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Evidence of Ancient Medicinal Use of Marijuana Reported in Nature


June 1993

The prestigious publication Nature has reported on the finding by an Israeli scientist of physical evidence that inhaled marijuana was used to facilitate childbirth 1,600 years ago (John Schwartz, "Medicine: Use Of Marijuana In Childbirth," Washington Post, 5/24/93, A2). The finding was informally reported in the Intermountain Jewish News last June (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "Hashish Used As Medicine," Intermountain Jewish News, 6/12/92, p. 23).

The May 20, 1993 issue of Nature contained a report by Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University in Jerusalem describing the finding of carbonized matter containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, on the abdomen of an adolescent girl who apparently died in childbirth around 400 A.D. The researchers hypothesized that the material was burned and inhaled to ease labor pains and facilitate birthing.

Although an Egyptian papyrus dated from the 16th Century B.C. reported medicinal use of marijuana, the Mechoulam finding is significant as the oldest physical evidence of such use.