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Similarly, Chinese medical records related to other plant parts with minimal cannabinoid content, such as the stalks and roots of cannabis, are of limited value for differentiating historical biotypes or evaluating applications that may relate to cannabinoids. Thus, the primary plant parts that can be reasonably expected to illustrate effects that relate to cannabinoids are the leaf and female inflorescence.
Accordingly, while the actions, indications, and properties of all parts of the cannabis plant were reviewed in the historical texts described above, the female inflorescence and leaf formed the focus of the investigation. A review of the nature, flavor, actions, and indications of various cannabis plant parts in Chinese bencao reveals a number of terms that may indicate the presence of intermediate or drug biotypes of cannabis.
For example, applications related to severe pain, perceived toxicity, or actions such as inducing anesthesia or hallucinations may reflect the historical presence of drug biotypes. Accordingly, the terminology associated with such effects was compared with descriptions of other drugs found in the Chinese materia medica that have known hallucinogenic or narcotic effects, such as Datura spp.
Cannabis has been documented in bencao texts from the Eastern Han Dynasty c. As described below, the bencao literature suggests that both drug and fiber biotypes were known in ancient China, but bencao texts never differentiated the plant into drug vs. Consequently, determining the implications of different biotypes on the historical applications of cannabis requires an in-depth analysis of the actions, indications, and plant parts used in ancient medical texts.
Furthermore, although records in the historical literature that suggest intoxication or altered consciousness may help to indicate preparations with significant levels of cannabinoids, such references may overlook effects that relate to non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD, which are the predominant cannabinoids in the cannabis hemp varieties widely grown in China today.
Our textual analysis suggests that drug biotypes of cannabis were known in ancient Chinese medicine, but it is possible that long-term selection of fiber-rich cultivars caused drug biotypes to fade in terms of their medical importance over time.
Several trends in the literature suggest that drug biotypes of cannabis were rarely applied in Chinese medicine or gradually became less prominent, including: Many early bencao texts from the second century through the twelfth century AD feature the inflorescence mafen as a main monograph heading with the achenes known as mazi or maziren presented as an addendum, but over time the emphasis gradually tended to favor the achenes.
By the time of the Qing Dynasty — AD , many bencao texts only contained monographs on the achenes, and the inflorescence mafen was often omitted entirely, a practice that has carried over into modern clinical textbooks of TCM. Beyond the context of bencao texts, an emphasis on the use of the achenes in clinical practice can also be seen from TCM formula literature. According to data from the National Health Insurance system in Taiwan collected in , this formula ranked 40 out of the most frequently prescribed TCM formulas for insurance reimbursement, with over 10, kg of concentrated dry extract prescribed in Taiwan in In the same year in Taiwan, kg of concentrated dry extract from the achenes huomaren was also prescribed for insurance reimbursement as a single-herb addition to formulas, ranking it as of single herb extracts by weight Jian, By contrast, the inflorescence of cannabis rarely appeared in historical formulas, with the exception of a relatively modest range of small formulas that are found in bencao texts.
While a small number of combinations with other herbs are listed in bencao texts, the relatively small number of compound formulas that feature the inflorescence of cannabis thus suggests that the inflorescence was rarely used in clinical applications when compared with the achenes. Abundant bencao references to cannabis as a food and fiber crop suggest that fiber and seed production were emphasized from an early time.
Additional references to pressing the seeds for oil and using the fiber for cloth and candlewicks are also found in later texts such as the Compendium of Materia Medica Ben Cao Gang Mu by Li Shizhen in the sixteenth century Liu et al. However, despite the prominence of the achenes in ancient and modern applications, contemporary and historical texts contain contradictions related to nomenclature that remain poorly resolved.
This mirrors the challenges inherent in interpreting the complex terminology surrounding the terms used to refer to the female inflorescence and infructescence in bencao texts. One of the most significant challenges for the interpretation of bencao records related to cannabis lies in the traditional terminology used to describe the flowering tops of the plant.
