’ ointments as well as modern smoking blends. Another recipe for Indian cigarettes mentions paper impregnated with a tincture of Cannabis indica, opium (see Papaver somniferum), and Lobelia inflata.

In Cambodia, the wood of the botanically unidentified shlain tree is added to hemp flowers and leaves in order to increase their effects when smoked (cf. Rätsch 2001, 51*).

The psychoactive dose when smoking Cannabis indica is approximately twice as high as when eating it; around 50% of the THC is taken into the smoke. A normal dosage is between 5 and 10 mg of THC. This corresponds to about 0.25 g of smoked flowers or 0.1 g of smoked charas (resin). These guidelines should be used with care, however, because THC content can vary considerably (Schmidt 1992, 650). The products of Cannabis indica are generally more potent than those of Cannabis sativa.

Ritual Use


Hemp has been a drug of shamans since ancient times (Eliade 1975, 376ff.*; Knoll-Greiling 1950; Sebode and Pfeiffer 1988, 16). Shamans are generally attributed with the discovery of pharmacologically efficacious plants, including the discovery of hemp and its multitude of uses (Merlin 1972). In central and east Asia, hemp was already in use during the Neolithic period. Our word shaman originated in the same area. In the Tungusic language, shaman refers to the healing and prophesizing master of consciousness (Sebode and Pfeiffer 1988, 7). The earliest literary and ethnohistorical evidence for hemp is contained in shamanic texts from ancient China (Li 1974a, 1974b).

In Nepal, shamanism has been and continues to be of great importance for many indigenous peoples who have had only limited contact with Western medicine. Most of the peoples of Nepal practice a religion that draws from various sources. Here, elements from the Vedic period, the ancient Bön religion of Tibet, Tibetan Lamaism, and a variety of schools of Hinduism have blended into a harmonious whole. Shamans can be found in almost every village. They are usually called jakri, a word that means “magician” (both male and female). These shamans inhabit a polytheistic cosmos in which the Buddha is as much at home as are the ancient Bön demons and the Vedic and Hindu gods:



The Chillum Cult


The word chillum (pronounced tschillum, and sometimes spelled chilam) refers to a conical tube for smoking hemp. The smoking of chillums is an ancient tradition that is still alive in the Himalayas and India (Knecht 1971; Morningstar 1985). Generally speaking, the Himalayan region is the most tradition-rich area of the world as far as hemp is concerned (Fisher 1975; Sharma 1972, 1977). It is not known how long chillums have been in use. It is also not clear whether the chillum is an ancient invention of the Himalayan peoples or is derived from the head (upper part) of the Muslim hookah (the traditional Oriental water pipe) (Morningstar 1985, 150).

The chillum is the typical smoking device of sadhus and yogis, who use it constantly in their rituals of worship, meditation, and yogic practice (Bedi 1991; Gross 1992; Hartsuiker 1993).

When Western travelers (“hippies”) journeyed to India and Nepal in the 1960s, they quickly learned about the indigenous use of the chillum and hemp by sadhus. They brought back to the West both the smoking device and the knowledge of its proper use. Soon, large numbers of Indian and Nepalese chillums were being imported by shops specializing in Indian articles and by “head shops.” Many Western hashish smokers possess one or more chillums and know how to use them in a traditional manner.

A chillum is smoked not alone, by one person, but in a smoking circle (chilam chakri). One person fills the chillum with the smoking mixture (e.g., hashish and tobacco, hashish and marijuana, or hashish and Datura metel) and then hands it to the next person in the circle for lighting. The chillum is lit with two matches (which represent the masculine and the feminine poles of the universe). Before lighting the mixture in the chillum, the person holds the chillum against his or her forehead (the third eye) and utters a short formula (japa), usually “Bum Shankar!” This consecrates the smoke to the Hindu god Shiva. Hemp smokers regard both Shiva and his son Ganesha as the gods of hemp smoking. After the chillum has been started, it is passed around the circle, usually in a clockwise direction. When the chillum is “through,” its owner taps out the remnants of the smoking mixture and carefully cleans it with a piece of cloth.

Chillum smoking is a relatively elaborate process that demonstrates the profound respect the consumer has for the plant as well as for the Asian tradition, and often reveals a religious attitude toward hemp smoking. Most Europeans who use chillums today learned about its use not while in India or Nepal but from other hemp smokers. The European tradition of chillum smoking can now look back upon more than thirty years of tradition, and chillum use is being passed on from one generation to the next (Rätsch 1996a).


According to shamanic tradition, Indra, the original Vedic god, discovered Cannabis and sowed it in the Himalayas so that it would always be available to humans, who could attain joy, courage, and greater sexual desire though the herb. (Haag 1995, 78)75


The shamans venerate Shiva, whose roots can be traced back to the Vedic Rudra. They regard him as the primordial first shaman, who had a perfect understanding of the shamanic arts and who taught this to certain chosen people. One Nepalese name for Shiva is vijaya,“the victorious”; in the Vedic scriptures, hemp is referred to by the same name. Shiva is also known as Bhangeri Baba, “the lord of hemp” (Storl 1988, 83, 198, 201). According to shamanic tradition, it was he who discovered hemp and sowed it in the Himalayas so that humans would always have access to it. Shiva also gave people the various recipes for its use: “In Nepal, ascetics, shamans, and magicians have been consuming small amounts of this agent since ancient times in order to induce trance states” (Gruber 1991, 144).

Smoking is the most common method of consuming the various hemp products (Knecht 1971). Hemp leaves, the female flowers (ganja), or bits of the sticky, aromatic resin (charas) are stuffed into a chillum, either alone or mixed with thorn apple leaves (Datura metel), henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), aconite (Aconitum feroxAconitum spp.), or tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). The chillum, a symbol and an attribute of Shiva, is then held to the forehead and consecrated to the god with the words Bum Shankar, “hail to the benefactor” (Morningstar 1985).

In Nepal, hemp is often drunk in the form of bhang (Müller-Ebeling and Rätsch 1986, 20*). The shamans of the Himalayas drink bhang in order to induce the states of trance or ecstasy that they require for their healing rituals. They offer bhang at the phallus-shaped shrines of Shiva (sacred stones, lingams). The offerings actuate the healing powers of the god, for no one loves hemp and the state it produces as much as Shiva himself. The inebriated god sends forth his healing power, which the shaman channels and transmits to the patient. Although it is usually only the shaman who smokes ganja or drinks bhang during the shamanic healing sessions, hemp is also used as a medicine. By smoking hemp, and by virtue of his gifts, a shaman who is devoted to Shiva can produce an especially efficacious medicine.

Smoking is an unbecoming, a dissolution, a process of death. In this small, spinning pyre, the husks of delusion that entwine us burn to ash. The rotting corpses of our transgressions, the cadavers of old karma, roast therein and are transformed to snow white ash. . . . The bolt to the door of the “transcendent” is shattered; the demonic hordes of Shiva, the ethereal images of natural forces and the shapes of souls, dance before the eyes of the initiate. The dead and the gods appear! In an even deeper samadhi, all manifestations, all appearances, cease, and it simply is. In total absorption, Shiva sits on Kailash, the holy mountain, the mountain of snow, the mountain of ash. . . . After the chillum has been smoked all the way to the end and the meditation is over, the shaman takes the ashes and rubs them onto his forehead or he places them on his tongue as prasad, for the sacred white powder is regarded as the best medicine. (Storl 1988, 204, 205*)


Hemp is the most important ritual drug of Indian and Nepalese Tantrists. They call it vijaya, “the victorious,” and regard it as “the only true aphrodisiac” (Bharati 1977, 209). For this reason, hemp preparations are used in the erotic rituals for couples, during which the two lovers are transformed into the gods Shiva and Parvati (Aldrich 1977). The sadhaka (or Tantrist) places a bowl with a hemp preparation in front of himself on a mandala and asks the tantric “goddess of the divine nectar” to consecrate the hemp. After this, he carries out several ritual gestures (mudras) over the vessel. He then speaks a mantra to the guru, the teacher, in order to offer him the libation. Finally, he touches his heart and drinks the drink to honor the god, usually Shiva, he has chosen for this purpose (Bharati 1977, 207f.).

During one tantric ritual that is still conducted in northern India today, hemp (bhang) is transformed into amrita, the drink of the gods (cf. soma):


1.     As an act of preparation and ritual purification, the leaves of the Cannabis plant are rubbed with black pepper [cf. Piper spp.], water is added, and the mixture is filled into a stone vessel.

2.     A yantra (ritual diagram) of a circle, square, and triangle is drawn. The primordial feminine energy ardhar shakti is venerated in this yantra.

3.     The vessel with bhang is placed upon the yantra. This is followed by meditation and recitation.

4.     Using a mantra (a kind of magical formula), vijaya (the name of the goddess) is called into the bhang container and welcomed.

5.     Using a particular mantra (magical formula), bhang is transformed into amrita (a drink of the gods).

6.     With a ritual gesture of veneration [mudra], the vessel full of bhang is raised to the forehead and a prayer in honor of the guru (religious teacher) is uttered.

7.     The bhang preparation is ingested.

The activity described is accompanied by recitations and ritual gestures (mudras). (Moser-Schmitt 1981, 545)

Since the post-Vedic period, Brahmans have been using hemp as an adjunct to meditation and to promote concentration as well as to deepen their understanding of the sacred texts (Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Puranas, etc.). Orthodox Brahmans from the area of Varanasi (= Benares) and Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) still regularly ingest bhang every Friday (Bharati 1977, 207).

In Mesopotamia, and especially among the Assyrians, hemp was burned as a sacred incense (Bennett et al. 1995, 15, 19). The Scythian hemp ritual is discussed under Cannabis ruderalis (cf. also “Trees with Special Fruits”). In the Occult movement, hemp was used as a visionary incense (Bennett et al. 1995, 280ff.; Meyrink 1984).

On the Caribbean island of Jamaica, Indian hemp is at the center of the Rastafari cult, a movement that arose in the twentieth century and is said to have its roots in Ethiopia (see Rätsch 2001, 137–42). The ritual music of the Rastas is reggae, and their sacrament is hemp (ganja). One leader of the Rastas summarized the cultural meaning of hemp in the following manner:


We use this herb as medicine and for spiritual experiences. It helps us to overcome illness, suffering, and death. . . . We use our herb in our church—as incense for God, just as the Roman Catholics use incense in their church. We burn our incense in order to venerate our God through spiritual experience. . . . It gives us spiritual comfort, we praise God in peace and love, without force. . . . When we are depressed, when we are hungry, we smoke our little herb and we meditate on our God. The herb is a true comfort to us. (In Kitzinger 1971, 581)


In the Rastafarian community, the first inebriation produced by smoking ganja has the character of an initiation. The young smoker is supposed to receive a vision that will mark him as a full member of the community and reveal his path through life (Rubin and Comitas 1976). “Ganja is the most strongly shared experience among the brothers” (Gebre-Selassie 1989, 156). The Rastas, it should be noted, eschew alcohol, which may be used only as a solvent for ganja and be consumed in medicines. Alcohol inebriation is viewed as reprehensible, harmful, aggression promoting, and asocial (Blätter 1990, 1993).

In Mexico, an Indian cult calls hemp la santa rosa, “the sacred rose,” and venerates it as a sacred plant. The cult members chew hemp flowers at their meetings and use the psychoactive effects to intuitively speak sacred words, for divination, and as an expression of the divine (Williams-Garcia 1975). This hemp cult may have its roots in a pre-Columbian use of other psychoactive plants (possibly Salvia divinorum).



A Sumerian necklace from Ur incorporates a number of elements that are strongly reminiscent of Cannabis leaves (Emboden 1995, 99*). An ancient depiction of bull killing suggests that hemp may very well have played a role in the Mithraic mysteries. From the wounds of the bull that Mithras killed as a sacrifice to create the world, blood is shown flowing in the shape of a hemp leaf (Bennett et al. 1995, 146; cf. Peganum harmalahaoma).

