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article imageAncient humans likely smoked cannabis for health

By Stephen Morgan     Jun 2, 2015 in Health
They call it the Stone Age, but maybe it should be renamed the "Stoned Age" since research now suggests that our ancient ancestors smoked cannabis for health reasons.
Hunter-gatherers — those humans who depended on the wild before agriculture was invented — not only foraged for food, but for marijuana, it seems.
Apparently, the medicinal benefits of cannabis — which has taken our authorities decades to grasp — was well understood by our forebears, at least instinctively, over 12,000 years ago.
Anthropologists from Washington State University wanted to see how peoples outside the influence of Western culture used cannabis.
In particular, they wanted to see if they were subconsciously influenced more by health, than recreational reasons.
Did humans throughout history seek out marijuana, in the same way we instinctively searched out foods which were beneficial to us, and avoided those which were harmful or poisonous? Probably.
Scientific Daily quotes Ed Hagen, a lead anthropologist at the WSU, who suggests;
"In the same way we have a taste for salt, we might have a taste for psychoactive plant toxins, because these things kill parasites."
According to the Mail Online Hagen added;
"If you look at non-human animals, they do the same thing, and what a lot of biologists think is they're doing it to kill parasites."
Cannabis has been shown to kill parasites in a petri dish, but, until now, there hasn't been any evidence of it happening in animals or humans.
However, a study of the Aka tribes of Central Africa — a "pygmy" people living in the Congo — seems to confirm that it does. The researchers found that their habitual use of marijuana could be based on sound medical reasons, even if they didn't make the direct association themselves.
A family from a Ba Aka pygmy village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
A family from a Ba Aka pygmy village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
L. Petheram
The study found that those in the tribe who smoked more marijuana, were much less troubled by such things as intestinal worms — one of the worst health problems suffered by peoples in the underdeveloped world.
Medical Daily explains that the researchers;
"Analyzed 400 adult Aka who lived near the Lobaye River in the Central African Republic, finding that 70 percent of the males and six percent of the females used marijuana. Next, they sampled stool from the participants to measure helminth infections — and found that 95 percent of them contained the infection. Interestingly, the people who used cannabis had lower rates of infection than those who didn’t use the drug."
However, Medical Daily also stresses that the study cannot be considered a rigorous scientific investigation, which conclusively proves the assumptions upon which it was made, and that further research will be needed.
The Aka people live by foraging for food in tropical forests and their way of life hasn't changed since the Stone Age, So, anthropologists study such societies to better understand how prehistoric humans lived.
Medical Daily points out that;
"The history of medical cannabis is quite long: Humans have been using marijuana to cure headaches and chronic pain, as an anesthetic, and to treat wounds throughout the majority of human existence. In ancient China and Taiwan, surgeons used cannabis as an anesthetic during surgery."
"It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that new research suggests that hunter-gatherer tribes used cannabis as a way to unconsciously stave off intestinal worms."
The study has been published in the American Journal of Human Biology 2015.
More about Cannabis, huntergatherers, Smoked, Health, Stone age
 
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