In acupuncture, the use of cannabis is tradition. Classical Chinese Medicine is a medical system over 3,500 years old, with documented uses of Cannabis in these ancient times, from repairing broken bones to more severe disease recovery and support. All parts of the cannabis plant are referenced, from the leaf and flower to the seeds and stems. References to cannabis can be found in the Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, a Chinese book on agriculture and medicinal plants), from 1st and 2nd century CE. This text, along with the Ming Yi Bie Lu (Additional Records of Famous Physicians) contains many of the fundamental statements regarding cannabis therapeutics that are repeated in later centuries and to this day.
The psychoactive effect referenced in the Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica ascribes the following properties to Cannabis; “Flavor: acrid; balanced. Governs the five taxations and seven damages, benefits the five viscera, and descends blood and cold qi; excessive consumption causes one to see ghosts and run about frantically. Prolonged consumption frees the spirit light and lightens the body.” (Tao, 1999).
In modern day Acupuncture and Chinese herbal education, hemp seeds are primarily taught, however with the growing acceptance of cannabis into the mainstream, more practitioners are learning and embracing the long traditional use cannabis has had in Chinese herbology.
Cannabis is discussed in terms of strains/cultivars, based on both their effects and genetic breeding. Looking at these varieties from a Yin and Yang perspective is very helpful to not only broaden an understanding of our interaction with this plant - but also what therapeutic effects we are looking for. As a healthcare provider, this is crucial in identifying what variety works best for specific symptoms.
Yang refers to upward movement, heat, action, fast, drying and outward characteristics. This describes many aspects of the “traditional” descriptions of “Sativa”. They tend to be taller, thinner leafed plants and are associated with the “high” sensation on the psychoactive spectrum - feeling euphoria, energetic, hyperactivity, productive, optimistic. A favorite for those with psychological disorders like depression, and PTSD.
Yin refers to downward, cooling, resting, moistening and inward characteristics. Continuing this perspective, Yin can characterize the “stoned or couch lock” sensation associated with Indica varieties. Often described as inducing sensations of calm, sedation, low energy or fatigue. Indica strains are often the go to for pain and inflammation and, thus, are requested by patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and cancer.
Of course, just as there are no absolutes in Yin and Yang, the same goes for cannabis. Most medicinal varieties will have a combination of both aspects for balancing, similar to a classical herbal formula. The quality of cannabis is just as important as the quality of your food and herbal medicines. Finding Clean Green Certifications to ensure the highest quality clinical grade medicine helps to ensure there are no interactions with pesticides and other unwanted contagians.
Not all cannabis is grown and processed equally, just as not all healthcare providers understanding of cannabis therapeutics is equal. Working with a knowledgeable provider is key to ensuring people use the cleanest and best suited medicine for them, understanding cannabis interactions with pharmaceuticals, and encouraging complimentary allopathic therapy and herbal medicines.
Olga M. Mardach-Duclerc L.Ac, M.Sc, Dipl. OM is a NurseGrown affiliate and the owner of AcuMedica Integrated Acupuncture providing Acupuncture and herbal consults in northern Vermont
Disclaimer: The information provided is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, provide medical advice, or otherwise replace consultation with a qualified medical or health provider.