Three terms are prominently used in bencao texts, and different authors from different historical eras describe them in contradictory ways. In the sixth century, the Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica and the Additional Records of Famous Physicians were transmitted along with additional commentary from Tao Hongjing, a physician and Taoist alchemist who utilized different colors of ink to differentiate his annotations from the original transmitted text.
Tao's comments initiated centuries of debate because he described mafen as cannabis without fruit, which clashed with previous definitions from the Er Ya dictionary that described mafen as the fruit of cannabis. Notably, Li Shizhen attempted to rectify these nomenclature issues in the sixteenth century while dividing mabo and mafen into separate monographs in the Compendium of Materia Medica , but his analysis introduced additional confusion that carried over into modern materia medica compilations and remains unresolved to this day.
The complex debate surrounding the nomenclature of mafen has been summarized in several contemporary Chinese journal publications Liu and Shang, ; Liu, In addition to the immature female inflorescence and the mature seeded female infructescence, modern bencao scholars have also proposed that the identity of mafen includes the bracts surrounding the achenes but not the achenes themselves Chen and Huang, Li chose to follow descriptions from Wu Pu's Materia Medica Wu Pu Ben Cao that established synonymy between the terms mabo cannabis spike and mahua cannabis flower , which were classified as acrid and non-toxic, and separated these terms from mafen , which was classified as acrid, sweet, and toxic.
Thus, despite the fact that the Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica listed mabo as a synonym of mafen , Li Shizhen split the two into separate entries. Li noted that mafen was different from edible cannabis because the shell is toxic and the inner kernel is non-toxic, but his description failed to adequately clarify whether the shell was a reference to the pericarp or the bract surrounding the achene fruit. In the contemporary Great Encyclopedia of Chinese Medicinals , the term mafen is defined as the immature racemes Editorial Committee, The question of which plant tissues correspond to mabo, mahua , and mafen is thus poorly resolved, as early bencao texts regarded them as synonyms but some later texts divide them by gender.
The sixth century author Tao Hongjing listed mabo as a synonym of mafen and stated that mafen lacked fruit Tao, , which along with the non-toxic properties ascribed to mabo in later texts may have influenced its classification as the male flower; however, no major Chinese texts have proposed that mafen lacking fruit could refer to the seedless female inflorescence.
The wide range of different interpretations for the identity of mafen presented over the centuries suggests that many later authors were preserving previous quotations yet had little practical experience with materials such as mafen, mabo , and mahua. This text, along with the added notes known as the Additional Records of Famous Physicians Ming Yi Bie Lu , contains many of the fundamental statements that were repeated about cannabis in later centuries.
The original text of the Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica ascribes the following properties to mafen: Governs the five taxations and seven damages, benefits the five viscera, and descends blood and cold qi; excessive consumption causes one to see ghosts and run about frenetically.
Prolonged consumption frees the spirit light and lightens the body. These original statements were repeated in many later bencao texts, and have likely influenced the properties listed for mafen in contemporary Chinese texts.
Additionally, in the text Illustrated Analysis of Medicinal Substances Yao Wu Tu Kao , the ancient statement that cannabis descends blood and cold qi was interpreted by the author Yang Huating as an indication that mafen quickens the blood. Yang recommended mafen which he regarded as the female inflorescence for a variety of conditions including headache, menstrual irregularities, itching, convulsions, anemia, and dry cough Editorial Committee, However, despite these twentieth century publications that summarize traditional indications using contemporary descriptions, only a few texts offered new information or applications for mafen between the sixteenth century and Yang's text Zheng, Several applications of cannabis for pain in Chinese medicine may relate to cannabinoids.
However, any link between cannabis and Hua Tuo's formula is purely speculative, as the original ingredients of the ancient formula ma fei san are lost.
