Cannabis and Chinese Medicine

There is a lot of talk around at the moment both locally, nationally, and internationally about the benefits of cannabis as a form of medicine. This idea however is nothing new. Cannabis has been used in China for at least 10,000 years and has been part of the medical canon since records began. One of the oldest medical texts known as the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing or ‘the divine farmers medical classic’, states that the ‘flowers of hemp could cure general debility, benefit the five organs and make people feel bright and breezy. Eating the seed makes people healthier and stronger and enjoy a long life’.


Cannabis has been used in Chinese herbal formulas for at least 2000 years and has been recorded in the ancient texts to treat a vast array of ailments including, headaches, menstrual irregularities, itching, convulsions, anaemia, agitation, withdrawal, mania, insomnia, the ‘120 types of malign wind’, seizures, nerve pain, spasmodic cough, numbness and even when combined with ginseng, forgetfulness!

In the modern day ‘alternative’ health scene it is being used to treat anything from epileptic seizures in children to stage 4 cancer in the elderly. So how does this seemingly wonder drug work? What are its energetic effects? From a Chinese medical perspective it mainly functions in two ways. Firstly it disperses Qi. This is where its therapeutic value lies, as pain is seen as essentially Qi that has become stuck. Cannabis has the ability to disperse this Qi and therefore alleviate the pain. Secondly it has the ability to dispel Wind. Wind in Chinese medicine, is seen in any involuntary movement, from the little twitch you sometimes get under the eye, to a full blown epileptic seizure. Cannabis acts to release this Wind from the body and relieve the symptoms.

So it’s all good then? We’ll no. Cannabis was seen as a medicine and should be treated as such and as with all drugs it can have side effects. From an alchemical perspective cannabis has the ability to increase the conversion of Jing to Qi to Shen within the body. The description of this could probably take up a book all by itself, but what it essentially means is that it converts your essence and energy into Spirit. This is why when taking cannabis people often feel an expansion of their consciousness or experience something akin to a spiritual awakening. People in our society are often lacking in something that nourishes the spirit and cannabis can seemingly feel this void.

However this feeling is fleeting as it has no grounding and is ultimately unstable, as the foundations have not been built through practices such as alchemy and meditation. What happens is that cannabis creates a lot of heat within the Kidney system which creates the initial expansion of Jing. This requires a lot of energy and the body needs a lot more Qi, resulting in an increase in appetite and gives you the munchies! The increase in heat then dries up the bodily fluids giving you dry mouth and causes the redness shown in the eyes.

Prolonged use of cannabis will deplete the Kidneys and a lack of drive and ambition can occur. Over time the Yin of the body will become deficient and eventually can affect the Heart possibly leading to insomnia and anxiety. In worse case scenarios the heat that rises to the Heart may cause a person to ‘begin to see ghosts’ in other words to lose all grounding in this reality.

So it’s a dangerous drug and should be banned then? No of course not. It is a medicine and always has been. A skilled Chinese herbalist would have added other herbs that would help to negate some of these side effects creating a more balanced treatment.

In California and Canada now, where cannabis has become legal, there is a vast amount of research being done on the various types of weed and their effects on health. It seems that varying amounts of CBD and THC, the Yin and Yang of cannabis molecules, can be used to treat different ailments. There are also encouraging reports of people around who are taking truly ‘heroic doses’ of extremely concentrated cannabis oil and are ridding themselves of ‘incurable cancers.’ However unfortunately these people are being criminalised in many countries, as it is still illegal to possess a natural plant and a potentially life saving medicine.

This situation can’t and probably won’t continue for much longer, as the big pharmaceuticals are getting on board and are seeing its lucrative potential. But as prohibition comes to an end, as it surely must, and cannabis is freely available for all, I feel it would be prudent to take on board the ancient Chinese medical perspective, as they have been using it as a medicine for thousands of years, and they have a valuable insight in to its energetic effects.

Leave a Comment