The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes may seem like a new concept in the western world. But it has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
Hemp has been cultivated in China for more than 6,000 years and it’s believed to be indigenous to China. They used its fiber for rope, fabric, and netting. Additionally, they used its seeds for food and oil, medicines, and other purposes. Hemp grows wild in many places around the world but scholars are uncertain where cultivation began.
Legend has it that in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen-Nung, The Red Emperor, produced the first book describing the healing properties of herbs. Called “The Great Herbal,” this herbology is still in use by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It describes the 50 fundamental herbs used in Chinese medicine. Cannabis sativa (dà má)—from which we get CBD—is one of them.
Many consider Shen-Nung the father of Chinese medicine. His portrait hangs in every medical school and hospital in China. Many debate whether this “Celestial Emperor” really existed, or if he’s just a legend. There is no solid evidence that he lived. However, part of the legend is that he reigned for over 140 years.
Historians and others attribute The Great Herbal to Shen-Nung. However, the earliest known copies of the book were written long after his legendary reign. It’s believed that before Shen-Nung’s rule, medicine was the work of wise old women who used magic and herbal remedies to heal the sick.
Taoists in several Asian countries venerate the goddess Ma Gu, or Magu, associated with the elixir of life, healing, and the protection of women. Two words that are common in the Chinese language, ma (hemp) and gu, (maiden) make up the Chinese version of her name.
Chinese Medicine and Cannabinoids
It’s becoming increasingly clear is that for many centuries, Chinese herbalists and acupuncturists understood the healing power of cannabis and the existence of the endocannabinoid system. Although they conceived of it in a different way.
Acupuncture, which was discovered about 2,500 years ago, uses fine needles inserted in the skin to stimulate points along what are called meridians, akin to the locations of CB1 and CB2 receptors. Scientists are speculating that there is a direct connection between meridians and the endocannabinoid system, which explains acupuncture’s reputation for effectiveness.
Meridians are the pathways through which the life force (qi) travels through the entire body. As Dr. Vincenzo di Marzo, lead researcher at the Research Council of Italy, said, “ The endocannabinoid system so far is the only endogenous system of chemical signals that is involved in everything.” Or as Chinese medical practitioners might say, it manages the complete life force.
When a person takes CBD oil, it’s not the oil itself that creates improved functioning in the body. It is the fact that it enables the endocannabinoid system to function at maximum capacity. Acupuncture and CBD both boost the functioning of the endocannabinoid system. Acupuncture stimulates the release of adenosine, a chemical that increases the body’s capacity to tolerate pain. CBD increases the ability of adenosine to fight inflammation, which is the cause of pain.
In a 2009 study, electroacupuncture was shown to increase the amount of anandamide, an endogenous neurotransmitter, released to locations where pain is felt. Electroacupuncture is a more modern version of an ancient practice, using low frequency electricity between pairs of acupuncture needles.
CBD oil acts as a reuptake inhibitor for anandamide, the endocannabinoid known as the “bliss molecule.” Reuptake inhibitors increase the available amount of neurotransmitters, and an increase in anandamide levels boosts the body’s production of adenosine.
Studies are showing that CBD and acupuncture work very well together. When used in combination, they both boost the endocannabinoid system. In addition, they enhance the body’s own tools for combating disease and fighting a wide range of physical problems.
Merging Ancient Theory and Modern Science
Both the use of CBD oil and traditional Chinese medicine share a common objective. That is to create balance in the body’s functioning. The legendary Celestial Emperor Fu Hsi conceived what we currently call homeostasis. The ancients described this as the balance of yin and yang energies.
The modern scientific explanation of healing through acupuncture claims that the needles inserted into specific points in the body cause the nervous system to release the endocannabinoid needed for biochemical balance. The inserted needles, when turned, open the flow of those chemicals through the meridians to break up blockages.
Scientists have confirmed that CBD oil stimulates homeostasis in the endocannabinoid system by stimulating the activation of cannabinoids, which restore the balance in body functioning. And like acupuncture, it operates on the cellular level.
Without the benefits of modern scientific research tools, ancient Chinese herbalists were able to identify the enormous healing value of cannabis. Acupuncture, invented by another Celestial, the Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti, identified the endocannabinoid system millennia before western science. The three Celestial Emperors supposedly reigned in the millenium between 3000 and 2000 BC.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a practice that has been in use for nearly 5,000 years. It has always recognized the value of cannabis and considered it one of the 50 fundamental herbs for healing. The Taoist goddess Ma Gu, associated with healing and the elixir of life, has a name made up of two common words in Chinese, ma (hemp) and gu (maiden).
Acupuncture, a primary healing practice in Chinese medicine, predated knowledge of the endocannabinoid system. Acupuncture works to release the endocannabinoid adenosine, important for pain management, using fine needles inserted under the skin.
Both acupuncture and CBD oil function to boost the endocannabinoid system and restore balance in the body’s functioning. Scientists are beginning to discover that acupuncture and CBD oil therapy work very well together.