Again, a work in progress


Cannabis as an Alternative Medicine


Section 1. Introduction


On nearly every continent, Cannabis has been used as a medicine. Countries in which allopathy[1] is the chief form of medicine that is practiced, Cannabis is relied upon very little except for use as an adjunct therapy for chemotherapy and certain kinds of glaucoma. In spite of new findings suggesting certain Cannabis products might play an important role in medicine, little attention or respect has been given to these findings in large part due to past perceptions of Cannabis use in society. In underdeveloped countries and parts of Eastern Europe, for example, Cannabis has served an important role in both traditional and modern day therapeutics. In some cases this is due to the actual physiological effects noted with Cannabis, defined according to the parameters set by Western culture. In other cases, Cannabis use is based upon totally unique philosophies such as those of Ayurvedics, Unani medicine, Oriental Medicine, Naturopathy, and Homeopathy. The ancient formulas and philososphies which many third world cultures rely upon to define their therapies remain unchanged and are often quite different. Yet with the passage of time, these regimens have remained an important part of medicine as other less effective therapeutic measures were discarded. In this presentation, Cannabis is protrayed as an alternative medicine, with the philosophies and attributes of each detailed in brief.


Section 2. Naturopathy


When modern medicine began its reign after the passage of the Food and Drug Act in 1906, patent and herbal medicines began to udergo intense scrutiny on behalf of the United States government and allopathic physcians. As a result, herbal medicine was eventually dismissed by most health care professionals and allopathy became the standard form of health care.

In the late 1800s in Oregon, Physiomedical doctors, Eclectics and Homeopaths had lost their political battle with Oregon’s Allopathic M.D. Society. As a result, when the first bill was passed in Oregon in 1898, allopaths won out in their influences upon the State House and Senate and were left in charge of the Oregon Board of Physicians and became responsible for certifying all trained physicians in Oregon. For several decades, the Board of Physicians consisted of only allopathic M.D.’s but with time were finally forced to accept one Eclectic M.D. and one Homeopathic M.D., retaining the number of physicians on the Board at five. Soon after the popularity and acceptance of alternative medicine diminished and although eclectics remained on the state borad well into the twentieth century, few were actually in practice. By 1945, the practice of eclecticism eventually dissolved.

Still, during the mid 1950s these allopaths were met up with their great rivals–the Naturopaths–which during the early twentieth century had replaced the nineteenth century Eclectic or herbal medicine practitioner. Naturopathy consists in part of the study of herbal therapy, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutrition therapy, and massage therapy. Within a few years, Naturopathy took over where, due to the previous political disruption, Oregon’s Eclectic Medical Association left off.

Naturopathy has as its origins Kneipp’s Water-Cure or hydrotherapy. Instituted in 1896 by Bavarian practitioner Rev. Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), the study of the Water-Cure was introduced to America around 1900 when Dr. Benjamin Lust of New York and Dr. James Foster of Idaho took hold of Kneipp’s water cures. By 1900, it was also decided that Kneipp’s Water-Cure should be renamed since it also consisted of other forms of health care including herbalism, diet therapy, and eclecticism. Thus the name of this health care system changed from Kneipp’s Water-Cure to Naturopathy and the publication of a new journal Naturopathy began publication.

Naturopathy (the M.D.’s/N.D.’s, or naturopathic doctors) continued to practice in direct competition with “traditional” Western medicine or allopathy (the M.D.’s). National and state naturopathic associations were established and schools and hospitals were set up across the United States with naturopaths practicing in nearly every state. By the Depression Era, several conventions had been held for N.D.’s. It has been estimated that more than twenty naturopathic schools were in existence by this time [2] although none of the original schools remained open much beyond 1950.