Evidence of the effects of hemp consumption on art (painting) is not as obvious as with other psychoactive plants. This is certainly due to the fact that the effects of hemp are only rarely visionary in nature. With many artists, it is also impossible to state whether their works were influenced by hemp or other psychoactive substances because the artists themselves refuse to discuss the matter (Müller-Ebeling 1992b).

Hemp provided Aubrey Beardsley, one of the greatest artists of the art deco movement, with inspiration during his short life (1872–1898). He described Warden’s Extract of Cannabis Indica, available at pharmacies, as “my mental nourishment” (Behr 1995, 185). It is very likely that other art deco artists created their works while under the influence of hemp; information about this, however, is scant (Müller-Ebeling 1994). Consequently, it is not surprising that elements of the art deco style reemerged in the psychedelic art of the 1960s.

Hashish had a significant influence upon surrealism (Breton 1968). Other artists were also inspired by hemp. Picasso (cf. Artemisia absinthium) was quite familiar with hashish and was of the opinion that it made one happy and stimulated the imagination. In contrast, Alfred Kubin experienced its effects on more of an existential level and felt compelled to transform his hashish visions into art (Behr 1995, 208f., 244f.). A recent work by the American artist Alex Grey, known for his psychedelic visions in Sacred Mirrors, has hemp as its theme, featuring a hemp goddess for the “Cannabis Cup” (Rätsch 1995d, 306).

Since the 1960s, hemp, hemp leaves, hemp consumption, smoking paraphernalia, and caricatures of hemp smokers and of persecution by the police have all been the subjects of posters and postcards.

In the art of the Rastafarian movement, the hemp plant is sometimes depicted as a sacred tree. Many Rasta pictures clearly have been inspired or influenced by the heavy hemp consumption of the painter (e.g., Ivan Henry Baugh, Jah Wise) (Haus der Kulturen der Welt 1992).

It is possible that numerous Sanskrit texts were inspired by hemp consumption. It is certain that hashish inebriation had an enormous influence on the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights (cf. Papaver somniferum).

“The gods gave people hemp out of compassion so that they could attain enlightenment, lose their fear, and retain their sexual desire.”




“To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf. . . . To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky. . . . A longing for bhang foretells happiness. . . . It cures dysentery and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind. Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty [Shiva] made bhang. . . . [T]he quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter. . . . Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Skyflier, the Heavenly-guide, the Poor Man’s Heaven, the Soother of Grief. . . . No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang.”






Hashish inebriation inspired the literary efforts of many nineteenth-century authors. The works of Charles Baudelaire (Paradis artificiels), Fitz Hugh Ludlow (The Hasheesh Eater), Maurice Magre (La nuit de haschish et d’opium), Walter Benjamin (Über Haschisch), Leo Perutz (Der Meister des letzten Tages), and Ernst Jünger (Annäherungen) all rank among the classics of world literature (Kimmens 1977).

The poets of the Beat generation—Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Bowles—regarded hashish use as an important source of inspiration, and their work has provided us with numerous examples attesting to this fact. For the authors of the psychedelic generation—Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Tom Robbins, Mohammed Mrabet, Stephen Gaskin, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe—smoking hashish was an obvious source of inspiration. The smug novel Budding Prospects: A Pastoral, from the best-selling author T. Coraghessan Boyle (1984), relates the turbulent story of the attempts of several hippies to grow hemp and the paranoia that accompanies their efforts. The Rastafarian movement and its hemp consumption, and the inseparably related reggae, has also been the subject of literary treatments (e.g., Thelwell 1980, Zahl 1995).

Even more than such literature, underground comics have clearly been inspired by hemp and drawn for readers who are under the plant’s influence while they are reading them. One series of comic books, featuring the stories of various authors and illustrators, was even called Dope Comix. The works of artists Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) are among the classics of this genre. The tales of the Freak Brothers were quickly translated into German, and they became a true underground hit (1975). The motto of the three permanently stoned Freak Brothers expresses the sentiments of many hemp users: “As we all know, dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope!”

The German counterpart of the American Gilbert Shelton is Gerhard Seyfried. His comics and caricatures (Wo soll das alles enden [Where Will It All End?] and Freakadellen und Bulletten [Freak Sandwiches and Pig Burgers]) provide a clear and amusing document of the German underground during the 1970s and 1980s. Seyfried has recently produced a poster about hemp (1994). During the 1990s, Walter Moers’s comics and caricatures about das kleine Arschloch (“the little asshole”) enjoyed considerable popularity. In one volume titled Sex, Drogen und Alkohol, Moers provides a bitingly satirical characterization of the effects of a variety of psychoactive substances, including hashish. While the underground comics primarily give expression to typical “stoner” humor, the more “artistically serious” comics (e.g., Edition Comic Art) reveal a different side of the hashish state. The French comic artist Moebius, who gained renown primarily as a result of his collaboration with the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (Montana Sacra) and their joint opus John Difool (better known as Der Incal), has created worlds that his readers perceive as “extremely psychedelic.” The artist himself has stated that marijuana provided him with a source of inspiration and that he learned things from his experiences with inebriated states, but also that he has now grown out of these (Moebius 1983).

Some comics focus exclusively on the topic of hemp, e.g., the works of Pete Loveday (Highter Breiter: Der definitive Hanf Comix, Edition Rauschkunde, 1995; Russell’ Big Strip Stupor-market, John Brown Publishing, 1995). The collected works of Harold Holmes bear the seal “Cannabis-Friendly Comicx”—this pertains especially to Der Abenteuer von Harolod Hedd (Raymond Martin Verlag, 1995). From time to time, hemp also appears in children’s comics, albeit in disguise. In Bud Sagendorf’s Popeye, the wondrous plant is camouflaged as spinach. The favorite food of the Frenchman Peyo’s Smurfs (who live in fly agaric mushrooms) is “sarsaparilla” (cf. Veratrum album). In Voss’s Der Drogenbaum [The Drug Tree], the plant turns into an autonomous thinking being (Volksverlag, 1984).

Hemp has also left its mark upon movies. Many movies from the first half of the twentieth century, such as Reefer Madness, were intended as deterrents but are unintentionally comical. Other “stoner” films that have appeared since the 1960s are intentionally humorous. Like the Freak Brothers of the comic world, the films of Cheech and Chong push marijuana use to satirical heights. The film Up in Smoke(1978) is a true cult classic of the hemp culture. The film Rembetiko (1985), which brings the Greek hemp and music scene of the 1930s and 1940s to life with much music and hashish, is well worth watching. The Harder They Come, a film based upon Michael Thelwell’s novel of the same name (1980), provides deep insight into the world of Rasta and reggae.

The music that is associated with smoking hemp and with marijuana and hashish is as varied as the cultural landscape of our planet (Rätsch 1995a). Although there is no hemp music per se, much traditional and ethnic music has been related to the ritual ingestion of hemp products for centuries. This includes both classical Indian music and Jajouka, the ecstatic music of Morocco (Welte 1990). Rembetiko, also known as rebetiko, is sometimes called the Greek blues, but it is actually a folk music from the 1930s and 1940s that was influenced by Oriental elements and was played primarily in Greek cafés by those under the influence of hashish (Dietrich 1987; cf. also Rätsch 2001, 92–93*).


At the dawn of the twentieth century, hashish was a well-known drug of fashion, as were opium and cocaine. (“Hashish,” fantasy from Schlosser and Wenisch; illustration from the periodical Das Magazin, January 1930)

Some music has been inspired and composed as a result of smoking hemp, while other music is played while directly under its influence. Some music draws upon texts from the hemp culture, and some is played for an audience whose members are inebriated as they listen. The musical excursions into the world of hemp-influenced consciousness are as multifarious as the possibilities of using the hemp plant. Indeed, the perception of music is profoundly affected by Cannabis (Fachner et al. 1995). This new listening experience has also produced new music (Mezzrow 1995; Shapiro 1988). Jazz, for example, has been profoundly affected by these new listening experiences. And the reggae that has developed in Jamaica is a “pure stoner music” (Epp 1984).

Today, an increasing number of hemp leaves are gracing the covers of CDs as well as the rainbow-colored CDs themselves. The hemp leaf has become a political symbol of the underground and the counterculture. The leaf signals both a disaffection with current political and social systems and a peaceful way of achieving inebriation and enjoying music. Some bands even name themselves after the plant and its products: Bongwater, Gunjah, Hash, The Smoke (Calm 1995).

For information about smoking devices and other paraphernalia, see Cannabis sativa.

Medicinal Use


In ancient times, the Assyrians were especially known for using Indian hemp (azalluqannapuganzigunnu) and hashish (martakal) in their medicine (Thompson 1949, 220ff.*). Numerous cuneiform texts attest to this fact. Hemp root was prescribed for difficult births. For abdominal pains, the entire plant was boiled and administered as an enema. Hemp oil or hemp in petroleum was rubbed onto swollen stomachs. The roasted seeds were administered for treating arimtu, a disease causing a type of shaking in the extremities. Crushed hemp seeds, mixed with the seeds of a Mesembryanthemum species, were given to “suppress the spirits” that were responsible for causing (probably) some type of depression. A mixture of hemp and cereal flour was used as an antidote. Mixed with other plants and with “pig oil,” hemp was applied as a small anal compress. Hemp was also used in beer (kurunnu); this brew was drunk to treat diseases that had been caused by witchcraft (Thompson 1949, 221f.*). It is possible that the Assyrians adopted the practice of inhaling hemp smoke from the Scythians (cf. Cannabis ruderalis), who long had trade relationships with the Assyrians before eventually contributing to their destruction. The Assyrians inhaled hemp smoke to relieve worries, cares, and sadness (Thompson 1949, 220*). Since these afflictions often hide behind the masks of demons, it is very likely that hemp was also used in exorcisms.



Discography of Hemp Music (a small selection)


Traditional and Ethnic Hemp Music

Jilala and Gnaoua—Moroccan Trance Music. SUB CD013-36. Sub Rosa Records, 1990. (Recorded by Paul Bowles.)

L’Ensemble Traditionnel de l’Orissa. L’Inde—Musique traditionnelle de danse Odissi. ARN 64045. Arion Records, 1975.

Maroc—Festival de Marrakech. PS 65041. Playasound Records, 1989.

The Master Musicians of Jajouka, featuring Bachir Attar. Apocalypse Across the Sky. 314-510857-2. Axiom Records, 1992. (Includes accompanying text by William S. Burroughs.)

Rembetica: Historic Urban Folk Songs from Greece. CD 1079. Rounder Records, 1992. (Historical original recordings [from the 1930s] from the legendary tekedes [hashish cafés])

Rembetiko—Original Filmmusik. CD CMC 013009. PROTON/Videorent, 1985.

Songs of the Underground. The Greek Archives. Vol. 5. F.M. Records 631.



Big Blunts—Smokin’ Reggae Hits. Vols. 1, 2, and 3. Tommy Boy Records, 1995ff.

Culture. International Herb. 44006. Shanachie Records, 1992.

Dub Syndicate. Stoned Immaculate. ON-U LP56. On-U Sound Records, 1991.

Inner Circle. The Best of Inner Circle. 74321 12734 2. Island Records, 1992.

Peter Tosh. Bush Doctor. 1C 064-61 708. EMI Electrola Records, 1978.

Peter Tosh. Legalize It. CDV 2061. CBS/Virgin Music, 1976.

Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music. 4 CDs. Island Records, 1993.

Zion Train. Natural Wonders of the World in Dub. WWLP/CD5. Zion Records, 1994.


Jazz, Pop, Rock, Metal, Ambient/Techno/Trance, etc.

