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115. Cannabis Sativa.—Common Hemp.

Fig. 287. Cannabis sativa. Sex. Syst. Dioecia, Pentandria.
(Herba et Resina. The Extract, D.)

History.—This plant was well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but they do not appear to have been acquainted with its narcotic properties. Dioscorides [Lib. iii. cap. 165. The κανναβις αγρια of this author (lib. iii. cap. 166) is the Althaea cannabina of modern botanists.] merely mentions that the expressed juice of the seeds of κανναβις allays earache, and the same statement is made by Galen. [De Simpl. Med. Facult. lib. vii. cap. 5.] Herodotus [Lib. iv. Melpomene, lxxiv. and lxxv.] mentions it, and states that the Scythians cultivated it and made themselves garments of it. He also adds that they threw the seeds on red-hot stones, and used the perfumed vapour thereby obtained as a bath, which excited from them cries of exultation. This I presume refers to the intoxicating properties of its smoke. The hemp may have been, as Dr. Boyle [Illustrations of the Botany of the Himalayan Mountains, p. 334.] suggests, the "assuager of grief" or the nepenthes (νηπενθες) of which Homer [Odyssey, iv. 220.] speaks as having been given by Helen to Telemachus in the house of Menelaus. Helen is stated to have received the plant from a woman of Egyptian Thebes. It is known in India, as the "increaser of pleasure," the "exciter of desire," the "cementer of friendship," the "causer of a reeling gait," the "laughter mover," &c. [Royle, op. supra cit..; also, Dr. O'Shaughnessy, On the Preparation of the Indian Hemp or Gunjah, Calcutta, 1839.]

Pliny [Hist. Nat. lib. xix. cap. 56; and lib. xx. cap. 97.] mentions it under the name of Cannabis.

Botany. Gen. Char.—Flowers dioecious. Males: Flowers racemose. Calyx 5-parted, imbricated. Stamens 5. Females: Flowers in spikes. Calyx (bract?) 1-leaved, acuminate, rolled round the ovary. Ovary roundish. Style short. Stigmas 2, filiform, pubescent. Fruit 1-celled, 2-valved.

Sp. Char.—The only species.

Annual. Stem 3 to 5 or 6 feet high, erect, branched, angular. Leaves on long weak petioles, digitate, serrated, roughish. Stipules subulate. Flowers in clusters, axillary. The whole plant has a clammy feel.

Cannabis sativa, var. indica; Indian Hemp.—The plant which grows in India, and has been described by some botanists [Rumphius, Herbarium Amboinense, vol. v. t. 77.] under the name of Cannabis indica or Indian Hemp, [In the United States of America, the denomination of Indian hemp is applied, both in the Pharmacopoeia and Dispensatory, to the Apocynum cannabinum; and it has been imported and sold in London for the real Indian hemp (Cannabis sativa, var. Indica), according to the statement of Dr. Fred. J. Farre (Lond. Med. Gaz. May 5, 1843. p. 209).] does not appear to possess any specific differences from the common hemp. Roxburgh [Flora Indica, vol. iii. p. 772.] and most other distinguished botanists have accordingly considered it identical with the Cannabis sativa of Linnaeus and Willdenow. C. indica branches from the ground up to within two feet of the top; whereas common hemp grows three or four feet before it branches. The fruit also of C. indica is smaller and rounder. I have carefully compared C. indica (both that grown in the Chelsea Garden and that contained in Dr. Wallich's Herbarium in the possession of the Linnean Society) with the C. sativa in Linnaeus's collection, and I cannot discover any essential distinction between them. The male plant appears to me to be in every respect the same. [This agrees with a remark in the Hortus Cliffortianus: "Quod mas in Horto Malabarico exhibitus nostra sit planta nullum dubium detur; foemina autem parum recedit foliis ternatis, tamen et ejusmodi plantas in sole macro upud nos observamus non infrequenter."] In the female plants, the flowers of C. indica were more crowded than those of common hemp.

Hab.—Persia, Caucasus, hills in the north of India. Cultivated in various other countries.

Description.—The parts employed in Asia for the purposes of intoxication, and in Europe for medicine, are the herb (leaves) and the resin.

