Medical Hemp in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greeks introduced hemp to the Hellenic isles after the 5th century BC. They gave the herb many nicknames, from little cannabis, dear cannabis to rope twister and little star. Wild cannabis was part of the Greek lore and pharmacology. Hemp was also used to make rope, carpets, shoes and cloth. Hemp was used freely in Ancient Greece because there were no laws against its use.


Cannabis in Medicine

Cannabis was highly valued in ancient Greece, so doctors used it in a multitude of treatments. It was equally valued for treating not only humans, but also horses; sores were treated with fresh leaves. All parts of the plant were harnessed and used in a different potion to treat one or more ailments. The root had healing properties to treat burns and the cannabis ash was used to make a poultice. The seeds were also valued for psychological treatments, as well as for treating tapeworms.


High on hemp

Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, described how the Scythians who lived in Eastern Europe smoked the herb. According to the story, they threw cannabis seeds on the hot rocks of funeral pyres and inhaled the smoke that rose from the rocks. They got drunk, dance, and “howl with delight” giving the departed a merry wake. Other less lurid stories say that the Scythians took their dead on a forty-day tour to visit family and friends.

They used to sit the dead at the table during meals, then cleaned and buried; the men took a bath in hemp to clean themselves and the women covered their bodies with an aromatic paste that they left to dry during the day. These customs were later adopted by the Greeks and they added the custom of using hemp seeds in their steam baths.


Cannabis for Food

Having discovered the psychoactive effects of hemp, it was only a matter of time before they added it to their diet. Some snacks were consumed at symposiums, the equivalent of wine parties. One of these was kannabis, hemp seed cakes made from hemp seeds and honey. Grass cookies and other snacks that tasted great with wine were also baked.

300 years passed from the time when hemp seeds were used in steam baths and as snacks, until it was introduced in medical manuscripts as a medicinal plant, which is evidence that the children of the Greeks took drugs 3 centuries before the physician Dioscorides used it medicinally and wrote about it in his De Materia Medica.