In another application related to pain, the Tang Dynasty physician Sun Simiao — AD recorded that the leaves of cannabis could be crushed to extract their juice, which was used to treat unbearable pain due to fractured bones Chen and Huang, In the original recipe, the preparation method specifies that the seeds of cannabis are soaked in water, then the sediment is collected from the bottom of the water, stir-fried until aromatic in a silver vessel, and ground into a fine white powder; this is then boiled with alcohol and taken internally on an empty stomach Su, If the achenes were soaked in water with the bracts intact, it is possible that the preparation method described would yield cannabinoids, as broken resin glands from the bracts would sink in water; when this sediment was stir-fried, THC acids would be decarboxylated into bioavailable THC, which would then be efficiently extracted when boiled with alcohol, as in the original preparation.
Nonetheless, while cannabinoids offer a plausible explanation for the unusual effects and preparation methods used for this formula, such an interpretation remains purely speculative in the absence of confirming evidence. The flower of cannabis under the name mahua was used internally in combination with datura flower Datura spp.
The source text notes that it induces a stupor-slumber in which the person experiences no pain and is not harmed. The same combination is repeated in the Compendium of Materia Medica in the sixteenth century, which contains an additional recipe for wind disease with numbness that combines cannabis flower mahua with wild aconite root caowu ; Liu et al.
By the seventeenth century, the text Reaching the Source of Materia Medica Ben Jing Feng Yuan reported that cannabis flower mahua can treat hidden wind within the body, and records further that it is used as an anesthetic, noting that it can be used to painlessly apply a stone needle to swollen welling-abscesses Zhang, A variety of historical sources describe mental effects from cannabis or applications to treat mental illness.
In some cases, these applications may reflect cannabinoids, as CBD has been researched for anti-psychotic effects Mechoulam et al. In the sixteenth century Compendium of Materia Medica , Li Shizhen repeated this statement and added a previous recipe that states: Other early quotations suggest that mental effects were observed from the use of cannabis.
The Compendium of Materia Medica also noted that the leaf of cannabis was indicated to treat malaria and was said to induce a state of drunkenness Liu et al.
In addition to mental effects observed from the use of cannabis, historical bencao texts featured applications for cannabis in the context of mental illness. The first appearance of these applications dates to the seventh century text Formulas Worth a Thousand Gold Qian Jin Fang by Sun Simiao Tang, , which stated that cannabis treated wind-withdrawal, a traditional category of disease that relates to mental illness Wiseman and Feng, In some cases, it is possible that actions that were ascribed to mafen in twentieth century Chinese texts were acquired from Western applications of cannabis.
For example, the text Pharmacognosy Sheng Yao Xue by Li Chenghu stated that cannabis treated agitation, hysteria, spasmodic cough, and nerve pain, while the text Illustrated Analysis of Medicines Yao Wu Tu Kao by Yang Huating added many new indications such as mania-withdrawal, convulsions, and insomnia that were not previously discussed in historical texts Editorial Committee, In the case of traditional actions seen in contemporary Chinese medical texts for mafen such as settling tetany a traditional disease term associated with severe spasm and convulsions; Editorial Committee, , it remains unclear whether this action is related to assimilation of Western medical theories in the early twentieth century or whether it is derived from traditional indications for wind and wind-withdrawal.
Given China's long history of hemp cultivation and its rich body of un-translated medical literature, it is surprising that little academic attention has focused on exploring the ways in which cannabis was used in Chinese medicine. The importance of cannabis as a fiber and food crop in ancient China, combined with the extensive use of the achenes in medicine, makes the Chinese historical record particularly valuable.
Bencao literature opens a window into the history and culture of ancient Chinese medicine. As all parts of the cannabis plant were recorded in bencao texts, the Chinese medical literature can help to clarify many details about the historical applications of cannabis in Chinese medicine, as well as providing clues into the historical prevalence of different biotypes as ancient Chinese farmers gradually selected superior varieties for fiber and seed crops.
The significant differences in how cannabis has been employed in Chinese vs. Western medicine likely relate to differences between drug and fiber biotypes as well as cultural factors, but thus far minimal research has focused on exploring this issue. Similarly, minimal attention has been given to the topic of CBD in Chinese medical history, as even fiber-rich biotypes of cannabis that were not associated with drug use may have had potential therapeutic applications related to CBD.