1. Herba Cannabis sativae—This is used in India in two forms; one called gunjah, the other bang. The hashish of the Arabs differs somewhat from gunjah.

α. Gunjah.—This is the dried hemp plant which has flowered, and from which the resin has not been removed. It is sold in the Calcutta bazaars, for smoking chiefly, in bundles of about two feet long and three inches in diameter, each containing twenty-four plants. That which I have received from Dr. O'Shaughnessy, and also found in commerce, consists of cylindrical or fusiform masses (about the size and shape of the fingers) of a grayish or greenish-brown colour, and composed of stems, leaves, and petioles pressed together. It has a faint odour and feeble bitterish taste. In commerce it is known by the name of guaza or guazah.

β. Bang, Subjec, or Sidhee.—This consists of the larger leaves and capsules without the stalks. I have not met with this in commerce.

γ. Háshísh or Hashísh.—This, according to Steeze, [Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. v. p. 83, 1845.] consists of the tops and tender parts of the plant collected after inflorescence.

2. Resina Cannabis sativae.—The concreted resinous exudation from the leaves, slender stems, and flowers, is called Churrus. The mode of collecting it is somewhat analogous to that adopted in Crete for the collection of ladanum. In "Central India and the Saugor territory, and in Nipal, Churrus is collected during the hot season in the following singular manner: Men clad in leathern dresses run through the hemp fields, brushing through the plant with all possible violence; the soft resin adheres to the leather, and is subsequently scraped off and kneaded into balls, which sell from five to six rupees the seer. A still finer kind—the Momeea or waxen Churrus—is collected by the hand in Nipal, and sells for nearly double the price of the ordinary kind. In Nipal, Dr. M'Kinnon informs me, the leathern attire is dispensed with, and the resin is gathered on the skin of the naked coolies. In Persia, it is stated by Mirza Abdul Razes that the Churrus is prepared by pressing the resinous plant on coarse cloths, and then scraping it from these and melting it in a pot with a little warm water. He considers the Churrus of Herat as the bestand most powerful of all the varieties of the drug." [O'Shaughnessy, Op. supra cit. p. 6.] I have a specimen of spurious Churrus.

Churrus, such as I have received it from Dr. O'Shaughnessy, is in masses having the shape and size of a hen's egg, or of a small lemon, and formed by the adhesion of superimposed elongated pieces. It has a dull grayish-brown colour, and not much odour. It consists of resinous and various foreign matters (fragments of flowers, leaves, seeds, &o.)

3. Fructus Cannabis sativae.—The fruits, called usually hempseed (semen cannabis), are small, ash-coloured, shining, nut-like or seed-like bodies. They are demulcent and oleaginous, but not narcotic. They are employed for feeding cage-birds. They are said by Burnett [Outlines of Botany, p. 560, 1835.] to possess the singular property of changing the colour of the plumage of bullfinches and goldfinches from red and yellow to black, if the birds are fed on the seeds for too long a time or in too large a quantity (?).

Composition.—The leaves of common hemp have been submitted to analysis by Tscheepe, [Gmelin, Hand. de Chemi, Bd. ii. S. 1324.] by Schlesinger, [Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt für 1840, S. 490.] and by Bohlig. [Ibid, S. 519.] The results of the two former of these are as follows:—

Tscheepe.Schlesinger.
Chlorophylle \Bitter matter1.25
Gluten - Green fecula.Chlorophylle soluble in ether4.75
Phosphate of Lime /Chlorophylle soluble in alcohol9.375
Brown extractive.Green resinous extractive5.0
Sweetish bitter extractive.Colouring matter10.15
Brown gum.Gummy extract19.45
Lignin.Malate of lime with extractive6.775
Soluble albumen.Extractive6.875
Salts of ammonia, potash, lime, and magnesia.Vegetable albumen8.0
Alumina.Lime, magnesia, and iron9.5
Silica.Lignin12.0
Loss6.875
Leaves of Cannabis sativa.Leaves dried at 200° F.100.000

Bohlig found a great agreement between the constituents of common hemp and those of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Dr. Kane [Lond. Edinb. and Dubl. Phil. Mag. for February 1844; also, Industrial Resources of Ireland.] has made an ultimate analysis of the leaves and herb of hemp as well as of their ashes; but the results have no medical interest.