Alex Oriental Experience. Studio Tapes 1976–78. WR 08517122. Wiska Records, 1996.

Black Crowes. The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. 512 263-2. Def American Records, 1992.

Blue Cheer. Oh! Pleasant Hope. 1971/LMCD 9.51080 Z. Line Records, 1991.

Cannabis Weekend. Dope Records, 1995.

Children of the Bong. Sirius Sounds. 540394-2. Ultimate Records, 1995.

Cypress Hill. Black Sunday. CK 53931. Ruffhouse/Columbia Records, 1993.

Dr. John, The Night Tripper. Remedies. AMCY-231. Atlantic, 1970.

Dope on Plastic. Vols. 1, 2, and 3. React CDs, 1994ff.

Embryo. Turn Peace. EFA 01045-26. Schneeball Records, 1990.

Freaky Fuckin Weirdoz. Senseless Wonder. PD 75331. RCA Records, 1992.

Give ’em Enough Dope. Vols. 1, 2, and 3. CD 001/310. Wall of Sound, ca. 1995ff.

Godfathers. Dope, Rock ’n’ Roll and Fucking in the Streets. GFTR CD 020. Corporate Image, 1992.

The Golden Dawn. “Power Plant.” LIK 24. Reissue Charly Records, 1988.

Gong. Camembert Electrique. CD LIK 64. Charly Records, 1990.

Gong. Flying Teapot. CD LIK67. Charly Records, 1973, 1990.

Green Piece. Northern Herbalism. CD 003. Kiff Records, 1996.

Hasch stoppt Hass—Alkohol killt. Vince Records 019, ca. 1995.

Hans Hass Jr. Magic Ganja. AIM0085. Aquarius Records, 1996.

Hempilation: Freedom Is Normal. Capricorn Records, 1995.

Highzung. LC-8248. Rockwerk Records, 1992.

Idjo. Argile. 3055-2. Schneeball/Indigo, 1995.

Jefferson Airplane. Long John Silver. NL89133. RCA Records, 1978.

Joint Venture. Dinger. Fun Beethoven Records, ca. 1994.

Marijuana’s Greatest Hits Revisited. 7-5042-2. Rehash Records, 1992.

MC5. High Time. R2 71034. Orig. Atlantic, 1971; reissue Rhino Records, 1992.

New Riders of the Purple Sage. Adventures of Panama Red. CK 32450. Columbia Records, 1973.

David Peel and The Lower East Side. Have a Marijuana. LECD 9.01050. Elektra, 1968; Line Records, 1991.

Pro Cannabis—Tranceformed Ambient Collection. DO CD 01. Dope Records, 1994; distributed by EFA. (Featuring Robert Anton Wilson.)

Rausch. Glad. 848546-2. Vertigo, 1991.

Reefer Songs—23 Original Jazz and Blues Vocals. Jass CD-7. Jass Records, 1989.

The Sky Is High . . . 25 jazzige Reefer Songs der 30er und 40er Jahre. LC 4590. Transmitter, 1995.

Snow Bud and The Flower People. Green Thing. FH-339D. Flying Heart Records, 1991.

Sweet Smoke. Just a Poke. LC 0162 EMI. Electrola Records, 1970.

Tad. Inhaler. 74321 16570 2. Giant Mechanic Records, 1993.

Ten Years After. Stonedhenge. 820 534-2. Decca, 1969; reissue Dream, 1989.

U.S. Homegrown. COA 70003-2. City of Angels, 1995.

Witthüser und Westrupp. Der Jesus Pilz—Musik vom Evangelium. 2021098-7. Pilz Records, 1971.

Zentralpark. Haschisch in Marseille. Peace Records, 1995.


Spoken Word (and related)

Cheech and Chong. 9 3250-2. Warner Bros. Records, 1972.

Cheech and Chong. Greatest. Hit. WB K 56 961. Warner Bros. Records, 1981.

Cheech and Chong. Up In Smoke. 7599-27367-2. Warner Bros. Records, 1978. (Soundtrack from the film of the same name.)

Mick Farren’s Tijuana Bible. Gringo Madness. CDWIK 117. Ace Records, 1993.

Mohammed M’Rabet. The Storyteller and The Fisherman. SUB CD015-38. Psalmodia Sub Rosa Records, 1990. (Translated and read by Paul Bowles [cf. Mrabet 1995].)


Since the beginnings of Ayurvedic medicine, Cannabis products have been an indispensable part of that tradition’s medicinal trove. The leaves (bhang) are ingested for cramps, earaches (otalgia), lower abdominal complaints, diarrhea (including bloody dysentery), body pains, and hemorrhaging. The crushed leaves are used as snuffs to treat headaches and other ailments. The resin (charas) is used especially as an aphrodisiac, usually combined with opium (Papaver somniferum), poison nut (Strychnos nux-vomica), thorn apple seeds (Datura metel), and spices (cf. Oriental joy pills). In Nepal, hemp is used as a tonic, stomach medicine, and pain and sleeping agent. Sick people are prescribed hemp drinks for a variety of ailments, including depression, lack of appetite, inconstancy, and altitude sickness, a frequent occurrence in the Himalayas (Morningstar 1985). In Kashmir, the roasted leaves and flowers of the female plant are mixed with honey and used as sleeping pills (Shah 1982, 298*).

Immigrants from India introduced the plant into the Caribbean and taught the peoples there about its many uses. As a result, in Jamaica ganja has become an important part of bush medicine and Rasta medicine. It is used as a general remedy and restorative (Witt 1995, 80ff.), as an efficacious means of relaxing, and also as an analgesic in the same manner that aspirin is used in Germany or the United States (Kitzinger 1971, 581). The Zionist-Coptic Church of Ethiopia encourages the Jamaican Rastas in such use, declaring that “the Herb may definitely be grown for its use as an asthma medicine, as a remedy for glaucoma, and for joint inflammations; also to aid in the treatment of cancer, as well as for economic use in the clothing industry and for producing paper to use, for example, in the manufacture of Bibles” (Gebre-Selassie 1989, 161). Ointments produced from crushed leaves and fat are applied externally to treat pain. A poultice is used to treat open wounds and internal pains. Newborns are sometimes rubbed with a mush made of hemp. Hemp tea is a popular prophylactic as well as therapeutic drink for practically all complaints. It is especially effective in treating eye weakness and night blindness (West 1991).

In the nineteenth century, Europeans discovered the analgesic properties of Indian hemp (Martius 1855; O’Shaughnessy 1839). This led to the development of a number of anodynes that were made from Cannabis indica and marketed both in Europe and in the United States (Edes 1893; Mattison 1891). In central Europe, the seeds were mixed with an extract of henbane (see Hyoscyamus niger) and used to treat gonorrhea (V. Robinson 1930, 39). Around the beginning of the twentieth century, numerous cigarettes and medicinal smoke powders based on Cannabis indica were utilized to treat asthma, lung ailments, neuralgia, and sleep disorders (cf. incensesmoking blends).

Homeopathic medicine uses Cannabis indica (Cannabis indica hom. HAB34, Cannabis indica hom. HPUS78) in accordance with the medical description to treat a wide variety of ailments, including asthma, impotence, lack of appetite, sexual exhaustion, nightmares, and nervous disorders (Boericke 1992, 187*; Schmidt 1992, 644).76

The American physician Lester Grinspoon has noted that Cannabis has shown great promise as a medicine to treat the following ailments: depression, pain, headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, paralysis, traumatic injuries, spasms, epilepsy, asthma, glaucoma, the side effects of cancer therapy, and AIDS (Grinspoon 1996; Grinspoon and Bakalar 1995; cf. also Roffman 1982). Overall, more and more physicians are expressing the wish that hemp products be made available for therapeutic purposes so that they can prescribe them for their patients (Clarke and Pate 1994; Grotenhermen and Karus 1995; Iversen 1993). Even psychiatry is beginning to revise its opinion of the plant (Baumann 1989; Hess 1996). But it is especially those patients who have had very good experiences with illegal self-medication who are demanding the (long overdue) legalization of Cannabis products (Corral 1994; Rathbun and Peron 1993). Studies have been designed to assess the medicinal use of Cannabis as an adjunct in AIDS therapy (Doblin 1994), and voters in California, Arizona, and other states have passed initiatives supporting the legalization of medical marijuana (ADH 1997).


Numerous record and CD covers feature hemp leaves (e.g., ProCannabis) or suggest Cannabis use (Marijuana’s Greatest Hits). Music and texts make frequent references to the plant. (CD covers: 1995, Dope Records; 1992, Rehash Records)




The resin, the female inflorescences, and the leaves of hemp all contain an essential oil and other substances, primarily cannabinoids, more than sixty of which are already known structurally and pharmacologically (Brenneisen 1986; Clarke 1981; Hollister 1986; Mechoulam 1970; Schmidt 1992). The main active constituent is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC, corresponding to Δ1-THC, abbreviated as THC). The resin (hashish) contains the four primary components, the so-called cannabinoids: Δ1-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with three variants, two of which—cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN)—result as artifacts only when the resin is stored. These substances are responsible for the psychoactive effects of hemp. The structures of some thirty other cannabinoids with only mild or no psychoactive effects have been described. The resin also contains various sugars, flavonoids, alkaloids (choline, trigonelline, piperidine, betaine, proline, neurine, hordenine, cannabissativine), and chlorophyll. The THC content can exhibit considerable variation. Some plants (fiber hemp) contain very little or none, while in others it can constitute as much as 25% of the resin. Four to 8 mg is regarded as an efficacious psychoactive or analgesic dosage (Schmidt 1992).

The characteristically scented essential oil, which imparts hemp with its typical bouquet, contains eugenol, guaiacol, sesquiterpenes, caryophyllene, humulene, farnesene, selinene, phellandrene, limonene, and other substances.

The constituents of the seeds, lignans, et cetera, are similar to those of Cannabis sativa.



The primary effect of consuming hemp is a mild to profound sense of euphoria accompanied by rich associative and imaginative abilities, a stimulated imagination, and a sense of physical well-being. Very often, the effects of hemp are also perceived as aphrodisiac or erotic (Amendt 1974; Blätter 1992; Cohen 1982; Lewis 1970).77 When cannabis is smoked, these effects are manifested within ten minutes; when eaten or drunk, in forty-five minutes to two hours. The euphoric phase lasts for one to two hours, after which a calming effect becomes predominant. The effects often culminate in a more or less dream-rich sleep. Hemp products can also potentiate the effects of other substances (e.g., of such nightshades as Atropa belladonnaBrugmansia spp.Datura spp.Hyoscyamus niger, and, of cocainenicotine, opium [Papaver somniferum], ayahuascaayahuasca analogs, and Piper methysticum). The effects of cannabis are generally contrary to those of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). Nicotine suppresses the effects of THC, while THC potentiates the effects of nicotine (cf. smoking blends).

When larger quantities of hashish are eaten or drunk, visionary states, enlivened imagination, hallucinations, and even near-death experiences can be the result (Baudelaire 1971; Benjamin 1972; Cohen 1966; Haining 1975; Hofmann 1996; Kimmins 1977; Ludlow 1981; Robinson 1930; Tart 1971). Overdoses can lead to circulatory problems, anxiety, and vomiting. In Nepal, strongly brewed tea (cf. Camellia sinensis) is recommended for overdoses. In the European drug scene, a high dose of vitamin C is a recommended first-aid step. Dangerous symptoms, not to mention deaths from Cannabis overdoses, are unknown (Grinspoon and Bakalar 1994; Hess 1996; Hollister 1986; Mikuriya 1973; Schmidt 1992).