Despite its popularity in Europe, Naturopathy never took a stronghold in North America in the early twentieth century. As a result, most of Oregon’s alternative medical practitioners (except chiropractors and osteopaths) had either retired, died, or were no longer in business by the mid-1940s. Without its political clout or the support of the government, Naturopathy was replaced by allopathy and drugs like sulfa drugs and “the magic pill” (Penicillin). It wasn’t until 1956 that an alternative medical program–the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Oregon–was reorganized and back in business.[3]

Today, due to government regulations and political and social attitudes regarding Cannabis, the alternative practitioners make limited use of it as a medicine. It is not found in any typical Naturopathy herbal medicine formulary of products sold in most grocery and nutrition stores. Rather, Cannabis exists as an herbal medicine that is taught but rarely used. Still, some individual alternative practitioners have come to rely upon Cannabis, especially for its seeds which have been employed in much the same way it was by nineteenth century Eclectics. Most forms of Western (Anglo-American) medicine practiced outside of North America also avoid Cannabis in their recipes. On the other hand, it is widely used as ingredient for folk remedies and non-Anglican alternatives such as African, Hispanic, Oriental, European homeopathic, Indian, and Alchemical (Herbo-Metallic) medicine.

In North America, standard uses for Cannabis as an naturopathic medicine relate in part to its uses around the turn of the century as well as several new uses touted even by some nutritionists and allopathic practitioners. A standard naturopathy reference–Rudolph Fritz Weiss’ Herbal Medicine (published in Germany)–mentions the following rules for use of Cannabis extract:[4]

“All preparations made from Indian hemp are subject to appropriate narcotics regulations. As a result, cannabis tincture, formerly used for its euphoric effect in the treatment of depression, has become obsolete. The same applies to external use of Indian hemp preparations. Cannabis extract used to be a popular ingredient of external applications for the treatment of corns, because of its effect of reducing pain locally and also because it is was easily soluble in collodion. In the USA, a cannabis preparation has been recommended for the treatment of glaucoma. It is said to reduce intra-ocular pressure and encourage the discharge of aqueous humour.”
Other mention of Cannabis uses given by Weiss include for “cytostatic therapy” and preventing motion sickness by the administration of THC.[5] Weiss also cites a recipe that employs Cannabis as a pain remedy for cases involving cuts and bruises; in it he recommends adding Cannabis indica extract to embrocation recipes (approximately one to two grams Cannabis extract to 100 grams (cubic centimeters) of the embrocation formula.[6]

An overview of naturopathic-eclectic writings suggests that even today, the legal portions of Cannabis, in particular the seed, might be used for treating a number of ailments. Due to limitations placed upon them as Schedule I drugs, Cannabis leaf, resin, and THC cannot be administered by alternative medicine practitioners.[7]



Section 3. Homeopathy


Another form of alternative medicine practiced by many naturopaths is Homeopathy. Developed by a German doctor, Samuel Christian Frederick Hahnemann (1755–1843), he revived the phytognomonic ideology (“like-treats-like” or similis similibus curantur) introduced earlier by sixteenth century alchemist Paracelsus. Homeopathy came to America when Hans Burch Gram (1786-1840) moved from Copenhagen to New York City in 1825. Several years later, the Hahnemann Society was founded in Philadelphia, followed by the first homeopathic school in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1835. Since the classes of this first American school were in German, the program did not survive much beyond a few years. A decade later in 1848, the Homeopathic Medical College opened in Philadelphia and was renamed in the charter as the Hahnemann Medical College in 1869, a name still in use for this facility today although now harbors an allopathic school.

Homeopathy schools retained their identity separate from Eclecticism and the related Physio-medicine that existed throughout the nineteenth century. Around 1900, nearly two dozen homeopathic schools were known to exist. But by 1925, many had closed and the number of licensed homeopathic schools was down to two. Today’s homeopathy programs are either taught as non-accredited, self-instructional programs (often participated in and scored by mail) or as a part of the several recently accredited naturopathic studies.[8] Europe differs from this in that several allopathic-based establishments study homeopathy as an adjunst to traditional Western training and in some cases even award a separate degree upon completion of the homeopathic program.

