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Cannabis Sative Sew Indica: Indian Hemp (1895)

Julie Gardener

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By R. Cowan Lees, M.B., C.M., F.F.P.S.G., Glasgow.

It has always been diffucult to understand why th resin of this plant should alone be recognised in the Brithish Pharmacopeia, more especially when we find it stated in works on the physiological action of this drug that in India several preparations are used by the natives to produce its stimulaing and exhilarating effects, amongst which watery infusions are specially mentioned.

During a short visit to India some years ago my attention was drawn to the fact that several modes of using the herb were employed by the natives-modes not capable of extracting much, if even any, of the resin. So far as I could observe, watery infusions were commonly used, but whether in combination with other substances or not I am not in a position to state. This fact, however, led me to try what benefits might be drived from the use of a preparation of the plant, not depending on the resin alone.

Messrs. T. and H. Smith, who first obtained the resin in a state of comparative purity, state that 'it is a brown amprphous solid, burning with a bright white flame, and leaving no ash; powerful in its action when taken internally, and that two-thirds of a grain act as an active narcotic, whilst 1 grain produces complete intoxication': but the question essential oil? As a matter of fact, it is found that when the less potent in its action, a circimstance which goes a long way to prove that such a condition is the result of loss of volatioe oil from the resin, and parmacists are advised to 'lay aside and not employ for medicianl use tht which has become old'.

We are told by Bently and Trimen that 'both Hindus and Mohannedans use this herb, either by smoking-with or without tobacco in combination with other substances-or by simple infusion in water.' Gunjah-guaza of our London market-has but a faint taste, with a peculiar but not unpleasant narcotic odour. These properties depend in a great measure on the volitlie oi and resin. The latter some comsinder the more important consituent of the plant.

In the watery infusion employed by the Hindus and Mohammedans as mentioned abouve, we can conceive of little, if any, of the resin being dissolved and held in solution, whilst, on the other hand, much of the volatile oil might be dissoved by the water, together with other constitiuents of the plant. Dr. personne regards the volatile oil as the sole active princi;oe, and in proll of this he states that 'when the volatile oil is inhaled, a distinct sensation of shuddering with motor excitement, followed by prostraction and syncope, is experienced.' Again, Dr. Phrobraschersky has found a volatile aldaloid-most plentiful in the flowing tops- and which he considers somewhat similar in its action to nicotia or nicotine.

Feeling somwhat satisfied that water was copable of dissolving at least a portion of this volatile oil, and knowing that watery infusions of the drug were used for intoxication and stimulating purposes in India, I had prepared for me a strong aqueous extract of the floweing tops of the female plant of the usual strangth of liquid extracts, and from its sesses the anodyne and sporific action gerally ascribed to the resinous extract, although in a modified degree. It has the characteristic odour of the hemp, has a beautiful deep amber colour, is miscible with water, and hence there is no difficultly in combining immescible mixture repellent to a patient.

Liquor cannabis indica in my experience gives all the beneficial effects withour the drawbacld of the tinture, avoiding those extreme exhilarating conditions bordering on intoxication, which are sometimes met with even when using a medium dose of the latter. It does not seem to interfere with the secretion of mucaus from the bronchial glands-a circimstance which renders it superior to opium in those casses suitable for its use, whilst in pulmonary affections generally it acts most favourably as a soporific and anodyne.

My greates experience has been in the treatment of phthisis, pulmonalis, and here I cannot speak of it too highly, for whilst it most perceptibly relieves the cough, it aids the jpatient by its stimulating and exhilerating qualities, supplying a remedial agent, in a manner which in my opinion no other drug can so beneficially do. Inindigestion with constipation, and also in many of the affections of children, especially where nervous symptoms are present, it has also done good service. I do not presume for one moment that it will displace opium in those cases where severe pain is a prominent symptom, but I feel sure that in many cases where opium is at present used it may be substiuted with great advantage.

The dose which I commonly use is half a fluid drachm for an adult, but it may be increased to a drachm in many cases, whilst for children corresponding doses to age may be adopted, though I have noticed that children are somewhat less susectible to it than adults.

I may state that the fluid aqueous extract from the flowering tops of the female plant already referred to has been prepared for me by Messrs. Rankin and Borland, pharmaceutical chemists, Kilmarnock, and I may further add that to avoid as far as possible the presence of the resin in the extract, the use of heat is entirely avoided in the preparation. Messrs. Park Davis and Co., of London, have likwise prpared a liquor for me which I have also found suitable. Many other firms have sent me samples which were miscible with water, but I found on examination these were only tincutures acted upon by alkalies, and gave the disagreeable reactions of the resin.

I trust that having found this prepartation benificial in my own practice, anc feeling satisfied that it is one which may be successfully used in many of the morre common ailments affecting the chest, other medical men will be induced to give it a trial, and if proved by them equally beneficial, it may in future find a place in medical therapeutics.

Source: Cannabis Sativa Seu Indica: Indian Hemp
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