The effects of Cannabis products are primarily the result of the principal constituent, THC. THC has euphoric, stimulant, muscle-relaxing, anti-epileptic, antiemetic, appetite-stimulating, bronchodilating, hypotensive, antidepressant, and analgesic effects. Cannabidiol (CBD) has no psychoactive effects but does have sedative and analgesic effects. Although cannabinol (CBN) is mildly psychoactive, it serves primarily to lower intraocular pressure and as an antiepileptic. Cannabigerol (CBG) is not psychoactive but does have sedative and antibiotic effects and also lowers intraocular pressure. Cannabichromene (CBC) has sedative effects and promotes the analgesic effects of THC (Grotenhermen and Karus 1995, 7). The lignans contained in the seeds suppress allergies.

The official, state-sanctioned and -supported psychiatry is dominated by the strangest notions and preconceptions about the long-term effects of frequent or chronic Cannabis use; for example, it is hypothesized that hemp is a “gateway drug” and that it contributes to a so-called amotivational syndrome (Täschner 1981). These “psychiatric symptoms” are pure invention and have no empirical basis (cf. Hess 1996). A politically independent, sociological study of the long-term effects of chronic hemp use yielded an interesting picture: “The chances that a person will think and work creatively and productively while under the influence of hemp increase with increasing experience with hemp” (Arbeitsgruppe Hanf and Fuss 1994, 103). Many studies of long-term use have demonstrated that Cannabis products are among the most harmless psychoactive agents of pleasure that humans have thus far discovered (cf. Blätter 1992; Grinspoon 1971; Hess 1996; Michka and Verlomme 1993; Schneider 1995).

Recent discussions have focused on the influence of Cannabis upon driving behavior. Lawmakers have based their legislation on the erroneous assumption that the effects of hemp are more dangerous than those of alcohol—even though a number of studies have shown that drivers under the influence of hashish drive considerably slower and with greater care than either sober or drunk drivers (Karrer 1995; Robbe 1994, 1996).

Commercial Forms and Regulations


Hemp products containing THC were banned in most countries as a result of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and are therefore not allowed to be marketed. There are only a few exceptions: “When signing the Single Convention, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan retained the right to permit the non-medical use of opium and cannabis” (Haag 1995, 174).


“The great disappointment of that which we know is what YOU encounter, terrible Bhairava,

the heads of hope hang bloody around YOUR loins.

I greet YOU, YOU who first placed into the earth the seeds of ganja,

from which my knowledge of YOU grows.

The lord of the burning pyres, may my smoke be as limitless as YOU, Uma [=Unmatta Bhairava].

Lowering my hemp-red eyes toward within, I experience YOU while inebriated, and I have left the world behind me.

Bom Shankar! In YOUR honor do I raise my dschillum [= chillum] to my brow,

so that I may merge with YOU. Om nama Shiva!”








Ong Hrîng. Ambrosia which is derived from Ambrosia, you who causes Ambrosia to rain down, make Ambrosia for me again and again. Bring Kâlikâ under my control. Give me siddhi, the miraculous abilities [= hemp]; svâhâ.”






In Germany, the Betäubungsmittelgesetz (Law on Narcotic Drugs) does not allow Cannabis to be used as medicine (Körner 1994, 56).78 Thus prohibition applies even to hemp preparations devoid of active constituents: “Homoeopathic drugs and preparations are subject to the stipulations of the Betäubungsmittelgesetz and thus are not open to trafficking” (Schmidt 1992, 653).

Only the seeds are explicitly allowed to be sold without restriction (Körner 1994, 38, 56*). Many countries now allow the cultivation of fiber hemp (see Cannabis sativa) or varieties with very low THC contents for industrial use.

However, many sorts of hashish from around the world, numerous sorts of marijuana (especially the potent hybrids from Holland, Acapulco gold, Thai sticks, etc.; cf. Cannabis x and hybrids), and, more rarely, hash oil are available on the black market. Holland has its “coffee shops” (cf. Coffea arabica) and bars where the police tolerate the sale of small quantities of hemp preparations (cf. Haag 1995). The legal situation for hemp consumers varies greatly from one country to another, and even within countries. While much of Europe now regards hemp consumption as a minor offense (Bührer n.d.), some Southeast Asian countries (Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines) may impose the death penalty on convicted hemp consumers.

“I found myself in a wondrous inner world. I existed alternately in different places and in different conditions. Once I steered my gondola through a moonlit Venetian canal, and then mountain upon mountain rose before my eyes, and the magnificence of the rising sun bathed the icy peaks in purple light. And then I spread my feathered leaves out like a giant fern in the primordial silence of some untouched tropical jungle and swayed and nodded softly in the scented breeze above a riverbed, upon whose waves equally thick clouds of music and perfume arose. My soul transformed itself into a plant being and was strangely and unimaginably enraptured.”




“Core, throw hemp into the wine! Let us drink of the juice of rapture!”








Dried parsley leaves are sometimes smoked as a hemp substitute. Whether this produces psychoactive effects is an open question. (Woodcut from Lonicerus, Kreuterbuch, 1679)



The seeds of Canavalia maritima, a plant used as a marijuana substitute.



In California, the dried herbage of wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) is smoked as a marijuana substitute. Careful cultivation may be able to increase the psychoactivity of the stock plant.



The inhabitants of the Atacama Desert (northern Chile) smoke the dried, resinous herbage of pupusa or chachalana, a desert plant that has not yet been botanically identified, as a marijuana substitute.


Marijuana Substitutes


These are plant drugs that are smoked in place of Cannabis flowers in order to induce an identical or similar effect. (After Ott 1993* and Schultes and Hofmann 1995*; modified and expanded)





It is thought that the fruits of the bay bean (Canavalia maritima) had a ritual or magical significance in ancient Peru. This painting on a Moche vessel may be a depiction of these fruits. It is uncertain whether they actually produce psychoactive effects.




See also the entries for Cannabis ruderalisCannabis sativa, and THC, as well as the Italian bibliography (SISSC 1994*).


Abel, Ernest L. 1980. Marihuana: The first twelve thousand years. New York: Plenum Press.


ADH [abbreviation]. 1997. Die Wende in Amerika? Hanfblatt 4 (26): 24–26.


Andrews, George, and Simon Vinkenoog, eds. 1968. The book of grass: An anthology of Indian hemp. New York: Grove Press.


Aldrich, Michael R. 1977. Tantric cannabis use in India. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 9 (3): 227–33.


Aldrich, Michael R., ed. 1988. Marijuana—an update. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 20 (1): 1–138.


Amendt, Günter. 1974. Haschisch und Sexualität. Stuttgart: Enke.


Anderson, Loran C. 1980. Leaf variation among Cannabis species from a controlled garden. Botanical Museum Leaflets 28 (1): 61–69.


Anonymous. 1994. Marihuana für DOS—Was Sie schon immer über Hanf fragen wollten, aber nie zu wissen wagten! Mannheim: TopWare PD-Service GmbH (TopWare 539).


Arbeitsgruppe Hanf und Fuss, ed. 1994. Unser gutes Kraut: Das Porträt der Hanfkultur. Solothurn: Nachtschatten Verlag; Löhrbach: Werner Pieper’s MedienXperimente.


Avalon, Arthur [= Sir John Woodroffe]. 1972. Tantra of the great liberation (Mahanirvana Tantra.) New York: Dover.


Baudelaire, Charles. 1971. Artificial paradise; on hashish and wine and means of expanding individuality. New York: Herder and Herder.


Barber, Theodore X. 1970. LSD, marihuana, yoga and hypnosis. Chicago: Aldine.


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Cannabis ruderalis Janischewsky


Weedy Hemp




Cannabaceae (= Cannabinaceae) (Hemp Family)

Forms and Subspecies





Cannabis intersita Sojak

Cannabis sativa L. ssp. spontanea Serebr. ex Serebr. et Sizov

Cannabis sativa L. var. ruderalis (Janisch.)

Cannabis sativa L. var. spontanea Mansfield

Cannabis spontanea Mansfield

Folk Names


Anascha, konopli, mimea, momea, mumeea, penka, penscha, ruderalhanf, russischer hanf, weedy hemp, wilder hanf, wild hemp



Weedy hemp was already being used for shamanic and ritual purposes in central Asia in prehistoric times. The description that Herodotus (ca. 500–424 B.C.E.) provided us about the ancient Scythian86 use of hemp in purification and burial rituals has been confirmed by archaeological findings in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. The Scythians also smoked hemp for pleasure (Rocker 1995). This small, wild hemp is still used in Mongolia for shamanic and medicinal purposes. Recently, a Scythian shaman was found in an undisturbed and frozen grave in the Altai Mountains. Among the goods found with her were hashish and other hemp products (Stern no. 18, 1994, 194ff.).

This hemp species was first described in 1924 by the Russian Janischewsky. Today, it is primarily used to breed low-growing varieties of hemp that contain THC (see Cannabis x and hybrids).



Cannabis ruderalis now grows wild from the Caucasus Mountains to China. Its species name expresses its preference for so-called ruderal places, i.e., rocky locations, scree, and rubbish sites. Cannabis ruderalis originally occurred in the wild only in southeastern Russia (Emboden 1979, 172*). It is likely that the Scythians introduced it into Mongolia, where it then became wild.



See Cannabis indicaCannabis x and hybrids.



This hemp species grows to a height of only 30 to 60 cm. It has few if any branches and rather small leaves. The inflorescence is small and forms only on the end of the stalk. The seed coat has a fleshy base.

Psychoactive Material


—Female flower



Preparation and Dosage


The female inflorescences are dried and smoked or inhaled as a kind of incense. The flowers are also suitable for use as a fumigant in sweat lodge rituals (cf. Bruchac 1993), both alone and in combination with Artemisia absinthiumArtemisia mexicana, or other Artemisia species.

A shamanic incense with psychoactive effects can be mixed using equal parts of hemp flowers, the tips of juniper branches (Juniperus communis L., Juniperus recurvaJuniperus spp.), thyme (Thymusspp.), and wild rosemary (Ledum palustre).

In Russia, sedative, aphrodisiac, and analgesic foods are prepared from hemp, saffron (Crocus sativus), nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), cardamom, honey, and other ingredients (cf. Oriental joy pills).

Ritual Use


The oldest known literary evidence of the use of hemp is from Herodotus. In a comprehensive chapter of his History, he describes the social structure, religion, mythology, and customs of the Scythians. Their burial or death ritual is particularly significant:


When they have buried the dead, the relatives purify themselves as follows: they anoint and wash their heads; as to their bodies, they set up three sticks, leaning them against one another, and stretch, over these, woolen mats; and, having barricaded off this place as best they can, they make a pit in the center of the sticks and the mats and into it throw red-hot stones.

Now, they have hemp growing in that country that is very like flax, except that it is thicker and taller. This plant grows both wild and under cultivation, and from it the Thracians make garments very like linen. Unless someone is very expert, he could not tell the garment made of linen from the hempen one. Someone who has never yet seen hemp would certainly judge the garment to be linen.

The Scythians take the seed of this hemp and, creeping under the mats, throw the seed onto the stones as they glow with heat. The seed so cast on the stone gives off smoke and a vapor; no Greek steam bath could be stronger. The Scythians in their delight at the steam bath howl loudly. This indeed serves them instead of a bath, as they never let water near their bodies at all. But their women pound to bits cypress and cedar and frankincense wood on a rough rock and mix water with it.87 When they have made of the wood and the water a thick paste, they smear it all over their bodies and faces. A wonderful scent pervades them from this; a day later they take off the plaster, and they have become shining clean. (Herodotus 4.73–75; 1987, 307*)


It seems obvious that the hemp seeds were still attached to the inflorescences, for how else could a “smoke and a vapor” have resulted that would make the Scythians “howl loudly” in their delight? Herodotus is describing a cult activity in which the relatives of the deceased would accompany the soul of the dead to the next world while in a shamanic trance. The ritual was intended to benefit both the soul of the deceased and the souls of those remaining behind. Hemp loosened the barriers of death and enabled people to take part in the immortality of the soul; it allowed a collective way to overcome grief. Meuli (1935) has characterized this ritual use of weedy hemp as a “family shamanism” devoid of any pronounced specialization (Jettmar 1981, 310). Similar rituals are known to have occurred among other peoples (e.g., the Assyrians; cf. Cannabis indica) and tribes of antiquity (the Thracians and Massagets). The Massagets, a nomadic tribe from central Asia, camped together around fires into which certain “fruits” had been thrown. After inhaling the smoke, the participants sprang up elatedly (312).



