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Ancient Tinctures: Cannabis Extracts in the Wild-West

Nicholas Demski
Written by Nicholas Demski

The storied history of our iconic plant during this time in American History.

Imagine it’s 1842. You’re a soldier during the Mexican-American War, and General Santa Ana’s troops just put a bullet in your right foot. To avoid the risk of infection, surgeons say they’ll have to take the whole leg. They’ll numb the pain with strong alcohol and you’ll likely not survive the process either due to blood loss or due to subsequent infection.

If you were unlucky enough to undergo 19th-century surgery, but lucky enough to survive, things might have looked up because you might have been prescribed a bottle of Cannabis indica tincture made by Evans, Sons, Lescher, and Webb. The bottle would’ve told you to take a dose and wait 5-15 minutes for the effect to start.

At the time, cannabis was prescribed for a wide range of ailments including:

  • Bladder issues,
  • Epilepsy,
  • Insomnia,
  • Tetanus,
  • Bronchitis,
  • Cancer,
  • Warts,
  • Melancholy, and

Companies like Evans, Sons, Lescher, and Webb weren’t uncommon. In fact, there were many apothecaries that made their own house-label cannabis tinctures. might’ve looked a lot more like 2019 California than we realize.

Before cannabis was outlawed in the United States, it was a common medicinal extract listed in the 1851 edition of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. In its singular listing, the U.S.P. merely mentioned that the “extract of hemp” was derived from “dried tops of…Indica”.

Just ten years later, another addition of the U.S.P. gave specific instructions on proper cannabinoid extraction methods. By 1916, the Pharmacopoeia was giving instructions on the uses of cannabis in dogs. That was shortly before the era of Reefer Madness began.

It seems fitting that cannabis made its way around the world during a time when world travel was becoming more and more accessible. As wine and clothes traversed the glove, so too did cannabis. It made its way from India and China all the way to the shores of America. It went to thriving in the plains of the States, granting wealth to hemp farmers. Later, it went from easily-accessible medicine to a heavily-demonized devil weed, being burned at the stalk by federal agents. It has lived through the darkness of stigmatization and only recently began to shake off the shroud of its past.

The cannabis tinctures of the seemingly ancient past have now returned to the mainstream in a most-welcome resurrection of this American medicinal tradition.

About the author

Nicholas Demski

Nicholas Demski

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