Hempseeds have been analyzed by Bucholz, [Quoted by L. Gmelin, Handb. de Chemie.] who obtained—fixed oil 19.1, resin 1.6, sugar with extractive 1.6, gummy extract 9.0, soluble albumen 24.7, woody fibre 5.0, husk 38.3, loss 0.7=100.0.

1. Volatile Oil of Hemp.—This has hitherto been procured in such small quantities that its properties are but imperfectly known. When the dried plant is distilled with a large quantity of water, traces of the oil pass over, and the distilled liquor has the odour of the plant.

2. Cannabin; Resin of Hemp.—This appears to be the active principle of hemp. It is a soft, neutral resin, soluble in alcohol and in ether, and separable, by the addition of water, from its alcoholic solution, in the form of a white precipitate. It has a warm, bitterish, acrid, somewhat balsamic taste, and a fragrant odour, especially when heated. Messrs. T. and H. Smith [i>Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. vi. p. 127, 1846.] say that it very much resembles jalap resin or jalapine, except in remaining soft even after continued drying, and in its odour and taste.

3. Fixed Oil of Hempseed; Hempseed Oil; Oleum Cannabis.—This is a drying oil obtained in Russia, by expression, from hempseeds, which yield about 25 per cent. of it. At first it is greenish-yellow, subsequently yellow. It has an acrid odour, but a mild taste. Its sp. gr. is 0.9276 at 52°. It dissolves readily in boiling alcohol, in 30 parts of cold alcohol. At —17° F. it freezes. It is used in the preparation of a soft soap, in paint, and in lamps for the purpose of illumination; but it is apt to clog the wick by the formation of a viscid adherent varnish. When boiled it makes a good varnish.

Physiological Effects.—A general statement of the effects of Indian hemp has already been made (see ante (vol. i), p. 236). Its action as a neurotic is essentially that of a cerebro-spinal (see ante (vol. i), p. 235). It operates as a phrenic: in moderate doses producing exhilaration, inebriation with phantasms, and more or less confusion of intellect, followed by sleep; in large doses causing stupor. Hence it may be called an exhilarant, inebriant, phantasmatic, hypnotic or soporific, and stupefacient or narcotic.

On Orientals, the inebriation or delirium produced by it is usually of an agreeable or cheerful character, exciting the individual to laugh, dance, and sing, and to commit various extravagancies—acting as an aphrodisiac, and augmenting the appetite for food. In some, it occasions a kind of reverie. It renders others excitable and quarrelsome, and disposes to acts of violence. [It has been stated that the men who attempted the assasination of Lord Cornwallis in India were intoxicated by Indian hemp (Thornton, History of the British Empire in India, vol. ii. p. 486, 1848.)] The singular form of insanity said to be brought on by it has already (see vol. i. p. 237) been noticed.

It acts as an anaesthetic (see vol. i. p. 238). It relieves pain, and is, therefore, employed as an anodyne or paregoric. Moreover, Mr. Donovan [Dublin Journal of Medical Science, Jan. 1845.] found that under its influence his sense of touch and feeling gradually became obtuse, until at length he lost all feeling unless he pinched himself severely; and Dr. Christison [Dispensatory] states he felt a pleasant numbness of his limbs after its use.

Its influence as a cinetic (see vol. i. p. 240) or agent affecting the action of the muscles, is remarkable. It relieves spasm, and is, therefore, frequently used as an antispasmodic. On Orientals large doses produce a cataleptic condition (in which the muscles are moderately contracted, but flexible and pliant, and the limbs retain any position or attitude in which they may be placed).

The following illustrative cases are taken from Dr. O'Shaughnessy's paper on Indian hemp:—

At two P. M. a grain of the resin of hemp was given to a rheumatic patient. At four P. M. he was very talkative, sang, called loudly for an extra supply of food, and declared himself in perfect health. At six P. M. he was asleep. At eight P. M. he was found insensible, but breathing with perfect regularity, his pulse and skin natural, and the pupils freely contractile on the approach of light. Happening by chance to lift up the patient's arm, the "professional reader will judge of my astonishment," observes Dr. O'Shaughnessy, "when I found that it remained in the posture in which I placed it. It required but a very brief examination of the limbs to find that the patient had by the influence of this narcotic been thrown into that strange and most extraordinary of all nervous conditions, into that state which so few have seen, and the existence of which so many still discredit—the genuine catalepsy of the nosologist. We raised him to a sitting posture, and placed bis arms and limbs in every imaginable attitude. A waxen figure could not be more pliant or more stationary in each position, no matter how contrary to the natural influence of gravity on the part. To all impressions he was meanwhile almost insensible." He continued in this state till one A. M., when consciousness and voluntary motion quickly returned.