The deeply frozen Scythian burial mounds of Pazyryk Kurgan (Altai Mountains, Mongolia) have yielded leather bags containing hemp seeds together with vessels for burning incense (cf. incense). The bags are 2,400 years old. The rather small seeds indicate that they came from wild-growing plants—most likely Cannabis ruderalis (Clarke 1996, 104). The Russian archaeologist S. I. Rudenko excavated a number of bronze incense vessels, over which a felt-covered frame still stood (Rudenko 1970). The report on the excavation noted:


In the southwest corner of the grave chamber of Parzyryk Kurgan II, a bundle of six staffs was found. Below this stood a rectangular bronze vessel on four legs, filled with broken stones. The lengths of the staffs was 122.5 cm, their diameter some 2 cm, at the lower end about 3 cm. A small strap that held the staffs together had been pulled through openings 2 cm below the upper end of each staff. Glued to all of the staffs was a narrow spiral strip of birch bast. North of this, in the western half of the chamber, a second bronze vessel was found, of the type of a Scythian kettle. It too was full of stones. Over this were spread six of the same type of staff, partially broken and thrown about when robbers had broken in. These, together with the incense vessel, were covered by a large leather wrap.

In addition to the stones already mentioned, both vessels were found to contain a large quantity of hemp seeds (Cannabis sativa L. of the variety C. ruderalis Janisch). Hemp seeds were also in one of the leather bottles described previously, which was attached to one of the poles of the hexapod that stood over the vessel in the form of a Scythian kettle. The stones in the incense vessels had been scorched and a portion of the hemp seeds blackened. In addition, the handles of the kettle that had been used as an incense vessel were wrapped around with birch bast. Clearly, the vessel had been so heated by the glowing stones that it could not be picked up with bare hands. . . . Consequently, we have here complete sets of those utensils that were necessary to carry out the purification ritual that Herodotus so precisely recorded in reference to the Pontic Scythians. Sets of utensils for inhaling hemp were present in all of the Pazyryk kurgans, without exception. Even though the vessels and the wraps had been stolen by plunderers, with the exception of Kurgan II, the staffs remained in all of the kurgans. It follows that the smoking of hemp was practiced not only during the purification rituals but also in daily life. . . . Here, both men and women smoked. (In Jettmar 1981, 311)



Scythian incense vessels for inhaling hemp smoke, found in prehistoric graves in the High Altai (Mongolia). (From Rudenko, Frozen Tombs of Siberia, 1970)

Medicinal Use


A Mongolian medicine known as bagaschun, said to be a kind of cure-all and apparently made from hemp, juniper (cf. Juniperus recurva), and bat guano, is known from the Altai region. This preparation is also known as mumioand is highly esteemed as a tonic in Russian folk medicine (Rätsch 1991).

Today, Cannabis ruderalis grows throughout the entire region once inhabited by the Scythians. It is still used in Russian and Mongolian folk medicine to treat depression. Recently, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences sponsored a project to document the shamanic, folk medical, and Lamaistic knowledge of medicinal plants. It was found that in the Mongolian tradition Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalisare used for different medicinal purposes. Cannabis sativa is usually used as a source of oil, whereas Cannabis ruderalis is esteemed more for its psychoactive properties (Mr. Günther, Ulaanbaatar, pers. comm.). It is very likely that Mongolian shamans in the Altai use Cannabis ruderalis as well as juniper to induce shamanic trances (Jettmar 1981).

“A colleague of mine at work is a ‘Russian-German’ from Tadjikistan. As we were first smoking something together a few days ago during lunch, he told me the following: ‘Where I come from, no one buys hashish or grass. It grows wild everywhere. To harvest, we only needed to ride through the pastures of hemp on our horses. After just a half hour, the legs of the horses were covered with resinous plant parts. All we needed to do was scrape it off.’ ”






(HAAG 1995, 51)




This hemp species contains more or less the same cannabinoids as are found in Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. The amount of THC, however, is considerably lower. Only 40% or less of the cannabinoids that were measured could be identified as THC; in Cannabis sativa, the THC content is around 70% (Beutler and Der Marderosian 1978, 390).



See Cannabis indica.

Commercial Forms and Regulations


See Cannabis indica.



See also the entries for Cannabis indicaCannabis sativa, and THC.


Benet, Sula. 1975. Early diffusion and folk uses of hemp. In Cannabis and culture, ed. V. Rubin, 39–49. The Hague: Mouton.


Beutler, John A., and Ara H. Der Marderosian. 1978. Chemotaxonomy of cannabis I. Crossbreeding between Cannabis sativa and C. ruderalis, with analysis of cannabinoid content. Economic Botany 32 (4): 387–94.


Bruchac, Joseph. 1993. The Native American sweat lodge. Freedom, Calif.: The Crossing Press.


Brunner, Theodore F. 1977. Marijuana in ancient Greece and Rome? The literary evidence. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 9 (3): 221–25.


Clarke, Robert C. 1995. Scythian Cannabis verification project. Journal of the International Hemp Association 2 (2): 194.


Haag, Stefan. 1995. Hanfkulture weltweit. Uber die Hanfsituation in fast 100 Ländern rund um den Äquator. Der Grüne Zweig 73. Rev. ed. Lörbach: Die Grüne Kraft.


Janischewsky. 1924. Cannabis ruderalisProceedings Saratov 2 (2): 14–15.


Jettmar, Karl. 1981. Skythen und Haschisch. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:310–13. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.


Meuli, K. 1935. Scythia. Hermes 70/1. Berlin.


Pavlinskaya, Larisa. 1989. The Scythians and Sakians, eighth to third centuries B.C. In Nomads of Eurasia, ed. Vladimir Basilov, 19–39. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum; Seattle: University of Washington Press.


Rätsch, Christian. 1991. Neues aus der Dreckapotheke: Mumio. Unpublished manuscript, Hamburg.


Rocker, Tom. 1995. Hanfkonsum im Altertum: Die Skythen. Hanfblatt 2 (11): 19.


Rudenko, S. I. 1970. Frozen tombs of Siberia: The Pazyryk burials of Iron Age horsemen. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Cannabis sativa Linnaeus


Fiber Hemp




Cannabaceae (= Cannabinaceae) (Hemp Family)

Forms and Subspecies


In the mid-nineteenth century, the renowned botanist Alphonse-Louis-Pierre Pyramus de Candolle (1806–1893) attempted to standardize the taxonomy of Cannabis and proposed the following varieties:


Cannabis sativa var. α Kif DC. (Moroccan hemp)

Cannabis sativa var. β vulgaris DC. (fiber hemp)

Cannabis sativa var. γ pedemontana DC. (wild hemp)

Cannabis sativa var. δ chinensis DC. (Chinese hemp, giant hemp) [= C. chinensis (Del.) A. DC., C. gigantea Del. ex Vilm. = C. sativa cv. Gigantea]


According to Clarke (1981, 159), this species can be subdivided into the following subspecies and varieties (although it is certainly not a good idea to propose a subspecies indica as well as a variety indica):


Cannabis sativa var. sativa (the common, cultivated fiber hemp)

Cannabis sativa var. spontanea (has smaller seeds, occurs wild)

Cannabis sativa ssp. indica (very rich in cannabinoids) [= Cannabis indica]

Cannabis sativa var. indica (fruits smaller than 3.8 mm)

Cannabis sativa var. kafiristanica (short fruits)


It has also been suggested that the species can be divided into four phenotypes (chemotypes) (cf. Clarke 1981, 160). In my opinion, however, there is no justification for such a division, as any one population can exhibit considerable variation in cannabinoid content (Hemphill et al. 1978; Latta and Eaton 1975). Two chemotypes have been described for Africa (Boucher et al. 1977).



Cannabis americana Houghton

Cannabis chinensis Delile

Cannabis culta Mansfield

Cannabis erratica Sievers

Cannabis generalis Kraus

Cannabis gigantea Crevost

Cannabis intersita Sojak

Cannabis lupulus Scopoli

Cannabis macrosperma Stokes

Cannabis pedemontana Camp

Cannabis sativa monoica Holuby

Cannabis sativa ssp. culta Sereb. ex Sereb. et Sizov

Folk Names


Agra, al-haschisch, anascha, asa, atchi e erva, bang, bangi, banj, baretta, bästling, bengi, beyama, bhamgi, bhang, bhanga, bhangalu, bhangaw, bhangi, birra, bota (Spanish), bushman grass, cabeça de negro, canamo, cáñamo, canape (Italian), canep (Albanian), cangonha, canhamo, cannabis, cannabus, cannacoro, ceviche, cha de birra, chamba, chanvre, charas, chira, chrütli (Swiss German,“little herb”), daboa, dacha, dagga, da hola herb, dakka, damó (Tagalog, “grass”), darakte-bang, dendromalache, deutscher hanf, dhagga, diamba, dirijo, djamba, dumo, doña juanita, donna juanita, durban poison, el-keif (Lebanese), entorpecente (“sedative agent”), epangwe, erva, esra (Turkish, “the secret one”), faserhanf, fêmea, femmel, fimmel, fumo brabo, fumo d’angola, fumo de caboclo, füve (Hungarian), gallow grass, gañca, ganja, gemeiner hanf, gnaoui, gongo, gosale (Persian), gras, graspflanze, grass, green goddess, grifa, habibabli, hafion, hajfu (Turkish), hamp (Swedish), hampa (Danish), hanaf, hanf, hanif, hapis ciel (Serí,“green tobacco”), hapis-coil (Serí), happy smoke, haschisch, haschischpflanze, hashisch, hashîsh (Arabic), hasisi (Greek), hasjet, hemp, henep, hennup (Dutch), hierba santa (“sacred herb”), hierba verde (“green herb”), huntul k’uts (Lacandon, “a different tobacco”), indracense, injaga, kabak, kamanin (Japanese), kamonga, kamugo, kanab, kañcaru, kancha, kannabion, kannabis, kansa, kemp (Flemish), kenvir (Bulgarian), kif, knaster, konopie, konopli, kraut, lopito, lubange, ma, maconha, maconha di pernambuco, maconha negra, macusi (Huichol), makhlif, malak, mala vida (“bad life”), malva, mapouchari, mara-ran (Ka’apor, “false malaria”), maria-johanna, maria juana, maricas, mariguana, marihuana, marijuana,88 marimba, mariquita, masho, masmach, mästel, mavron, mbange, mbanji, mbanzhe, mfanga, mmoana (Lesotho), moconha, morrao, mota (Mexican), mulatinha, muto kwane, myan rtsi spras, nasha, nederwiet, njemu, nsandu, ntsangu, nutzhanf, opio do pobre (Portuguese, “opium of the poor”), Panama red, panga, planta da felicidade (Portuguese, “plant of happiness”), penek, pot, potagua ya, pungo, rafi, rauschgiftpflanze, riamba, rosamaria, rosa maría, sadda, samenhanf, sangu, santa rosa (Mexican, “sacred rose”), shivamuli, siddhi, siyas (Turkish,“the black one”), ssruma, starker tobak, swazi, taima, tedrika, tiquira, trava (Croatian), tujtu (Cuicatleca), ugwayi abadala (“smoke of the ancestors”), uhtererê, uluwangula, umbaru, umburu, wacky weed, weed, wee-wee, whee, wiet, yama, yesil (Turkish, “the green one”), zahret-el-assa, zerouali, zhara, ziele konopi


Fiber hemp (Cannabis sativa), also known as ta-ma, is one of the oldest food, ritual, and medicinal plants of Chinese culture. (Illustration from the Chih-wuming-shih-t’u k’ao)



The (ancient) Chinese character (ma) for Cannabis sativa.




