The Roman Empire: A Surprising History of Cannabis

Posted by Eric Dubbel on

When it comes to cannabis, many believe that it is a relatively new thing and that it only emerged in the modern era. However, that is far from the truth. Cannabis has been used by different civilizations and cultures for centuries, and the Roman Empire is no exception. Although marijuana remains illegal in many countries today, it might surprise you that it was legal and commonly used in ancient Rome.


During the reign of the Roman Empire, there was a variety of plants that were used for medicinal purposes. This includes hemp which came from the cannabis plant. The Romans used hemp in various ways, mostly for its practical purposes such as the production of ropes, clothes, and other textiles. But they also recognized the plant's other benefits when used as an infusion and other medical applications. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Romans made use of cannabis quite often. Doctors and physicians were keen to use it as a pain reliever, an anesthetic and to ease anxiety.

One thing to note about ancient Rome is that the use of opium was common, and as such, it was known as the most potent pain reliever. However, cannabis was also appreciated for its medical properties. The Romans knew that cannabis had the power to reduce inflammation, pain and localized injuries. As a result, it was applied externally, in the form of salves and compresses, and as teas, they drank at the time.

Since Romans believed in the power of all plants, cannabis was held in high regard for the medicinal properties until the rise of Christianity. When Christianity took over, there was a shift in societal outlook towards natural remedies and narcotics as they regarded them as sinful since they distorted the natural state of mind. This shift led to the prohibition of cannabis in European society. What was once a vital herb for healing and well-being got swept to the annals of history.

However, modern medicine has brought the spotlight back to cannabis, especially in recent years. Researchers are starting to take a second look at the herb and see what medical benefits it has to offer. Studies suggest that cannabis has properties that can help with anxiety, stress, insomnia, and other conditions that plague people today. Additionally, there's an ongoing shift towards the legalization of cannabis in different countries, and this might bring it back to its prominent place as an essential herb in civilization.


The history of cannabis use in the Roman Empire might come as a surprise to many people, but it shows that this herb has been valued for its medicinal properties for centuries. Just like ancient Rome recognized the advantages of hemp and cannabis plants, modern society is taking a fresh look at what the herb can offer to alleviate conditions that have been resistant to traditional medicine. Although it is still illegal to use marijuana in some countries and regions, scientific research continues to explore the potentials of cannabis to offer solutions for various mental and physical illnesses. Who knows, Rome's ancient method of using cannabis for pain relief and well-being might just be the solution to the 21st-century ailments.

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