While this modest review can only scratch the surface of the Chinese medical literature of cannabis and the questions it raises, it is hoped that further research will help to further elucidate these questions using a multidisciplinary approach. Primary research and manuscript creation. Expert review, source suggestions, revisions, and feedback.
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.
Journal List Front Pharmacol v. Published online Mar Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.
This article was submitted to Ethnopharmacology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology. Received Oct 24; Accepted Feb The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Cannabis sativa L. Cannabis, Chinese medicine, historical changes, bencao, cannabidiol. Introduction Cannabis sativa L. Open in a separate window. Biotypes of cannabis in China The complicated taxonomic history of cannabis has been previously summarized in numerous publications Schultes et al.
Broad-leaflet hemp in Guangxi province, China. Materials and methods Pre-modern Chinese materia medica texts, known as bencao , were systematically reviewed to investigate the historical applications of different parts of the cannabis plant.
Table 1 Influential bencao from different dynastic periods. Entry on cannabis in the Compendium of Materia Medica. Approach to translation of technical terms Preserving the traditional terminology of Chinese medicine is essential in order for translations to capture the original meaning of historical sources. Identification of traditional actions and indications that may reflect cannabinoids In contemporary Chinese medicine, fiber-rich biotypes of cannabis provide the achenes used as huomaren Cannabis Fructus.
Results and discussion Cannabis has been documented in bencao texts from the Eastern Han Dynasty c. Prominence of the achenes in clinical application Many early bencao texts from the second century through the twelfth century AD feature the inflorescence mafen as a main monograph heading with the achenes known as mazi or maziren presented as an addendum, but over time the emphasis gradually tended to favor the achenes.
Enduring confusion regarding plant parts: Applications of cannabis in the Chinese medical literature that may relate to cannabinoids The earliest historical references to cannabis in Chinese medicine are found in the Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing from the first to second century AD. Applications for pain Several applications of cannabis for pain in Chinese medicine may relate to cannabinoids.
Applications that relate to mental effects or mental illness A variety of historical sources describe mental effects from cannabis or applications to treat mental illness. Conflict of interest statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
An investigation into the history of cannabis prohibition in Xinjiang. Concise Chinese Materia Medica. Dongfang University Press, — Chinese Pharmacopoeia Commission CP Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China, Edn. This web page will be updated with additional information as appropriate. For technical questions about industrial help, please contact Jeff Steiner.
Will agricultural research pilot programs that conduct experiments involving growing industrial hemp still require DEA permitting? No, as long as the hemp in question is grown or cultivated under a license, registration, authorization, or production lease with a state pilot program under or otherwise compliant with Section Therefore, industrial hemp legitimately may be grown or cultivated either pursuant to section or in connection with a DEA permit. What do I need to do if I want to legally conduct an experiment that involves growing industrial hemp?
First, the experiment must be conducted in a state that has legalized the production of hemp. Second, the researcher must either a be an institution of higher education or state department of agriculture or b grow the industrial hemp under the auspices of a state agricultural pilot program. Yes, provided the criteria in question 2 , above are met. Depending on the funding agency, applicants likely will need to certify compliance with the relevant State program and agree to certain terms and conditions as set by the agency.
Can universities who receive capacity funding from NIFA utilize these dollars to support industrial hemp research? Entities eligible to receive capacity funding from NIFA would not lose their eligibility merely because their research involves growing or cultivating industrial hemp, as long as that research is conducted under a license, registration, authorization, or production lease with a state pilot program under Section or otherwise represents legal activity within the state.
Universities who receive these capacity funds may choose to devote a portion of them to industrial hemp research, consistent with other statutes and regulations governing those funds. How can I find out what types of industrial hemp activities are legal in my state? While organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures maintain websites that summarize State Industrial Hemp Statutes across the country, these websites should not be used to provide advice or assistance to private citizens or organizations regarding industrial hemp laws or other related matters.
May producers grow hemp under this program for production of food and pharmaceutical products? Section does not affect the requirements that already exist for the production of food and pharmaceutical products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or the Controlled Substances Act.
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