The oldest archaeological evidence for the cultural use of hemp points to it originally having been used in shamanic contexts (cf. Cannabis indicaCannabis ruderalis). Hemp seeds, which could be identified as those of Cannabis sativa, were recovered in the Neolithic linear band ceramic (linearbandkeramik, or LBK) layers of Eisenberg in Thuringia, Germany (Renfrew 1973, 163*; Willerding 1970, 358*). The layers were dated to around 5500 B.C.E. Hemp seeds have also been found in the excavations of other, somewhat more recent Neolithic layers, such as those in Thainigen (Switzerland), Voslau (Austria), and Frumusica (Romania) (Renfrew 1973, 163*). These finds date from a period of peaceful, horticultural, pre-Indo-European cultures who venerated the Great Goddess (Gimbutas 1989) and knew of shamanism (Probst 1991, 239). The linear band ceramics that lend their name to this Stone Age cultural epoch are decorated with graphics representing the archetypical motifs and patterns of hallucinatory or psychedelic themes (Stahl 1989).

In Bavaria, finds of clay pipe bowls with wooden stems, discovered during excavations of the barrows of Bad Abbach-Heidfeld, indicate that cannabis or its products were being smoked more than 3,500 years ago, possibly together with sleeping poppy or opium (Papaver somniferum) (Probst 1996, 174). There is also evidence from the early Germanic period:


Hemp remnants from the prehistoric period of northern Europe were uncovered in 1896 when the German archaeologist Hermann Busse opened an urn grave in Wilmersdorf (Brandenburg). The vessel that was found dates from the fifth century B.C. and contained sand mixed with plant remains. The botanist Ludwig Wittmaack (1839–1929) was able to identify fruits and fragments of the seed coats of Cannabis sativa L. among these. (Reininger 1941, 2791)



Woodcut of a male hemp plant from the herbal of John Gerard (1633). At that time, the botanically male plant was thought to be the female.


Among the Germanic peoples, hemp was sacred to Freya, the goddess of love, and apparently was used as an inebriant in ritual and aphrodisiac contexts. Like Indian hemp (Cannabis indica), the German fiber hemp did and does have inebriating effects:


But here as well, the fresh plant also possesses an extremely potent, unpleasant, often intoxicating scent, and it is known that dizziness, headache, and even a kind of drunkenness frequently result if a person spends too much time in a blooming hemp field. It has also been observed that roasting hemp, as it is called, produces a similarly intoxicating scent. (Martius 1996, 31)


Fiber hemp was mentioned as a source of food several times in the ancient Chinese Shih Ching, the Book of Songs (ca. 1000–500 B.C.E.) (Keng 1974, 399f.*). The Egyptians probably learned of hemp at about the same time.

The useful and medicinal hemp plant was very well and very widely known in ancient times. Theophrastus provided a botanically correct description of the plant under the name dendromalache. As many ancient authors (e.g., Varro, Columbarius, and Gellus) attest, hemp was known and esteemed in antiquity as a good source of fiber, and it was planted widely. Pliny wrote extensively about hemp, which he called cannabis.

Concerning the origin of the term cannabis, we know that there was a classical Greek expression cannabeizein, meaning “to inhale hemp smoke.” Another word from that period is methyskesthai, “to become inebriated through drug use”; Herodotus used this word to describe the inebriation that the inhabitants of an island in the Araxes (Araks) produced using smoke (cf. Cannabis ruderalistrees with special fruits). Hemp’s ability to improve mood did not escape Democritus (460–371 B.C.E.), the “laughing philosopher,” who called the plant potamaugis. He noted that when this plant is drunk in wine (cf. Vitis vinifera) together with myrrh (Commiphora molmol Engl.), it produces delirium and visions. He was especially struck by the immoderate laughter that invariably followed such a drink. Galen (ca. 130–199 C.E.) wrote that in Italy it was customary to serve small cakes containing hemp for dessert. These would increase the desire to drink, although eating too many had stupefying effects (6:549f.). It was considered a sign of good manners to offer guests hemp, for it was regarded as a “promoter of high spirits” (cf. Oriental joy pills).

It is likely that hemp spread from Arabia and Egypt into the rest of Africa at an early date. Numerous pipes and smoking devices have been found in archaeological contexts, some of which still contain remnants of THC (Van der Merve 1975). It appears that the introduced hemp, with its better effects, supplanted the use of indigenous smoking herbs (Leonotis leonurusSceletium tortuosum) (Du Toit 1981, 511).

As human culture spread around the world, hemp went along (see Rätsch 2001*). In many places, e.g., Morocco and Trinidad, hemp cultivation has come to have an irreplaceable economic importance for the indigenous peoples (Joseph 1973; Lieber 1974; Mikuriya 1967).



Cannabis sativa is from either central Europe or central Asia. But as an anthropophilous species, it already had become widespread during the Neolithic period. Today, it is found almost everywhere in the world and has adapted to very different soil types and climate zones. It is unknown as a wild plant.



See Cannais indica and Cannabis x and hybrids.



Fiber hemp can vary considerably in appearance. Like the other Cannabis species, it usually occurs in two sexes, but it can also be hermaphroditic in cultivation. It has few if any branches and has the largest leaves of the three species. The individual “fingers” of the leaves are long, lanceolate, and very slender (an important feature for recognizing the plant).

Cannabis sativa is sometimes confused with the anaphrodisiac monk’s pepper (Vitex agnuscastus L.; Verbenaceae), the leaves of which are remarkably similar to those of Cannabis sativa. An illustration from the Viennese Dioscorides that has appeared in many publications as the “oldest representation of the hemp plant” (e.g., Fankhauser 1996) is in fact Vitex agnus-castus.

Psychoactive Material


—Female flowers

—Resin glands


—Red hemp oil (hash oil, cannabis resinoid)

—Seeds (cannabis sativae fructus, fructus cannabis, semen cannabis, hemp fruits, hemp grains, hemp seeds)


Preparation and Dosage


It is primarily the dried female inflorescences and the resin or resin-rich preparations that are used for psychoactive purposes; these are smoked or ingested (cf. Cannabis indica).

The inflorescences are usually referred to as marijuana (= marihuana) or “grass.” Well-known sorts of Colombian marijuana from Cannabis sativa include Santa Marta Gold (= Muños de oro; yellow-brown color), Blue Sky Blonde (yellowish color), Red Dot (= Punto rojo; yellow color with reddish specks), and Mangoviche Grass. Panama Red, from Panama, and Maui Waui, from Hawaii, are legendary.

Cannabis sativa is just as well suited as Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis for producing hashish. In Mexico, hashish, the pressed resin, is known as marijuana pura (“pure marijuana”) and is obtained in the following manner:“All you need is to walk wearing the heavy leather pants typical of the rancheros through the field with the diabolical flora and a knife, which is used to scrape off the resin that has adhered to the pants, and then roll it into little balls” (V. Reko 1936, 65*). Numerous kinds of hashish are obtained from Cannabis sativa: Green Turkish (sometimes adulterated with henna, Lawsonia inermis L. [syn. Lawsonia alba Lam.]), Yellow (from Syria), Yellow Lebanese, Red Lebanese, Zero-Zero (pure resin gland powder, pressed), Black Moroccan (hand-rubbed resin), Green Moroccan (pressed resin glands and flowers),89 and Pollen (unpressed resin glands; has nothing to do with flower pollen).

It is also possible to make hashish at home. The female inflorescences should be chopped into large pieces and then rubbed on gauze over a bowl. A fine dust consisting of the valuable resin glands and fine resinous leaf tips will collect in the bowl. This powder should be dried and pressed, and then the hashish is ready. Using this method, between 30 and 50 g of hashish can be obtained from 1 kilo of plant material (plant tips with inflorescences) (Haller 1996).

Red hemp oil (= hashish oil) is produced as a resinoid by extracting the female inflorescences and then evaporating the solvent (ethanol; cf. alcohol). The essential oil of hemp, which smells slightly of fresh hemp flowers, is obtained by steam distillation.

Cannabis sativa is often used as an additive in alcoholic beverages. In former times, it was used in place of Humulus lupulus as an additive in beer (cf. Cannabis indica). Since 1996, a hemp beer is again being produced in Switzerland that is freely available (at least in that country). In South America, hemp flowers are added to drinks made with Trichocereus pachanoi (cf. cimora). Democritus’s famous recipe for a hemp wine is suitable for internal use: Macerate 1 teaspoon of myrrh (Commiphora molmol, cf. incense) and a handful of hemp flowers in 1 liter of retsina or dry Greek white wine (cf. Vitis vinifera). Strain before drinking. Hemp can also be used to make liquors. Mexicans “chop up the flowers and the top parts of the stalks, rub these with sugar and chili [cf. Capsicum spp.], and mix everything in a glass of milk or mescal (agave liquor) [see Agave spp.]” (V. Reko 1936, 64*).


The female flower of Cannabis sativa forms the THC-rich resin on its hairs.



The male flower of fiber hemp (Cannabis sativa).



A rare African form of Cannabis sativa, with red stalks.


“It’s true that marijuana is a fantastically effective aphrodisiac, and the person who understands pot can weave together a symphony of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactual sensitivity to make lovemaking an adventure which dwarfs the imagination of the pornographers.”






Ritual Use


Our present state of knowledge does not allow us to state with certainty when and where the ritual use of Cannabis sativa began (cf. Cannabis indica). In central Europe, it may already have been in use in shamanic contexts during the Neolithic period (Probst 1991; Stahl 1989). It is certain that shamans in ancient China knew of hemp, which they used to produce a shamanic state of consciousness so they could divine and heal. Ancient Chinese literature is filled with information about hemp’s medicinal use. In the earliest sources on the Chinese use of herbs, it is said that chronic use of ma-fen (“hemp fruits”) will enable one to “see devils” that can then be pressed into service. Unfortunately, these sources do not say how the hemp was ingested, i.e., whether it was eaten, drunk, or burned as incense (Li 1975*).

Hemp products had a cultic significance among the ancient Greeks. The Greek archaeologist Sotiris Dakaris, who has been investigating the oracle of the dead at Acheron since 1959, discovered “bags full of black clumps of hashish” in Ephyra (Vandenberg 1979, 24*). It is entirely possible that the temple sleepers at Acheron were administered a hemp preparation so that their dreams would be especially vivid. It is also possible that hemp, as “Scythian fire” (cf. Cannabis ruderalis), was used as an incense in the cult of Asclepius, the god of healing.

Remnants of hemp were recovered from the ancient Egyptian grave of Amenophis IV (Akhenaten; 1550–1070 B.C.E.) in Tell el-’Amârna. Hemp pollen has been identified on the mummy of Ramses II. Egyptian mummies were stuffed with hashish (Balabanova et al. 1992). Thus, the ritual use (death cult) of hemp during the dynastic period in Egypt (New Kingdom) has been demonstrated for the second millennium B.C.E. (Manniche 1989, 82f.*). This has also made it possible to identify the ancient Egyptian word šmšmt as “hemp.” In Egypt, hashish continues to possess a ritual significance as a socio-integrative element at social events. People smoke out of the water pipe together after meals and at concerts and dance performances (Sami-Ali 1971).

In medieval Islamic society, hemp products were used primarily as sacred plants to support meditation in various Sufi and dervish orders. The plant became so closely identified with its mystical use by the Sufis that it became known as the “hashish of the poor”[= Sufis] (Rosenthal 1971, 13).

