Although it is referred to in various ways (cannabis, hemp, grass, marijuana) and there are several types within the same plant (indicates, sativa or ruderalis), we always talk about the species cannabis sativa L. (member of the family of Cannabaceae).

Cannabis Sativa L.

Currently, this species is widely distributed throughout the world, although its origin goes back to Central Asia1. There are records that humans have been using this plant for over 5000 years, being one of the oldest sources not only of food (6000 BC) and textile fiber (4000 BC), but also of products for therapeutic purposes. The first record of the use of cannabis as a medicine dates back to around 2700 BC, where it was part of the Chinese pharmacopoeia, being indicated for the treatment of chronic pain and psychological disorders, among others.2 (up to the year 100 more than 100 different therapeutic applications for cannabis have been identified). However, cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes all over the world, from Ancient Egypt (where they allegedly used cannabis for the treatment of glaucoma and general inflammations), to India (where it was used as an anti-phlegmatic and anesthetic) , the Middle East (where it was used to treat migraines and pain), passing by the English (who used cannabis to treat seizures, pain, muscle spasms, insomnia and sleep problems)3,4.

Within this complex species, more than 700 different cultivated varieties (cultivars) have been described. What distinguishes them from each other are mainly the differences in the concentration of its components (more than 500 different chemical components have already been identified in cannabis). Of all these, to mention those that are the most important, or that are at least the most studied and on which the most evidence exists on the therapeutic benefits: cannabinoids (not forgetting the importance of terpenes, which have their role in the benefits identified therapeutic factors)5,6.

  1. McPartland JM, et al. Cannabis in Asia: its center of origin and early cultivation, based on a synthesis of subfossil pollen and archaeobotanical studies. Veget Hist Archaeobot 28, 691–702 (2019).
  2. Brand EJ, et al. Cannabis in Chinese Medicine: Are Some Traditional Indications Referenced in Ancient Literature Related to Cannabinoids? Front Pharmacol. 2017 Mar 10; 8: 108.
  3. Hill K. Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World's Most Popular Weed. Hazelden Publishing. Center City, MN (2015).
  4. Newton D. Marijuana: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO: Inc. Santa Barbara, CA (2013).
  5. Zuk-Golaszewska K, et al. Cannabis sativa L. - Cultivation and quality of raw material. J. Elem., 23 (3): 971-984.
  6. Hazekamp A, et al. Cannabis - from cultivar to chemovar. Wiley online library, Drug Test. Analysis (2012) n,
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