Another patient who had taken the same dose fell asleep, but was aroused by the noise in the ward. He seemed vastly amused at the strange aspects of the statue-like attitudes in which the first patient had been placed. "On a sudden he uttered a loud peal of laughter, and exclaimed that four spirits were springing with his bed into the air. In vain we attempted to pacify him; his laughter became momentarily more and more uncontrollable. We now observed that the limbs were rather rigid, and in a few minutes more his arms and legs could be bent, and would remain in any desired position. He was moved to a separate room, where he soon became tranquil, his limbs in less than an hour gained their natural condition, and in two hours he expressed himself perfectly well and excessively hungry."

On Europeans I have never heard of a cataleptic state being produced by this drug. In a case of tetanus under my care in the London Hospital, and which was carefully watched by Dr. O'Shaughnessy and myself, the resinous extract of Indian Hemp was given in increasing doses up to twenty grains. It caused stupor and cessation of spasms; but no perfect cataleptic state. The only tendency to this condition which was observed was when the arm of the patient was lifted and then cautiously let go: it fell slowly and gradually, not quickly, as it would have done under ordinary conditions: the patient was at this time quite insensible.

By internal use it acts as a mydriatic (see vol. i. p. 240), causing preternatural dilatation of the pupil. But Dr. Lawrie [Lond. and Edinb. Monthly Journal of Medical Science Nov. 1844, p. 947.] states that when applied around the eye it does not cause dilatation of the pupil.

Indian hemp does not appear much to affect the secretions. It neither excites nausea nor lessens the appetite. It neither causes dryness of the tongue nor constipation of the bowels. It does not appear to check or otherwise affect the bronchial secretions. I am disposed to think that it is somewhat sudorific. Drs. Ballard and Garrod [Elements of Materia Medica.] state that in large doses it communicates an odour to the urine like that evolved when the tincture is mixed with water, and in part like that of the Tonquin bean.

Compared with opium, Indian hemp differs in its operation on the system in several remarkable circumstances: as by its inebriating, phantasmatic, and aphrodisiac effects; by its causing catalepsy and dilatation of pupil; and by its not causing nausea, loss of appetite, dry tongue, constipation, or diminution of the secretions.

Dr. Hooke, in his account of Indian hemp (Bangue) read to the Royal Society, Dec. 18, 1689, notices the various odd tricks shown by persons while in the ecstasy caused by this plant; and adds that, when this condition subsides, the patient finds himself mightily refreshed and exceedingly hungry.

The general effects of Indian hemp on man, as stated by Dr. O'Shaughnessy, from his own observations, are alleviation of pain (mostly), remarkable increase of appetite, unequivocal aphrodisia, and great mental cheerfulness. Its more violent effects were delirium of a peculiar kind, and a cataleptic state.

Its effects on animals were analogous: he gave ten grains of Nipalese Churrus dissolved in spirit to a middling-sized dog: "In half an hour he became stupid and sleepy, dozing at intervals, starting up, wagging his tail as if extremely contented; he ate some food greedily, on being called to he staggered to and fro, and his face assumed a look of utter and helpless drunkenness. These symptoms lasted about two hours, and then gradually passed away; in six hours he was perfectly well and lively."

It would appear that Indian hemp acts more powerfully in India than in Europe. My experiments (detailed in the 2d edition of this work, pp. 1097-8) fully bear out this statement. Dr. O'Shaughnessy, when in England, satisfied himself of the difference of the effect of Indian hemp in this country and in Bengal; and he observes, [Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. ii. p. 594, 1843.] that while in India he had seen marked effects from half a grain of the extract, or even less, and had been accustomed to consider one grain and a half a large dose, in England he had given ten or twelve or more grains to produce the desired effect.

