Medical cannabis: history of a controversial plant

In the medical field, cannabis is defined as hemp with a THC content exceeding 0.2%, different from that used in the textile or agri-food sector.

The Ebers Medical Papyrus - Part of Plate LXXVIII: Formula No. 618 (Plate #78, Lines 10-11)

Cannabis has been used for therapeutic purposes since ancient times: from the Ebers Papyrus dating back to about 1500 B.C. through the Eastern civilizations, then Islamic in the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, period when cannabis would be used for the first time in the West. 

After a period of stagnation in the use of this painta due, at the beginning of the XX century, to the difficulty in controlling its dosage, in 1941 cannabis was definitively removed from the USA pharmacopoeia and banned from 1970.

Medical interest in cannabis reignited around the 1980s and, in more recent times, a total of 29 American states allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes, despite this remains an illegal substance not authorized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

The uses of cannabis are different, and in particular remember the treatment of pain in pathologies such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury, its antinauseal and antiemetic effect for symptoms arising from chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or again the hypotensive effect in glaucoma resistant to conventional therapies.


The medical implications of cannabis are numerous and as many are the pharmaceutical forms through which you can use it: maps, capsules, creams, extracts, all masterful preparations prepared by the pharmacist after presentation of a prescription. 

One of the preferred pharmaceutical forms at the moment is medical cannabis oil, whose oral intake is more usable than a decoction or a vaporizable form.

While not prohibiting this type of masterful preparation, the DM 9/11/2015 recommends titration in order to ensure the quality; This titration shall be carried out for each magistral preparation with sensitive and specific methodologies such as liquid or gaseous chromatographs coupled to mass spectrometry.

Our laboratory routinely performs this type of analysis, the service is available CLICKING HERE.  Since there are no official guidelines for the preparation of galenic preparations and not even for the titration of them, it is clear that there is still much to work and deepen in this direction.

By Dr Ilaria Zedda

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