A Homelie Herbe: Medicinal Cannabis in Early England

A Homelie Herbe: Medicinal Cannabis in Early England

Crawford, Vivienne

Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, Vol. 2(2) 2002


Cannabis is often regarded as a substance alien to British culture until the 1960s, at which supposed point of introduction it functioned as a marker of subversion. In fact cannabis was used as a medicinal herb by the Anglo-Saxons, and highly valued during the Tudor and Stuart periods. It remained in the British Materia medica through the 18th and 19th centuries, being well regarded by orthodox doctors. However, the type of cannabis grown in England was probably less rich in psychotropic cannabinoids than plants grown in the East. 

Although medical herbalism has an ancient and venerable history, its use in Britain since the seventeenth century has increasingly been the subject of contention. This is not a function of the perceived efficacy of plant medicine. Rather, the authorisation or prohibition of particular therapeutic practices reflects the fluctuating distribution of power by means of which the civic body, as represented by the government and the professions it recognises and licences, asserts its right to regulate the individual body of the citizen. Legal control has been particularly overt in the case of psychoactive plants such as cannabis, which possess the politically and morally charged property of changing the way we see the world.


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