Uses.—Indian hemp is chiefly employed as a medicine, for its hypnotic, anodyne, and antispasmodic properties; occasionally, also, for its mental influence (i. e. as a phrenic and nervine). Compared with opium, it is less certain than the latter agent; over which, however, it has several advantages. Thus it does not constipate the bowels, lessen the appetite or create nausea, produce dryness of the tongue, or check the pulmonary secretion, as opium is well known to do. Moreover, in some patients in whom opium causes headache, and various distressing feelings, Indian hemp occasionally acts without any of these inconveniences; but I have heard others object to its continuance on the ground of its very unpleasant effects.

As a hypnotic, I have used it with advantage in spirit-drinkers, and have succeeded in one or two cases in producing sleep with it where large doses of morphia had failed. In some hysterical patients, and in cases of chorea, I have occasionally employed it to induce sleep, where the use of opium was from some cause objectionable. Dr. Clendinning [Medico-Chirurg. Transactions, vol. xxvi.] speaks favourably of its soporific influence in pulmonary affections and low fever. It has the great advantage over opium of neither repressing the secretions nor lessening the appetite for food.

As an anodyne, it is, I think, in general, decidedly inferior to opium; but there are occasions where its use is to be preferred to the latter agent. In acute and subacute rheumatism, in gout, and in neuralgia, it frequently alleviates the pain.

As an antispasmodic, it has been employed in tetanus, hydrophobia, malignant cholera, chorea, and infantile convulsions. In the cases of tetanus (both traumatic and idiopathic) and of hydrophobia which I have seen treated with it, it completely failed to give permanent relief. In one case of traumatic tetanus, it alleviated the pain and spasms, but the patient notwithstanding died. In a case under the care of Professor Miller, [Lond. and Edinb. Monthly Journal of Medical Science, Jan. 1845.] it was given, and the patient recovered. It has failed, however, in the hands of Mr. Potter [Lancet, vol. i. p. 38, Jan. 11, 1845.] and others. And in a case of idiopathic tetanus in Guy's Hospital, under the care of Dr. Babington, [Ibid. vol. ii. p. 351, Dec. 14, 1844.] it proved useless. In chorea, I have found it serviceable, sometimes as an antispasmodic, at others as a hypnotic; and the same may be said of its use in hysteria.

As a phrenic or medicinal agent affecting the mental functions, Indian hemp has also been employed. Dr. Clendinning speaks favourably of its use as a nervine stimulant, in removing languor and anxiety, and raising the pulse and spirits; and Dr. Conolly thinks that it may be useful in some chronic forms of mania. [See also Moreau, Du Haschisch et de l'Alienation Mentale, Etudes Psychologiques, Paris, 1845.] Dr. Sutherland has not obtained any good effect from it. [Further Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy, p. 392, 1847.]

Administration.—In England, Indian hemp is usually administered in the form of resinous or alcoholic extract and of tincture.

Fig. 288. Apparatus for the percolation of 1. EXTRACTUM CANNABIS INDICAE ALCOHOLICUM; Resinous or Alcoholic Extract of Indian Hemp.—This is the preparation usually sold in the shops under the name of resin of Indian hemp or cannabin (see ante, p. 336). Dr. O'Shaughnessy directs it to be prepared by boiling the rich adhesive tops of the dried gunjah in rectified spirits until all the resin is dissolved. "The tincture thus obtained is evaporated to dryness in a vessel placed over a pot of boiling water. The extract softens at a gentle heat, and can be made into pills without any addition." Mr. Robertson, [Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. vi. p. 71, 1846.] of Calcutta, prepared it by a kind of percolation process; the vapour of alcohol being transmitted through the dry herb. At first a, thin tarry matter containing much resin, latterly a brown liquor containing little resin but much extractive passed over. At this point, water was substituted for the spirit in the still, and as much as possible of the spirit retained by the plant thus expelled from it. Part of the alcohol was removed from the fluid by distillation; but the rest was dissipated by evaporation at a temperature not exceeding 150° F. From 1 cwt. of the plant about 8 lbs. of extract were obtained at one operation, which was so slowly conducted as in all its stages to last a fortnight.