In South Africa, where the plant is known as dagga, hemp is now usually smoked for hedonistic purposes. In times past, however, it played an important role in numerous tribal rituals (Du Toit 1958, 1975, 1980; Morley and Bensusan 1971; Watt 1961). Its smoke was inhaled for divination, and it was sometimes smoked collectively for healing dances (cf. Ferraria glutinosakanna). Dagga was often used ritually together with other psycho-active plants (see Mesembryanthemum spp.Sceletium tortuosumTabernanthe iboga).

In Switzerland, the hemp fields in the allmend (the collective fields of a community) were once the site for various pagan and erotic rituals that the authorities interpreted as “witches’ dances” or the “witches’ sabbath” (Lussi 1996).

In modern Germany, ritualized hemp use based upon traditional shamanic patterns (cf. Cannabis indica) is becoming increasingly common. Because of the legal situation, however, these so-called hemp healing circles have not yet been described in any detail.



Pipes intended for hemp smoking have been found in Gallo-Romanic graves (Brosse 1992, 181*). Celtic and Germanic graves have yielded inflorescences of Cannabis sativa (cf. Papaver somniferum).

A large number of smoking devices have been invented in Africa. In addition to water pipes with hoses (so-called argile), these include horn pipes, earth pipes, and gourd pipes (Du Toit 1981, 518ff.).

When it comes to smoking devices, creativity knows no limits. Numerous pipes have been devised and used to smoke hemp. In addition to standard tobacco pipes and Oriental water pipes (hookahs), devices have been developed specifically for smoking hemp. There are pure pipes, bongs (water pipes, made out of laboratory glass, plastic, or ceramics), ka-booms (smoking tubes with extra airflow), and others in a wide variety of designs. One astonishing invention comes from California, where an ocean creature, the sea urchin (Clypeaster rosacea), produces a shell that can be made into a natural and ideal pure pipe. Apart from the shell, all that is needed is a small screen, which is placed in the sea urchin’s oral cavity. The smoke is drawn through its anal opening. Consequently, in the local counterculture it has become customary to speak of “ritual analingus.” Recently, Nick Montefiore and James Hassal developed a high-tech pipe the size of a credit card and made entirely of metal (for pure smoking). When it came on the market, it was immediately awarded the BBC Designer Prize.

Most of the time, however, hemp products and the smoking blends prepared from them are smoked in the form of a self-rolled cigarette, a so-called joint (called also spliff, doobie, reefer, number, etc.). A joint is made using either the same commercial rolling papers that are used to roll cigarettes or special commercial rolling papers that differ from normal rolling papers principally in that they are larger. In 1986, the cigarette company BAT sponsored an exhibit in Paris entitled Les papiers du paradis [The Papers of Paradise]. The catalogue for the exhibit made it very clear that most of the rolling papers were intended for use in rolling joints.

For modern treatments of Cannabis sativa in painting, music, literature, comics, and films, see Cannabis indica. In art, no distinction is made among the different Cannabis species.

“[Hemp] preparations have a stimulating and invigorating effect upon the nervous system in small doses. This is why the physician will prescribe it for great exhaustion and debility following physical exertion. Larger amounts are sedative. For this reason, it is sometimes administered in the place of morphine. It is also a good agent for diseases of the urinary apparatus.”






Medicinal Use


For additional information on medicinal use, see also Cannabis ruderalis (and see Rätsch 2001*).

The medical pyramid inscriptions and papyri of the ancient Egyptians indicate that hemp was used as a medicine in myriad ways. One translation reads, “A treatment for the eyes: celery; hemp; is ground and left in the dew overnight. Both eyes of the patient are to be washed with it early in the morning” (P. Ramesseum II, 1700 B.C.E.). This recipe has been interpreted as a treatment for glaucoma, which was common in ancient Egypt. This interpretation is very revealing, for ophthalmologists still have not developed a medicine better than hemp for treating glaucoma (cf. Cannabis indica).

Hemp was introduced into New Spain (Mexico, Peru) in the early colonial period. Since that time, it has been prized as a stimulant. Hemp, mixed with aguardiente (alcohol made of sugar-cane; cf. alcohol), is used both internally and externally as a remedy for scorpion stings and tarantula bites (Bye 1979a, 145*).

At the beginning of the early modern period, all of the “fathers of botany” were in agreement that hemp possessed a “warm and dry nature” and could therefore dispel gas and flatulence. They wrote that it provided a good medicine for ear ailments. The use of the boiled root as a wrap for painful limbs is also frequently mentioned. The most important information about this early medicinal use comes from Tabernaemontanus, whose Kräuterbuch [Book of Herbs] is one of the most comprehensive works of its kind. It says, “Those women who have cramps in the womb / for them hemp should be burned / and held to the nose” (1731, 937*). This is apparently the first written reference to medicinal hemp smoking (to treat uterine cramps) in the German-language literature.

In the nineteenth century, so-called Indian cigarettes were sold in European pharmacies. These were smoked to treat asthma, lung and larynx ailments, neuralgia, sleeplessness, et cetera (cf. Cannabis indica). They were made from hemp leaves that had been soaked in an extract of opium (Papaver somniferum), together with belladonna leaves (Atropa belladonna), henbane leaves (Hyoscyamus niger), thorn apple leaves (Datura stramonium), and sometimes Lobelia inflata or cherry laurel schnapps (Prunus laurocerasus L.). Such mixtures are reminiscent of the recipes for both witches’ ointments and smoking blends (including kinnikinnick). The recommended dosage was one cigarette as needed (Fankhauser 1996, 156f.).

Hemp has been a part of the homeopathic materia medica since its inception. Homeopathy was established as a medical method by the physican Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), who wrote the following about hemp (Cannabis sativa):


Until now, hemp has been usefully applied for acute gonorrhea and several types of jaundice. This organotropic tendency is found again in testing the symptoms of the urinary organs. In Persian inns, the herb is used to alleviate tiredness among those who are traveling on foot. Here, too, there are suitable symptoms for testing. For a long time, I administered hemp juice in the mother tincture, in the dosage of the smallest portion of a drop. But now I find that the dilution C30 is able to more highly develop these medicinal powers. (Buchmann 1983, 19f.*)


In the homeopathic doctrine of medicine, it has become customary to distinguish between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, as the medical descriptions and symptom pictures of the two species vary considerably. Cannabis sativa (Cannabis sativa hom. HPUS78, Cannabis hom. HAB34) is prescribed primarily for urine retention as well as diseases of the urinary tract (gonorrhea, inflammation of the penis) and the respiratory organs. A substitute is Hedysarum ildefonsianum, a Brazilian species of sweet clover (Boericke 1992, 190*).

Hemp seed oil is now used in folk medicine to treat neurodermatitis. It is applied to the affected areas of the skin (this treatment is said to be amazingly successful).



The chemistry of Cannabis sativa is very complex but is now quite well understood (Lehmann 1995). The main psychoactive constituent is THC (cf. Cannabis indica), which is contained primarily in the resin and the female flowers and, in lower concentrations, in the leaves. The most highly concentrated product is hashish oil, which contains approximately 70% THC. The resin contains up to 25% THC. Studies of older material have demonstrated that, even when stored for long periods, THC only very slowly oxidizes into the much less active CBN (Harvey 1990).

The essential oil contained in the plant, and especially the hashish, contains caryophyllene oxide. This odoriferous substance has been used to train police dogs to detect the drug (Martin et al. 1961; Nigam et al. 1965). Hemp’s essential oil usually either is devoid of THC or contains only trace amounts.


Persian water pipe for using hashish. (From Neander, Tabacologia, 1626)

The seeds contain an oil rich in lignan, proteins, and the enzyme edestinase (St. Angelo and Ory 1970). The growth hormone zeatin has been found in immature seeds (Rybicka and Engelbrecht 1974). The seeds also contain the alkaloids cannabamine A, B, C, and D, piperidine, trigonelline, and L-(+)-isoleucine-betaine (Bercht et al. 1973). Hemp seed oil, which is obtained by cold pressing the seeds, is very rich in unsaturated fatty acids (vitamin F).

The pollen contains Δ9-THC as well as THCA, an alkaloid-like substance, flavones, and phenolic compounds (Paris et al. 1975).

The leaves of Cannabis sativa have be shown to contain choline, trigonelline, muscarine, an unidentified betaine, and, astonishingly, hordenine, a β-phenethylamine alkaloid present in many cacti (El-Feraly and Turner 1975). The leaves of Thai and African populations have yielded water-soluble glycoproteins, serine-O-galactoside, and hydroxyproline (Hillestad and Wold 1977; Hillestad et al. 1977).

The roots of Cannabis sativa have been found to contain friedelin, epifriedelinol, N-(p-hydroxy-β-phenethyl)-p-hydroxy-trans-cinnamamide, choline, and neurine as well as the steroids stigmast-5-en-3β-ol-7-on (= 7-keto-β-sitosterol), campest-5-en-3β-ol-7-on, and stigmast-5,22-dien-3β-ol-7-on (Slatkin et al. 1975).


The male hemp plant in blossom. (Woodcut from Tabernaemontanus, Neu Vollkommen Kräuter-Buch, 1731)




See Cannabis indica.

Commercial Forms and Regulations


See Cannabis indica.




“In Bohemia, hemp is a febrifuge. To cure lumbago in France (Côte d’Or), you should tie a thread from the male hemp plant around the hips.”






(1996, 121*)




See also the literature lists for Cannabis indica and THC.


Bercht, C. A. Ludwig, Robert J. J. Ch. Lousberg, Frans J. E. M. Küppers, and Cornelis A. Salemink. 1973. L-(+)-isoleucine betaine in Cannabis seeds. Phytochemistry 12:2457–59.


Boucher, Françoise, Michel Paris, and Louis Cosson. 1977. Mise en évidence de deux types chimiques chez le Cannabis sativa originaire d’Afrique du Sud. Phytochemistry 16:1445–48.


Brenneisen, Rudolf. 1996. Cannabis sativa—Aktuelle Pharmakologie und Klinik. Jahrbuch des Europäischen Collegiums für Bewußtseinsstudien (1995): 191–98.


Clarke, Robert C. 1995. Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) cultivation in the Tai’an District of Shandong Province, People’s Republic of China. Journal of the International Hemp Association 2 (2): 57,60–65.


Dayanandan, P., and J. P. B. Kaufman. 1975. Trichomes of Cannabis sativa. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Du Toit, Brian M. 1958. Dagga (Cannabis sativa) smoking in Southern Rhodesia. The Central African Journal of Medicine 4:500–1.


———. 1975. Dagga: The history and ethnographic setting of Cannabis sativa in southern Africa. In Cannabis and culture, ed. V. Rubin, 81–116. The Hague: Mouton.


———. 1980. Cannabis in Africa. Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema.


———. 1981. Cannabis in Afrika. In Rausch und Realität, ed. G. Völger, 1:508–21. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum für Völkerkunde.


Emboden, William A. 1990. Ritual use of Cannabis Sativa L.: A historical-ethnographic survey. In Flesh of the Gods, ed. P. Furst, 214–36. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press.


Fankhauser, Manfred. 1996. Haschisch als Medikament: Zur Bedeutung von Cannabis sativa in der westlichen Medizin. Unpublished inaugural diss., Bern.


Feraly, Farouk el-, and Carlton E. Turner. 1975. Alkaloids of Cannabis sativa leaves. Phytochemistry 14:2304.


Gimbutas, Marija. 1989. The language of the goddess. New York: Harper and Row.


Grotenhermen, Franjo, and Renate Huppertz. 1997. Hanf als Medizin: Wiederentdeckung einer Heilpflanze. Heidelberg: Haug.