The use of Cannabis as a medicine was introduced to hoemopathy by Dr. Trinks in 1841.[9] We can understand Cannabis use by homeopaths by considering their basic philosophy. Homeopathy bases its actions upon the symptoms of the disease rather than the causes. Dry throats were treated with medicines that normally caused a dry throat to ensue, only with such dilute amounts that the medicine incited a defensive response against the symptom (and not a defensive response against the cause or disease). Thus, Homeopathic remedies are based upon the traditional that exposing the body to very small amounts of a “toxic agent” will incite the body to build up defenses against that agent, a proposition likened to the administration of flu shots to help build the body’s defense against flu or the administration of a cow pox vaccine in order to cause the body to develop a defense against the more symptomatic if not dangerous small pox. The homeopaths’ adage is expressed well by one who wrote treat sniffles with something that cause sniffles, and treat headaches with something that causes headaches, etcetera.

The difference between Homeopathic remedies and Allopathic vaccines is that Homeopathic remedies purportedly excite all forms of tissue and organ reactions in the body whereas the vaccination only excites a specific reaction involving protein production (the antibodies) by cells (White Blood cells) that are exposed to the foreign agent (the virus or bacteria, or remnants thereof). For example, a homeopath might treat insomnia by giving a stimulant (i.e. caffeine, ephedra) but in such small amounts that the effects of the caffeine are not felt. Still, according to the homeopath the body adapts to the caffeine by preventing hyperstimulation from occurring and in effect making it easier for the patient to rest or go to sleep. An added factor to the homeopathic remedy is that it is used in such small amounts (concentrations of one-millionth to one-billionth of the original concentration) that only the “spiritual” aspect of the herb is transferred to the patient rather than the more toxic herb itself.

Regarding the use of Cannabis, Homeopaths are trained to view Cannabis as an herb capable of causing mental abberations and disturbing the psyche. Thus they are often cautious regarding the use of Cannabis in their formulas, even when it is used in the form of a highly diluted preparation. To homeopaths, rather than induce a state of mental change or distress, the Cannabis excites the brain in a very small way. In theory, this in turn then produces an opposite effect overall if the medicine is used in the truest homeopathic sense. The dilute tincture of Cannabis thus becomes a medicine that helps the body and brain overcome effects such as those associated with Cannabis use. They may make use of it as a powerful nerve tonic.

Again in theory, to build tolerance against Cannabis use by people trying to “withdrawal” a homeopath might make a Cannabis formula in ultrasmall concentrations thus removing the THC effect and administer the formula on small sugar pellets which the patient takes as often as necessary to prevent smoking.

The more common use of Cannabis in homeopathy though concentrates on its side effects. The effects of Cannabis as a sexual stimulant and diuretic for example that were noted by the Yogis is converted by homeopaths into plans to use it to treat problems with the urinary tract. Thus Cannabis is most often found in remedies for gonorrhea.[10]

Cannabis is found in several formulas including primarily those for the treatment of Gonorrhea. The general preparation of a Cannabis formula is given by The Homoepathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, 5ed. and The American Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia, 8ed.[11]
To prepare a formula with Cannabis sativa:[12]

“The fresh blooming herb-tops, of both the male and the female herb, are chopped and pounded to a pulp and weighed. Then two parts by weight of alcohol are taken, the pulp mixed thoroughly with one-sixth part of it, and rest of the alcohol added. After stirring the whole well, and pouring it into a well-stoppered bottle, it is allowed to stand eight days in a dark, cool place. The tincture is then separated by decanting, straining and filtering.”

To prepare a formula with Cannabis indica:[13]

“The dried herb-tops are bruised, covered with five parts by weight alcohol, and allowed to remain eight days, in a well-stoppered bottle, in a dark, cool place, being shaken twice a day. The tincture is then poured off, strained and filtered.”