The following is the process given by the Messrs. Smith, of Edinburgh, [Ibid., p. 171, 1846.] for the preparation of this extract: Digest bruised gunjah in successive quantities of warm water till the expressed water comes away colourless; and again for two days, at a moderate heat, in a solution of carbonate of soda, in the proportion of one part of the salt to two of gunjah. Colouring matter, chlorophylle, and inert concrete oil being thus removed, express and wash the residuum, dry it, and exhaust it by percolation with rectified spirit. Agitate with the tincture, milk of lime containing an ounce of lime for every pound of gunjah, and, after filtration, throw down the excess of lime by a little sulphuric acid. Agitate with the filtered liquor a little animal charcoal, which is afterwards to be removed by filtration. Distil off most of the spirit, add to the residual tincture twice its weight of water in a porcelain basin, and let the remaining spirit evaporate gradually. Lastly, wash the resin with fresh water till it comes away neither acid nor bitter, and dry the resin in thin layers. This resin contains the peculiar taste and odour of the gunjah. A temperature of 180° F. acting for eight hours on thin layers of it exposed to the air does not impair its activity. 100 lbs. of dry gunjah yield about 6 or 7 lbs. of this extract.

The Dublin College directs the Extractum Cannabis Indicae purificatum to be prepared as follows:—

Take of Extract of Indian Hemp of Commerce ℥J; Rectified Spirit ℥jiv. Dissolve the extract in the spirit, and when the dregs have subsided, decant the clear liquid, and evaporate, by means of a water-bath, to the consistence of a soft extract.

The dose of the alcoholic extract of Indian hemp is usually from gr. j to grs. v. I have usually found one grain of the extract kept in the London shops to act as a narcotic. The Messrs. Smith state that two-thirds of a grain of the pure resin produced on themselves and others powerful narcotic effects. In a case of tetanus under my care in the London Hospital, the dose of the extract (supplied by Dr. O'Shaughnessy, who watched the case with me) was gradually increased to grs. xx. It may be administered in the form of pill; or better by diffusion through an emulsion (prepared by rubbing the extract with olive oil, in a warm mortar, and gradually adding mucilage, and afterwards water), or by solution in rectified spirit, and dropping the tincture into water immediately before its administration.

2. TINCTURA CANNABIS INDICAE, D.; Tincture of Indian Hemp.—(Purified Extract of Indian Hemp ℥ss; Rectified Spirit Oss. Dissolve the extract in the spirit, D.)—These are the proportions directed to be used by Dr. O'Shaughnessy; but, probably by a typographical error, he has ordered proof spirit instead of rectified spirit. Dose from ♏x to fℨj. Dr. O'Shaughnessy gives in tetanus ℨj every half hour, until the paroxysms cease, or catalepsy is induced; in cholera, ten drops every half hour. It may be administered in an emulsion or mucilaginous mixture, or in water sweetened with sugar. It should be swallowed soon after it has been added to the aqueous liquid, as the resin precipitates, and is apt to adhere to the side of the vessel.

Other Preparations of Indian Hemp.—By the Asiatics, Egyptians, and others who employ Indian hemp for the purposes of intoxication, various preparations of this drug are in use. In some of these the plant itself is employed, either rubbed up with water and made into a draught or formed into an electuary. But a favourite mode of using it is to extract the active principle by some fatty matter (generally butter or oil), by which an oleaginous solution or fatty extract is obtained. For this purpose the hemp is boiled in butter or oil, with a little water, usually until the water is boiled away. It is said that the fatty extract thus obtained will preserve its intoxicating powers for years. It is usually mixed up with other ingredients, and taken in the form of an electuary, confection, or pastile. The majoon used at Calcutta, [O'Shaughnessy, op. supra cit.] the mpouchari employed at Cairo, [Buchner's Repertorium, 2te Reihe, Bd. xlix. S. 359, 1848; also 3tte Reihe, Bd. i. S. 94, 1848.] and the dawamesc of the Arabs, [Moreau, op. supra cit.] are preparations of this kind. Lastly, hemp is also used for smoking in pipes.

Antidotes.—In a case of poisoning by Indian hemp the treatment should be the same as that for poisoning by opium (which see).


The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.



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