Rediscovering Europe’s Fascinating Cannabis Heritage

Posted by Eric Dubbel on

Cannabis is one of the most ancient crops in the world, probably originating in Central Asia. The plant spread to different parts of the world at different times and for distinct reasons. In Europe, it became known mainly for its medicinal properties and was an important part of ancient European pharmacology. This blog post is an introduction to the fascinating history of cannabis in old Europe. Let's take a closer look at its journey from ancient times to its current place in European culture.


Cannabis has a long history in Europe, with its use dating back to the 5th century BCE. Ancient Greeks relied heavily on cannabis for various purposes, such as medical treatments, incense, and even as fiber for rope and cloth. Hippocrates, considered the “Father of Medicine,” recommended it to relieve pain and for menstrual problems. The Greek physician Galen was also known to prescribe cannabis as an anesthetic and to calm the nerves.

The Romans continued the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and their knowledge of its effects even spread to the cold and damp lands of Gaul (modern-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg). By the 13th century, cannabis was a prominent medicinal herb in Europe, with medieval doctors using it to treat mental and physical ailments.

However, it was not only used for medicinal purposes. Europeans also cultivated the hemp plant for its agricultural potential, with the fiber derived from the plant being used to make paper, clothing, and rope. The growth of hemp as an agricultural product launched the hemp industry in Europe, which continued for centuries, and it is still in use to produce goods such as CBD oil today.

Cannabis also played an important role in the religious rituals of ancient Europeans. According to experts, cannabis was used by some ancient religious communities, including the Scythians and the Celts, during their spiritual ceremonies and to connect them to the gods. The Vikings also used the herb to produce a hallucinogenic effect and were known to use it before battles to provide them with courage.

In the nineties, the world witnessed the legalization of cannabis for medical use. European countries like the Netherlands took this a step further, allowing the cultivation of marijuana for recreational use. Nowadays, the consumption of marijuana is a part of modern European culture.


Europe’s long and rich history with cannabis might have been lost for some time. However, with the new wave of cannabis legalization sweeping across the continent over the last few years, this ancient tradition has been rediscovered. Cannabis has a unique place in European culture and is now being recognized for its medicinal and agricultural values. By embracing its heritage, Europe is moving towards the realization of a more integrated and better-balanced sustainable future.

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