Of the former, the “drug power” of the tincture is considered 1/6, whereas with the latter it is 1/10. To produce the homeopathic remedy from these “Mother Tinctures,” dilutions must be carried out. The American Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia, 8ed. recommends for the Cannabis sativa formula:[14]

300 Gm. moist plant mass and water
100 Gm. or cc. (cubic centimeters) of distilled water
730 cc. Strong Alcohol (ethanol)
1000 cc. of tincture should be produced.


For Cannabis indica:[15]

12.5 Gm. of the alcoholic extract described earlier (for C. indica.)
1000 cc. (cubic centimeters) of Strong Alcohol (ethanol)
1000 cc. of tincture (approx.) should be produced.


Homeopathic medicines made from Cannabis consist of these tinctures once they are highly diluted. Medicine of Cannabis sativa is made by further diluting one part tincture with two parts distilled water and seven parts common alcohol, and then repeating this process if necessary.[16] Cannabis indica tinctures undergo a similar dilution process.[17]

In spite of these recipes which appear in widely accepted Homeopathic publications, public scrutiny has led to the near absence of Cannabis from many alternative medicine formularies. Some recent works even condemn the use of Cannabis as a homeopathic remedy noting in one case its “countereffects” as an ingredient of traditional homeopathic formulas.[18]

In sum, the Western World makes limited use of Cannabis as an alternative medicine, due mainly to the history of Cannabis use. Current alternative medical practices in the Western civilizations neither condemn nor support in their entirety the use of Cannabis as a medicine. Thus the potential of its use as a medicine by Westerners becomes a matter that is based upon foreign medical practices.




  1. Allopathic medicine is medicine as it is practiced in most Western civilizations, in which an M.D. is the physician. Teachings are performed in “traditional” Western hospitals and university settings that minimize their dependancy upon “alternatives” such as naturopathy, homeopathy, herbal therapy, chiropractics, etc.
  2. National College of Naturopathic Medicine Catalogue. 1993-1994. National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon. p. 6.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Rudolf Fritz Weiss, M.D. Herbal Medicine. (Ab Arcanum, Gothenberg, Sweden, 1988) (Translated from the Sixth German Edition of Lehrbuch der Phytotherapie by A.R. Meuss, FIL, MITI. (Hippokrates Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 1985.) pp. 294-295.
  5. Also see Lancet, 1981, No. 1, p. 255.
  6. Ibid. p. 345. Typical embrocation formulas include local pain relievers such as mint oils, pine resin, juniper oil, and other essential oil- and/or resin-based recipes.
  7. W.T. Lowrey and James C. Garriott. Forensic Toxicology. (New York: Plenum Press, 1977) p. 18.
  8. National College of Naturopathic Medicine Catalogue. 1993-1994. National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon.
  9. The American Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia, 8ed. (Phildelphia: Boericke & Tafel, 1906.) pp. 182.
  10. Samuel Hahnemann. Materia Medica Pura. Translated from the Latest German Edition by R.E. Dudgeon, M.D. (Calcutta: M. Bhattacharyya & Co., 1952.) vol. 1. See also Robin Murphy, N.D.. Homeopathic First Aid Course. Part One. Remedies and Topics. Presented at the National School of Naturopathic Medicine, n.d.
  11. The American Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia, 8ed. (Phildelphia: Boericke & Tafel, 1906.) pp. 181-182. Recipe for Cannabis indica. The later published Homoepathic Phamacopoeia of the United States, 5ed. (Boston: Otis Clapp & Sons, Inc., 1938) gives similar instructions including recipes for making the Cannabis sativa-based recipes absent in earlier editions (see p. 147.)
  12. Homoepathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, 5ed. (Boston: Otis Clapp & Sons, Inc., 1938) p. 147.
  13. Ibid.
  14. The American Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia, 8ed. (Phildelphia: Boericke & Tafel, 1906.) pp. 181-182.
  15. Ibid. p. 182.
  16. Ibid. p. 183.
  17. Ibid. p. 182.
  18. Mirando Castro. The Complete Homeopathic Handbook. (London: MacMillan Publishers, Ltd., 1990) p. 28.