Haller, Andi. 1996. Hausgemachtes Haschisch und andere Methoden zur Cannabis-Verarbeitung. Markt Erlbach: Raymond Martin Verlag.


Harvey, D. J. 1990. Stability of cannabinoids in dried samples of cannabis dating from around 1896–1905. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 28:117–28.


Hemphill, John K., Jocelyn C. Turner, and Paul G. Mahlberg. 1978. Studies on growth and cannabinoid composition of callus derived from different strains of Cannabis sativaLloydia 41 (5): 453–62.


Hillestad, Agnes, and Jens K. Wold. 1977. Water-soluble glycoproteins from Cannabis sativa (South Africa). Phytochemistry 16:1947–51.


Hillestad, Agnes, Jens K. Wold, and Thor Engen. 1977. Water-soluble glycoproteins from Cannabis sativa (Thailand). Phytochemistry 16:1953–56.


James, Theodore. 1970. Dagga: A review of fact and fancy. South African Medical Journal 44:575–80.


Joseph, Roger. 1973. The economic significance of Cannabis sativa in the Moroccan Rif. Economic Botany 27:235–40.


Latta, R. P., and B. J. Eaton. 1975. Seasonal fluctuations in cannabinoid content of Kansas marijuana. Economic Botany 29:153–63.


Lehmann, Thomas. 1995. Chemische Profilierung von Cannabis sativa L. Master’s dissertation, Bern.


Lieber, Michael. 1974. The economics and distribution of Cannabis sativa in urban Trinidad. Economic Botany 29:164–70.


Liggenstorfer, Roger. 1996. Hanf in der Schweiz. Jahrbuch des Europäischen Collegiums für Bewußtseinsstudien (1995): 147–56.


Lussi, Kurt. 1996. Verbotene Lust: Nächtliche Tänze und blühende Hanffelder im Luzerner Hexenwesen. Yearbook for Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness 1995 (4): 115–42. Berlin: VWB.


Martin, L., D. Smith, and C. G. Farmilo. 1961. Essential oil from fresh Cannabis sativa and its use in identification. Nature 191 (4790): 774–76.


Martius, Georg. 1996. Pharmakologisch-medicinische Studien über den Hanf. 1855. Reprint, Berlin: VWB.


Meijer, Etienne de. 1994. Diversity in cannabis. PhD diss., Wageningen, Netherlands. (Distributed by the International Hemp Association IHA, Amsterdam.)


Mikuriya, Tod H. 1967. Kif cultivation in the Rif mountains. Economic Botany 21 (3): 231–34.


Morley, J. E., and A. D. Bensusan. 1971. Dagga: Tribal uses and customs. Medical Proceedings 17:409–12.


Nigam, M. C., K. L. Handa, I. C. Nigam, and L. Levi. 1965. Essential oils and their constituents XXIX. The essential oil of marihuana: Composition of genuine Indian Cannabis sativa L. Canadian Journal of Chemistry 43:3372–76.


Paris, M., F. Boucher, and L. Cosson. 1975. The constituents of Cannabis sativa pollen. Economic Botany 29:245–53.


Probst, Ernst. 1991. Deutschland in der Steinzeit. Munich: C. Bertelsmann.


———. 1996. Deutschland in der Bronzezeit. Munich: C. Bertelsmann.


Reininger, W. 1941. Haschisch. Ciba-Zeitschrift 7 (80): 2765–95.


Rosenthal, Franz. 1971. The Herb: Hashish versus medieval Muslim society. Leiden: E. J. Brill.


Rybicka, Hanna, and Lisabeth Engelbrecht. 1974. Zeatin in Cannabis fruit. Phytochemistry 13:282–83.


St. Angelo, Allen J., Robert L. Ory, and Hans J. Hansen. 1970. Properties of a purified proteinase from hempseed. Phytochemistry 9:1933–38.


Sami-Ali. 1971. Le haschisch en Égypte. Paris: Payot.


Segelman, Alvin, R. Duane Sofia, and Florence H. Segelman. 1975. Cannabis sativa L. (marihuana): VI. Variations in marihuana preparations and usage—chemical and pharmacological consequences. In Cannabis and culture, ed. V. Rubin, 269–91. The Hague: Mouton.


Slatkin, David J., Joseph E. Knapp, and Paul L. Schiff Jr. 1975. Steroids of Cannabis sativa root. Phytochemistry 14:580–81.


Smith, R. Martin, and Kenneth D. Kempfert. 1977. Δ1-3,4-cis-tetrahydrocannabinol in Cannabis sativaPhytochemistry 16:1088–89.


Spinger, Alfred. 1980. Zur Kulturgeschichte des Cannabis in Europa. Kriminalsoziologische Bibliographie: 26–27.


———. 1982. Zur Kultur und Zeitgeschichte des Cannabis. In Haschisch: Prohibition oder Legalisierung, ed. W. Burian and I. Eisenbach-Stangl, 34–43. Weinheim and Basel: Beltz.


Stahl, Peter W. 1989. Identification of hallucinatory themes in the Late Neolithic art of Hungary. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 21 (1): 101–12.


Sterly, Joachim. 1979. Cannabis am oberen Chimbu, Papua New Guinea. Ethnomedizin 5 (1/2): 175–78.


Taura, Futoshi, Satoshi Morimoto, and Yukihiro Shoyama. 1995. Cannabinerolic acid, a cannabinoid from Cannabis sativaPhytochemistry 39 (2): 457–58.


Tobler, Friedrich. 1938. Deutsche Faserpflanzen und Pflanzenfasern. Munich and Berlin: Lehmanns Verlag.


Van der Merwe, Nikolaas. 1975. Cannabis smoking in thirteenth–fourteenth-century Ethiopia: Chemical evidence. In Cannabis and culture, ed. V. Rubin, 77–80. The Hague: Mouton.


Van der Werf, Hayo. 1994. Crop physiology of fiber hemp (Cannabis sativa L.). Dissertation, Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands. (Distributed by the International Hemp Association IHA, Amsterdam.)


Watt, J. M. 1961. Dagga in South Africa. Bulletin on Narcotics 13:9–14.


Cannabis x and Hybrids


Hemp Hybrids




Cannabaceae (= Cannabinaceae) (Hemp Family)

Hemp connoisseurs regard any marijuana (= female hemp flowers) that contains more than just a few seeds as inferior in quality. They prefer those psychoactive, THC-rich sorts that form no or few seeds. These are known as sinsemilla, literally “without seeds” (Mountain Girl 1995). When producing Cannabis crosses or sorts, a fundamental distinction is made between hybrids that can be grown outdoors and those that thrive only under conditions of artificial light (so-called indoor sorts).

Crosses between Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis are popular, as they are very small as well as very potent. Crosses with Cannabis ruderalis are well suited for growing outdoors, as they flower early regardless of the length of the day.

Because of pressure from law enforcement, cannabis intended for smoking is being grown in closed rooms with ever greater frequency. The cultivation of highly potent sorts in greenhouses is now especially common in the Netherlands (Jansen 1991).

Most marijuana growers no longer use seed to produce new plants; they use cuttings (clones) of female plants instead. To take a cutting, a sharp knife is used to separate a vigorous 8 to 10 cm long shoot from the mother plant. The leaves are removed and the shoot is immediately placed in a container of lukewarm water. Then the shoot is placed in a watered piece of rock wool that is full of holes. To promote root formation, a root hormone may be added to the water. Shoots will most readily develop roots if they are kept in a warm room (soil temperature between 21 and 24°C) with very high (at least 80%) air humidity (e.g., in a small, heated greenhouse). Once the shoots have formed roots, they may be planted in soil in pots.

The most important factor affecting the formation of THC-rich flowers is the amount of light the plants are exposed to: “When two clones of a female hemp plant grow in two totally different surroundings, i.e., one perhaps in shade and the other in full sun, their genotypes remain identical. But the clone grown in the shade will grow tall and slender and mature late, whereas the clone exposed to sunlight will remain small and bushy and mature much sooner” (Clarke 1997, 28f.).

One important goal of cultivation is shortening the time it takes for the THC-rich inflorescences to develop without producing seeds. For this reason, many sorts or hybrids are evaluated by the amount of time between seed germination and the full development of the resinous flowers. For example:


Skunk Special

flowers after 9 weeks

Super Skunk

flowers after 7 weeks

Big Bud

flowers after 9 weeks

California Orange Bud

flowers after 9 weeks

California Indica

flowers after 7 weeks


flowers after 10 weeks

NL Shiva

flowers after 9 weeks

Shiva Shanti

flowers after 7–8 weeks

NL Masterkush

flowers after 10 weeks


flowers after 11 weeks


flowers after 8 weeks

Durban Poison

flowers after 9 weeks

Hindu Kush

flowers after 6–7 weeks

Northern Lights

flowers after 7–8 weeks

Jack Herer

flowers after 10 weeks


Spectacular results were achieved in experiments in which Cannabis sativa was grafted onto Humulus lupulus and Humulus japonicus. Here, four-week-old hops seedlings were cut straight across. The stems were split, and a cannabis stalk that had also been split was placed into each hops seedling’s stem, after which the two were tied together with cellulose. Over 30% of these grafted plants survived and developed into large plants. When THC-rich hemp is grafted onto Humulus, it continues to produce high quantities of constituents. Unfortunately, this does not occur when hops is grafted onto cannabis (Crombie and Crombie 1975).

There is a very rich literature on methods for cultivating all sorts and hybrids of hemp, including Behrens 1996, Frank and Rosenthal 1980, Starks 1981, and Stevens 1980. High-tech methods have been developed to provide optimal watering to hemp fields in dry or very dry areas (prairies, deserts). Special hydroponic techniques have been developed for indoor growing (Storm 1994).

There is now a vigorous trade in legal seeds (cf. Cannabis indica) of particular sorts and crosses for growing both indoors and outdoors.

“Since every cannabis sort is genetically unique and exhibits at least a few genes that cannot be found in other sorts, these unique genes are lost forever when a sort dies out. If genetic problems should appear as a result of excessive inbreeding of commercial sorts, then these new sorts might not be as resistant to previously unknown threats from the environment. Then, for example, it would be possible for a plant disease to spread with great speed and simultaneously befall and destroy several fields. For a farmer, the loss of a large part of the crop means immense financial losses. In this way, entire sorts can disappear forever.”






See also the entries for the other Cannabis species.


Behrens, Katja. 1996. Leitfaden zum Hanfanbau in Haus, Hof und Garten. Frankfurt/M.: Eichborn.


Coffman, C. B., and W. A. Gentner. 1979.


Greenhouse propagation of Cannabis sativa L. by vegetative cuttings. Economic Botany 33 (2): 124–27.


Crombie, Leslie, and W. Mary L. Crombie. 1975. Cannabinoid formation in Cannabis sativa grafted inter-racially, and with two Humulus species. Phytochemistry 14:409–12.


Frank, Mel, and Ed Rosenthal. 1980. Das Handbuch für die Marihuana-Zucht in Haus und Garten. Linden: Volksverlag.


Jansen, A. C. M. 1991. Cannabis in Amsterdam: A geography of hashish and marihuana. Muiderberg, Netherlands: Dick Coutinho.


Mann, Peggy. 1987. Pot safari: A visit to the top marijuana researchers in the U.S. New York: Woodmere Press.


Margolis, Jack S., and Richard Clorfene. 1979. Der Grassgarten. Linden: Volksverlag.


Mountain Girl. 1995. Sinsemilla: Königin des Cannabis. Markt Erlbach: Raymond Martin Verlag.


Starks, Michael. 1981. Marihuana-Potenz. Linden: Volksverlag.


Stevens, Murphy. 1980. Marihuana-Anbau in der Wohnung. Linden: Volksverlag.


Storm, Daniel. 1994. Marijuana hydroponics: High-tech water culture. Berkeley, Calif.: Ronin.